“Preliminary Visions” published

Prelminary Visions‘s publication date was April Fools Day, 2020. My first full-length poetry collection was published(!) and embargoed in bookstores–that were promptly locked down.

But there’s a way out. Support a small press (Homebound Publications) and a small bookstore by ordering the book through your favorite local bookstore. Get it delivered or pick it up, depending on how your bookstore’s operating under the pandemic, and you’ll have something to while a way an hour or two, or more, depending on how you savor poetry. Or buy it directly from the publisher here.


From the cover:

“In the deep woods, hikers say, if you feel you are being watched by an animal, you probably are. Preliminary Visions creates moments of being, moments of relation, moments of meaning-making—frequently with that sense of being observed by a silent witness and a light source outside the frame. The poems’ impressionistic relationality begins to blur the imaginary outlines of the separate self and provokes instead a sense of the ‘ecological self,’ a worldview that offers a way out of the world-class delusions we’ve created and reclaims a healthy way to be—with/in Earth.”

I’m so honored that two amazing writers and thinkers, Major Jackson and Molly (Young) Brown, were willing to blurb the book. Here’s what they have to say:

“This is true poetry, combining a haiku-like perception of a pregnant moment or scene with a fine attunement to the sound and flow of words. Karina’s poems offer images of moments that speak to both heart and mind, moving from her own life experiences and challenges to the crises humanity faces today, with all the confusion, grief, rage, and insight that arise in response.” –Molly Brown, author of Growing Whole: Self-realization for the Great Turning

“If memory and poetic craft orient us—in Karina Lutz’s Preliminary Visions—to the natural spaces and events that define our lives, then an abiding commitment to recording in radiant forms and language make a useful wisdom of her protean efforts; which means this fine collection of poetry, questing toward immanence and illumination, is a necessary read for those of us who value wonder.” –Major Jackson, poetry editor, Harvard Review, author of Roll Deep


Here are some of the poems, read aloud:


Post-Catholic Midrashim

Awed by Rick Benjamin’s read of my chapbook:

You have to start with the title of Karina Lutz’s new collection: as if you’ve just happened upon a small group of rabbis engaged in a deep conversation about the Catholic mass.  Always open to interpretation, on the one hand; closed dogma on the other.  Past this front door that is also the cover walks the poet, a wild yogi herself, having been raised in the church, having defected from it, having gleaned a lot of spiritual and faith-based information since then on her own. The poems that follow are rich in irony, “sassiness,” as the poet herself says, and wisdom.

Karina Lutz is a truth-teller, the renegade who leaves the interpretive circle or morass we call midrash, in order to step into her own, Buddhist-inflected revelations.  I love both her attentiveness to scripture even as she entirely circumscribes it;  I admire the iconoclasm in these poems; and at times I am simply done in by the wisdom this poet brings up from the deep sediments of religious dogma and denial (of desire, disagreement, of disobedience, among other things).

Her insights are so well-earned, as in the perfectly pitched and well-tuned short poem, “Dear Emily,” where the poet says about the concept of eternity, “to ungird, to not dread,/ to not believe/ the dead are dead.”  Absent the rigid, sometimes violent, always contradictory constrictions of her childhood, this poet means to call out some of the more pernicious qualities of her early schooling in religion: dread, guilt, repression, closure.  And she means to move past them, forward into mystery and mysticism, toward relief and release into the unknown.

Open the cover and door of Karina Lutz’s Post-Catholic Midrashim.  Step into the entry-hall with her: this is a transit worth taking.

–Rick Benjamin (state poet laureate of Rhode Island, 2012 – 2016)

You can order directly from the publisher: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/post-catholic-midrashim-by-karina-lutz/, or better yet, through your local indie bookstore.

From the introduction:

Midrashim are Judaic interpretations of scriptures, which often elaborate the stories found only in skeleton form there. In this spirit, contrary to the ways of Catholic dogma, I interrogate the social-spiritual effects of historic Catholic interpretations, including a child’s mind’s understanding. My parents raised me what I call “social-justice Catholic.” In contrast to the better-known right wing of Catholicism, this vein’s moral imperatives were to rectify inequality and end war, at least during the period I was brought up. Those values are integral to how I have moved in the world. At the same time, it took years of inquiry and vigilance—and yes, even prayer—to disentangle myself from the Church’s more insidious Patriarchal and punitive thought systems and contradictions. Forty-four years after leaving the Church, I keep having to extract and reinterrogate what hides in the early-formed folds of my brain. Therefore these poems: Post-Catholic Midrashim.

Careening between sass and earnestness, the poems rail against religion, while struggling to recover an authentic spirituality. I debate my late mother’s theology, at the same time as I try to honor her truth, her own questioning, her extraordinary intelligence, and her ability to live with/in the contradictions. I don’t so much argue with God as I argue against religions’ big lies.

Perhaps every religion places big lies next to the big truths, where the lies shine like moons through no light of their own.

Looking forward to your read…


The Tale of the Progenies of Bitcoin and of Art

Of alternative currencies, the electronic ones like Bitcoin are the most well known. Currency with no paper or gold or matter of any sort to concretize or even symbolize it, each has a floating exchange rates with dollars. They are virtually unregulated, with the US Securities and Exchange Commission essentially telling Bitcoin users in August 2014 “you are on your own”—your losses are your problem. Is it simply a plaything for the rich, who can afford to lose as much as a venture capitalist can? Or an experiment that may lead the way to the future of money—so get in now or be left behind?

Bitcoin begat two children:

Lifecoin and Frivolitycoin.

On the other extreme, the greens of Ithaca, NY, and Great Barrington, MA, and other towns have developed alternative local currencies to resist the grasp of globalism and encourage money flows to stay within communities to support small business and local supply chains, reducing the transportation of goods and thereby climate pollution.

Lifecoin was immediately whisked

to neonatal care at the university hospital,

where those who had been studying predictive ecology,

environmental externalities, and sacred economics

could observe and marvel and hope

their good intention did no harm

for Lifecoin were to be measured in quanta.

Time banks or time exchanges are another effort at building a sustainable economic system. Time banking takes bartering up a few notches, by allowing a member of a group to give services to another member, while receiving from yet another in the group, using an hourly based point system to make sure the barters balance out.

Everyone agreed to take equal shares of Lifecoin,

as long as the wealthy could exchange

their collapsing dollars for Frivolities.

The Dalai Lama had his watchface replaced with an icon of Lifecoin.

The Koch brothers papered their walls with Frivolities,

and no one cared.

In a time bank, if I cut hair, and you cut lawns, and my lawn is shaggy but you are bald, we can still barter, but through the group. You would cut my lawn, I would cut someone else’s hair, and the former longhair might fix your bike, or you would be able to select a service from anyone who has offered a service on the time bank network. Time banks assume the radical (to our culture) notion that each person’s hour is worth the same as anyone else’s.

Frivcoin was allowed to go off its prodigal way

as long as the new currencies were never exchanged.

Frivcoin was declared not legal tender

for water, air, land, or space,

neither as goods nor as dumps.

Life could not be measured in debt,

only paid to future generations

by way of restoration of habitat.

The two trends in alternative currency move in opposite directions—one working to build a life-sustaining culture and the other further untethering casino capitalism from any basis in the realities of labor and materials, human needs, or the limits to growth.

Over time, many holders of great apparent wealth in Friv

became jealous, but none so fiercely as Art

and her children: Haughty and Grunge.

Why are we deigned ‘frivolous,’” they barked,

when we are the meaning of life?

We are as much the relation of generations

as reproduction is!”

Current mainstream currencies need no help untethering: Brexit. As a normal-appearing financial advisor recently told a retiree: “the dollar has nowhere to go; it will be replaced within your lifetime.” He is young, and wears a suit, and sits behind a polished cherrywood desk.

Art’s first son, Naughty, born out of wedlock,

was not asked his opinion

of what is life-giving and what is frivolous.

Too bad, because he knew all the ways of hackers

and slackers and black marketeers

and could have been well-employed

patrolling the new border.

Learning to make peace

After a day of trailing my mother
from house to house or along the beach
gathering signatures on petitions,
our table conversation would start something like this:
What if America had not fought in World War II?
How else can you stop an aggressor like Hitler but with war?
Isn’t peace without justice just another form of violence?
And someone,
maybe it was one of us kids, saw a way:
what if the German people had not supported, succumbed, colluded?
Or what if the members of the S.S.
had turned toward peace?
It became clearer and clearer,
as did my mother’s voice in these conversations,
that in Vietnam, we Americans were the perpetrators and the collaborators.

We were the ones with the most power to make peace.

Meanwhile the news came in body counts and draft numbers,
riots, conventions; conventions that turned into riots. Pacifists demonstrating
that protests don’t have to be riots. That peace could be deadly fun.
And there was my dad, watching vigorously, studying, shouting.
Other nights I spied from the top of the stairs, long after bedtime,
the Democrats in our living room, choosing delegates to those conventions
or the League of Women Voters planning a debate.

But the best debate team was there around the kitchen table.
There at the head was a man, a good soldier from the Good War,
trying to be the best he knew—
so brave and yet so afraid to think the wars he had fought
might be wrong—
and there was the miracle
of my parents’ marriage:
words could make change, love could make peace.

One day he wrote a letter: the war should be stopped,
Signed, Naval Reserve Captain, our father’s name.

Ten thousand petition signatures, and this one letter:
a man of violence
turned toward peace
before our eyes.

I have received many gifts from my parents,
But no greater gift than this.

what a culture

where most of the creators don’t get paid, unless they are in advertising, getting people to buy what they don’t need

alternatively, you can just pay the artists

let’s give this a try:


$14.99 for Post-Catholic Midrashim


$16.96 for Preliminary Visions

Conversation with filaree

(Erodium cicutarium)

Here is the clock plant,
some call it filaree.
Its seed tails – the styles – spiral around each other in a long,
slight twine.
Five petals turn
into five seeds and five styles,
looking like one spike.
On a hot day the styles will peel apart
and pop! into the air.
The seeds spring,
tails following,
the pointy end of each seed going first,
tiny javelins.

The point might penetrate the ground.
But if it doesn’t, no problem.
Like a ribbon slid across a scissor blade,
the style curls up into a corkscrew
and as it turns, it points and augers the seed into the ground.

Next rain, the style unfurls.
Next sun, the style spirals tight again,
screwing the seed deeper
into the still-moist soil.

Under hot sun, above hardpan soil,
as the green of the coastal grasslands
turns tan along Zayante Canyon,
bright orange poppies litter their petals.

My lover and I lie, a blanket between
our thin skins and the prickly plants
who will stay the summer.

He picks up a living clock spring:
a seed and its tail, curling like a corkscrew,
tail spiraling out in a tiny funnel.
He twirls the seed
between thumb and finger,
finds more on the ground.

‘It’s a clock plant,’ I say,
though time
is null.
Pink-lavender flowers float
a hand-height above the ground
on their almost invisible stems.

I tell him filaree’s story,
how it augers this hardpan,
how it pops and curls.

Stems and blossoms run through his fingers
and he strokes the long styles
of a flower already bloomed and gone.

We gaze into, slip into
each other’s astonishment

as a seed sprung from Filaree
hits him right in the middle of the forehead.

photo ©2004 Robert Sivinski via UC Berkeley

by Karina Lutz

first published by Deep Mountain

Quarantine Tales in “From Whispers to Roars”

One fun thing about publishing on the internet, is sometimes a poem gets accepted for publication and you forget about it for nine months before looking it up. Here’s one, “Pandemic,” about this corona, this crown of the baby’s head near birth, the light that gets around the eclipse, this glimpse of making way for a new world: https://www.fromwhisperstoroars.com/quarantine-tales/2020/4/9/quarantine-tales-a-series-week-1.

The chrysalis metaphor feels more real than ever. How in the world does something as complex as a caterpillar need to turn to amorphous fluid before becoming something even more complex and capable, as a butterfly?

Thank you to Johanna Hall for the multiple corona metaphors above. Can’t we all use a dose of positivity as we approach the darkest night of this dark year?

A ghost, an echo, animus

When I dream of you
now that it’s over,
a man sings
basso profundo

—the range my waking ears are deaf to hear—

a dirge,
very beautiful, composed, true,
nothing from this world,
nor heard before;
no question of putting notes
to page
like you do.
I don’t know how
something in me invents this,
something hears this

—song you will never hear—

I don’t have that man’s
voice, nor do you.
So who is this singing
our ending
as if he knows us?
As if it is this exquisite?

Voices of the Earth, still speaking out

A second volume of Voices of the Earth: The Future of our Planet is out. In a lovely endorsement, RI poet laureate Tina Cane says of the anthology of Rhode Island poets: “To read these poems is to be galvanized.”

Unmuting the Sonority of the Written Word

Wow. Never been coached on writing a blog post before. Repeating your search terms is apparently a thing. If I were editing this piece, I’d take all that repetition out. So old school.

Anyway, it was fun to write.

FringePVD virtual performances on video

One advantage of the Fringe Fest having to go virtual this year is that all the performances were recorded. You can watch any and all for a $20 “All Access Pass” through the Wilbury Theatre. After you purchase your pass on http://fringepvd.org/all-access-viewing.html, you’ll  get a link and password via email. Scroll through the delicious offerings or search for “Preliminary Visions.”