Trying to make a poetry school that's for everybody.

I'm Hannah Lee Jones and I began Primal School as a space to document my journey as a student of poetry independent from a graduate path in English lit or creative writing. I also wanted to leave a resource others can use: book recommendations, articles, posts on what I'm reading or learning, and most importantly, interviews with poets exploring the craft of poetry itself. Whether your path includes an MFA or not, my hope is that the knowledge that gets shared on here will help you find your own way. Learn more, or if you're interested in my writing visit the news page  



"eternal graffiti 

written in the heart of everyone" 

- Lawrence Ferlinghetti's definition of poetry



Primal School is a blog featuring interviews with poets discussing a single poem they have written and exploring their insights into the writing process — all presented in language that's as approachable and digestible as possible. Each interview is a kind of "teaching post" or "poetry lesson" designed for poets who are learning and writing outside of the MFA system. Browse interviews by topic using the tag cloud to the right or by name in the poet index; check out the resources page under the toolshed, and feel free to get in touch. 

Entries in Lee Upton (1)


Experience and The Imagination, Metaphor as Survival, and Healthy States of Flow: Patricia Colleen Murphy on Her Poem "How The Body Moves"

Patricia Colleen Murphy

If genuine healing from a difficult and traumatic past takes place in the soul and subconscious (and not the support of the world around us), it would seem that  Patricia Colleen Murphy has dedicated her path in poetry to exactly that, lifting others up the whole way. The founding editor of Superstition Review at Arizona State University won the May Swenson Poetry Award for her book Hemming Flames, a copy of which she sent to me on my request. I was opened completely by the book's rawness, an admixture of crushingly difficult memories paired with the complexities of hard-won wisdom. Here is a poet moving personal and confessional writing forward with unflinching earnestness, all the while nurturing and promoting writers into their own humanity and resilience. In every way she strikes me as such a model for writers, from her poem's empathic resonances to the way she lives her life. — HLJ 



Melanie, the Siamese,

on the front porch with baby me.

In pictures, the two of us

are almost the same size.

Later my mother

bought Persians, bred them,

used the money for jewelry,

cigarettes, Drambouie.

The first time a litter came

she sent me searching the house

to find and clean the afterbirth.

I found the babies limp,

smothered in their sleep.

Only twenty more miles.

I am 15. My uncle is driving.

My mother has fled again in her

Oldsmobile, heading for Palo Alto.

We were fighting. She took

all the pills she could find.

My uncle sighs, repeats that

his mother died giving birth to him.

One tenth her weight, he came

screaming from her pelvis on the

coldest Minnesota day in history.

The freeway slips under us like night.

From here I think the hills are

impoverished sisters huddled for warmth

under green mohair blankets.

Seventeen of them: stomach to knee,

buttock to backbone.

We glide past their ankles.

Once I dreamt I was nine months pregnant.

When I went to the bathroom

the baby slipped out like a miraculous

bowel movement. She had blond hair,

and a T-shirt that said French Countryside.

A neighbor saw the birth through the window.

He smiled, continued mowing the back field,

and I hung a bell.

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