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Detail shot from Medusa in her Sunday Best, oil on canvas.

MANDEM is the art name shared by Maize Arendsee (an art instructor and Studio Art MFA student at Florida State University) and her life-partner, Moco Steinman-Arendsee. Drawing on an academic background in classical mythology, gender studies, and critical theory, MANDEM works across media and materials (painting, assemblage/collage, film, sculpture, and book-making), intentionally destabilizing genre in terms of content and media. MANDEM has received numerous art awards, including Juror’s Merit at the LaGrange National XXVII (2014) and First Place at the FSU Museum of Fine Art Summer Annual Exhibition (2014). While being widely published and nationally exhibited, MANDEM remains actively involved in the Tallahassee art scene. (www.MythpunkArt.com)
Artist Statement:

We are a transdigital artist. Our art is an exercise in categorical violations, simulation, and narrative (translation: we are makers, rule-breakers, tricksters, and storytellers). We work across media and materials: painting, assemblage/collage, film, sculpture, and book-making, and purposefully refuse to discriminate between physical and digital tools. (This is an integration we refer to as “transdigital”).

The final products are a union of digital and physical medium such that the two become indistinguishable, and this ambiguity of medium is utterly intentional. This is a both-neither art — a cyborg art — half digital and half organic.

Our work intentionally destabilizes genre, both in terms of content and media, an intention born out of personal identity as a queer feminists. We are interested in subtle ways to defy comfortable expectations. Our subject matter is also liminal, often featuring characters of uncertain biological identity (blurring the lines between genders and between humans, animals, and machines), or objects caught between two states of being. We create work that is simultaneously repulsive and beautiful, and use this uncomfortable dichotomy to pull our audience in to the polyphonic narratives embedded in our work.

The work is deeply informed by our academic background in antiquities, mythography, intellectual history, and literary theory — our paintings, assemblages, and films transform the foundational myths and metaphors of Western culture to hint at a new post-postmodern (and quite often post-apocalyptic and post-human) mythos.

BruceCovey

People I’d Like to Meet

Ken Singleton & Emerson Boozer. Wait, I already met Ken Singleton &
Emerson Boozer signing autographs at some kind of auto show when I was a kid.

Haixia Zheng, Otis Birdsong, World B. Free.
Nancy Kerrigan & Tonya Harding. Surya Bonaly.

The Flash. Lucille Ball. Rosemarie Waldrop.
A helicopter. A litter of kittens. A pair of mittens.

A bolt of lightning. Ellen Page, Kesha. Martellus Bennett.
Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, & the Blue Marvel.

A raindrop. A footprint. 2,000 years.
An image of an image of Billie Holiday.

Yayoi Kusama, Robert Smithson, Jenny Holzer.
(I already met Henry Rollins & Mike Watt & Vincent Price in bookstores.)

Jane Freilicher. James Schuyler.
A dozen roses or slices of bread.

The He & She from the That’s What They Said jokes.
The They & Them from They’re Making Me Do Things statements.

Kathleen Hanna. Ian Curtis. Yolandi Visser. MIA.
Lana Turner, named after the journal. After Frank O’Hara. John Cage.

Vanilla, almond, cardamom, & coconut.
A poor excuse. A field of wheat.

Edward Field. Some kind of statement. A lemon tree.
Kafka. An undocumented week.

 

_______________________________________________________________

Bruce Covey’s sixth book of poetry, Change Machine, was published by Noemi Press in 2014. He lives in Atlanta, GA, where he publishes and edits Coconut magazine and Coconut Books and curates the What’s New in Poetry video reading series for the literary web community Real Pants. He also serves as Small Press Editor for Boog City and has taught at Yale, Emory, and the Atlanta College of Art.

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

The Human Zoo

Soon I appear through the fog, my face presses against the cage. There is a scrim of dark edging the metal. You are there, pushing life toward my mouth with your fingers. Now I reach without biting. In the dark my own hands grasp how small & tame I am. You say, stay wild with your eyes & ideas. But imagine if my hand could not find your hand. Through the skin of what has survived. If I come up for air but then slip again beneath the current, remember how I glittered, with water pouring from every pore. You would walk down into our earth & watch me race behind the captive green glass. I leave you the gills of my faith, the jaw of my empathy. The flowers will remember my rain & my murmurs. How absurd I am. Even the thunderheads will remember a woman who shook with fire. You sink my net to the floor & work fast. It is how we must perform kindness. My flesh opens like a black claw. Why are you still not afraid of me? I want to see how close the sun will near the water. How the end will hold a woman’s wings above the flames.

______________________________________________________________

Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and visual artist. She is the recipient of fellowships including the Cave Canem Foundation, Millay Colony, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her visual and literary work has appeared widely. Griffiths is the creator and director of P.O.P (Poets on Poetry), a video series of contemporary poets featured by the Academy of American Poets. Griffiths’ fourth collection of poetry, Lighting the Shadow, will be published by Four Way Books in 2015. Griffiths teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lighting the Shadow is now available: http://www.amazon.com/Lighting-Shadow-Rachel-ElizaGriffiths/dp/1935536575/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424987994&sr=8-1&keywords=lighting+the+shadow

terri witek

The Street Where I Lived
______________________(on one Facebook thread, I asked for a childhood address
______________________and a detail from that house. 24 hours later, I asked for an
______________________address where something bad had happened and one detail
______________________from that house)

I think it was on Reservoir Street
_____on 1234 Fremont Street
I think it was on Elemetra
_____on Huckleberry Road
named for Desert Avenue
named for Humble Avenue
named for Swallow Lane
_____for South Layton Boulevard
_____for the oil company
I think I lived on Park Avenue East then
_____on Primm Road then
_____on Lydale Place then
it was was Smith Drive then
where I lived__Denver Avenue
___________Buffalo Avenue
then orPrinceton Road
named for Paseo Primero
named for Menahan Street
_____for East River Road
I lived on East Fairfax then
_____on Northwest 60th Court then
or maybe it was Brookview Drive then
_____or Olympic Drive then
_____or Independence Avenue
where I livedPuritan Avenue
_____livedGreenbriar Avenue
_____livedSer Del Drive
where ISt John’s Avenue
_____ISwiss Hill Road
_____IRiver Avenue lived
on___17th Avenue South then
_____Offenburger Strasse 45 then
_____105th Place Northeast
whereIUniversity Avenue
_____-IRua Madalena
lived__Aleknagik Road
there_-Cain Road
there_-Bomar Avenue
there_-2234 Winnebago Trail
there on Elm Grove Road
_______Linda Lane
_______City Park Avenue
and__I think it was 3rd Street
instead of 4th__I’m sure
it wasn’t__5th or 2nd
where it all__ripped
__________climbed
__________sneaked
__________happened
behind the alley
behind the orchard
_____the playhouse
_____the orange tree
_____the splintery
_____the fire escape
_______balcony
__red porchwith raccoons
__________-with ice tea (hello)
__________-with brick light post leaping
__________-with low-hanging maple limb
our first and only dog
is buried there
where I livedwith red shag carpet
___________with windowsills 2 feet deep
_______________a swimming pool
_______________a big rock
_______________a ufo
_______________a wood-seated swing
my dad made
_______________mayonnaise on white bread
my dad made
and air conditioner
meantblue sky with clouds
meantbaked asbestos shingles
meant3windows too large for the rooms
_______2 windows too small
meant poster with presidents
only through Kennedy
only red bicycle
only the dock where
company coming
only the torn corner
_____of a screen
_____of a cherry tree
_____of a porchlight
_____of grandmother’s cello
and I think it was there
storm torqued black crack
mustard yellow crack
emphysema there
divorced there
shot in the driveway there
_____my one-block-white
_____one-block–black tile there
_____sky turned yellow-green there
where I came home from school
______________from the neighbor’s
(that was Bit’s mother)
______________from Chris and Mandy’s
via satellite phone
via clock radio
via Old Time Rock and Roll
there waiting for my dad
_____2windows too big
and I lived there
_____purple sheets
I lived there
_____school bus
I lived there
_____rushed the fence
_____whippoorwill
_____splintery
_____2 windows
_____my father’s swim trunks
tied to the railing

_______________________________________________________________

Terri Witek is the author of Exit Island (2012); The Shipwreck Dress (2008), a Florida Book Award winner; The Carnal World (2006), Fools and Crows (2003), Courting Couples (winner of the 2000 Center for Book Arts Contest), and Robert Lowell and LIFE STUDIES: Revising the Self (1993). A native of northern Ohio, she teaches English at Stetson University, where she holds the Sullivan Chair in Creative Writing. In 2000, she received the McInery Award for Teaching, and in 2008, she received the John Hague Teaching Award for outstanding teaching in the liberal arts and sciences. Throughout her career she has worked with visual artists, and the reverberations between mediums is explored in much of her work. Her collaborations with Brazilian new media artist Cyriaco Lopes have been featured in galleries or site-specific projects in New York City, Los Angeles and elsewhere.

 

Vasiliki Katsarou

PIER AT CANNES

seen at a film (fish)
marketacross the bay, a string of lights

never thought she’d find herself

in an Antonioni film

yet here she is and so is he—
mere witnesses to an abstraction

the dark sea and dark sky meet somewhere

_________________she thinks,
_____directing herself to find a gesture
as apt as this moment

he stares back
in irreflection

The sea and sky may kiss at the horizon
Why not we?

_____________She turns
a cartwheel instead
_____________to approach him
and yet remain distant

absurdity strikes
at the very heart

of the proposition

What a child, an American!

He is of course a French polygamist
with several children by several wives in farmhouses
scattered about the French countryside

so fated to act out

two wholly different scripts,

he says

_____________Un écrivain a dit…
_____________[A writer once said]

là où toutes les eaux se mèlent, là où il y a un delta—
[Where all the waters come together, at the mouth]

la merde l’a créé.
[shit created it.]

But what about beauty
she wonders too late
_____________doesn’t beauty equal love?

she wanders too late
the sky darkens further

_____________La bêtise
_____________[Nonsense]
is his reply
_____________
_____________
from the edge
of that shore
they part

_____________________________________________________________

Vasiliki Katsarou was born and raised in Massachusetts to Greek-born parents, and educated at Harvard College, the University of Paris I-Sorbonne, and Boston University. Her first collection, Memento Tsunami, was published in 2011 and one of its poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has appeared in Poetry Daily, wicked alice, Press 1, U.S. 1 Worksheets, Agave Magazine, and Regime Magazine (Australia). Her poems have also been featured in the anthologies Not Somewhere Else But Here: A Contemporary Anthology of Women and Place; Rabbit Ears: TV Poems; and Eating Her Wedding Dress: A Collection of Clothing Poems, for which she also wrote the introduction. Vasiliki has worked in film and television production in France and Greece, and written and directed an award-winning 35mm short film, Fruitlands1843, about the Transcendentalist utopian community. She is the founder and director of the Panoply Books Reading Series in Lambertville, New Jersey.

Lynn_Levin

Faux King in the Parking Lot

 

It was in the parking lot
at the Samba Club
between sets at the Huxley wedding

and he was an Elvis impersonator.
We’d eyed each other during “Love Me Tender”
through his heavy lashes he nodded me over.

Ah, to be taken without being adored.
Though to be adored without being taken
is also a wonder.

Those silver studs on his white suit.
The Brylcreem (I didn’t know
they still made it)

left oil stains, dammit, on my nice
linen skirt. Techno boinked from a passing car
and we pumped to it.

He said his wife didn’t
understand him. “I never sleep with happily
married men,” I told him.

Curling his lip, the faux king shot
“Then you ought to sleep
with your husband.”

I should have slapped him.
But his thighs were hot
and the side of the car was cold.

 

From Miss Plastique (Ragged Sky Press, 2013)

______________________________________________________________

Lynn Levin is the author of Miss Plastique (Ragged Sky Press, 2013), a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist in poetry; as co-author, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (Texture Press, 2013), a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist in education/academic books; and a translation from the Spanish, Birds on the Kiswar Tree (2Leaf Press, 2014), by Peruvian poet Odi Gonzales. A two-time Leeway grantee, Levin is also a Bucks County, Pa. poet laureate, and a 10-time Pushcart Prize nominee. She teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University.

Egan 1

Datura suaveolens

If there were flowers
on the moon they’d look like this,
droopy and luminous,
butter-colored, fading down
to white, I’m thinking,

swinging my bare feet,
sipping at some moon-hued wine
from the lunar landscape
of Sardegna, just as he
asks me if I know

they’re often called “moon-
flowers.” I did not know that,
but I’m not surprised that
he does, nor that he’s read my
poem-thoughts again.

I do know, though, that
this blowsy flower’s parts are
hallucinogenic
as all get out, something that
Rappaccini would

have been proud to bring
into existence were he
in that business rather
than that of breeding a toxic
daughter, beautiful

but unlovable.
And just then I remember
how we went for a walk
through the park behind Domus
Aurea one day

and I was angry
because he hadn’t listened
(or maybe hadn’t heard)
and we passed the Datura
in full moony bloom

and he pretended
that the blossom was an old-
fashioned telephone and
he was trying and trying
to reach me. I thought:

This is marriage, not
some lunatic delusion
of my or his making;
this is what you do,
and I
laughed, and we walked on.

Previously published in Southwest Review, and then appeared in Strange Botany/Botanica Arcana, Italic Pequod, 2014.

______________________________________________________________

Moira Egan’s poetry collections are Strange Botany/Botanica Arcana (Pequod, 2014); Hot Flash Sonnets (Passager Books, 2013); Spin (Entasis Press, 2010, for whom, with Clarinda Harriss, she also co-edited the anthology Hot Sonnets, 2011); La Seta della Cravatta/The Silk of the Tie (Edizioni l’Obliquo, 2009); Bar Napkin Sonnets (The Ledge, 2009); and Cleave (WWPH, 2004). Her work has won many awards and has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the U.S. and abroad, including Best American Poetry; The Book of Forms; Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics; and Kindled Terraces: American Poets in Greece. With her husband, Damiano Abeni, she has published more than a dozen volumes in translation in Italy, by authors such as Ashbery, Barth, Bender, Ferlinghetti, Hecht, Strand, and others. Their translations of Italian poems into English have been published in many U.S. journals, as well as in the FSG Book of 20th Century Italian Poetry and in Patrizia Cavalli’s My Poems Will Not Change the World (FSG). She holds degrees from Bryn Mawr College, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University, where James Merrill chose her graduate manuscript for the David Craig Austin Prize.


Egan has been a Mid Atlantic Arts Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; Writer in Residence at St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Malta; a Writing Fellow at the Civitella Ranieri Center; a Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center; and, in 2015, with Damiano Abeni, will be the writer in residence at the James Merrill House. She lives in Rome, and teaches English and Creative Writing.

Allison Joseph


The Downside of Superpowers


Invisibility makes you aloof,

brute super strength makes you an easy mark

for anyone with trucks to haul, no spark

of gratitude from them. The truth?

Your gift is only special if there’s proof

and ordinary mortals want your work

to entertain them day and night, til dark,

your life a kind of superpower spoof


where all you do is turn them on with speed

or x-ray sight or teleported flesh,

the way you walk through walls or dash through time.

Does anybody care about your needs,

grant you vacation days, an empty beach?

No wonder apathy’s become your crime.

_________________________________________________________________________

Allison Joseph lives, writes and teaches in Carbondale, Illinois, where’s she’s part of the creative writing faculty at Southern Illinois University.  Her latest books are _My Father’s Kites_ (Steel Toe Press) and _Trace Particles_(Backbone Press).

Natasha close up Two Sylvias

 

above us clouds wet as ink p.1

above us clouds wet as ink p.2

 

a much anticipated night

 

 

 

Natasha close up Two Sylvias

Photo credit: Ronda Broatch

Bio: Natasha Kochicheril Moni is a writer and a naturopathic medical student. Her poetry, fiction, essays, and reviews have been published in journals including VerseFourteen Hills, Indiana Review, and DIAGRAM. Natasha’s first poetry collection,The Cardiologist’s Daughter, was released by Two Sylvias Press in late 2014. More of her work and musings may be found at www.natashamoni.com

tom blood

what we treat it as

 

a hill so big it switches color when clouds push

armadillo red ember echo picnic

I dodder and I stray in crayfish streams

a man carrying a dirigible defense

the one we hand around is full

final and stifling, like a love or re-entry

the glove of Earth and staying seasonly

horse albatross table cloth sky

glass home pinball machine

visitation inertia, bear pawing at trash

acclimating

puff of fog, flash, resembler’s ring

string overflow feather piano and penny

our horses wander and field

a man carrying dirigibles over,

a hero as much as Kenny Rogers cries

on an airplane, about the alone

I ride trolley, trains and sky ferry bus

on a hollow rocket, I head forward by propulsion

to hold you as a soft packed strawberry

our love left, like a napkin on catered table

an embrace drawing of a yet to be

we cannot live in a world that does not distinguish

between the deep sea and our dropping off

as feathers mast our rhino sails

the overture above, expanding

bats creak the sky hero of what we rise,

we exchange keys

a brown coat and polishing tongue

we cannot accustom to disillusionment

satellites find and then we are nebulous

material only in the neighborhood

exchanged glasses

 

It’s been along time

 we talked walking

you stayed peach and I parrot

there is no narrative to resolve

only what we make of trees

pursuing a squad car of questions with paper

pushing legs under clocks

photos that become indiscriminate in rain

we walked on both sides the river

what emerges is not clear

for a instance, the panther coats

illusion heart scenic mystery

crossed fence area before the Safeway moment

hand on a cold fish, mango in my pants

I doubt nothing more than my memory

this is not an Italo Calvino and Maya Angelou novel

wove in Mill City to hope

xerox hand will wave the wand

time, our arms

I am arranging the mane of a bus stop of rain

not a mystery of self escaping

as the world pretty much completes

stories on trains mirroring opposite location

rained on walk water

a sky missing no pieces

a rain maze, illusory and stable

the ghosts are heavy in spots

a forest is not only the trees seen

in a day with no home

a white dog loving its own for a night

_________________________________________

tom blood

Tom Blood is a poet in Portland.  He is the winner of the 2007 Oregon Book Award for poetry, and his work appears in rare realms.

carabella sands

carabella sands

And Now You Want Me One More Time

Your mother told me you were out with the stars. I tried to call but you left your phone on the counter. I went outside. The sun was up. I called your name to the sky. I couldn’t see anything but blue. I called out your name until it was dark. Above an audience of diamonds all laughed at me. They laughed until I lost my voice. Then they sent clouds to fill my cup with water.

I found a new boyfriend. He approached me while I watched birds pluck worms out of a rainy field. I asked him why the birds were able to find worms as soon as they landed. He said worms float on water. Then he kissed me. I felt like a worm.

The Open Eyed Dream Meets The Day Moon

There are people who look like my drawings because I drew them. They crawl out when I stare directly at the page but am thinking of something else. They introduce themselves as Ashley to my doorman when they leave. I’ve made a city of Ashleys. Everyone else has moved because the Ashleys took their jobs. I haven’t had to work in years. Instead I chase the dust from room to room. Sometimes an Ashley comes to help me. They call it praying.

She Read How When She Was Just A Girl

My grandmother wouldn’t let me do the dishes. She told me I would learn to orgasm through doing the dishes with my husband. I would put on the radio and every song would be about washing dishes while he dries with two different towels.

Perfect dishes. No specks. No watermarks.

She wouldn’t let me ride a bicycle either. They were too modern. I would break my leg open. Break my head. No boy would want me if I spilled my head. When skateboards fly, she’d say. Thank god it was 2015. I was upside down on my Hover Board. Look Grandma, I said, I can’t fall.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Carabella Sands has already bought her tombstone: http://carabellasands.tumblr.com/

bobby parker

bobby parker

Author photo courtesy of Matthew Wyndham

 

Jellyfish

There’s no doubt she thinks he’s lost at sea. A smudge of blood on her glasses.

She looks healthy. She wishes he looked healthy. Her weird stare drifts across his

sick face like the shadow of a murder weapon they called love. Her new boyfriend

is a taxi driver. He is a quiet man with at least one tooth missing, so obviously

he’s a paedophile. When their little girl says the new boyfriend’s name her father’s

fingertips go numb; he has visions of the taxi driver’s dismembered corpse

scattered on a cold beach full of baby jellyfish, broken phones, the nights he dies

without her. They share a joint in his parents’ garden, negotiating a future that bites

too hard. Her saliva moist on the filter, he takes the cigarette, inhales, wonders

if this is the last time her spit will touch his lips. The word divorce is sharp,

sound of sirens, fire alarms, flying saucers shining through a nightmare of winter

trees. He stares at her chest, the line of cleavage that may as well be a crack in his

bedroom wall, thinking maybe the sun will explode if he reaches out and touches it,that she might hold his haunted hand tight against her heart until it gets dark, and tell him their marriage was a message that failed to send, and tell him their

daughter is a dream, and tell him to go dig a hole far away from here, as their tears

scatter like silver shrapnel through his mother’s evil flowers and all the sorry

gardens beyond.

 

Odaxelagnia

She told him her new fella can do magic tricks inside her, then slammed a slimy

white rabbit onto the table, spilling cold tea into his crotch and putting him off his

spaghetti. He said, ‘My girlfriend has a tongue like a spinning clock, hurls me back

in time, when childhood sunsets were sugary ghosts and Grandma’s vegetable

soup. She told him her smile is so wide they had to rearrange the furniture because

the corners of her mouth scratched the new sofa and smashed the hallway mirror -

she used the shards to slash their wedding album and their daughter’s favourite

teddy bears. He told her his girlfriend is so good at head she sucks out his skeleton

and spits it onto the windy balcony where it dances the dance of life! She said, ‘Oh

yeah? My fella isn’t a drug addict… He can always get it up!’ He said ‘Oh yeah? My girl drinks a ton of wine, she’s crazy when she’s pissed, she bites my biceps so hard I growl joyful jungle music through my coke-damaged nose as my skin breaks like yesterday and all the days that came before! We use the blood to write shit about you on our parents’ bedroom walls. We use our cum to mask the stench of poems I never truly meant…’ Outside, two half-dead cats were fighting on the toxic lawn. They stopped to watch them awhile, tea-light candles reflecting off their broken fangs as she looked at her phone, and he looked at his phone, both of them pretending to read funny, sexy text messages, when in fact they didn’t have any funny, sexy text messages at all, only low batteries beeping in the absence of real grown-ups to guide them into paradise.

 

Thank You For Swallowing My Cum

I tell cats on the street, ‘Hey kitty, she swallowed my cum!’ I told the shy Indian

woman in the corner shop, ‘Do not be afraid, for she swallowed my cum!’ I even

told my mum but she burned her elbow on the frying pan, then showed me a pile

of depressing bank statements as my dad blew a perfect ring of smoke that broke

like the ghost of a cheap wedding band above the empty fruit bowl. Last week,

while pissing into the sea on a beautiful day in Wales, I cupped my hands around

my stoned smile and yelled, ‘Hey sunset, she swallowed my cum!’ but it shrugged

between misty hills as the tide rolled over my shoes, and my ex hates me. Or she

sometimes hates me. And she never swallowed my cum. What am I doing? Where

am I going? Are you okay? Can I get you anything? I won’t swallow your cum but I could make you a sandwich. I should probably send her a message, make sure it’s

cool to share this with my friends. I don’t want to make her feel awkward;

awkward that I saw myself clean in her company, my blood baptismal water;

awkward that I saw myself happily dying as her fingers scribbled sad stories onto

my pale chest; awkward that I tell cats and nervous Indian women and my stressed

parents and amazing, far out, gore-porn sunsets that Oh Wow! when she swallowedmy cum I forgot how dead I am, because when I’m living inside her mouth I don’t even need to breathe. My stupid life pops right out of my happy mouth, bouncing away like a scruffy old tennis ball under the wheels of the sky and all the things we thought we knew before we knew each other.

_______________________________________

Bobby Parker was born 1982 in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, in the UK.  His publications include the critically acclaimed Ghost Town Music and its equally oddball sequel Comberton (Knives Forks & Spoons Press). His poems, stories, artwork and journalism appear randomly these days (since he is often on the road touring) in places such as The Quietus and other reputable—and not so reputable—print and online magazines. His full-length debut collection of poetry, BLUE MOVIE, is due for release in October from Nine Arches Press.

 

KirunKapurFinal

Just in time for November’s end, this week’s feature offers a heady mix of augury and inspiration. Here’s the stunning title poem from Kirun Kapur’s new book, a powerful first first collection that charts indelible histories.

 

Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist

I don’t know when I realized he had one eye that watched me, alive, the other free to read

the heavens. Could he see I grew where others couldn’t? Could he read my face, in its

lines all their faces—my aunt’s that morning, in the mirror beside mine, hissed, don’t

stare, don’t forget details, it’s your honor to look for all of us. Did he see I hated his eye,

sometimes, hated my honor: the hand always above me. Which eye reads that hand?

Which eye can judge its weight? I wanted to look away. Wanted to cry. His untethered

eye was milky as a teacup. Why have you come here, daughter? Couldn’t say, My father

made me. Couldn’t blame, You looked at Her hand, but you didn’t save Her from a firing

squad. I wouldn’t confess, I am afraid I’ll spend my life under a hand that I can’t stop or

hold. He never touched my palm, imbedded with pencil lead, or the moon under my

thumb, scarred while opening a can. He assured me I’d make a fine wife, a fine mother of

fine sons, prove to be a credit to my family, while his iris swiveled like a wobbly fan. I

made up my mind right then to open my hands—their forked wires, their lines of names

and places—take them.

 

First appeared in FIELD

__________________________________________________

Kirun Kapur grew up in Hawaii and has since lived and worked in North America and South Asia. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Poetry International, FIELD, The Christian Science Monitor and many other journals and news outlets. She is the winner of the 2012 Arts & Letters/Rumi Prize for Poetry and the 2013 Antivenom prize for her first book, Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist. She is co-director of the popular Boston-area arts program The Tannery Series and is poetry editor at The Drum. Find out more at www.kirunkapur.com.

Elizabeth Bishop

When I first read Bishop as a young poet, I was dazzled by her perfect syntax and rhythmic modulation, the nearly flawless detail of images. Rereading her as, I would like to think, a mature poet, I am struck by the power of her social conscience. Pity is the underlying feeling she conveys, compassion and a deep feeling for the injustice of privilege. Few of her poems overtly express outrage, but it is very much at the surface with a poem like Pink Dog. It is so clearly about how society at large treats its poor and homeless, wanting them to just dress up and play a part so we don’t have to feel uncomfortable by their presence. But in light of it, I reflected on other, earlier, Bishop poems and realize they do the same thing, such as House Guest. Here is a figure who is forced to live a life not of her own choosing. In that context, the poem concludes,

Can it be that we nourish
one of the Fates in our bosoms?
Clotho, sewing our lives
with a bony little foot
on a borrowed sewing machine,
and our fates will be like hers
and our hems crooked forever?

It recalls Kennedy’s assertion that “freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.” It aligns with what happens in the poem “In the Waiting Room.” The speaker, about to turn seven, realizes her singular self, “you are an Elizabeth,” and this is coeval with realizing she belongs to humanity, “you are one of them.” But this gives rise to countless questions of identity—what does it mean? So the speaker asks,

What similarities—
boots, hands, the family voice
I felt in my throat, or even
the National Geographic
and those awful hanging breasts—
held us all together
or made us all just one?

The poem returns, in the end, to its historical (and social) context: World War I.

Then I was back in it.
The War was on. Outside,
in Worcester, Massachusetts,
were night and slush and cold,
and it was still the fifth
of February, 1918.

Again the poem is located in social issues, constructs. Where do our allegiances lie and why, the poem seems to ask. Or, more importantly, why decide to kill for country or cause when to be you or anyone, well, “nothing stranger/had ever happened, that nothing/stranger could ever happen.” All those running about killing and obsessing over borders and politics and power and land are like Bishop’s sandpiper, lost in the details of a world that is

minute and vast and clear. The tide
is higher or lower. He couldn’t tell you which.
His beak is focused; he is preoccupied,

looking for something, something, something.
Poor bird, he is obsessed!

Her poetry seems to say, take pity on us, on yourself. We are alone, even in the most crowded city. And for those with privilege, even more so, take pity. As the speaker in Manuelzinho says at the end, speaking to his land worker, whom he had looked down on,

You helpless, foolish man,
I love you all I can,
I think. Or do I?
I take off my hat, unpainted
and figurative, to you.
Again I promise to try.

Her poetry or its speakers do not even presume to know themselves fully. They have the humility of realizing that absolute self-knowledge is limited and to presume it is to fall into the same evil as those who presume to any kind of absolute knowledge. Every flawed one of us must humbly struggle to be a better person in whatever station we find ourselves.

adamsdarling

 

The Poem as Archive:
A Conversation Between Carrie Olivia Adams & Kristina Marie Darling

adamsdarling

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Carrie Olivia Adams lives in Chicago, where she is a book publicist for the University of Chicago Press, the poetry editor for Black Ocean, and a biscuit maker and whiskey drinker. She is the author of Forty-One Jane Doe’s (book and companion DVD, Ahsahta 2013) and Intervening Absence (Ahsahta 2009) as well as the chapbooks Overture in the Key of F (above/ground press 2013) and A Useless Window (Black Ocean 2006).

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of nearly twenty books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and Scorched Altar: Selected Poems and Stories 2007-2014 (BlazeVOX Books, forthcoming). Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She was recently selected as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome.

Carrie Olivia Adams’ first book, Intervening Absence, played with ideas of form. Her second book, Forty-One Jane Doe’s, brought the ideas to praxis: she made films in the hopes of creating immersive companions to the cinematic language of the text.

Throughout, Adams’ work has drawn from the language of mathematics, architecture, medicine, and astrophysics in order to create a hybrid voice—one that troubles the line between observation, objective detail, and the intuition of inference. Her forthcoming book, Operating Theater, moves poems to the stage, creating a poem-cum-play in five acts. 

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Kristina Marie Darling:
I’ve always admired your work as a poet, particularly the ways your book projects engage archival material. Your most recent collection, Forty-One Jane Doe’s, draws from source material that ranges from the scientific to the sublime. As the book unfolds, treatises on mathematics, astronomical diagrams, and scientific discoveries inform the poems as much as the speakers’ emotional topographies. I’m fascinated by this tension between subjectivity and clinical language: rhetoric that strives for objectivity. Your work places seemingly impersonal discourses in conversation with emotion, affect, and sentiment. It’s often the archival material you’re working with that gives rise to this tension between registers, and between different types of language. With that in mind, I’d love to hear more about your process working with archival material. What role do non-poetic texts play in your creative process? What does this archival material, this presence of other voices and types of language, make possible within your work?

Carrie Olivia Adams:  I am one who has a whole list of things she would like to be other than a poet—detective, spy, physicist, astronomer, zoologist, forensic pathologist, diplomat. I have a whole list of things I wish I had studied: fewer books on books and more books on the making of the world around me. I am completely drawn to things I know very little about. Math feels almost exotic. And yet, equations, in their logic and language, are syntax, which is the most familiar. I love to diagram sentences. I’m also someone with a day job. I am not an academic or a professor, but working in university publishing allows me the chance to brush against ideas, to glean new knowledge in tiny pebbles that I stick in my pockets. Many years ago, when I was at the University of Chicago Press, my cubicle was near the offices of journals of astrophysics, and so when it was quiet I would read what I could, pocketing phrases and ideas.

And so began some of the earliest poems that attempted to incorporate disciplines that were not my own. I wanted very much to get out of my head, out of my very solipsistic skin. And I have often, for reasons both good and very bad, not frequently read a lot of contemporary poetry. Instead, I’ve sunk myself into the very opposite of what I do—indulging in thick, intricate novels and attempting to understand visual perspective through the diction of film angles. I have wanted to write poems that could have dialogues with ideas or modes of expression other than just other poems.

And I want to write poems to someone other than myself. I want poems to be a form of empathy. I don’t want my poems to recount my memories to myself in a dark room. I want them to be something other than me. Though they begin here, I want them to go out and inhabit other bodies and feel other lives. I want the reader to find them to be a companion. And like the best of friends, they listen. Incorporating archival material and found text allows me the best chance to listen—to not speak over, but to get inside and understand. This is perhaps part of the play between the subjective and the objective that you noticde in some of the poems, an intricacy that allows them to both report and question. I hope it’s a place where even things that sound like fact, still have a feeling.

One thing in particular, among many, that I think our work shares in common is an interest in the structures of how information is shared—how both an apprehension and a natural mistrust of the structures used to convey it. I’m thinking specifically of the deconstructive elements of Correspondence, which offer footnotes, appendices, an index, and a glossary as a substitute for a narrative. It opens, in fact, immediately with a subplot,without us ever knowing the plot. These trappings of formal structure like indexes and notes and glossaries are usually used with a voice of authority. But when used alone, that notion is completely undercut. I’m curious about what continues to draw you to these formal forms of organization and the ellipsis of text they imply.

Kristina Marie Darling: I’ve always been intrigued (and troubled) by the hierarchies that we tend to impose upon language. And I’ve always admired the way your work blurs not only textual boundaries, but also the barriers we create between artistic disciplines. I really enjoyed the companion DVD. of original films that accompanies Forty-One Jane Doe’s, and would love to hear more about how you envision the relationship between poetic language and the language of cinema. What does film make possible within your artistic practice?

Carrie Olivia Adams: I originally began to experiment with film during a time when I felt completely overwhelmed by language. I’ve never been an incredibly visual person; in fact, I often feel very spatially impaired. I’m tactile. I hardly ever drive a car because trying to move a body of matter outside myself through physical space is a challenge—how long am I, how wide am I, what space can I take up. In contrast, I love riding my bike because at any moment, I can always put my feet on the ground. Which is all to say that I cannot visualize anything or hold a picture in my mind. I think that I can only recall what specific places in my life look like when I am not in them, because of associations and stories I have made or told about the place. My visual memory is a narrative memory. For many years, I even dreamed mostly in words. Sometimes sentences would fall on me like thin sheets of cotton bunting (the dreams had a texture, if not an image). Last night, I was chasing around a name in my dream; I kept trying to solve it like a puzzle. In my sleep, I wasn’t inhabiting any particular place, but a word kept scratching at me like an intuitive question.

I turned to the camera as a substitute for my weak mind. Here was something that could be an extension of my eye and frame and hold a picture in a way my imagination never could. I started making films about a decade ago, before people were really talking about poem-films. An element was missing from my work, so I went on a quest for vision. Film aided me as a writer to return to and revisit a scene that I otherwise might have lost. New details, new angles, new shadows became apparent to me. My camera conjured what I could not alone.

At the same time, it created another layer of collaboration between me and the reader/viewer. I could offer a companion to the text—not a straightforward retelling or a parallel experience, but a dialogue with the poem. And through this my hope was that the poems would further open out and invite in the audience. I wanted to not only share a world, but to create something more it could envelop.

I think we both have an interest in the architecture of a project. Neither of us creates truly stand-alone poems that are single objects on a page, but we think more along the lines of the sequence and the series, the book as concept and as structure. I’d love to know how that interest in form developed for you, and how you approach and plan a given project. To what extent is the structure an organic outgrowth of the writing process or a formal, strategic foundation already set in place before most of the text has come together?

Kristina Marie Darling: That’s a great question. I think that the sequence, or the book-length poem, opens up a wide range of possibilities for the type of readerly engagement that you describe. When the reader is asked to forge connections between different elements of a book-length project (different literary forms perhaps, or even images and work in other mediums), the text becomes a collaboration between the poet and her audience, allowing them to participate in the process of creating meaning from the work.

For me, the book-length project represents not only a collaboration between the poet and a potential reader, but also, a dialogue between parts of the self or different parts of consciousness. What’s especially intriguing about poem-as-project is that it allows the writer to create juxtapositions (between different forms, voices, and mediums) that are often not possible within the space of a shorter, stand-alone piece. Each of these different modes of representing experience allows for a different way of thinking, a new way of perceiving and processing the world around me. The book-length project allows these various ways of thinking, and vastly different ways of being in the world, to illuminate and complicate one another.

Because the book-length project is a collaborative process, one that affords an opportunity for spontaneity and experimentation, I try not to plan the book beforehand. There are certainly poets who build their books around a given concept. But for me, this forecloses possibilities for dialogue to unfold, and to carry me places I wouldn’t expect it to. I try to allow myself to discover the structure of the project as I create it, to allow order and coherence to emerge from within the work itself.

I think that my investment in the poem-as-book-length-sequence is part of the reason I’m so drawn to your work. I appreciate the fact that your work juxtaposes artistic mediums, and also wildly different archival texts, allowing the extended sequence to become a space for dialogue. And the reader is invited into that conversation as well. The poet becomes, in many ways, a curator of voices and literary forms, the poem a conversation that crosses boundaries between forms, mediums, and individual pieces.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear more about how your role as an editor and curator informs your creative work. Black Ocean presents a unified catalogue of individual collections, but each voice, each text, adds something new to the existing conversation. To what extent is the process of editing a literary press, and building a concise, unified catalogue, similar to constructing a book-length project? How has your practice as an editor opened up new possibilities for your creative work?

Carrie Olivia Adams: That’s such an interesting question. I’ve never thought of Black Ocean’s list as being similar as a way of shaping a larger project, but I think you’ve hit upon something. It’s true that we have a very unified voice or aesthetic across the book list—all of the authors have distinct approaches, and yet there is something very recognizable that makes a book a “Black Ocean book.” And I’m really pleased we’ve been able to achieve that, especially given that the editorial process is extremely collaborative and democratic. Black Ocean publisher Janaka Stucky and I have always worked really closely together to choose books that thrive in the middle space where our fascinations and curiosities overlap. There are definitely poets that I would love to publish, whose work I greatly admire, that will probably never be a part of the Black Ocean catalog because their work falls too far on my side of the aesthetic spectrum. And the same, I’m sure, is true for Janaka. Together, we hope to find and publish poetry collections that excite us both and tap into our individual hopes for what poems can do. And it means that I often publish poets who are engaged in projects completely unlike my own, but that intrigue me because of their difference. The middle ground between us has become a very fertile place that has allowed us to cultivate the Black Ocean aesthetic while challenging our own.

Most of the books that we publish are very closely edited by me in dialogue with the author and Janaka. But I usually wade into the thick of it first, concerned as much with the minutiae as the overall structure. My hope is to get as close to the poems as possible—to understand what their underlying mode of narration, structure, communication, tone, form, etc. is and how to make that clear and consistent across the work. In many ways, the poems should subtly, intuitively guide the reader in how to read them. Each collection has an accent, a dialect, a syntax that is its own; and, my goal is to make this breadcrumb trail available to the reader.

This editorial sensibility is impossible to suppress when working on my poems—which is as helpful as it is detrimental at times. I am the worst at silencing myself. Which is why I often don’t write at all when I am in the midst of editing a work or reading our open submissions. I have to compartmentalize the lives if I am ever going to keep working on my poems, and the only way I’ve found to do that is with the distance of time. There are seasons of the year for writing and there are seasons for sitting quiet.

With Black Ocean, I just finished editing Feng Sun Chen’s second book, which is currently still in search of a final title. When I think of a work that’s a perfect example of something that’s so far away from my own, and that I find incredibly fascinating and invigorating as an author, it’s Feng’s. Her work is messy and visceral and loud and unashamed—as much as my own has the neat-as-a-pin precision of an old maid. But this is what makes her so interesting to edit—to let go and be absorbed into a little bit of chaos. Personally, I am working very slowly on a long project called Daughter of a Tree Farm, which began as an erasure of a memoir of Sofiya Tolstoy. Just like many of my previous sequences, the work blurs the lines between the borrowed text and my own words. It’s been on pause for a few months while I’ve been reading for Black Ocean, and I think that I cannot turn back to it entirely until I read the newly published The Kreutzer Sonata Variations, which translates (for the first time into English) Sofiya’s story that she wrote in response to the The Kreutzer Sonata. In it, she reverses the perspective and tells the story from the wife’s point of view. Exploring her mind and voice a little further seems like a necessary tool to the sympathy of the erasure.

 

Potts
Potts

From the recently published collection, Trickster (University of Iowa Press), Randall Potts offers some uncanny arithmetic.

Math

I put 0 and 0 together
And arrived at nothing.
Nothing was accomplished.
I had done it perfectly.
I made 0 disappear into 0.
I made sure nothing was left.
There was no doubt of it.Next, I made 2 into two.
It was easy: numbers are words.
I made sure nothing was left.
I made sure nothing was said.
I made sure nothing was written
It was getting complicated.My thumb was black with ink.
So, everything I touched became
itself plus me.
Every addition complicated it.
Every mark was a number.
Every number mocked.

I settled on the number one.
I refused all manner of addition.
I was careful to touch nothing.
That’s impossible,” someone said.
I knew someone was right.

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Randall Potts is the author of Trickster, published this fall by the University of Iowa Press, Kuhl House poetry series. His previous collection of poems, Collision Center was published by O Books in 1994. His chapbook, Recant: (A Revision) was published by Leave Books in 1994.

He attended the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and has taught creative writing at the graduate and undergraduate levels at the University of San Francisco and California College of the Arts. He lives in Berkeley, California.

For more information on Trickster, visit: http://www.uiowapress.org/books/2014-fall/trickster.htm.