Poetry Crush Valentine 2016, vol 1

8 Feb

Part 1 of the 2016 Poetry Crush Valentine Issue with contributing sweetpeas: Bianca Stone, Timothy Liu, Jennifer L. Knox, Steven Leyva, Joe Hall, Loren Erdrich, Joanna Penn Cooper, Brynne Rebele-Henry, Lauren Gordon, Vanessa Gabb, Cheryl Quimba & J. Hope Stein (me, duh). ♥♥♥ 

 

Be Mine

Be Mine

♥♥♥ Bianca Stone

Summer Fling

Alone enough tonight
to settle for

a beer, crack

open whatever we
can get our

hands on—high

summer sizzle on
a wraparound porch

where voices

of our unborn children
are reciting Rumi

inside an oak.

 

♥♥♥ Timothy Liu

 

 

 

Shock Collars

“Where are we going?” Sandy asked Todd.

We’re not going anywhere. You’re getting shot into space,” Todd said and clicked Sandy’s belt into the buckle.

Suddenly, she understood. All the hours he’d spent with her, his slavish attention. How happy he was when she pushed the button and the pellets came out. Way, way, way too happy. Sandy had often wondered if Todd was actually retarded.

She didn’t bother saying anything as he flipped the final switches.

“You’re a good dog,” he told her, crawling backwards through the hatch.

“Go to hell,” she said.

***

“I don’t feel that you love me—I don’t even feel that you really like me,” Mishka said, on the verge of tears.

Sandy kept her eyes glued to a page in Where the Red Fern Grows.

Mishka waited, then lost her shit, “This is exactly what I’m talking about! You’re too—what?—busy?—to talk to the only other person alive on this planet? You’re nicer to the spidercats than you are to me!”

Sandy raised one eye to the window. Yep, the spidercats were still out there, waiting patiently for her in the light emanating from the window of the rocketship. Once the dust storms died down a little, she’d go out and toss the gravity ball to them. They loved that. And gazing at their own faces reflected in her mirrored helmet.

♥♥♥ Jennifer L. Knox

 

 

 

 

Dinnerware

Loren2

♥♥♥ Loren Erdrich

 

Aubade for Nuit #1 

Sunrise burst in like an angry lover
packed its things in a trunk of fog
And wasn’t heard of again for days

You said “fuck off” fogging the apartment window
your thigh pristine with sweat instead of sunlight
and I thought that curse was for the eye

of heaven not the swaying drunks
gawking on the cobblestone streets below.
What darkness filled the night’s yawn

did not wholly give way as we closed lips
around wizened mugs of coffee. All the x’s
had fallen off the calendar, and we sat

naked on the kitchen floor, two days married
laughing at obtuse angles of our fumbled sex,
under your breath you said “how do teenagers

do it,” and I had no answer, so we laughed
again, and watched men now free of vomit
walk unwittingly into the sky’s discarded nightshirt.

♥♥♥ Steven Leyva

 

 

 

 

from Easy Poem

3.

To be a poet and alive
is to be this river, to drink your piss.
That is, I want to drink your piss and eat your shit—
To watch you grow
a curious tail of feces
on the bank of the banks

of the bank of the banks—
divided by revulsion, to lick up
the hot
—scalding—and swallow
sin-eater for a funeral for something so large

—from Samir Naqqash, Mizrahi novelist, “My exquisite wine
has turned to vinegar. My blood
to excrement.” You blurt out: “What do you want?”
“Steal!…Steal!
…Steal!”

Taking care for awhile, that’s what property is.
Poor are God’s friends,
a thought could be worse.
Free sample,
expensive meal.
So long as there is the productive sun
how much does this life weigh
baked from crumbs?

So there’s that, Beloved.
Here’s another shot
at a song:

♥♥♥ Joe Hall

 

 

 

 

For the Purposes of Accuracy  

Toward the end of couples therapy that day, she looked down at the empty water bottle she was holding and had the urge to beat herself on the forehead with it.  As Mark Rothko once said, “Silence is accurate.”  Or, in this case, beating yourself on the forehead with a water bottle is accurate.

As she walked out the door of the therapist’s office, she shook his hand and chuckled, a shrugging kind of chuckle, by which she meant, “Whelp.”  In the car on the way there, she’d heard a song called “Sad Jukebox.”  On the way back, she listened to a song called “Strange Victory” and chuckled again, then muttered, “I’m not crazy.  You’re crazy.”

♥♥♥ Joanna Penn Cooper

 

 

 

 

Buckingham 

In the sad ocean the men say that two girls and
Four legs and a red gape is nothing new
I would purge/I would use my rib for a necklace
Go to the canal and let the sun burn us open
We spit out watermelon seeds like little organs
I crush grapes with my molars and grind until everything splits open & the juice
Runs into both of our mouths and we rinse it out with tepid water and citrus seeds
I say make my body a building and light it on fire and we
Walk to church with your wings stuck across your back with Elmer’s glue
Feathers sticking between my teeth and the glitter we doused ourselves in like gasoline Sloughing into my eyes and lips like a million small planets

♥♥♥ Brynne Rebele-Henry

 

 

 

 

That Old Chestnut 

everywhere and everywhere unfettered
in our bank rolls, and this looks normal

the dog snores in sleep, peanut butter
and bread-mouthed squirrels are porched

even the grubs in our loamy tomatoes
are dreaming of legs, muscular calves

to run on         this home an ocean
a cemetery of shitting sparrows

this bruised cheek an island, handy
figment of peace, the baby a white flag

everywhere and everywhere marriage
to batten, to seal the shutters

♥♥♥ Lauren Gordon

 

 

 

Before you leave

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♥♥♥ Loren Erdrich

 

The Lady of Civilization

Don’t get married. A great love does not exist without protest,
my mother told me, have a beautiful run without law, with protest!

Organdyed from birth, with a godless belief in the system of things,
in search of some twin belief, a diadem in your mouth, you were named protest.

I named you and you went, taking extremities into you for decryption,
opening into wheat fields, your hands passing along without protest.

Everything that passes for voyage is us awash in injustice, mortal,
mortal, being young we bleed, loving nothing more than protest.

What could be more legitimate than an idea between us,
fatal or not, here or not, time must pass and so we must protest.

A love poem begins with hazard somehow, the concept of time, a cloud
calling itself gas, only that, and I calling that protest.

♥♥♥ Vanessa Gab

 

 

 

 

A Stone Etching: Vows 

I, Edmund Dantes, do
solemnly swear to
burn the world
in effigy. Small flames.

What else is just? Here, name
revenge after me.

Next I plan to skin skin
as in a sack of wine
a time to flay and tell
all goats, “Get over it”
this cold sore on the lips
of every guard with a tray of food.

the lock up stole
more than my future
children, my great love
of sea, my ability to sleep

in a bed, I must be on,
at all times
the bare floor,

alone – I was
alone again – again
condemned to silence
and no trial, nothing like a trial.

To live is not payback
enough

some magistrates need hurt
and memory will kill.
The Reaper’s greatest gift
Is remembering

to show up. I keep
showing up

promising the only escape I
know; I am sewing
a sack of canvas
for god. The future is black,

Mercedes, as night in your hair.

♥♥♥ Steven Leyva

 

 

 

 

Into The Next Blue

We live
improbably

in this time with drinking
glasses

with green sprouting oh
how I wanted

savage like an undertow
break-necked
coarse

you only
that

loosely limping

mine

remember
remember

this entreaty: on and on is

improbable but still
sure

♥♥♥ Cheryl Quimba

 

 

 

 

The Violence 

It was so quiet you could hear
an envelope being slid

under the door. Even without

tearing it open, you knew
it was over. The same way

you found an orange rind

that still had a whiff of citrus
to it and knew it was his

though he hadn’t stepped

into your kitchen for years.
His hunger had been all

too casual, ear to your chest

late at night, the neighbor’s
TV coming through the walls

with much excitement even if

the voices stayed muffled.
Back then you knew his cock

was the best thing between

you as he peeled off the shell
from your hard-boiled egg

morning after morning

in one complete spiral without
saying a word—the salt

on the table left untouched.

♥♥♥ Timothy Liu

 

 

 

From: I Lob You

Sometimes two countries touching are too much for their people. Sometimes we talk about love like two professionals dismantling a bomb. The last time Millie saw Demetri, her neck was red from kissing & Demetri brought two mittens to her face & said – “Hey, try some snow.” —You can travel all the way to I-don’t-care-where but it’s not going to change the way you feel about this: When Demetri’s mother saw his body lobbed over the fence from the explosion, she said – “That’s not him—that’s just the body of a dead cat”— When we first met you crawled up my overalls & up my braids & sat on my shoulder for years.

♥♥♥ J. Hope Stein

 

 

 

The Small Self is Not So Real After All

The human being is dumb most of the time.
Raving on his phone on the street
like escaped gods. Raving like a plastic bag
caught in a tree for decades. Raving
like an electrical wire at the starlings.
The grocery stores are holding back
a great wave of perpetual sadness.
The famine is never coming. And panic lies
just under the little disturbances at the checkout
along with the frightening experience
of realizing the people who cared for you
are completely insane.

♥♥♥ Bianca Stone

 

 

 

 

Bye 

Loren3

♥♥♥ Loren Erdrich

 

Zora Neale Hurston & new year

7 Jan

zora-neale-hurston

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God

10 Dead Poets (I would fuck)

30 Oct

 Welcome to Poetry Crush’s 3rd annual  10 Dead Poets (I would fuck).  Thanks to my deranged contributors– you guys are so messed up:  Miracle Jones,  Janaka StuckyJennifer L. KnoxTodd ColbyJoanna Penn Cooper,  Lauren Hunter, Gregory CrosbyLisa Marie Basile and Gabriel Don— together we make up the clandestine members of the Dead Poets (I Would Fuck) Society (along with past participants:  2011, 2012).  Stay spooky! – j. hope stein 

1)  Shakespeare by J. Hope Stein

images

ROMEO & JULIET FOR PEACE

In a press conference held in front of Romeo & Juliet for Peace headquarters in downtown Philadelphia, artist / activist / entrepreneur / provocateur Juliet Capulet confirmed there were two deaths in the most recent Romeo & Juliet for Peace demonstrations, when violence erupted after a group of activists, wearing nothing but paint from head to toe of the colors of the Israeli and Palestinian flags conducted orgies throughout Jerusalem and the Gaza strip.  “We are still trying to understand what happened. We think there was a personal dispute which led to a fight.   What is certain is that we have lost two individuals.  A Romeo and Juliet.”  Capulet said the names of the deceased will be released once the families have been notified.

Capulet appeared to be holding back tears when she explained, “The point of demonstration ‘SMEAR’ was to show that when we love each other the colors of our flags smear together and war disappears.”  Many accuse Capulet of romanticizing the deaths, including one member of the media who shouted as Capulet read her statement– “This isn’t a fairytale, honey.  Two young people are dead.”

Capulet said there were 600 activists in total:  300 Palestinians and 300 Israelis, who were positioned at “epicenters of conflict” throughout the region where they were reciting the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet while engaging in group sex.

Romeo & Juliet for Peace began 7 years ago as an international dating website connecting young5248f903afba4.preview-620 progressive singles romantically in warring nations in protest of their government and older generations who they viewed as “impotent against the problems of war.”  Romeo & Juliet for Peace is free to its members and Capulet, who has cited John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s peace campaigns of the late 1960s, including “War is Over (If you Want it)” as her biggest inspiration, takes no advertisers, only elite sponsors who partner in grassroots campaigns like ‘SMEAR,’ designed to spread her anti-war message.

Within the first year Romeo & Juliet for Peace made a big international splash with its t-shirt line, available in over 50 languages, quoting poignant passages from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  But it’s the best-selling t-shirt with the Romeo & Juliet for Peace tagline that made Capulet a multi-millionaire overnight, saying:  “We’re going to fuck and fuck and fuck until nobody knows where to point their guns.”

When asked by a member of local media if Capulet will rethink her tactics, in light of the deaths of the two activists,  Capulet said the recent violence only strengthens the purpose of her work and that the incident has increased registration to the website in the past 24 hours by over 4000%.  “This is the fastest growing website in the world.”

One of the main attractions of The Romeo & Juliet for Peace website is a live tally of the number of registrants, as well as the number of active relationships and babies resulting from the service.  There were worldwide celebrations last June when the number of babies surpassed a million.  In addition, offshoots: Romeo & Romeo for Peace and Juliet & Juliet for Peace, have both become the go-to dating sites of choice for the international gay community.

When a member of CNN asked – what is your goal?  Capulet responded, “Our goal has always been clear:  To fuck and fuck and fuck until no one knows where to point their guns and eventually they will point it at their own hatred.”

“I have deployed 60,000 ‘troops’ in dozens of countries targeting high-conflict epicenters worldwide who are ready to put their lives on the line.   And they aren’t going to blow themselves up or drop bombs on anyone.  They are going to recite Shakespeare and touch until their flag paint smears into the color of one earth.”

Capulet also confirmed that she has received several death threats on herself and her family, adding,  “My family is already dead.  And if I were killed, another Juliet would take my place.  We’ve planned for that scenario.”  Very little is known about Capulet herself, including her real name.

Capulet then recited the final lines from Romeo and Juliet and took no more questions:

A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

2) Emma Lazarus & Julia Ward Howe by Miracle Jones

Julia_Ward_Howe_2

“I did not actually invite the two of you here to this bar beneath an extremely cheap boarding house with available rooms to talk about starting up a new reading series in Brooklyn, dearest Julia Ward Howe and most honorable Emma Lazarus.”

“What???”

“Your duplicity remains the stuff of legend, Mr. Jones!”

“Allow me to introduce the two of you to each other. Actually, both of you need to have a little more O Be Joyful. Here.”

“I never turn down more O Be Joyful.”

“Topping me off is the least you can do, thank you. And I WILL have another tea sandwich.”

“This is Emma Lazarus. She is most famous for writing America’s “Casual Encounters” advertisement, a distinction which both edifies and debases us all in a particularly permanent way. This advertisement sits on the base of the Statue of Liberty and is called “The New Colossus.” It is a sonnet, which is not exactly experimental, but there is something extremely passionate about the entreaties the poem contains. There is, if I may be so bold, a yearning that I find most remarkable, not the least of which because the poem is so quotable. You have really captured something crude and spirited about our young Republic, something which would take a truly labyrinthine — and wicked! — mind to apprehend.”

“MISTER JONES!”

“Why are you putting on that stovepipe hat and false beard?”Emma-Lazarus-courtesy-MJH

“And this is Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, wife of the honorable Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. She is also a poet, in addition to being an abolitionist, social activist, women’s rights advocate, and pornographer.”

“AND YOU SAY THIS WITHOUT BURSTING INTO FLAME!”

“YOUR ALLEGATIONS ARE QUITE WITHOUT MERIT!”

“Enough with the charade of high-minded indigination! I read your book “Passion Flowers,” Mrs. Howe. I also read “The Hermaphrodite.” I liked them both. They are both books meant to be read with one hand, if you know what I mean. I also know that you have some championship-class pearl sweat going for Abraham Lincoln. We all read the blog post in “The Atlantic Monthly” that you wrote the night you met him. All that stuff about his awesome shining sword and his big fat truth and how you want him to split you like a serpent, and then rage-fuck you like a dude stomping grapes.”

“YOU ARE USING WORDS THAT MAKE NO SENSE”

“I UNDERSTAND HALF OF THIS BUT I AM ALL THE WAY OFFENDED.”

“I see neither of you have run screaming from the room yet. The door is right there. Do I detect a flush from you, Mrs. Howe? Is that a pretty outlandish understatment? What reason do you have to loosen your dress so flagrantly and with such strong movements, Miss Lazarus?”

“I feel that I must not leave or I shall starve for oxygen. Something in your words transfixes me.”

“You are yearning to breathe free, eh?”

“My own lines! They convict me!”

“And you Mrs. Howe?”

“It is difficult to remain anything but…agitated…while you are wearing that horrible stovepipe hat. Quickly! Do you have any of Mr. Graham’s crackers?”

“YES I TOO DESPARATELY NEED ONE OF MR. GRAHAM’S CRACKERS.”

“There are no Graham crackers here, ladies. Just another bottle of rotgut, an extremely large feather bed, some fresh oranges, a stereoscope full of French daguerrotypes and one that I stole from Andrew Jackson himself, heavy black velvet drapes to block out both the sun and the prying eyes of Le Moyenne Bourgeosie, two blister packs of Plan B, a blacklight poster of Walt Whitman, a whole goddamn tube of KY jelly, snacks from the bodega, the Delmonico’s take-out menu, a length of good Yankee rope, and both a Rebel and Union regular army uniform, which we can take turns wearing.”

“I…………..must be…………..DREAMING. YET I DO NOT WISH TO AWAKEN”

“IF MY HEART BEATS ANY FASTER I FEAR I SHALL HEMORRHAGE”

“Upstairs, ladies! Follow me upstairs! For God and country and poetry and the Golden Door! WE HAVE A UNION TO MAKE, PRESERVE, PERFECT, AND SUSTAIN” 

 

3) Mina Loy by Todd Colby

mina-loy

I don’t know that I’d actually like to have fucked Mina Loy, but I could see myself cuddling with her after we tried on one of her hats, and danced around the room to the Velvet Underground; throwing our bodies through space and just generally feeling that sense of abandonment that is granted to us with another person, but only a few times in our short lives. I see us walking around the Bowery, picking through junk for her collages, schlepping a red wagon stuffed with detritus, carrying it up to her apartment, and then watching with a joyful admiration as she assembled it into something beautiful. I’d walk over to her and kiss her long neck and whisper that she smelled good, and then we’d tumble onto the floor and whisper poems back and forth to each other, lost in a swirl of time and intimacy. She’d laugh as I read her one of my poems and sigh, reaching over to caress my shoulder and then she’d shuffle through one of her manuscripts and read me something she’d just written. I’d smile and feel a warm glow of recognition that a kindred spirit was sitting in front of me and that perhaps the world wasn’t as dark and obscene as I’d been led to believe; that perhaps there were two people in a room, getting along well enough to dance and read poems to one another without worries about insults or recriminations; that it was possible to be in a room with someone as life swirled around us, and we swirled with it.

 

4) Walt Whitman by Jennifer L. Knox

WhitmanCamdenws

Why bang one dead poet when you can bang everyone and everything in the cosmos?

The young men bathing at the river, the washer women on the shore draping wet white sheets over the stone banks to dry, the dogs barking at them, the tall ships sailing by, wind flooding their sails with the breath of God, the breath of God, the breath of the sailors aboard those ships, and the sailors—Land a’ Goshen!—all those sailors in their tight blue pants, the color blue, colors, the letters in the word “color,” all the letters in every language that has ever existed, hieroglyphics, the pyramids, everything triangle shaped thing, novelty foam Cheesehead hats, etc.

After Walt had his stroke, he recuperated in a cabin by a stream where he’d bathe in the icy water, stimulate his skin with the bristle end of a hairbrush, and spank his own flanks with the wooden handle. That kind of freakiness cannot be created nor destroyed, only changed into more freakiness. Hey, it’s science.

Every person who has ever known lust is buoyed in the eternal wake of one of Walt’s explosive orgasms, which are still exploding all around us—like the volcanoes dotting the lush green mountains of Hawaii—destined to smother us all in a scalding beard of lava.

I don’t have to “choose” to make love to Walt. He chose to make love to us, long ago, and is humping us right now—every day and night—all of us—in the mouth, etc.

Sometimes I’m like, “Get off me!” but it’s like standing in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s: you just got to relax, breathe, and give into it. Otherwise, you’re gonna choke somebody out.

Everything in America is full of sex but Americans. So open your fire hose of liberty, big daddy. You almost makes me feel like I’m French, or an ancient Roman, or made of light that penetrates clothes. Especially pants. You were never a breast man, but you looked hot in a pirate blouse.

5) Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, & Jean Toomer by Lauren Hunter

LangstonHughes

SOME FANTASY If I woke up one morning in the 1920s I’d hightail it to Harlem, Borrowing my mama’s best dress And last week’s wages I’d obviously be the cause for many fistfights; They’d call me “la Muse d’135th”— La la. I’d split my time generously Spending the spring in red dreaming with Langston

A queen from some long-dead Egyptian night Walks once again

Feeling the beat of the blues with our hands And sending them on their way with our mouths

Come with a blast of trumpets,  Jesus!

Come summertime, I’d be Claude’s only, in green We’d burn nights at drink, strolling and watching as Harlem Wrapped us in open arms

Oh, with our love the night is warm and deep!

From the cabaret to the nightclub, to the café to the pool hall

Touching the surface and the depth of things   Instinctively responsive unto both Tasting the sweets of being and the stings…. Like a strong tree against a thousand storms.

The fall I’d play young, fast and free Days and nights at dance with Countee What if his glance is bold and free                                                                         His mouth the lash of whips? Spinning through the careless weather, High on Harlem wine, I’d not mind the coming chill

Its measurement of joy compute With blithe, ecstatic hips.

In the winter, I’d hole myself up in a warm apartment Full of books with Jean. The door locked for the season, We’d read late into the night by lamps

whisper of yellow globes

By day linger in bed, covered in pages

then with your tongue remove the tape and press your lips to mine till they are incandescent

jean-toomer
 
 
 

6) Clarice Lispector by Janaka Stucky

clarice-lispector
REMEMBERING WITH LONGING
IS LIKE SAYING FAREWELL ONCE AGAIN

 
 
The corners of your eyes often return
To me at night when I am working
 
Spectre of an exorcised dragon
The light and the Light
 
Catch in the rim where
I could live for centuries amid your black lashes
 
 
     Clarice the spectre
     My story is that I am living without you and I am failing
 
 
Watch me fall slowly
Away over years
 
Your subtle smile poisoning
My every effort to forget
 
This heroic dream
 
 
Clarice the spectre
You look at me and only then
 
Am I in the world
Filled with this happy instinct for destruction
 
An abyss I make my home each time we meet in our permanent sleep

7)  Joe Brainard by Joanna Penn Cooper

brainard

I would like to have a short, funny romance with Joe Brainard after he moved from Tulsa to New York, but before he finished coming out.  Most of our romance would involve lying around in our underwear on a mattress on the floor, looking at magazines and going into a reverie about things we remember.   Then Joe would get up and go to the corner store to get a Pepsi for himself and a Dr. Pepper for me, and we’d stand in the kitchen and eat a cantaloupe I brought over.  After that, we’d collaborate on some drawings with words.

Later, I’d go to Europe for a while, then live in a few other states, maybe ending up upstate. We would have settled into a great lifelong friendship by then, exchanging a large number of postcards that were sort of poems and sort of not, some with drawings.  The postcards would be like a book just for us and for whoever came to my studio later and seemed worth bringing out the shoebox full of postcards for.   There’s one that I particularly like, done in Vermont, with a drawing of one lone shoe.  How is the energy of a person left behind in a lone shoe like that, or in a postcard?

[I’m not too far off here in linking heterosexual romance with Joe Brainard.  In Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard, Ron Padgett writes, “At various times Joe was strongly attracted some of his smart, beautiful, talented women friends.”  In fact, in 1972, Joe wrote, “One thing I want to do before I die is to make it with Anne Waldman, without offending Michael Brownstein [her boyfriend].  The old have your cake and eat it too bit.  The story of my life.  And now that I think about it, making it with Michael Brownstein, without offending Anne Waldman, wouldn’t be bad either.”]

8)  William Blake and Christina Rossetti by Gabriel Don

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9)  Louise Bogan by Gregory Crosby

Bogan_Louise460 No more pronouncements on lousy verse. No more hidden competition. No more struggling not to be a square. Not square, but severe. They hang the word restrained round your white neck like a choker, but an elegant one, simple, black. Lace-curtain Irish, mother unstable; romantic & preoccupied with sexual betrayal. At midnight tears run into ears. I would like to kiss them away, but I wouldn’t presume. The blue estuary of your skepticism, a fire cold as flame. The satisfaction & trap of minor perfection. The drudgery of book reviewing. No more pronouncements…   When was the last time someone mentioned you? I’d like to take the arm of “Medusa,” “Cassandra,” your “Women,” & promenade down the boulevard of poetry fierce & nearly forgotten. Did Ted Roethke have you in mind when he said I knew a woman, lovely in her bones? I bet your bones glowed. Especially in the dark. I bet you didn’t suffer fools, least of all yourself. I can’t help but think “Epitaph for a Romantic Woman” is your own. I bet your smile was something to behold, a private supernova of surprise, like a kiss bestowed on the undeserved… I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy. 

 

10)  Marosa di Giorgio by Lisa Marie Basile 

Letter to Marosa

136_wi250_he250_cr1-1.1352820540Marosa, have you thought of me since we last met? Have you thought of the time I wore my hair like yours? I doubt it. I wore my hair like yours to say, “here, take this as transcendence.” I became a growth, an orchid, a nightshade. A woman. In the end I closed my eyes and plunged my hands into the bucket of the garden and pulled something out; you; sweet and angelic and instant as the sky. I knew it was too late to chase you, you had gone, and I was left at the vanity mirror with my legs open hoping the city would understand: I don’t mean to sexualize you or our world. I mean to let you crawl inside me. So I can give birth to you, or through you, so I can make things like you-like a woman-lantern, a mâché of the self, an in-loveness with the world as it isn’t and is. I fondled the night. I let loose my hair from it’s kindly bun, spoke in a frazzled Spanish and watched the rain fall. Someone told me a monster walked past me, right behind, like a door opening, intentions and all. And I believed them, because you would. Because the ivy growing up the side of the yard house wouldn’t have done that if it didn’t want to own something. I’m owned by something, someone. I’m owned by the world around me like a garden glove. It helps to imagine my own seedlings sprinkled, it helps to imagine us kissing. You’re old and I’m young and it can be very beautiful. Tell me to keep seeing the world this way, because everything else is alone, and my tongue falls nicely into your tongue, because I was born wayward and green. As a letter Unsent. I mythologized you because I saw the spirit carrying her tray of floral candies, and when everyone said, “sleep” I needed someone to say, “it’s ok, this forsaken town is just broken.” We will make love in the centro. We won’t mind the Catholics. They say they see the angels but we know we do.

Simon Armitage & flowers

18 Dec

Cheltenham-Literary-Festi-001

I can’t help but to think of the poem Killing Time by Simon Armitage– A poem about the Columbine shootings which creates a beautiful metaphor by substituting the word “guns”  with “flowers.”  I began to rewrite this piece substituting the word “flowers” with everything from  “beach balls” to “butter knives” to “hand gun” to  “anthrax” to see how it changes the outcome and the metaphor.  Whatever your views, this exercise in language was clarifying, at least for me, in distinguishing the difference between the right to bear arms and weapons of mass destruction.

 

Killing Time by Simon Armitage

Meanwhile, somewhere in the state of Colorado, armed to the teeth with thousands of flowers, two boys entered the front door of their own high school and for almost four hours gave floral tributes to fellow students and members of the staff beginning with red roses strewn among unsuspecting pupils during their lunch hour, followed by posies of peace lilies and wild orchids. Most thought the whole show was one elaborate hoax using silk replicas of the real thing, plastic imitations, exquisite practical jokes, but the flowers were no more fake than you or I, and were handed out as compliments returned, favors repaid, in good faith, straight from the heart. No would not be taken for an answer. Therefore a daffodil was tucked behind the ear of a boy in a baseball hat, and marigolds and peonies threaded through the hair of those caught on the stairs or spotted along corridors until every pupil who looked up from behind a desk could expect to be met with at least a petal or a dusting of pollen, if not an entire daisy chain, or the color-burst of a dozen foxgloves, flowering for all their worth, or a buttonhole to the breast. Upstairs in the school library, individuals were singled out for special attention: some were showered with blossom, others wore their blooms like brooches or medallions; even those who turned their backs or refused point-blank to accept such honors were decorated with buds, unseasonable fruits and rosettes the same as the others.
By which time a crowd had gathered outside the school, drawn through suburbia by the rumor of flowers in full bloom, drawn through the air like butterflies to buddleia, like honey bees to honeysuckle, like hummingbirds dipping their tongues in, some to soak up such over-exuberance of thought, others to savor the goings-on. Finally, overcome by their own munificence or hay fever, the flower-boys pinned the last blooms on themselves, somewhat selfishly perhaps, but had also planned further surprises for those who swept through the aftermath of bloom and buttercup: garlands and bouquets, planted in lockers and cupboards, timed to erupt either by fate or chance, had somehow been overlooked and missed out. Experts are now trying to say how two apparently quiet kids from an apple-pie town could get their hands on a veritable rain-forest of plants and bring down a whole botanical digest of one species or another onto the heads of classmates and teachers, and where such fascination began, and why it should lead to an outpouring of this nature. And even though many believe that flowers should be kept in expert hands only, or left to specialists in the field such as florists, the law of the land dictates that God, guts and gardening made the country what it is today and for as long as the flower industry can see to it things are staying that way. What they reckon is this: deny a person the right to carry flowers of his own and he’s liable to wind up on the business end of a flower somebody else had grown. As for the two boys, it’s back to the same old debate: is it something in the mind that grows from birth, like a seed, or is it society that makes a person that kind?

NaPoWriMo 2015

2 Apr

NaPoWriMo is the write-a poem-everyday-thingy (invented by Maureen Thorson) that poets do in the month of April to celebrate National Poetry Month. There are so many reasons why I have never done this and am a terrible candidate for such a challenge:  1) It is not aligned with my writing process in any way.  2)  I am uncomfortable making a piece public until I do quite a bit of editing which usually involves dozens & months-worth of drafts.  3) I am due this month with my first child. For all of these reasons & more I’ve decided on complete impulse to participate in NaPoWriMo 2015 and to publish my entries here on Poetry Crush-  to keep with the original intent of Poetry Crush– which is there is no intent, only impulse. And I’ve impulsively invited a few friends to join me. Just click on the link below to follow their daily entires: Joanna Penn Cooper Lauren Hunter Bridget Talone Lina Vitkauskas Christine Kanownik J. Hope Stein (me)

May Swenson

28 Nov

image8

THE PREGNANT DREAM

I had a dream in which I had a
dream,
and in my dream I told you,
“Listen, I will tell you my
dream.” And I began to tell you. And
you told me, “I haven’t time to listen while you tell your
dream.”

Then in my dream I
dreamed I began to
forget my
dream.
And forgot my
dream.
And I began to tell you, “Listen, I have
forgot my
dream.”
And now I tell you: “Listen while I tell you my
dream, a
dream,
in which I dreamed
I forgot my dream,”
and I begin to tell you “In my dream you told me, ‘I haven’t time to
listen.’”

And you tell me” “You dreamed I wouldn’t
listen to a
dream that you
forgot?
I haven’t time to listen to
forgotten
dreams.”

“But I haven’t forgot I
dreamed,” I tell you,
“a dream in which I told you,
‘Listen, I have
forgot,’ and you told me, ‘I haven’t time.’”
“I haven’t time,” you tell me.

And now I begin to forget that I
forgot what I began to tell you in my
dream.
And I tell you, “Listen,
listen, I begin to
forget.”

(the real poem lines up the words “dream,” “listen” and “forgot” of every line, throughout the entire piece, which is why some of the line breaks look like this. But wordpress formatting, as usual, will not cooperate. The only line that is supposed to break structure is “I haven’t time you, tell me”)

Charlie Kaufman

21 Oct
What can I say about Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays that hasn’t already been said?  
See Synecdoche, New York if you haven’t!
It’s his best one and to me rivals the greatest films and novels of all time. It is terrifyingly honest, complex and true. It obsessively peels back the layers of the human condition until there is only a skeleton and it contains everything in it while making fun of an artist who tries to create a piece that contains everything.

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From Charlie Kaufman’s 2012 BAFTA Screenwriters Lecture:

Thank you very much. I’m actually really happy to be here; at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I’ve never delivered a speech before, which is why I decided to do this tonight. I wanted to do something that I don’t know how to do, and offer you the experience of watching someone fumble, because I think maybe that’s what art should offer. An opportunity to recognise our common humanity and vulnerability.

So rather than being up here pretending I’m an expert in anything, or presenting myself in a way that will reinforce the odd, ritualised lecturer-lecturee model, I’m just telling you off the bat that I don’t know anything. And if there’s one thing that characterises my writing it’s that I always start from that realisation and I do what I can to keep reminding myself of that during the process. I think we try to be experts because we’re scared; we don’t want to feel foolish or worthless; we want power because power is a great disguise.

I’m a person who does this and I struggle with it. I think it was Thomas Mann who said, ‘A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people,’ which I thought was pretty cool. I think that’s sort of it; if you take it seriously it’s a struggle.

Here’s a recent quote that I found: ‘We do not talk, we bludgeon one another with facts and theories gleaned from cursory readings of newspapers, magazines and digests.’ That was actually written in 1945 by Henry Miller and I think it’s timely. I think what it says is that the world has been on its present course for a long time. People all over the world spend countless hours of their lives every week being fed entertainment in the form of movies, TV shows, newspapers, YouTube videos and the internet. And it’s ludicrous to believe that this stuff doesn’t alter our brains.

It’s also equally ludicrous to believe that – at the very least – this mass distraction and manipulation is not convenient for the people who are in charge. People are starving. They may not know it because they’re being fed mass produced garbage. The packaging is colourful and loud, but it’s produced in the same factories that make Pop Tarts and iPads, by people sitting around thinking, ‘What can we do to get people to buy more of these?’

And they’re very good at their jobs. But that’s what it is you’re getting, because that’s what they’re making. They’re selling you something. And the world is built on this now. Politics and government are built on this, corporations are built on this. Interpersonal relationships are built on this. And we’re starving, all of us, and we’re killing each other, and we’re hating each other, and we’re calling each other liars and evil because it’s all become marketing and we want to win because we’re lonely and empty and scared and we’re led to believe winning will change all that. But there is no winning.

What can be done? Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time. It can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognise him or herself in you and that will give them hope. It’s done so for me and I have to keep rediscovering it. It has profound importance in my life. Give that to the world, rather than selling something to the world. Don’t allow yourself to be tricked into thinking that the way things are is the way the world must work and that in the end selling is what everyone must do. Try not to.

This is from E. E. Cummings: ‘To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.’ The world needs you. It doesn’t need you at a party having read a book about how to appear smart at parties – these books exist, and they’re tempting – but resist falling into that trap. The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind.

So you are here, and I am here, spending our time as we must, it must be spent. I am trying not to spend this time, as I spend most of my time, trying to get you to like me; trying to control your thoughts, to use my voodoo at the speed of light, the speed of sound, the speed of thought, trying to convince you that your two hours with me are not going to be resented afterwards.

It is an ancient pattern of time usage for me, and I’m trying to move deeper, hoping to be helpful. This pattern of time usage paints over an ancient wound, and paints it with bright colours. It’s a sleight of hand, a distraction, so to attempt to change the pattern let me expose the wound. I now step into this area blindly, I do not know what the wound is, I do know that it is old. I do know that it is a hole in my being. I do know it is tender. I do believe that it is unknowable, or at least unable to be articulable.

I do believe you have a wound too. I do believe it is both specific to you and common to everyone. I do believe it is the thing about you that must be hidden and protected, it is the thing that must be tap danced over five shows a day, it is the thing that won’t be interesting to other people if revealed. It is the thing that makes you weak and pathetic. It is the thing that truly, truly, truly makes loving you impossible. It is your secret, even from yourself. But it is the thing that wants to live.

It is the thing from which your art, your painting, your dance, your composition, your philosophical treatise, your screenplay is born. If you don’t acknowledge this you will come up here when it is your time and you will give your speech and you will talk about the business of screenwriting. You will say that as a screenwriter you are a cog in a business machine, you will say it is not an art form. You will say, ‘Here, this is what a screenplay looks like.’ You will discuss character arcs, how to make likeable characters. You will talk about box office. This is what you will do, this is who you will be and after you are done I will feel lonely and empty and hopeless. And I will ask you for my two hours back. I will do this to indicate my lack of love for you.

I will do this to communicate that you are a waste of time as a human being. It will be an ugly thing for me to say. It will be intended to hurt you. It will be wrong for me to say. It will lack compassion. And it will hurt you. And you will either dismiss it or take it in, but in either case you will hear it and it will affect you. And you will think about what you can do next time so you can be more lovable, and with that your wound will be buried further. Or you will think about how hateful people are and how your armour needs to be thicker so that you can proceed as planned with your ideas. With that, your wound will be buried further.

I think the best way to begin to combat the systemic indoctrination is to look at intention. The aphorism, ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions,’ doesn’t ring true to me. I think intention is at the bottom of everything. My intentions are shifting and complex and often at odds with each other. And if I know what they are, and watch them closely as they slip and slide all over the place, I have a better chance of putting something honest into the world and this is my goal. My own Hippocratic Oath – I do not want to harm.

I am painfully conscious of the harm that occurs when participating in the media with unclear intentions. I do not want to be a salesman, I do not want to scream, ‘Buy me!’ or, ‘Watch me!’ And I don’t want to do that tonight. What I’m trying to express – what I’d like to express – is the notion that, by being honest, thoughtful and aware of the existence of other living beings, a change can begin to happen in how we think of ourselves and the world, and ourselves in the world. We are not the passive audience for this big, messed up power play.

We don’t have to be. We can say who we are, we can assert our right to existence, we can say to the bullies and conmen, the people who try to shame us, embarrass us, flatter us, to the people who have no compunction about lying to us to get our money and our allegiance that we are thinking – really thinking – about who we are, and we’ll express ourselves and other people won’t feel so alone.

This is Harold Pinter: ‘A writer’s life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don’t have to weep about that, the writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb, you find no shelter, no protection, unless you lie. In which case, of course, you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.’

It’s weird to be a human. We get to think about things, we get to wonder. It seems like quite a privileged position in the universe. And I wouldn’t give it up for certainty because when you’re certain you stop being curious. And here’s the one thing I know about the thing you’re certain about; you’re wrong.

It’s always a mistake to settle on any explanation for anything, because whatever you settle on you will be wrong, even if you’re right. Everything is ephemeral; everything is in a constant state of flux. Thinking past any conclusion you’ve drawn will reward you with a more complex insight and a more compassionate world view. This is something I’m constantly trying to learn and re-learn.

There’s another quote that I like, this one’s a little long, but I think it’s good. It’s by a guy named John Garvey: ‘I am increasingly convinced that the need to be right has nothing whatsoever to do with the love of truth, but to face the implications of this means accepting a painful inner emptiness; I am not now what I sense somehow I am meant to be. I do not know what I feel from the bottom of my heart, I need to know. The beginning of wisdom is not to flee from this condition or distract yourself from it. It is essential not to fill it up with answers that have not been earned. It is important to learn how to wait with that emptiness. It is the desire to fill up that emptiness which leads to political or religious fanaticism.’

I think what might make this form of endeavour exciting for writers is that they find themselves in an environment where they’re encouraged to use their powers to explore the world, their minds and the form itself. Think about the staggering possibilities of the marriage of light, vibration and time. I think craft is a dangerous thing. I saw a trailer for a movie, I don’t want to say what the movie is, but it’s coming out soon. And it was gorgeous, it was… gorgeous. And it made me really depressed, and I was trying to figure out why.

I think there was an amazing amount of craft and skill on the part of the filmmakers in this movie. And yet it was the same shit. I know that this movie is going to do really well, and I know that the people who made it are going to get rewarded for it, and so the cycle continues. So I think the danger of craft is that it needs to be in second position to what it is that you’re doing.

It’s seductive to put it in first position, often because what you’re doing is meaningless or worthless, or just more of the same. So you can distinguish yourself by being very, very good at it. I think you need to be willing to be naked when you do anything creatively in film or any other form, that’s really what you have to do because otherwise it’s very hard to separate it from marketing.

Alice Notley & Ping-Pong

12 Oct

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The new issue of Ping-Pong & the cover is pumpkin soup! 
In the new issue of Ping-Pong there is a 20-page conversation between Alice Notley, Maria Garcia Teutsch & I which took place in a cafe in Paris earlier this year. In person I would describe Notley exactly as I experience her on the page: utterly beautiful and in touch with a great otherness. 
Below is a mini-excerpt.
JHS
With The Descent of Alette at what point in the process did you figure out the form it would take with the quotations and the breaths? Did that come early or late in the process?
 
Alice
That came early. At the point where I got the form, I could write it.
 
JHS
Did you write the first piece first?
 
Alice
No, I wrote it last. I wrote the first two last. I didn’t have a beginning for two years and then at the end I had a beginning. It sounds a little tiny bit different from the rest of the poem, but not very much.
 
JHS
It contains almost the whole book within it.

 

alice
Alice
Yeah, I think it’s a very epic-like beginning. I give you an entrée that is also kind of a synopsis. But it’s very terse.
 
JHS
It teaches you how you’re going to read the book and also has information in it but at the same time it’s beautifully lyrical. All of those elements are perfectly balanced.
 
So you always knew you were going to use the quotations?
 
Alice
Yes, because I had already done them in a couple of poems. I had used them before for “A Choral Effect.” Right away I realized The Descent of Alette was going to have a first person singular. And I was going to have a unified voice, not choral. But it suggests choral. But it’s not choral, the way those two poems from “Beginning with a Stain” are. And also “White Phosphorus,” which is a mixture of voices.

 

Because when I was writing those I was listening to Monteverdi, who wrote 16th century Italian choral music. I carried that with me for a year or two until I got to the point when I wrote Alette. Then I had the one voice, but I had the quotation marks, but then quotation marks changed into demarcating the measures, more than suggesting the voices or voice.
Read another mini-excerpt from this interview here on Maria Garcia Teutsch’s blog. The full interview is ONLY available in the new Ping-Pong.
Ping-Pong is the the official literary journal of the Henry Miller Library and this is my first issue as an official Poetry Editor. While I can’t help but miss having my poems in Ping-Pong, it has been a fantastic experience being poetry editor and working along with Poetry Editor Joanna Fuhrman, Prose Editor Shelley Marlow and under the magical leadership of Editor-in-Chief Maria Garcia Teutsch. And I got to work with great writers and talk with my hero Alice Notley. The absolute highlight of the issue for me occurred deep in our conversation with Notley, when she shared some details about her vast treasure chest of fascinating yet-to-be-published works– bringing sexy back to the phrase “unpublished manuscript.”
Also in this issue, poems by: Alice Notley, Ilya Kaminsky, Shane McCrae, Timothy Liu, Danielle Pafunda, Melissa Broder, Leigh Stein, Jennifer L. Knox, Kate Greenstreet, Lina Ramona Vitkauskas, Tyler Gobble &more.  Plus an Ales Steger story translated by Brian Henry & Urska Charney and a micro-anthology of Russian poems translated by Ilya Kaminsky & Katie Farris.

BUY THE ISSUE 

Poetry Crush (Clean Slate) Autumn Writing Playlist

14 Sep

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Fuck that summer. Let’s forget it even happened. Here is a Poetry Crush (clean slate) autumn writing playlist.

Gwendolyn Brooks – Beverly Hills, Chicago
Lana Del Rey – Ride
Foxygen – How Can You Really
The Strokes – One Way Trigger
ELEL – 40 Watt
Sun Kil Moon – I Know It’s Pathetic But That Was the Greatest Night of My Life
Maps – To the Sky
The Strokes – Chances
Lorde – Team
Zola Jesus – Dangerous Days
Cibo Matto – MFN 
Karen O – Ooo
Lana Del Rey – Fucked My Way Up To The Top
The National – Hard To Find
Gwendolyn Brooks – Kitchenette

gwendolyn-brooks-jpg

I’m always struck by the restraint in this poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. Instead of using divisive language about racial and economic injustice, which is easy to do and which most of us do… with messages that will only reach people who think exactly the way we do and box out people who don’t…. Brooks uses supreme clarity, restraint and craft to speak more powerfully and in ways that will never leave you.  She can reach any person of any lack or abundance of privilege in any time period walking down any street in the world.

Beverly Hills, Chicago

The dry brown coughing beneath their feet,
(Only a while, for the handyman is on his way)
These people walk their golden gardens.
We say ourselves fortunate to be driving by today.

That we may look at them, in their gardens where
The summer ripeness rots. But not raggedly.
Even the leaves fall down in lovelier patterns here.
And the refuse, the refuse is a neat brilliancy.

When they flow sweetly into their houses
With softness and slowness touched by that everlasting gold,
We know what they go to. To tea. But that does not mean
They will throw some little black dots into some water and add sugar and the juice of the
cheapest lemons that are sold,

While downstairs that woman’s vague phonograph bleats, “Knock me a kiss.”
And the living all to be made again in the sweatingest physical manner
Tomorrow….Not that anybody is saying that these people have no trouble.
Merely that it is trouble with a gold-flecked beautiful banner.

Nobody is saying that these people do not ultimately cease to be. And
Sometimes their passings are even more painful than ours.
It is just that so often they live till their hair is white.
They make excellent corpses, among the expensive flowers….

Nobody is furious. Nobody hates these people.
At least, nobody driving by in this car.
It is only natural, however, that it should occur to us
How much more fortunate they are than we are.

It is only natural that we should look and look
At their wood and brick and stone
And think, while a breath of pine blows,
How different these are from our own.

We do not want them to have less.
But it is only natural that we should think we have not enough.
We drive on, we drive on.
When we speak to each other our voices are a little gruff.

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The lyrics to this Sun Kil Moon song remind me of my long-ago teenage Hungarian summer boyfriend. Marcel, Marcel, where are you now?

I know it’s pathetic but that was the greatest night

It was backstage in Moscow late one night
We shared a cigarette, a kiss goodbye
Her name was Cayenne, so young and soft
Her hands trembled badly, her eyes trailed off
To bottles and objects around the room
My backup guitar, a tray of food

We didn’t have very much to say
She said that she’d come from some other place
A town called Troyskirt, maybe Troysworth
I was pretty distracted packing my stuff
But I did make a point to ask her to stay
But she said she had friends that she had to go see

Later that summer I picked up my mail
She sent me a letter with a touching detail
“I used up my minutes calling hotels
To find you that night but to no avail”
“I know it’s pathetic,” she continued to write,
“But that was the greatest night of my life.”

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