Publication: Relief Journal

Thanks to Relief Journal for publishing my essay "What My Brother Wore." Here is a brief excerpt:

We drove from Tuscany to coastal Cinque Terre, to the town of Vernazza. Midday, sunbathers draped like laundry over the black rocks, and we sat out for hours at the water’s edge—Joe, Chris, Austin and I. In a bathing suit, Joe’s body was strong and his broad chest looked so much like my dad’s, and his skin was fair and he smoked cigarettes and interrogated the snails, holding them like stretched hands into my face, and he seemed at once so much like a boy and so much like a man. We laughed like kids as Chris impersonated Pavarotti. When the sun was high, Joe was ready for a swim and he sat at the water’s edge wetting his toes, laughing in his timidity to plunge off of the rocks. In that moment I saw so many moments from his boyhood, his curiosity and caution, his sensitivity—never quite sure how the world would receive him.

The full essay can be found in the print journal, which you can purchase here.


Merry Christmas; Father is Gone, a poem

Merry Christmas; Father is Gone

Merry Christmas;
Father is gone.
His body is dust on the mantle
Beside balsam needles, magnolia leaves
And a photo of young Mother
Kissing him in her crown of baby’s breath— 
Those white hot holy stars—
Her lace and his gold-buttoned blazer.
Fire breathes below.
Embers turn ashes on hot stone.

We gather on couches and guess
What gifts he’d give if he were home.
What poems he’d pen to mark the year,
To smear our foreheads, dear, blest.
What words to wake us to Christ’s cheer?

    Who wears the crown now,
    those white hot stars?
    Who blazes gold and evergreen?
    Who lies with lions, wakes from dreams,
    and, watching no clock, gathers us all?

Philadelphia Songwriters Contest

Cat Ricketts is a finalist in the Philadelphia Songwriters Contest & your support counts!

Cast your vote in the audience of the Finals Showcase at Ardmore Music Hall, 4pm on Sunday, May 31.

Event details. At the Finals Showcase, 12 finalists will perform for a panel of industry judges, and audience members vote, too!

Buy your ticket

Listen to the song that won the votes of industry judges & has become a "fan favorite" so far.

I'd love to see you there!

Leonard Cohen Song Symposium at University of Pennsylvania's Kelly Writers House

Watch this video of the Leonard Cohen Song Symposium--an evening of performances and essays in celebration of the songs of Leonard Cohen, featuring Sarah Lindstedt (UPenn '15), Anthony DeCurtis (Rolling Stone), Brennan Cusack (UPenn '15), Mark Richardson (Pitchfork), Greg Djanikian (UPenn Creative Writing), Tom Moon (NPR Music), Cat Ricketts (that's me!) and Al Filreis (UPenn Creative Writing). My performance is at 57:37, but you'll be glad if you watch the whole evening. 

Grace, a poem


When winter was as old as grandmother—

with her silver hair branches and silver skin fields, 

pleased to live forever—I bought ten yellow tulips.

I rested their stems on my forearm, their

silken glowing faces on my elbow like a newborn

as I walked through a dusty violet sky.

Strangers smiled, surprised to see the burst of bright.

The moon dangled its sliver,

the air whispered its shiver,

and the flowers were a sleeping child.

Auld Lang Syne

Last December, I penned new words to this old song, the title of which means "long, long ago," "days gone by," or "old times." Today I am posting this new recording. Maybe it will help you to reflect and celebrate the moments you just spent with dear friends, which left you somehow whole-hearted and longing for more, all at the same time. That's how Christmas and the coming of a new year work on me. Maybe this song will help you to make some sense of that feeling.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind

Lest auld acquaintance be forgot

I'll sing for auld lang syne


For auld lang syne, my dear

For auld lang syne 

We'll take a cup of kindness yet 

For auld lang syne.


Brim-fill that cup of kindness up,

Have a sip of wine and glow

Beside the tree, O pine with me

For the Christmas clock to slow


The Christmas clock to slow

The Christmas clock to slow

I’d give you all I know and have

If the Christmas clock would slow


The auld lang syne, told there

In the heirloom wooden crèche

Too strange, too complicated, O

We regard with awe and hush.


As Mary gazed at shepherd guests

And wondered at their words,

I’ll hold you in my pond’ring heart

Old friend, still much unheard


Old friend, so much is still unheard

Old friend, so much unheard,

A chasm full, immeas’rable

Are your secrets still unheard.


Imagine yet a table set

For all I’ve loved before

For brother, friend, ea  ch tear to mend

Sit there with me til morn


Til morning light intrudes on us

Til morning light intrudes

Unhurried, stay til night gives way

And the morning light intrudes


For auld lang syne, my dear

For auld lang syne 

We'll take a cup of kindness yet 

For auld lang syne.









I am grateful to Philadelphia photographer Keghan Crossland whose work is displayed on the home page of this web site. Here are some photos with my roommate Julie at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You can see more of Keghan's work here and here.


'Downpour' Debut, Live at the Tin Angel

Here's a video from our October 3 show at the Tin Angel with Lowland Hum and Sonja Sofya. It was an honor to share the stage with musicians whose work I so esteem and whose company I so enjoy. Sarah's handprints are all over this song, as the piano composition is entirely hers. (Handclaps, mine.)

Downtown downpour
Surprise July storm
Take cover under the sycamores
In the park as day grows dark

You wait for the rain to die,
You're watching the water
For the drops on the pavement to splash a bit smaller
Don't want to ruin your shoes
Don't want the pocks on the leather
So you stay where you are and you yield to the weather

In the living room at your daddy's side
Surprise, mother cries
The words you could say would just get in the way,
Tear-weary, you sit in the quiet

You wait for the rain to die,
You're watching the water
For the drops on the pavement to splash a bit smaller
Don't want to ruin your shoes
Don't want the pocks on the leather
So you stay where you are and you yield to the weather

Wait for the job
Wait for your partner
Wait for the healing you pray for your father
Wait for your mission
Wait for permission
Wait for restoring, you wait for remission

May Mini-tour

Here are some photos from the mini-tour that inaugurated my return to performing in Philly and its neighboring cities. I spent the weekend with David Tanklefsky and Craig Martinson (of Craig Martinson and the Heartbeats) and we rock-umented the whole trip for your viewing enjoyment. See here some home-made merch and house-show decor. See our view from the Lake Montibello house show in Baltimore, where we put a pup to sleep at our feet. See also the highlights from Brooklyn: the Williamsburg bridge, a privileged moment for me to chime in with one of my favorite songwriters during David's set at Cameo Gallery, a visit to Brooklyn Botanic Garden with Heartbeats' Eric Giordano (gardener by day, pianist by night), and a Memorial Day cookout at the home of Basement Band's John Durgee. What a weekend!

Farewell Fellows | Philly hellos

These are days to savor.

By this time on Friday, I will be driving back to Philadelphia having finished my year at the Trinity Forum Academy, a residential graduate fellowship on the Chesapeake Bay.  As the year draws to a close, I am grateful for the many delights and challenges of living and studying with these strangers-turned-friends-turned-family-- for the time and space to develop discipline in my creative work, for the songs and essays born of that discipline, for the strong network of colleagues who have graciously offered their mentorship, and for friendships marked by humble listening, by startling and beautiful honesty.

look forward to moving back to Philadelphia, where I'll begin playing out regularly and connecting again with the Philly scene. I am trilled for the return to urban life, for face time with old friends and for the promise of new ones. I am excited to focus my work, energy and affection in my neighborhood--to dwell where I live.

ere are some photos from our final days here. Photo credits to Kameron Horvath, Lindsday Beck, Karena Dixon and Skyler Fike.

House Shows!

Philadelphia, PA | May 24

Baltimore, MD | May 25

rsvp | for event details

Later this month, I'll join Boston singer-songwriter David Tanklefsky for two nights of his spring tour, playing Philadelphia on Friday, May 24 and Baltimore on Saturday, May 25. David and I did a northeast tour together last spring, and I can't wait to share the stage with this talented songwriter and old friend once again.

May 24 | I will inaugurate my return to Philadelphia with small and spirited house show at my family's home in West Philadelphia. I'll share some of the songs I've been working on this year and take requests for old favorites. Please grab a friend and join us for this special night!

May 25 | The following evening, I'll tag along with David for a house show in Baltimore, MD. We'll join Baltimore folk musicians Letitia VanSant and MacGregor Burns. The night promises home brewed beer, new friends and general good cheer--I hope to see you.


On Friday, I officially turned in my thesis, the labor of love that has taken up much of my head and heart space during these eight months on the Eastern Shore. The piece is entitled "Reweaving: The humanizing virtues of music for the weary and unwoven." The photos below capture some of the key moments in the process of the writing: the Frio River at Laity Lodge, where I attended the retreat entitled "Artists as Caretakers of the Imagination" with Jamie Smith, David Taylor and Isaac Wardell... a lunch at the Academy with painter Mako Fujimura... the fellows and I taking a study break for our first spring dinner... the librewery where we wrestled with words during those final nights of writing...and finally, the finished product. I plan to craft several copies of this little volume and mail them as thanks to the many folks who contributed to my writing.

From the introduction... "The arts, among other forms of discourse, have a unique capacity to help us live well. In the essays that follow, personal narrative weaves through cultural exegesis, aesthetic philosophy and Judeo-Christian theology to make a case for the humanizing virtues of the arts. I am a poet and a folk singer. In order to imagine how these theories and ideals will take root and flourish in my own life, I have focused these essays on the humanizing virtues of music. I hope, though, that this book speaks to craftsmen of all kinds—to novelists and dancers, potters and painters, gardeners and chefs. I hope that it reminds artists of the weighty privilege of our work, and spurs us to be faithful to our craft and faithful to our audience. I hope that it also energizes our friends and neighbors to enable artists to do good work. For it is by this good work that we might be rewoven and made more truly human."