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"Cynthia Roth's "The Sound of Love Failing" is a list poem that demonstrates the inevitable relationship between the personal and the political. Given the title, we expect a sufficiency of auditory imagery, and Roth fulfills that expectation, but the poem is rich in visual, olfactory, and tactile imagery as well. . . . The trouble with many list poems is they go on and on and then just stop, as if a list is itself a poem. "The Sound of Love Failing," on the other hand, incorporates examples that force us to examine the nature and variety of love and the myriad opportunities we have to fail and be failed by love on a personal and global scale."

From Lynn Domina's review

of the anthology titled

 Letters to the World: Poems from the WomPo LISTSERV,

Prairie Schooner Vol. 83, No. 3, p. 201-202, 

University of Nebraska Press.


"The Sound of Love Failing"

 first appeared in the journal Mind the Gap.


Anthologies & Group Projects

Leaning Toward Light. Poems for gardens and the hands that tend them, ed. Tess Taylor, Storey Publishing.

Letters to the World, ed. by Moira Richards, Rosemary Starace, & Lesley Wheeler, Red Hen Press.


Grants & Awards

  • Poetry Residency, SAFTA

  • Illinois Arts Council Poetry Fellowship

  • Fiction & Poetry Scholarships, RopeWalk Writer's Retreat

  • Tennessee Williams Scholarship, Sewanee Writers' Conference

Recent Poetry Commissions

  • "In Morning Light,” written to accompany  "Le Fil Conducteur III” by Caroline Rosoff for the UNIQUES auction benefiting the Society of American Goldsmiths

  • “Home,” a lyric commissioned by Caritas Family Solutions for their Annual Fundraising Gala benefiting services for foster children






















Born in Jackson, MS

Raised in Nashville, TN


Cynthia Roth's poems and book reviews have appeared in several journals including Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Word Riot, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Amarillo Bay, Harvard Review, Crab Orchard Review, Poetry Midwest, and Moxie. She writes poetry commissions for individuals and organizations through the contact page.


Her first chapbook, Ekphrasis, was part of the Dusie Press Kollektiv in 2014. She has read her poems at Pike's Pub in Seattle, WA; Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Sally Logan Library in Murphysboro, IL; Bread Loaf in Middlebury, VT; and Washington University in St. Louis, MO. 


A short film about her work as a poet & artist was produced by WTTW Chicago for the series Arts Across Illinois. In 2015, poems from her unpublished manuscript were read and reviewed by David Harris on Radio Free Nashville. Other honors include semi-finalist in the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition, and finalist awards in poetry from Lost Roads Press, the St. Louis Poetry Center, Gulf Coast, & other journals and organizations. She has also received an Individual Fellowship in Poetry from the Illinois Arts Council.


She earned her MFA in poetry at SIU Carbondale.





It is not the kthump of a large book closing,

or of air pushed fast by nausea up the eustachian tubes.

More like the clink of Judas’ bloodmoney

or a parent’s backhand crack across a child’s face,

echo of curled body rolling against one wall

then another. It is in the whine of trees cleared off

the backyard forest you thought your father owned.

Those chainsaws sent you out to the wood across the highway

climbing strange trees until you could smell only the blood

in your hair, skin of your fingers, ammonia halo

of sound conducted in spiral time to the cries

of Mary Godwin’s babies when she died.


The sound returned in the slammed door of a seventies two-door, hard like the heavy look your first husband threw you

after that metal and right before you left him.

And later in the low hum of humiliation

behind eyes that could not comprehend

why your new lover would fly you both to New York in his jet

for a quiet weekend, then call you not Jewish enough

in Yiddish slang for lingering outside a cathedral.

Every slammed screen door in this world knows it by heart.

The land mines and missiles treatied away

come back through the black market, the plowed and dozed earth, threatening suburban sleep, whispering Munich.




He was a son first and a fan of punk rock.

His sister Patrice said he wore ratty clothes,

spikes, patches, studs and tats.

Mother Mary was shocked when her son John,

father of two, expressed his desire to be a cop. 

But he was the kind of policeman who opened doors.

The kind of beat cop who talked to people.

“John Wilding was the real deal,” wrote

Detective Spathelf about his young friend.


My own policeman

whom I asked today, said,


“He had to have courage

to run through the dark,

to scale a wall,

to do his job.


We are the people

who are paid to be

the reasonable voice,

the voice of the law.”


I imagine he flew those last fifteen feet.

I believe that he heard an unutterable sound.

I want to tell his mother and wife

he felt zero pain. I want to conjure

a magical spell, to turn back the clock.

To change the meaning of John Wilding's

county, Lackawanna, from "stream that forks" to

"river that carries all of our sons, back to their mothers."

published in Lament for the Dead








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