Currently Reading: Rose Alcalá's MyOTHER TONGUE

I am especially digging the prose poems in Rose Alcalá‘s MyOTHER TONGUE (Futurepoem, 2017). They are haunting and illuminating, and leave my mind hanging in multiple imagined places. Which is always something to admire in a poem: its ability to shift me elsewhere.

AT HOBBY LOBBY

She tosses a bolt of fabric into the air. Hill country, prairie, a horse trots there. I say three yards,
and her eyes say more: What you need is guidance, a hand that can zip scissor through cloth.
You need a picture of what you’ve lost. To double the width against the window for the gathering.
Consider where you sit in the morning (transparency’s appealing, except it blinds us before day’s
begun). How I long to captain that table, to repeat in a beautiful accent a customer’s request. My
mother cut threads from buttons with her teeth, inquiring with a finger in the band if it dug into
the waist. Or kneeled against her client and pulled a hem down to a calf to cool a husband’s collar.
I can see this in my sleep, among notions. My bed was inches from the sewing machine, a dress on
the chair weeping its luminescent frays. Sleep was the sound of insinuation, a zigzag to keep holes
receptive. Or awakened by a backstitch balling under the foot. A needle cracking? Blood on a white
suit? When my baby’s asleep I write to no one and cannot expect a response. The fit’s poor, always.
No one wears it out the door. But fashions continue to fly out of magazines like girls out of windows.
Sure, they are my sisters. Their machines, my own. The office from which I wave to them in their
descent has uneven curtains, made with my own pink and fragile hands.

Currently Reading: Lauren Russell

I've recently been enjoying the fabulous Lauren Russell's What's Hanging on the Hush. My favorite thing about Lauren's poetry is her keen attention to musicality, a word sound skill at which not every poet is so deft. Consider the following example:


Throat to Ink, Ink to Fin

When I was ten,
my class went whale
watching off the California Coast.
I remember that time as worried
and tall, salt wind halo of frizz
gangly tip toe tripping
toward the rail, alone,
under my breath singing
"Shenandoah." I imagined
a soundtrack to my life, railed
in vibrato strain of bent-back
wind. The hiccup hack, leaning in.

My student writes an essay
about " the loneliest whale" that sings
at a pitch no other whale can hear. (Pitched
into the waves, an ocean tent, bent.)
"But how do you know it's the loneliest?" I insist.

When I was nine, calluses
on my palms from monkey bars,
I sang No man can a hinder me
barring no note swung
vibrato lunge. But the end
of last summer hung
on a mockingbird song:
And the mockingbird
can sing like the crying
of a dove
, the note bent
around a long vowel
strain, and notes
stuck to a mirror, and ink
tripped in the glass, fluke
and flippers rising back.



 

And my favorite poem in the collection:
 

On Loneliness

I am lonely because I could not learn to be a body.
I was born upside down and could never balance on one foot.
I am lonely because there were too many cherry popsicles.
I was holding out for mango, and thus I missed the lesson on sucking up.
I was there for the lesson on ventriloquism: Be careful
when you transfer your voice to another. She might sell it on eBay.
He might dump it in the compost bin. You might be like the Little Mermaid,
lost outside your element, unable to speak to the Handsome Prince.
That is how I feel at parties, but I never had a singing lobster to help me adjust.
I am lonely because I shy away from lobsters.
I saw them crammed together in the supermarket tank, desperate with their pincers bound.
I was fourteen when I became a vegetarian. I was nine when I stopped watching TV.
I am lonely because I do not have a television.
When everyone talks about the latest reality show star, I say, "Who's that?"
and feel bored and superior. I was fifteen when I read Lolita in the bath--
an advantage of contact lenses, to be able to read in a room full of steam.
I am lonely because I stopped wearing contacts.
Some mornings someone steps onto the fire escape and empties a bucket
or bowl or bedpan or bamboo pot. I am always half asleep, and myopic
without my glasses I cannot tell if the dumper is a man, woman, child, or angel.
I am lonely because I never go to the window to find out.

AWP 2018

Good times at AWP 2018 in Tampa. Presented on a couple of panels. Visited with many old friends. And we introduced Berkeley to AWP! He did not like the bookfair.
 

 The three-owl family with our friend, the awesome poet, Lauren Russell.

The three-owl family with our friend, the awesome poet, Lauren Russell.

Timothy Daniel Welch's Odd Bloom Seen from Space

Timothy Daniel Welch's prize-winning Odd Bloom Seen from Space is now available!

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say:
“On what do we prop our lives and/ what if it can’t hold,” asks Welch in his tender, mysterious debut, a winner of the 2016 Iowa Poetry Prize. The props in question may be myth and memory, the book’s base elements, which Welch uses to tell new stories about intimacy and identity. Masculinity is a particular site of revision: the book begins with the loss of virginity rendered in Herculean terms—as a labor, even a slaughter, rather than a feat of bravura. Welch’s poems are about “skinny boys/ without a sense of butchery”—those for whom “honesty is a kind of/ solitude.” Such distance leaves his characters at the fringes of history, struggling to understand their place in it: “I don’t know/ how to collect each new// perspective,” Welch writes in the title poem, which opens with an astronaut’s description of the 9/11 attacks. But this remove also bestows vision, one that often makes the mundane life events the book recounts wonderfully unfamiliar. Welch sees snowballs as “brief comets/ smoldering// at my feet” and hears “Owls and their Michael Jackson/ hooting in the trees.” His work is at once cubist and confessional, aching and wry. Welch’s point-of-view, however eccentric, is an altogether welcome one.

 

 

"Leda Burning" featured in the New York Times Sunday Magazine!

A poem from Latest Volcano, "Leda Burning," will appear in the January 15, 2017 issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. How crazy is that?

The magazine's poetry editor, Matthew Zapruder, writes of the poem:

An ekphrastic poem considers a work of art. This poem is a sort of shadow ekphrastic, one that describes a painting at the moment it is burned, in order to freeze us in Leda’s eternal triple violation: by the swan god, by personified fire and by the terrible desire of the soldier, which can be consummated only by destruction. 

 Illustration by R.O. Blechman

Illustration by R.O. Blechman

Bared: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts

Pleased to have a poem included in this new anthology, just out from Les Femmes Folles Books and edited by the excellent Laura Madeline Wiseman

Bared: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts

Les Femmes Folles Books, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-692-82022-3

Bared: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts anthology collects the work of 170 contemporary women poets and artists. Exploring the gendered narratives that clothe and fashion the body, gender subversion, the traditional male gaze, feminist theories, and more, the artists and poets collected in Bared: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts resist given narratives about the breast and bra by boldly presenting alternatives in written and visual art. The poetry and art of Bared consider commodification, training bras, mammograms, bra factories, biopsies, bra-fit, pencil tests, cancer, mastectomies, sexuality, implants, nursing, representation, and so much more, highlighting the importance of women’s bodies now and in the coming years.

“In this anthology, Kara Maria’s raw yet beautiful painted depictions of women holding up their bruised breasts, work alongside Kimberly L. Becker’s poem, heartfully and passionately honoring all that comes with being bound to these patches of round skin on our chests Nicola Santalucia’s playful narrative illustrations bring something new with Andrea Witzke Slot’s warm poetic contribution of women who find kinship in the park. Janelle Cordello’s sweet and sinuous line drawing and watercolor figures of women at ease in their underclothes as though in a locker room, cause more pause when taken in with Tara Betts’ artful poem about women models and Ann Bracken’s poem of a secretive tryst.  Florine Desmonthe’s dark charcoal figures in abstracted muted backgrounds after reading Susanna Childress’ self-portrait poem brings a raw authenticity.” – Sally Deskins

Full List of Contributors

Kelli Russell Agodon | Kathleen Aguero | Nin Andrews | Amy Kollar Anderson | Catherine Arra | Lana Ayers | Melissa Balmain | Julie Brooks Barbour | Wendy Barker | Hadara Bar-Nadav | Ellen Bass | Kimberly L. Becker | Francesca Bell | Jacqueline Berger | Erin M. Bertram | Tara Betts | Katie Bickham | Sally Bliumis-Dunn | Ann Bracken | April Michelle Bratten | Becky Breed | Shirley J. Brewer | Kierstin Bridger | Julia Cahill | Cathleen Calbert | Susana H. Case | Grace Cavalieri | Amy Cerra | Sarah A. Chavez | Susanna Childress | Chuka Susan Chesney | Suzanne Cleary | Kaye Cleave | Maria Raquel Cochez | Marilyn Coffey | Maryann Corbett | Janelle Cordero | Kathy Crabbe | Catherine Daly | Julie Danho | Kate Daniels | Pam Davenport | Laura E. Davis | MaryLisa DeDomenicis | Lorene Delany-Ullman | florine desmothene | Danielle DeTiberus | Alexa Doran | Caitlin Doyle | Jehanne Dubrow| Denise Duhamel | Teresa Dunn | Jaclyn Dwyer | Meg Eden | Julie R. Enszer | Kate Falvey | Alexis Rhone Fancher | Laurel Feigenbaum |Noelle Fiori | Julie Fordham | Rebecca Foust | Jackie Fox | Sherese Francis | Jennifer Franklin |Alice Friman | Michelle Furlong | Kara Gall | Sandee Gertz | Bonnie Gloris | Camille Guthrie | Hedy Habra | Lois Marie Harrod | Janet Ruth Heller | Jaimee Hills | Trish Hopkinson | Katy Horan | Stacy Howe | Karla Huston| Barbara Helfgott Hyett | Gray Jacobik | Susan Jamison |Parneshia Jones | Alison Joseph | Julie Kane | Evelyn Katz | Jill Klein | Alyse Knorr | Judy Kronenfeld | Alexis Kyriak | Joy Ladin | K.A. Letts | Lisa Lewis | Marisa Lewon | Lyn Lifshin | Susan Lizotte | Ellaraine Lockie | Diane Lockward | Jessica Helen Lopez | Alison Luterman | Katharyn Howd Machan | M. Mack | Mandem | Katrina Majkut | Kara Maria | Maya Marshall | Jill McDonough | Susan McLean | Mary Meriam | Rosemary Meza-Desplas | Leslie Adrienne Miller | Rachel Mindrup | Amanda Moore | Catherine Moore | Joely Johnson Mork | Alice Morris | Kel Mur | Lesléa Newman | Alicia Ostriker | Jane Otto | Cristina Natsuko Paulos | Jennifer Perrine | Maria Peter-Toltz | Amy Plettner | Cati Porter | Courtney Kenny Porto | Andrea Potos | Lee Price | Suzanne Proulx | Hilda Raz | Susan Rich | Lauren Rinaldi | Barbara Rockman | Libby Rowe | Nicole Santalucia | Cathy Sarkowsky | Jane Satterfield | Lynn Schmeidler | Barbara Schmitz | Maureen Seaton | Laura Shovan | Martha Silano | Karen Skolfield | Andrea Witzke Slot | Amy Small-McKinney | Mary Beth Smith | Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam | Virginia Chase Sutton | Margo Taft Stever | Kim Rae Taylor | Sue Ellen Thompson | Carine Topal | KC Trommer | Meg Tuite | Ann Tweedy | Rhonda Thomas Urdang | Kathrine Varnes | Marlana Adele Vassar | Natalie Voelker | Stacey Waite | Catherine Wald | Beth Walker | Tracey Watts | Tana Jean Welch | July Westhale | Sarah Ann Winn | Rosemary Winslow | Anne Harding Woodworth | Janet Deker Yanez | Belgin Yucelen

Currently Reading: Nate Marshall's Wild Hundreds

I'm honored to be reading with Nate Marshall in Tallahassee tomorrow night! Check out his excellent book: Wild Hundreds, which includes the poem below.

 

 

 

 

out south

And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
— Robert Frost, "Out, Out"

                                                                          

in Chicago kids are beaten. they crack
open; they're pavement. they don't fight, they die.
bodies bruised blue with wood. cameras catch
us killing, capture danger to broadcast

on Broadways. we Roseland stars made players
for the press. apes caged from first grade until.
shake us. we make terrible tambourines.
packed into class, kids passed like kidney stones.

each street day is unanswered prayer for peace,
news gushes from Mom's mouth like schoolboy blood.
Ragtown crime don't stop, only waves—hello.
crime waves break no surface on news—goodbye.

every kid that's killed is one less free lunch,
a fiscal coup. welcome to where we from.

 

New Poems

"Not this Boston" and "Expect Any Answer" appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of the Colorado Review.

These are the first poems published from my new manuscript, and the first poems published post-Latest VolcanoAnother poem, "The Real Nightmare," is set to appear in the Winter 2016 issue of Prairie Schooner.

I'm very grateful to the editors of these two journals for their interest in my new work!