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Metta Sama

Ornithology Lesson

First thing we should do/if we see each other again is to make/a cage of our bodies
—Nick Flynn, forgetting something

1.
You find me pirouetting slow
in a tent before an exaltation of men,
dim lights, the scent of refuse
and popcorn and tobacco spit,
the clink of coins changing hands,
the lure of something both sordid
and sanctified.

2.
You follow me everywhere.
Where do you sleep?
I show you my thatch of straw.
What do you eat?
I serve you cave crickets and potato bugs.
How do you bathe?
We stand outside for an entire rain
leaping into puddles.
Why are the feathers on your throat red?
I say that is only for my mate to know.
How would your mate know?
My mate would not have to ask.

3.
Weary of your eyes,
I introduce you to Python Woman.
Her grip, you mention, is impressive,
as is the overlapping leather of her scales,
but you find her endless bunching
and uncoiling unnerving. And the skins
all over her floor, just bad housekeeping.
Venom clings to every fiber.
It will take weeks to rid the smell
from your clothes.

4.
The first time you touch me is an accident.
We are laughing together,
as though you are not only interested
in my hollow bones or my tendency to molt
before I go onstage.
As though you would with anyone,
your hand reaches for me, eyes snapped
tight as two lids over jar mouths
your fingers graze a feather—halt
when they remember.

5.
I’ve seen you sitting mostly naked
patching together found feathers.
Are those supposed to be ________?

6.
The ringmaster wants you to leave.
The bloodcoils around her eyes
convince you it is, in fact, time to go.
She sends the twins to watch you pack.
They argue over what kind of business
you might try that would be considered funny.

7.
You want to know the future.
Will I see you again?
Uncertain.
Do you feel anything for me?
I do not know.
Anything?
I tilt my head and do not blink. You hate that.
Then, goodbye.
I look to the sky, smell rain.

8.
Why I no longer fly:
From here, it is the same view.

Everyone is a fossil,
excavated marionettes breaking
through crests of earth.

From here, a collection of upturned
eyes is a light show splayed
over uncut stones.

Here, we are all seraphs caught
in a mist net, and left
abandoned by the sky.

Ornithology Lesson from Landon Antonetti on Vimeo.

________________________________________________________
Affrilachian Poet and Cave Canem Fellow, Bianca Spriggs, is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Lexington, Kentucky. The author of Kaffir Lily and How Swallowtails Become Dragons, Bianca is the recipient of a 2013 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship in Poetry, multiple Artist Enrichment and Arts Meets Activism grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and a Pushcart Prize Nominee. In partnership with the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, she is the creator of “The SwallowTale Project” a traveling creative writing workshop designed for incarcerated women.

dream in which you survive and in the morning things are back to normal

except, I found tufts of fur at the foot of
the bed _____my muscles bruised beneath
cracked bone _____I thought we were walking
through the woods ___ standing not-close
enough while I tried to find something to pull
from my mouth _____ something that would make
sense ___the ease in which my love for
almost everything folds into itself hard with
waiting _____there was salt in your eyes
my nail beds ached, dull at first ___my mouth
burned with iron ____a small guttural noise
kept spilling __and you ran and wouldn’t stop
_______ and you wouldn’t even turn back

_______________________________________________
Aricka Foreman is a Poetry MFA candidate at Cornell University. A Cave Canem fellow, her work has appeared in The Drunken Boat, Torch Poetry: A Journal for African American Women, Minnesota Review, Union Station Magazine, Bestiary Magazine, and Vinyl Poetry. She is a Poetry Editor of MUZZLE Magazine, and Assistant Editor of EPOCH. She is originally from Detroit.

AND THEN WE SAW THE DAUGHTER OF THE MINOTAUR

Poet, comma. It is thus the delay,
which is also a beginning. That we can link eyes
across her time-space continuum is another hyena.
The female elongates, bares fangs, and a trash
compactor recycles. Hyena gives
in the recycling fashion. Phoenix, no more false
flight from holes; now balloons eat at decay.
Hunger denuded us, too. But will you give
up your death for me? With surgery, I outright hollow
the monster to breathe across windows. I don her hollow
whole. She writes back in the pauses of haze.
Her and her tragic magic. We are all cross-dressing
in tiny wings with the machines of bones to go on.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRjYIPLUiKY&version=3&hl=en_GB]

___________________________________________
Of her most recent book from Litmus Press, I Want to Make You Safe, John Ashbery described Amy King‘s poems as bringing “abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living.” Safe was one of the Boston Globe’s Best Poetry Books of 2011, and it was reviewed, among others, by the Poetry Foundation and the Colorado Review. King co-edits Esque Magazine and the PEN Poetry Series with Ana Bozicevic, has conducted workshops at such places as the San Francisco State University Poetry Center, Summer Writing Program @ Naropa University, Slippery Rock University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and interviews for VIDA: Woman in Literary Arts. She was also honored by The Feminist Press as one of the recent “40 Under 40: The Future of Feminism” awardees and received the 2012 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

To the Night Shark

Past dusk I dived

Fled without flashlight

Went against the current I knew

Would bring me to you

Tooth-skinned from nose to fin

Mortal and counter

Clockwise across you

Skin I gave up to touch

Streamed against the current

One moment still mortal

I was without struggle

without air instinct speech

Skin dissolving between each

Snaggle-toothed stroke

Touch babbling bled

Only then

With the current

Immortal

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znmhzy6FU6g&hl=en_GB&version=3]

___________________________________________________
Rosebud Ben-Oni is a playwright at New Perspective Theater, where she is currently at work on a new play. Educated at New York University, the University of Michigan and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ms. Ben-Oni was a Rackham Merit Fellow and a Horace Goldsmith Fellow. She is also co-editor for “HER KIND,” the official blog of “VIDA: Women in Literary Arts”. Her works have appeared in Puerto Del Sol, Arts & Letters, and The Texas Poetry Review. Her first book of poems SOLECISM is forthcoming from Virtual Artists’ Collective in 2013. Find her at rosebudbenoni.com.

Three poets name their favorite books and poems from the 2011.

b bearhart

1. Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas (UAPress) edited by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
Indigenous Americas. Nuff said. (It’s a poet’s wet dream. Can I say that? Cause I just did.)

2. Mad for Meat (Salmon Poetry) by Kevin Simmonds
This collection is honest and beautiful. No frills or tricks. Simply fantastic poems by a very talented human.

3. “En Route to Bangladesh, Another Crisis of Faith” by Tarfia Faizullah
Thank god for poet friends. So many people linked this poem on social networking sites. I love the way this poem builds through sound.

4. “The Blue Dress in Mother’s Closet” by Saeed Jones
Who is this dude?! This poem is brilliant. Read it.

5. “Yard Sale” by Melissa Jones
This poem is not like my other picks. Or maybe it is and I’m not getting the connection. I like the jarring nature of this poem. It felt like I was reading two poems fighting. And I enjoyed that.

(See and hear b bearhart’s own poem here.)

Alexander Long

1. The Insomniac’s Weather Report by Jessica Goodfellow
In The Insomniac’s Weather Report, we are introduced to Jessica Goodfellow’s method in which the subsequent image or idea pushes the image or idea that preceded it in surprising yet inevitable ways. It’s as though Goodfellow is, at times, entrenched in a game of high-stakes poker against herself, and the ante is steadily raised from image to line to stanza to poem to book until someone wins (we, the readers) and someone loses (she, the poet). And so, the poet clears the table and begins again “by learning the 10,000 ways/ to spell water”.

2. White Shirt by Christopher Buckley
In this, his eighteenth, book, Buckley mines material that readers of his work may initially find familiar: childhood, The Pacific Ocean, the aftershocks of a Catholic upbringing, homage to poets who matter to him. But what may first appear to be nostalgia is actually a confrontation with not just the past but the present, and how the future influences them both. White Shirt is evidence of a poet’s resilience giving way to an almost pure music.

3. Bright Body by Aliki Barnstone
Pastoral, political, erotic, maternal, measured, candid, and always lucent, Barnstone’s seventh book accomplishes something I thought impossible: she makes even Las Vegas gleam with classic beauty, a place where such beauty runs far beneath the surface of glitzy tawdry…as long as the observations are Barnstone’s. Mothers and daughters reveal the brightest light in these poems.

4. Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels by Kevin Young
This book has, rightly, received a good amount of press, most of it well done. I won’t repeat what others have said here explicitly. But I will say what’s obviously been implied: if you are an American and if you don’t know your history (I realize I’m dangerously close to being redundant in that statement), get this book. The Amistad narrative is as American as any of the other so-called feel-good narratives spoonfed to us since grade school.

5. Clean by Kate Northrop
Northrop’s poems have always struck me as strange, beautifully strange, the way angels must appear to us as someone/something strange…at first. I’ve been reading Northrop’s poems for nearly half my life now, and Clean shows me, again, how lucid her vision is, how honed her craft has become.

Jonterri Gadson

1. “Antilamentation” by Dorianne Laux
The way this poem is both specific and universal excited me. It’s a reminder that nothing is a waste of time, there are no mistakes, and that–one day–the pain will be worth it. Well, at the very least, this poem makes those things seem true. This is a poem worth reading every day.

2. “What I Should Have Told the Homeless Man in Cleveland Who Mistook Me for Mary’s Son” by L. Lamar Wilson
This poem explores the complexities of humanity, sexuality, and religion. Yes, all in one. It took me to church in a way I’d never been before and I loved it. Honestly, this poet is worth Google-ing. It was hard for me to choose just one of his poems that stunned me this year.

3. “Midas Passional” by Lisa Russ-Spaar
This poem’s first line gripped, transformed, and transported me. I love how it works both in and out of the context of the Midas myth. The last line makes me want to write.

4. “Found” by Stephanie Levin
I love how this poem gets more and more interesting with every line. It doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of loss.

5. “Ardency” by Kevin Young
This is Kevin Young’s amazing chronicle of the events and people involved with the Amistad slave ship. It’s a full-length poetry collection, but it’s more than just poetry–it is history and it is music and it lent blood and bones to the voices of the Amistad rebels.

(See and hear Jonterri Gadson’s own poem here.)

 

What were your favorite poems & books of 2011? Share them in the comments or on Twitter @thethepoetry.

A work of art is a problem

It’s easy enough to read the thoughts of a newcomer:
the one who will come without appointment
remembering circles and maps of temperance.

Down the avenue of swift and invisible nudes
a thin, brittle demon the shade of an autumn leaf
is seeking imperfections.

Our prophets always speak too soon–
you know you want to own a picture of a man
carrying a drum made of human scalps.

Give me a little more time here–
A democracy of strangeness is
a reminder that the work of art presents not an expression

of identity but a problem
‘I prefer the films that put their audience to sleep in the theatre.’
Now–
I’d like a word or two from you.


_________________________________________________
Sridala Swami writes poetry, short fiction. Her first collection of poems, A Reluctant Survivor,was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award in 2008. She has written three books for very young children, which were published by Pratham in 2009. Swami was the 2011 Charles Wallace Writer-in-Residence at The University of Stirling, Scotland.

Lessons in Solitude from Men

1.
To be okay alone is to treasure time
like a lode in the stone day, but I can’t
figure out how the strong do it, fuse skin
to ore against loss that rains like rusted
bearings, like the recluse Geryon, the suit
he poured his frame into each day, the sheets
of impracticable iron he wore to make rounds
among sheep, a warrior’s carapace that could not
have been his nor do I think the loot of some
conquest, but, I suspect, a shepherd’s grief,
the weight to him of a lover’s solid clasp,
the weight to him of loss.

2.
I learned about solitude from men like Aaron
in Parry Sound, rasping at canoes with his heart
in his heels, from Oliver after Saugatuck stunned hard
and heart sick, the timing for us ill, from Matthew
the summer I left Harlem naked and dumb to a chill
that would singe, and with each it was as though every
fraction of space each made in each day was always
more than each could spare, so that alone now
and shouldering my own heavy hull I hope,
as every Geryon since Hesiod must hope,
for the wind to die and keep love home.


____________________________________________________________________
Roy Pérez lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches Latin@ literature and performance studies at Willamette University. Three of his poems were recently included in the Best of PANIC! anthology by Fire King Press. He is a founding member of the birdsong arts collective and small press in Brooklyn, New York, for which he serves as contributing poetry editor. He is currently working on a book about sex, race, and art entitled Queer Mediums. Born in Los Angeles, raised in Miami, and fashioned in Brooklyn, Roy has now lived in all four corners.

The Blue Dress in Mother’s Closet

Her blue dress is a silk train is a river,
is water seeps into the cobblestone streets of my sleep, is still raining,
is monsoon brocade, is winter stars stitched into puddles,
is goodbye in a flooded antique room, is goodbye in a room of crystal bowls
and crystal cups, is the ring-ting-ring of water dripping from the mouths
of crystal bowls and crystal cups, is the Mississippi River is a hallway, is leaks
like tears from window sills of a drowned house, is windows open to waterfalls,
is a bed is a small boat is a ship, is a current come to carry me in its arms
through the streets, is me floating in her dress through the streets,
is only the moon sees me floating through the streets, is me in a blue dress
out to sea, is my mother is a moon out to sea.


__________________________________________________
Saeed Jones received his MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers University — Newark. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Jubilat, The Collagist & StorySouth. When the Only Light is Fire, his chapbook of poems, will be published by Sibling Rivalry Press in November 2011.

To Women Waiting at the Gynecologist
-Anarcha’s Ballad

Deep inside this cabin, deeper
still into the darkness
arising like fumes, like odor
of woman, broke, harnessed

in a body, by the bodies
of men who believe me
animal, wild, and numb
because my body be

black, be able, be stank after
childbirth, ruined, cast out
into the woods to spoil alone.
My savior wears white coats

bends spoons, bends me, bends spoon
into my crouched hound of body.
White women rest easy in clean
sheets, while spoons scrape through me,

give me new hollows. He
will one day find, in me, how to
mold the tool, the pressure,
his, to relieve those precious as dew

drops settled on dove’s wings
will be gone. And you, innocent
you, lying on cool white
slabs, free legs ready, no remnants

of me in you until
you are pressed wide open, coffee
brewing in the next room,
kind instruments probing you softly.


____________________________________________
Jonterri Gadson is Debra’s daughter. She says that because she hopes she makes her mother proud. She likes funny men and men who find her funny. She’s currently laughing at the fact that she took this bio as an opportunity to solicit men, which she believes will also make her mother proud. All of this is made possible by Jonterri’s belief that the universe (and you, person who would actually read a bio) listens. She can be found tweeting at said universe about poetry, teaching, parenting, and her recent move to Iowa @jaytothetee.

IMG_0960

He Who Talks With A Fist And The Voyeur

How Hippothales hides
How he hides behind rice stalks
How he is knee deep in rice beds listening
_____as bears migrate

.How migration is manifold
.How it starts to unfold from thigh to ass
.How fingers are five migratory birds purposeful
_____they move inland
_____expand

_____one into two
__________into three fires and a dialogue

How he convinces me that everything feels so much better
with prayer.
How he prays.
How two hands steeple.
_____into a pink miigis shell.

__________________________________________________

b: william bearhart fell from garage rafters as child. he is a direct descendent of the St Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin. he spent a couple years at a small two-year college learning how to be human. he attended Squaw Valley Community of Writers and Bread Loaf Writers Conference in an attempt to find words, friends, connection, poems. his work has appeared in American Ghost: Poets on Life After Industry (2011, Stockport Flats) and online at www.interrupture.com.

consider me these hips this

alphabet an echo this symbol

in the hallway surely this tongue

could spin a wow-weaved man

could spin a place to rest to rest

to rest

Lucille Clifton once said, somewhere, that things are better said in threes. She once said that she’d thought of several word options before speaking the one she most fancied. She once said that poetry is about questions, connections. Lucille Clifton said many things outside of poems that felt like poems, and many of us who were blessed to sit in front of her and hear her speak remembers these words. Once, she told us to know beyond the obvious. It’s not difficult to see these little lit bits inside of her poems:

my knees recall the pockets

worn into the stone floor,

my hands, tracing against

the wall their original name, remember

the cold brush of brick, and the smell

of the brick powdery and wet

and the light finding its way in

through the high bars. (from “far memory”)

The lines that open this post are from five friends—Laura Hartmark, Adam Fitzgerald, Anne Rashid, Carrie McGath, and Alexander Long—& are taken from Lucille Clifton’s poems and/or are offered in response to her passing. I am, as many of us are, hurting and healed, mournful and roaring, feeling a little drunk on Lucille Clifton’s words that have been filling my ears all night and day. There was once a time that I thought her words were too sparse; then there was a time the words ravaged; then a time when the words delighted in their conciseness; then there was a time that i wanted to just stare at the non-punctuation. Then, there was my heart feeling blessed.

On this, the first day of the Tiger 2010, I discover that Lucille Clifton was a fire rat: “ imaginative, charming, and truly generous to the person you love. . . Born under this sign, you should be happy in sales or as a writer, critic, or publicist.” This space is here, as are others, for you to say, to read, to listen, to appreciate knowing that we each had an opportunity to make the acquaintance of someone who changed so much of what poetry does and how it comes to do it.

The uploaded photograph is courtesy of Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Here we are in the early days of Black History Month, churning steadily towards Women’s History Month, & chugging heartily towards National Poetry month; it is 2010. We are ending the Year of the Ox, charging headlong to the Tiger’s year; Valentine’s Day will, for some of us, be (wonderfully) subsumed by Chinese New Year. It is 2010 and Brooklyn has finally gotten its “blizzard”. Years ago, when I lived in Binghamton, I thought the fog was lovely, the snow was lovely, all of that weatherly white was lovely. Until I stepped from the dense white of fog, the soft fur of white snow, into a town filled with a severe whiteness. It wasn’t so much the faces as the attitudes. Twice a year, when I head to Vermont to teach, I am reminded of those clouded white faces of Binghamton, faces like flowers, closed to perceived darkness & waiting for the bright white light of sun to open to, towards, to lean into. Sometimes I didn’t care. Sometimes I wrote a poem. Sometimes I went to the gym and put on my headphones and ellipticalled my thighs off. It is 2010, and it is, once again, Black History Month. I’m teaching a class called African American Literature; I’m learning about various faces in Black Female African American arts thanks to the lovely Facebook updates of Valerie Jean Bailey. I am happy. The Poetry Society of America has plastered the faces of 21 Caucasian, one Japanese German American, and one Chicano poets as children all over their website. The lack of inclusion of faces of color has made some folks unhappy. I look at the photos and think of those white cartons of milk and faces of missing children. What’s so genuinely lovely about a child’s face? What would the posting of a Black child’s face tell us about the Poetry Society of America? What does the posting of a child’s face—as tribute—tell us about how the PSA views poetry, poetics? I understand the clear articulation of race in the nonarticulation of race. I get it. And I’m bored to death by it. It’s Black History Month. It’s 2010. We’re in the shortest month of the Western calendar; this month is shared with, oh Groundhog’s Day, 100th day of school day, Charles Dickens’ Day, Thomas Edison’s birthday, President’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. Did you know that Pluto was discovered in February? Well, you’re missing something to celebrate in February, in which you can also celebrate George Washington’s birthday. Yes, February is a month of celebration, so let’s celebrate something. I’m celebrating poets who have charged my mind, spirit, heart. Black poets? Sure. Caucasian poets? Sure. Vietnamese poets? Sure. Flamboyantly heterosexual poets? You betcha. Poets who refuse to check a gender box? Sure. Cablasian poets. Of course. What can each of us do to celebrate the child face that promised poetry, the adult face that licked poetry? Me? I’m reading, I’m typing, I’m teaching. I’m looking for graceful raw energy, that makes me happy. I’m looking for the funky disposition of an innocent finger that makes me happy. I’ve a lot to say about the faces of poetry’s future, but I’ve more to say about Arisa White’s Disposition For Shininess, which has been whooping waves into my brain for eight and a half fucking months; and I’ve curry simmering on the stove, curry turning my silver spoons yellow; I can’t get the cayenne out of fingertips, and I’m rummaging in my brain for a childhood photo of me that I’d share. The weather outside is frightful; salt is chomping into the asphalt; a kid wants to clear my stoop for a few measly bucks, and my laptop is burning a pattern in my thigh. I’m going to  re-listen to this child read Herb Scott’s poem “The Grocer’s Children“, & some of more of Bhanu Kapil’s Humanimal: A Project for Future Children & pretend I’m in Chicago helping little Omar celebrate his second birthday with a snow cake.