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Introduction for October: Being Unreal

I don’t know about you, but my right-now life is laden with reality: bills, the 9-to-5 (necessary to pay said bills), the leaden thing that weighs on everyone at said 9-to-5 (making them mean and me mean), family, the failures of family, a slowing metabolism and no will or energy to exercise. It’s a maddeningly endless personal abyss. And the language that surrounds me every day–mostly sad, simple transactional language–fails.

Yet the poems I’m sharing this darkening October month come from writers who somehow manage to slip out of the trance that keeps us subservient to reality, tethered to the mundane. When they lapse into consciousness, they are possessed as Nietzsche was when he wrote “No artist tolerates reality.” Those who are awake, if only momentarily, are the artists. And by artists, I mean these writers who feel and tinker until they’ve given form to something that exists within the bandwidth of reality but resists humdrum conventionality. Of course, it’s akin to the famed tell it slant. But more than that, they’re telling it like it ain’t, not keeping it real.


This poem appeared previously in the chapbook, in the way of harbors (Dancing Girl Press, 2013).

Alexandra Mattraw’s third chapbook, in the way of harbors, is now available at Dancing Girl Press.  Her first two chapbooks were published through Achiote Press and Beard of Bees.  Her poems and reviews have also appeared in journals including VOLT, Cultural Society, Verse, Word For/Word, Seneca Review, Realpoetik, Denver Quarterly, alice blue, Lost Roads Press, and American Letters & Commentary. Alexandra’s first full manuscript has been selected as a finalist by Nightboat Books and 1913 Press, and her second, Inside the Mind’s Hotel, was recently chosen as a finalist for the Colorado Review Prize.  A former Vermont Studio Center resident, she curates a writing, reading, and art series called Lone Glen in Oakland, California. If you are interested in learning more about Alexandra’s projects, please visit

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Kevin Simmonds is a writer, musician and filmmaker based in San Francisco. His books include the poetry collection Mad for Meat and two edited works, Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality and Ota Benga Under My Mother’s Roof. He wrote the music for the Emmy Award-winning documentary HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica and, most recently, the Japanese noh-inspired theatre piece Emmett Till, a river, commissioned by the Creative Work Fund, which debuts at San Francisco's Theatre of Yugen next month.

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  • Ed Smallfield October 10, 2013, 10:31 am

    Fantastic poem, fantastic reading! Bravo!

  • steven October 10, 2013, 12:02 pm

    I like the raw, visceral language of the work – images that start dialogues unto their own in the reader’s mind while also contributing to the author’s broader intent. Great choice for poem of the week!

  • Lindsey October 17, 2013, 5:43 pm

    “If only sound could open…” Brava. I held my breath for this poem. Beautiful poem!

  • Alex October 21, 2013, 4:30 pm

    Très belle interprétation !

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