Archive | Special Issues RSS feed for this section

Poetry Crush Valentine 2016, vol. 2

12 Feb

I’ve been meaning to mention some love-themed pieces that stuck with me this year: Jenny Zhang’s love note to her family,  Morgan Parker’s essay Love Poems are Dead and So Sad Today’s twitter.

Here is volume 2 of now 3 valentine issues.  This issue features work by heart-throbbers Kate Micucci, Bridget Talone, Amy Lawless, Rena J. Mosteirin, T Kira Madden, Timothy Liu,  Anchia Kinard, Sampson Starkweather, Paige Taggart, Brynne Rebele-Henry, Maria Garcia Teutsch, Kathleen Rooney, J. Hope Stein, Todd Colby & Joanna Penn Cooper.

Thanks for reading and passing the issues around. I have a crush on you.

j hope stein

 

unnamed.jpg

♥♥♥ Illustration by Kate Micucci

 

 

There’s No One On This Road But Us and the Night ♥♥♥ Rena Mosteirin

1
“There’s no one on this road but us and the night,” you say
the bugs are invisible and everywhere: summer.
Winter will naturally debug the kitchen
but tonight I need a drive.

You said your father would drive you around when you were sleepless,
together you’d cruise the night roads of Maine.
I imagine if you were sleeping when you got home, he carried you in,
used his foot to close the door. I imagine the weight of your little boy body

as he placed you in your bed. I believe an idea can have weight before words:
I was with you there, though I wasn’t a body, but a math.
Black and white headshots of old movie stars
somehow always look familiar. It must be an algorithm.

2
“It’s the clothing my soul wears,” I say, picking at my skin.
On television they are running races.
The code you are looking at is not the code that is running.
On television Gidget is surfing.

Change the station: an anesthetized alligator
goes into the bag like a body bag.
The options are: copy/distribute/modify:
or take me home/ in kind.

3
In our strange extinction history
we are on the chapter of death: in a rainforest there’s only that one pretty math:

and it goes into the bag like a body bag.
On television they are drowning.

The code you are looking at is not the code that is running.

I can see you sometimes as a little boy, there are ways you turn
and your boy-self flickers on. Hit save.

 

 

BROMANCE  ♥♥♥ Timothy Liu 

Our kisses won’t be posted
on facebook. Nothing to like

or comment on. Outside

the station at Lake and Clark
with the mercury dropping

in early winter dark, he leaned

to kiss me, his neck scarf
woven by a Peruvian woman

grazing my cheek, each kiss

different from whatever came
before. What if a co-worker

or worse, his wife, happened by—

what might we lose? To risk
what has been for what is

yet to come is the reason

why others have been willing
to take us down with boxers

at our heels. When he placed

his palms on my cheek bones
and said: Just let me do this
 
just this, I could feel my clock
 
being taken apart. When he took
his hands away, something

remained—his fingers drawing

slow ovals on my temples
as we rode in the back of a cab

to O’Hare. Home is where

the heart has given up on
mythical pursuits—well-oiled

kisses as prelude to mechanical

sex. Touch as a means toward
climax rather than for touch

itself. Doesn’t everyone know

real desire makes bad porn—
unscripted love no gawkers want

to follow? Let’s not perform

what’s passed down from father
to son—pre-cum out of cock slit

shocking our mouths awake.

 

You Are Sacred ♥♥♥ Amy Lawless

 

You are sacred on thermal currents
We are so small
We feel no wind
We are creeps
It was never our intention to be preyed upon by the doll watching through Jesus eyes
It was weird during the chanting when you called twice
I was chanting and having my hypothalamus massaged via the creation a specific sound with my whole body stimulating nerve growth factor
which is painful for me to read about
because it’s about love, really, which I want more of, am starving for
I have ethical issues with the creation of love artificially
I’m natural: in the mirror my headhair cascades
leaving no need for a hat
Desires not quenched, not pressed
I feel sacred and eternal
My body scrolls throughout the night
My heart ticks toward death, a song never too long
My lungs buzz like little suicide packet bombs worn as a vest,
killing me and sustaining me
a productive-yet-dying bug pronghorn felled over and in need
My core strength holds me up during dance parties
My angles are soft rolling hills
My ability, when not bored, to connect with others
in kitchens and back rooms
to cause a disruption in the prefrontal cortexes –laughing –
in the brains of my friends and in the brains of my non-friends:
People need more of this:
Fine fine fine. I’m not the kind of scientist that you are used to
but I’m the kind you need

 

IMG_3999

♥♥♥ Illustration by Kate Micucci 

 

 

 

 

Who Knows What Could Happen To Us ♥♥♥ T Kira Madden

My first kiss was with a girl named Patricia Posternack. We were at a theme park, just off a roller coaster, and the blood-thump-high hung between us like radioactive dust. In the checker-tiled bathroom we spun in circles, tipped our skulls between our knees, joking that we could unwind the dizzy that had spooled us up.

Patricia pulled me by the pinky into a bathroom stall. This wasn’t unusual, we liked to LaLaLa while the other peed, one flush, because we’re best friends that’s why, but what was unusual was Patricia leaning with her back against the stall door, her fingers lacing up behind my neck, red bangs sweat-smeared across her forehead. Her braces gleamed. Do you love me? she asked. I did, and said so. Like a sister? she asked, her chin down, eyes up. Well, sure.

And then I said I wanted to practice, for when the real time came. I said who knows, Patty. Who knows what could happen to us tonight. Who knows what could happen in the hotel, your parents sleeping, rolled over as dead whales in the Disney-pink bed. We could meet some boys in the lobby, I said. Wear our new tube-tops, bandana headbands, look drippy and older with our strawberry lip-smack shine.

She opened her mouth for mine, just like that. My mouth was not even close to her mouth yet. Her mouth just hung open, her eyes gently shut, the O of her choir face, and so I leaned right into it. It was sloppy and ripe. I felt like I could taste the colors of her orthodontic bands—teal, black, teal, black, teal, black, teal—like her mouth was my mouth and there was no reason for them ever to separate again.

What happened to you, Patricia Posternack? I think about you now, your scabbed knees, your high-soprano pitch. Your sister never left this town. She works in the local hospital, stitched up my index finger from a rusted up nail. She said, what ever happened to you girls that night in the hotel, when our parents couldn’t find you?

We did meet those boys. We did what we said we could do. I remember it all: just us kids out by the hotel pool, that aquamarine glow on your bare stomach, one of the boys leading you away as you let go of my hand, laughing, saying I’ll be right back.

 

< 3  ♥♥♥  Sampson Starkweather

Your love
the thickest spliff
let’s get
lifted
into this
Bliss’s slow
insurgence
A season
or war
In bloom
And you

 

Blizzard in Berlin ♥♥♥ Maria Garcia Teutsch

Everything’s sexy in Berlin.
Purple umbrella shot inside out

dropped by the door, a leather
dress balled up, the red wine

spill hidden, your boots
tucked beside a suitcase,

while my stilettos make
a W where I kicked them in
the air when I made a V.

You
framed by the whipped cream
of sheets, asleep—

and snow traveling outside
easterly and westerly simultaneously.

The lines on the street
scraped salted graveled.

Inhale this rooftop horizon
of jigsaw high-rises.

Dead Kaiser Wilhelm’s
broken steeple ushers out

the night and punctures
in light. This is Spring in Berlin:
snow, silver, a punch of gold.

I am shivering in my slip–
a black crow

lands on the windowsill,
my face caught in glass,

and then yours–kissing
each cheek, and lifting me there

in the corner window
above Ku’damm
for all to see, and I let you in—

no longer afraid of the darkness
within, and say the word
you wanna hear–

 

 

 

kate1

♥♥♥ Illustration by Kate Micucci

 

 

 

From:  I Lob You ♥♥♥ J. Hope Stein

My great uncles were gypsies
They were so handsome
the villagers longed
to be robbed by them.

When I met you, you asked me
if I could think of any reason why
you shouldn’t marry her

& I said “no-you-are-perfect-for-each-other”
& you never invited me to the wedding –
But your brother did—

& I am in all your wedding photos
& to this day,
your relatives still talk about the snare
our hips drummed up
on the dance floor.

& I said, “Hey, nice wedding!”
& you said, “If you don’t leave now,
I’m going to kill you
or myself or both.”

& It was when the band played
the Doobie Brothers’ What a Fool Believes,
your brother’s mouth lobbing
the unsuccessful neckline of my dress,

where I wrote my first book—
a cross between
gypsy & disco.

 

 

 

Imminent Reprisal ♥♥♥ Paige Taggart

licking the back of a wizard’s mouth
I procure all sorts of data and lay my wet fat body on the tile
I do sit-ups and the pressure between the bridge of my back and ass make
a cupping sort of farting sound
I call in my boyfriend to watch
and witness the detail
he takes notes, later he might try this
pen to the pad of paper
sketching a drawing of minimal
exertion but lots of percussion
it’s a god send
we’re lucky to have radio silences
and wine to drink
we’re lucky to feel the kickbacks of gen-exers
it’s an utter disappointment
to complain all the time
(esp via text-message to distant friends)
I have relatives in high-places
and we prosper from them
till we really fuck up and the castles
dormant bricks fall upon us
life is something to lay under and take the pressure; otherwise, we’d all be juggalos

 

 

 

Les Amants ♥♥♥  Kathleen Rooney

If Loulou the Pomeranian had seen the master as a child, he’d have known him by his smell: lemon and nutmeg, and pepper – a dash. If Georgette had caught a flash of the master as a child – well, wait, she did, in the carousel-salon at the fair in Charleroi, where they fell, fell, fell in love: still but moving among the wild wooden horses. If they had seen each other years later – well, wait, they did, unguarded amid the blooms of the Brussels Botanic Gardens, where they fell, fell, fell again, never leaving each other’s side thenceforth unless forced.
When he was 14, the master’s mother, Régina, was tired of life and she fell, fell, fell into a river. No, Magritte’s mother killed herself. Jumped, jumped, jumped. When they fished her out, her nightdress clouded around her head like impenetrable mist. No dog Loulou’s met has ever committed suicide.

In this painting, the faces of the lovers are covered, but Loulou can tell: that’s Magritte and that’s Georgette. Are they suffocating? No, they’re going in for the motion picture move of the close-up kiss, despite being shrouded. Are they going to die? Why yes, eventually, but not right now.

The master insists his mother has nothing to do with any of this. Dismisses the theory of the Sambre River as the source. Beauty ought not be reduced to a personal neurosis. Loulou has heard the master say that love is above everything: “Love cannot be destroyed. I believe in its victory.” Loulou loves how these lovers are inside, two walls behind them, moulding over their shoulders and no window anywhere to give entry to the skies. Invisible but still too big to be disguised.

 

♥♥♥ poem by Anchia Kinard

when she misses me
the tears
only come
after teeth
after nails

grip-gasp
we made it
so good
handprints
painted on
the walls

 

Smoke From My Hair ♥♥♥ Rena J. Mosteirin

1

A song like the ghost of a mill girl, a song heaving and sick
and pregnant, a song like my grandfather worked

many lifetimes simultaneously so I would never have to hear.
A song that took away everything. That night

they came down from the hills to Havana,
and some sexy black woman was singing this song

into the boozy faces of tourists
and because of the song they could taste Havana

on her, they could smoke her hair
and call her home for the night, tell everyone
that they could see themselves living on her forever.
2

A song to change your life to,

to change the tone-tune-tenor of your night,
Cuba has put her song in your American ears

and as it grows up in my garden I realize
it’s always playing, underneath all the other musics: this song

is my mantra, my calm lake, my Cuba.
At Starbucks they play Guantanamera whenever they want,

but that is not the song, that is not the brush with life
that enables authenticity—if for one night only—this is the song we die to.

 

3

Cubans can come back from the dead when this song is playing,
and dance with their lovers again, groping through gardens at night,

 

making my cows turn into pregnant teenagers—it’s the song—
MTV knocked them up, all of them stupid and sexy

mooing the fields, all big dark eyes and so shy
as they tell you it’s ok if you want to touch their swollen bellies.

Shake it up baby. The song plays to the trees
and the cows dance and we realize we’re all stuck in the mud,

some more than others. I’ve got short legs
and I’m udders-deep, but under the mud the song has spilled roots,

roots like apple trees, thick and tall into the dense Earth,
and each apple of my days has a single white worm

in her dark heart of brown seeds, eating, always eating…
Start at the center, and I too am rooted in the basket of the Earth,

for it is the only way I can keep mooing,
settle in and let go—so shake it up baby now—the cows get down,

and I am keeping my head above ground:
hair on fire.

 

 

Clarion Hotel  ♥♥♥ Brynne Rebele-Henry

I did cocaine once, in the middle of Idaho
my throat felt like afterbirth
the hotel’s swimming pool
thighs/bruise/thrash/your hands/too-long-nails
then we took our clothes off in a fountain and the water was
spit-like, I thought the pennies could be barnacles against
my knees—I’m not very good at bending down
once I wanted to be someone
but then I just decided to waste my life
I’m sorry
your skin was chlorine, vodka-spit
and I’m always fucking and my exoskeleton is fragile at best
we took a night train to Berlin
once you bought a butterfly knife
it made a spreadsheet on your thighs
I like to imagine my own death
soon I will pull out my teeth and will
you say my name?

 

Elaborations on notable crushes from my 7th grade diary: ♥♥♥ Bridget Talone

 

James Caan as Sonny Corleone

4a0ada12c68577a999f147decd4a61c5

Sonny Corleone is an obvious choice for a crush. Sonny sometimes wore an undershirt and when he did you could see that he had great arms. He was often out of breath from fucking or from beating somebody up. He pinned a bridesmaid up against the wall for some quick standing sex at a family wedding, crushing her pink taffeta dress. He says “just a minute,” in a sort of sad, serious way, when someone knocks on the door and when he leaves she slides a little ways down the wall. When he’s shot to death on the Causeway, he opens his car door and falls out. His body lay there in crumpled heap, not unlike a dress.

 

24072al-pacino-postersAl Pacino as Michael Corleone

If Sonny Corleone’s appeal is obvious—athletic and superficial—his youngest brother Michael has more in common with the criminals Jean Genet writes of in the beginning of Our Lady of the Flowers. Genet says of the photos of men decorating his jail cell: “If I have nailed him to my wall, it was because, as I see it, he had the sacred sign of the monster at the corner of his mouth or at the angle of the eyelids.” I could see Genet liking Michael, with his broken cheekbone and they way it caused his nose to run. Genet would make a relic of the massive white handkerchief with which he dabbed at his nose. Michael’s broken cheekbone not only set his criminal life in motion, it fundamentally changed his relationship to women. He stopped being a citizen, a boyfriend. He went into hiding, a monster. All of his life, his motives and desires, seemed plunged into a dark room. With a monster’s patience, he waited to find women to bring into that dark with him. His eyes had adjusted to the room but that would never be true for anyone who would join him here.

 

John Cazale as Fredo Corleone

tumblr_inline_nurx19lNOI1ryh1c8_400Fredo’s crime was weakness. For his weakness, he was sent to live in the desert in Nevada. He died out on the water, in the weakly lapping waves. Fredo dressed flashy, like a flower no one wanted. At nightclubs in Havana and Las Vegas, Fredo cultivated a voyeuristic relationship to sex that was superfluous to the act itself; that rendered him descriptive. In this way he was unlike his brothers, who, moved within the field of sex as though they were a part of it. When I interrogate my younger self for adding him to my crush list, it’s easy to ascribe it to a juvenile confusion and general thirst for all men. Sometimes men’s mere proximity to each other is attractive. Let Fredo come over. But, by that logic, I should’ve included Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, the adoptive brother of the Corleones. And I didn’t. (Why didn’t I? I hereby add Tom Hagen.) I talked to my sister about Fredo’s spot on this list and we briefly discussed the erotics of weakness. She proposed that what’s erotic is what happens to you as you make your way to that thing that seems smaller than you and agree to get down to its size somehow. It shows a penchant for complication, the knot in a thin fine chain you can’t work free. We know there’s death in fucking but some people keep it from you. They keep it from themselves, or they keep it for themselves and put you into some other relationship to it. With Fredo it would be different. He’s incapable of keeping anything at bay, and you both see it, see the little abysses opening up. I don’t think a person chooses Fredo knowing any of these things. I didn’t. But for me, choosing Fredo at all, even impulsively, predicted an almost hormonal attraction to description, to observation, a desire to grow eyes in the dark.

 

 

 

Quest for Consideration ♥♥♥  Todd Colby & Joanna Penn Cooper

My quest for consideration began on a damp
bed. I knew from the smell of the room that it was
a Saturday. Sometimes you want a drink first. Other
times you find yourself crawling through it
all stone cold sober. You or I, it’s all the same.
Did I ever mention The Rolling Stones in a poem?
Exile on Main Street is a lovely record. One of us is
Mick Jagger to the other’s Marianne Faithfull. I mean,
it’s possible Mick has had his heart really broken once or twice,
but you’d never know it from the way he moves his hips.

 

IMG_6741

 

♥♥♥ Illustration by Kate Micucci

 

Advertisements

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

0db2dc33a210807931ab886ee25f0e38

♥♥♥ 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

 

Poetry Crush: Everyday is Valentine’s (Vol.I)

9 Feb

cake

Scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock:  “To Saint Valentine!”
An honor to valentine with first-rate hearts-of-cake:  Shane McCrae, Hannah Gamble, Paige Taggart, Amy Lawless, Todd Colby, Joanna Penn Cooper, Douglas Piccinnini, Jared White, Melissa Broder, Rauan Klassnik, Rena Mosteirin, Lee Ann Roripaugh & J. Hope Stein (me, duh).
MOST OFTEN NEIGHBOR

Most often neighbor as you       most if neighbor means you only

Most often you most often spring pink      suns the trees the cherry now

Most often neighbor to the blue immediate blue sky

And none of the rain in the sky although rain

strips the pink light from the branches

As neighbors do although rain claims the branches into blossom

As neighbors do as you

have claimed me into life most often neighbor // The pink trees neighbor

to the blue sky not for      being pink / For being

from red the same distance      the sky is from the blue it is

As I with you from any man as you from any woman

Shane McCrae

 

THE LITERARY MAN

At the end of his life he still had many
devotees, and for that, he was grateful.

Several devotees lined the window seats
of his bedroom, many of them
with his books in hand.

Most important to him, however,
was that he still was an erotic fixture
in the lives of women,

so several of them sat facing his bed,
vaginas glistening atop literal cushions.

Hannah Gamble

 

NEGLECT EMOTIONALLY

The next morning I noticed that he had this weird foreign object in his chest—but he wasn’t bleeding. It was almost like a tattoo. Babe what the….is that? We stood in the mirror of his bathroom not noticing. Big like a car part, I couldn’t believe it didn’t make him double over in pain as it moved its way up to his forehead. We weren’t on acid. I looked into his eyes and he looked into my eyes and we smiled a lot and ate takeout in bed. Did the delivery guy see your forehead? He just laughed, slapped my ass, and we ate chorizo burritos. I then felt immediately embarrassed. I keep soy milk in my fridge for when he comes over despite its disgusting aftertaste. I learned to really look at the people. Now if he isn’t in front of me or touching me, I ache throughout my whole body and the physical pain only increases over course of the day. So our bodies in their primitive states moved into a single body absent of worldly pain.

Amy Lawless

LEGENDS IN SEXPLOITATION

I’ve half-a-heart to kneel in the centerfold of every love magazine
To be in a billowing ball gown, would be, to dust the pony off and retire for fair-trade My spirit can’t be outsourced; it is inspiration from the centerfolds of every love issue! It is high and mighty like the spirit-clause you just signed
I’ve prospered from affairs on the high-angle with legendary jewels and redingotes
I horse backed along the boardwalk and later performed oral sex
I was accomplished, so shoot me!
I was skilled, so kill me!
I was adorned, so need me!
Properly keel over afterwards
I’ll dispose of your body into the trifecta of human duality
How we provoke and onward shift amicably
I’ve got pains for the hype, it sucker punches me into corners so unpleasant
Here we are, just the two of us, forever shunned to a hard earned maintenance
So kill me why don’tchya

Paige Taggart

OCCASIONALLY, I REMOVE YOUR BRAIN THROUGH YOUR NOSE

Sure, I’ve thought about fucking you in my desk chair, silently not to disturb the neatness of your yellow summer shorts. Silently not to disturb our colleagues in surrounding cubicles. You putting small paperclips in my hair, your hands suggesting the rocking of my skull. Me straddling your lap, your bare ass in my desk chair shapes, suctioning into each other— We would continue to make the sounds of good business. A conference call with Coca-Cola, an email to Citibank, a spreadsheet of year-over-year gross profits. Me elevated in your lap, my face clearing just over the cubicle partition just visible enough across the office, my expression dismembered like a poet who’s fallen out of favor with her king.

J. Hope Stein

 

TONIGHT

Tonight I’m going to shake your hand into butter,
curve around you until you’re gel,
climb the soft pieces of you with spikes,
insert a vibrating dial, and conjure you
into living goop. I will slip my hand
under your belt; and lose a wisdom tooth,
make a necklace of it, and hang it around
your neck. My gift of light will shimmer
on your smooth throat, and all the institutes of longing
will permeate the landscape with medicinal
cloud formations that disperse calming
solutions of tingle water and kink spray.
I will secrete a secret mud that enhances
your ability to thrust your hips into mine
on a bed that is damp and purple.
You are so smooth that when you get up,
you leave behind an impression
of our Lord and Savior.

Todd Colby

“LITTLE” “BEAR” for R.E.H.P.

I’ve said so cover’d and un
“the fruit is real”
the something as much

retain me

who is there
that I shake out a name

a system like the sun
is as arable

so I grow incurably so

entre amigos

woods? si, woods
spring the lock
in that I so nilled
semi-anonymous
like wilted mint
in public revived
I will

Douglas Piccinnini

THE GIANTS

In the light that should be out already, Lulu is making
You forget what it means to be a girl
And when she puts her bobbing face close to yours
And when she kisses you it is a poet’s kiss
That puts things into you I have put already
As Peer flosses his teeth for hours until they sparkle
With the knowledge of growing up amongst poets
And the precision fucking that is demanded by hotel life
About which all I want to convey is the smell
I never really learned the language another language uses
To describe this I want to tell you about my childhood
Which was many missed opportunities for me to help carry
The bag so big and the flesh so slack and thin
The normals ate who were enormous, ponderous and beautiful
And I was staring straight through to the ass bone and the ribs
And remarkably they had ceased for a moment to rot
And in the cloud cover glow of that luminescence
You could see all of the stains on my teeth with black light
You could see what I would look like when I get old
And it was not so bad really only a lot older looking
And more courageous and less fuckable but still in the same hotel
Because there never was an explosion the terrorists failed
To outwit the geologists after all that underneath the sand
The rock is porous and gravel will always be useful

Jared White

DO YOU SMELL SMOKE?

Apply this soothing gel made from roots and branches
to your forearms when you jump up warrior style
and run fist-first to the kitchen in your sleep.
I’ll buy you almond croissants.  I’ll hum to you
with my pretty good pitch.  You are falling asleep
and chuckling sweetly to yourself when you think of me;
I am taking photos of you sleeping and posting them online.
I know you don’t mind, so I break into your house
while you’re out and teach myself the bass.  Don’t worry
about that smoke smell, it’s my gentleness you’re loving.

Joanna Penn Cooper

DAZE BONES

Notgod set me on fire and was like good luck
I think the shirt you wear is ultimate
When it turns red nothing can walk soft
Maybe birth me up on your fingers
You taste like notsober alcoholics
Various breeds of errors and the way I feel you
No human power no human power
I cannot go there with you and I cried
The other life I was so nauseous
You didn’t know I almost threw up
What if I threw up on your tongue?
When I put you in my mouth I got better
Forgive every body its mouth
I talk like I am sister heaven
I am really sister darkness
I am both at once and you are also
You didn’t know you were an echo
In the dust I’ll kill you up
I think you learn by unbeing
Like first you die and then go oh

Melissa Broder

& I CAN HEAR YOU PURR

An old fat nymphomaniac who just can’t cum no matter how much she gasps, & wheezes, and rattles, & drips, filthy & black, all over yr fingers, neck & face, till finally you lift her, like a bird in yr fist. [ I wake up and a Meth-Head’s trying to sneak off with my Ipod, my house and my words. It’s Ron Silliman & his face’s ruined. “Kill the rat!” my wife explodes. Like a mushroom ] & twist her head off. Her eyes (so sweet & so tender) in yr left hand, ask so innocently—O, how did this all go so wrong?—while her body, in yr fist, continues to beat.

Rauan Klassnik

IF YOU HURT THE ONE YOU LOVE

make sure it is on their birthday
so they can follow the story
of the awful thing you did or said
with “…and on my birthday???”

You’ll be giving them
the gift of others’ supercharged
sympathies which is also,
unfortunately, high-voltage hatred

directed at you.
But you probably already
had that coming, didn’t you,
you self-hating, off-putting poet?

Hannah Gamble

tsunami in love: kintsukuroi / golden joinery

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. – Barbara Bloom

safe is just another empty signifier
when she is water and the clay
that cupped her was a shattered bowl

triggering tsunami a sparkly blue shooter
pinging the splintered mib
of the fractured nuclear reactor core

this is what playing for keeps means
this broken imperfection / these cracked
masks / this crazed helplessness

this is what no going back means
no taking back the feral chipped singing
gouging open her fault lines and wounds

aggrandizing them with molten gold
blood veins of cinnabar alchemizing
to mercury like smelt silvering the shore

safe is just another empty signifier
because she is water and the clay
that cupped her was a shattered bowl

until after months in pieces she lets you
hold and rock her in these postures of repair
(and when she spills you do not drown

and when she rages in her radioactive
expansion cloud chamber you become
that slim umbilical tethering the astronaut

seaweed that fetters rafts of sea otters)
buttery lamp light by the side of the bed
gilding together what’s broken no more

Lee Ann Roripaugh

MY DEAR ISHMAEL

As most young pains
whaling their voyage
a fine, boisterous something about everything

her great original—the Tyre of this Carthage;—the place where the first dead American
whale was stranded. Those aboriginal whalemen
give chase to the Leviathan?

imported cobble-stones
risk a harpoon
a night, a day
my destined port, a very dark and dismal night
cheerless with anxious grapnels
pieces of silver—myself

gloom towards the north
darkness towards the south—
my dear Ishmael

My Dear Ish

Rena Mosteirin

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

Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 6.34.28 PM

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.

HOLIDAY CRUSH

5 Dec

Here are some suggestions for holiday presents to win over your crush & delight your weirdo poet friends.  Merry crush-ness!  –J. Hope Stein

1) The Book Group (BBC)

1274279

This BBC TV show called The Book Group is addictive.

Premise:  there is a book group and each episode is titled the name of the book the group is assigned to read that week.  The episode follows each character in their life and then culminates with the book group meeting.

Hilarity & crushes ensue.

2) Pink Thunder (Black Ocean)

21

Another beautiful piece from Black Ocean!

Michael Zapruder makes dreamy moody Steve Malkmus/Roger Waters-like music with poems by:  Dorthea Lasky, D. A Powell, Carrie St. George Comer, Bob Hicok, Joshua Beckman, Anthony McCann, Travis Nichols, Matthew Zapruder, Hoa Nguyen, Matt Rohrer, Gillian Conoley, Mary Ruefle, Valzhyna Mort, David Berman, Joe Wenderoth, Joe Wenderoth,  Tyehimba Jess, James Tate, Sierra Nelson, Dara Wier, Bret Fretcher Laver and Noelle Kocot.

In an artist statement Zapruder writes about the origin of the project, which sparked in 2006 when he traveled with the Wave Poetry bus:

I had been spending most of my time writing and recording songs and taking every opportunity to talk with poets and other song-writers about the relationship between songs and the written word, especially in poems.  I wanted to turn poems into songs to learn more about that relationship.   I wanted to hear what would happen.  For about a week I rode the bus and listened to readings every night. I slept in the bus, too, and maybe my dreams mingled with the poets’ because I got their music in my ear. 

What I love about this project is the pursuit to find connections with other disciplines and poets.  It’s good for poetry and it’s a really groovy listen.   & In the songs themselves you can feel a highly sensitive being.

3) Winter Writing Playlist

A little alchemy to mix in with your writing day.

Wilco – One Sunday Morning
Fiona Apple – Every Single Night
Beirut – The Rip Tide
The Tallest Man On Earth – Love Is All
Caveman – Thankful
The National – Exile Vilify (From the Game Portal 2)
Lovers – To Be a Dancer (I Am Alive)
M83 – Wait
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Bubble
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Your Own Spell
Caveman – Old Friend

4) Once and The Swell Season

51hYiOISA+L

The motion picture Once captures what it looks like when two people fall in love, which results in the creation of intimate music.  The subsequent documentary The Swell Season captures what it looks like when the same two people share their music with the world, become famous and fall out of love.  This is the only example I know of where the presence of love is so clearly caught on film.  You can see it enter and you can see it leave.  I have so much more to say about this, maybe another time.  For now, it makes a good gift.

 

 

 

 

5)  Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple & Sharon Van Etten

main

Three of our strongest singer song-writers (who just happen to be female) seem to be even more deeply exploring their respective creative spaces. Regina Spektor’s “What We Saw From the Cheep Seats“, Fiona Apple’s “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do” and Sharon Van Etten’s “Tramp” come from rare & inspired places.

6) Woolly Mammoth

webbanner_V6

Woolly Mammoth Antiques, Oddities and Vintage describes itself as:

“…a curiosity cabinet of items resurrected from the past. We specialize in taxidermy, specimens, animal themed-ephemera, ready-mades, textiles, vintage jewelry, art made by us and our friends.”

There are too many incredible images on the Woolly Mammoth website for me to even pick one– Check out this giraffe head & other creepy fascinations (website or etsy) or, if you are in the neighborhood, stop by the Chicago store & meet Skye and Adam, the inspired & good-vibing couple who scour the planet to make these incredible finds.

If you are like me and less brave in the skull & bones department, there are unique antique items like this  circus cart wheel and this chimney sweep!

Check out recent press – Chicago ReaderMartha Stewart.

7) Double Issue of Verse 

cover

When I was in a cabin for the month of January in the remote mountains of  Central Oregon, I discovered a bunch of Verse from back in the day and gobbled them up.

This year editors Brian Henry and Andrew Zawacki published 2 new issues of Verse, which I have also gobbled upEach is packed with great substantive portfolios of featured writers:  John Olson Laurie Blauner Endi Bogue Hartigan Tony Mancus Jean Donnelly Ezekiel Black G.C. Waldrep, Alissa Nutting and Allison Titus, erasures by Travis MacDonald, prose and photographs by Joshua Edwards, and a long poem by Francois Luong.

AND! There is an intimate interview with Eileen Myles in which she mentions her friend David who had a brain tumor and recalls:

“So I went to this opera while David was dying, with a notebook to watch ‘Il Trovatore.’  I wrote this poem called ‘The Troubadour,’ which is the first poem in School of Fish.  What I did was I just notated, described what was happening on the stage, and when they sang in Italian I just decided what they were saying.  The thing that was so gratifying about it was that at various points I alluded to David’s death, and so I got to mourn my friend in a big, elegiac, over-the-top way, with a scenario that wasn’t mine. In terms of emotion, I feel like what I’ve been trained to do as a poet is to use excessive conditions as a way to reveal things.”

Get Both volumes – they are only $8 for each —   (includes postage): Verse, English Department, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA 23173.

8) MacTaggart Jewlery

Poet Paige Taggart makes these really cool necklaces and earrings.  I’m not 100% sure what they are made of–She seems to work with buttons and metals and beads and all sorts of things.  But there is a quality to them that just looks like good vibes —  I once saw poet Christie Ann Reynolds wear one that looked like a beaded snuff box.  I’m deciding between a bunch of pieces right now for my sister in-laws and myself, including these below:

IMG_1957

IMG_2354

IMG_2386

IMG_2402

9) Something for Nothing:    the Art of Rap

 91V2H9qcIRL._AA1500_Something for Nothing:  The Art of Rap – an oral history of rap music– Ice-T interviews Eminem, Kanye, Chuck D, Snoop, Mos Def, Run DMC & more—Lots of surprises in here.  This is a really compelling investigation of the birth and evolution of rap music and is the first piece I’ve seen on rap that takes it seriously as an art form and   focuses on craft and process.  Anyone interested in language and its evolutions and revolutions would enjoy.

10) Ed the Happy Clown 

250px-DefinitiveEdBookCover

In Wiki’s words, not mine :  This is a dark, humorous mix of genres which includes vampires, pygmy cannibals, Martians, Frankenstein’s monster and others.  Prominent is its use of scatological humor, nudity, sex, body horror, extreme graphic violence and potentially blasphemous religious imagery.  Central to the plot are a man who cannot stop defecating;  the head of a miniature Ronald Reagan attached to the head of the protagonists’s penis;  and a female vampire who seeks revenge on her  adulterous lover who murdered her to escape his sins.  Buy here.

11) Beasts of the Southern Wild

91VJnVy7DGL._AA1500_Beasts of the Southern Wild is an inspired film, which will inspire other great works.  Don’t try and pick apart the narrative and be smarter than it, just watch it– My favorite scene takes place in a “mother-brothel”– a surreal island where neglected kids seek fantasy encounters with mother figures.  The details are gorgeous and surprising and filled with magical realism, nourishing smiles and homemade food.  It is absolute magic and uncontainable joy.

Also, I think director Ben Zeitlin is our next George Lucas.  I can’t wait to see what he does next.

12) Dancing Girl Press & Hyacinth Girl Press

4ebd5e32a71af_80495n

 

Both Dancing Girl Press and Hyacinth Girl Press offer great bundle deals on chapbooks of emerging female poets.

 

 

 

13) Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present

51cvdk928HL

When you have a documentary where the subject is an artist whose life work is passionate and riveting and then you have a filmmaker who is able to use that and tell a larger story that takes on bigger meaning, then you have a great documentary, where you do not need to be familiar with the work of performance artist Marina Abramovic to enjoy the human story.  This is why this makes such a great gift– The Artist is Present is ultimately about the human effort it takes for anyone to be present in any moment of their life.

 

 

14) Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva

A Reading by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine  (Alice James Books)

Dark-Elderberry-Branch_Cover_for-Website

Praise from C.D. Wright (from the Alice James Website)–

“The magnitude of love, exile, loss, desperation and faith is met with a fortitude most of us will never have to muster; a vulnerability most would never expose. We can thank the stolen paper, quills, red ink; the bells of Moscow, piles of bills an bread from a stranger for a glimpse into the lines and life of Marina Tsvetaeva in a tender ‘reading’ by poets Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine, a collaboration exquisitely suited to deliver these earthly traces.”

Pretty soulful stuff- includes a paperback AND cd of readings in the original Russian by Kaminsky & Valentine — Check it out at Alice James.

15) Ai Wei Wei Never Sorry

81YSqRSGwKL._AA1500_This is an arresting and philosophical documentary about Chinese artist Ai WeiWei.

One of the most touching moments in the film is Ai WeiWei’s installation of 9,000 backpacks at Munich’s Haus der Kunst.  It depicts a sentence written in Mandarin characters saying ‘She lived happily for seven years in this world.’  – a quote from a mother of one of the thousands of kids lost in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which citizens believe to be the fault of negligent construction.  Along with this tribute, Ai Weiwei did what the government never did– conducted an investigation to compile a list of names of all the children lost.

16) Ping Pong Literary Journal (Henry Miller Library)

Unknown
This beautiful issue of Ping Pong, edited by Maria Garcia Teutsch, Christine Hamm and Joanna Fuhrman makes a great holiday gift, not only for its cheery pinkness– Inside is a great assortment of poems from poets like Tanya Larkin, Jim Harms, Tara Rebele, Cynthia Cruz, Angela Veronica Wong, Amy Lawless, Joanna Penn Cooper, Derek Pollard, Elaine Equi, Leah Umansky & more! PLUS! an interview with Thurston Moore.

17) Antigonick (Anne Carson, Illustrated by Bianca Stone)

Aphrodite-You-Play-with-Us

What I love about Anne Carson is her ability to connect the classics with the modern and this collaborative interpretation of Antigonick, utilizing the artwork of poet and artist Bianca Stone (love this- check out  Bianca’s video)  seems to find new and inspired ways to do this.  Someone get me this, okay?

18) Bill Knott’s Selected Poems

Whereas many selected books start with a note about the painful methodology and logic that went into the presentation and choices made in the book, The Selected Poems of Bill Knott (1960-2012) starts with a note to say that all the poems have been arranged “randomly”  without thought to chronology or theme “although I may have failed to achieve that intention in all instances.”

Then, where other authors would include praise for their work by notable presses, authors and scholars, Bill Knott (as he often does) has 3 pages of  blurbs like this:

“[Bill Knott’s] poems are so naive that the question of their poetic quality hardly arises. . . . Mr. Knott practices a dead language.” —Denis Donoghue, New York Review of Books, May 7, 1970

[Bill Knott’s poems are] typically mindless. . . . He produces only the prototaxis of idiocy. . . . Rumor has it that Knott’s habit of giving his birth and terminal dates together originated when he realized he could no longer face the horror of a poetry reading he was scheduled to give.” —Charles Molesworth, Poetry (Chicago) Magazine, May 1972

“[Bill Knott is] malignant . . .”—Christopher Ricks, The Massachusetts Review, Spring 1970

“[Bill Knott’s work] consists almost entirely of pointless poems, that say disgusting things. . . . [His poetry is] tasteless . . . and brainless.” —Michael Heffernan, Midwest Quarterly, Summer
1973

And here’s the first poem in Knott’s book – he begins with a goodbye-

Goodbye

If you are still alive when you read this,
close your eyes, I am 
under your lids, growing black.

19)  Tarpaulin Sky Press

circle-5

I love the genre-bendiness of Tarpaulin Sky Press.  Their catalogue  pushes lyric and narrative  into bold and challenging places:  Jenny Boully, Kim Gek Lin Short, Johannes Goransson, Sarah Goldstein, Ana Boziecevic & more!   And their books are extra pretty and gift-like.

20) Winter Crush play list

A foolproof cocktail of songs to win over your crush.

Friends – Friend Crush
M83 – Midnight City
Fiona Apple – Hot Knife
The Lumineers – Ho Hey
Tegan And Sara – Wake Up Exhausted
Daughter – Landfill
Julian Casablancas – I’ll Try Anything Once – Live From Electric Lady Studios for WRXP, New York
Metric – Lost Kitten
Widowspeak – Harsh Realm
Lovers – How the Story Ends (Original Version)

21) Some Nights (FUN)

logoimage_SOMENIGHTS_bigger

Some Nights is deceptively pop-sounding but it goes deep.  That combination has made it my #1 go-to album this year in every circumstance.  I have a very intimate relationship with the inner monologue of Some Nights-– this is my street-walking album.  It’s the first time I can remember taking my earphones off and the same thing is playing in the grocery store, or a passing car on the street, or the petfood store or drugstore or a movie trailer– FUN is everywhere. And to go to a FUN show and see them perform this album live is to go to the church of FUN.  You feel the presence of FUN and you know FUN, in all its power and glory, exists.

It’s been quite a year for us all in one way or another and we all deserve some FUN:

And it’s all alright
Yeah, it’s all alright
I’ve got nothing left inside of my chest but it’s all alright.

Jack Gilbert

14 Nov

Gone Somewhere, Gone Nowhere: In Memory of Jack Gilbert

 By Gregory Crosby

I discovered Jack Gilbert at the turn of the century, when a friend of mine handed out selections from Monolithos as part of an informal poetry workshop that he was directing. To say I remember little else of what we read that spring is an understatement—the poems detonated within me with the soft force of flowers blooming at the speed of light, like one of those speeded-up films of springtime.  I remember asking, “How did I not know about this poet until now?” The answer was biographical, of course: only three books in just under forty years, and a deliberate withdrawal, a studied absence, from the mainstream literary scene.

That absence protected Gilbert’s talent, and perhaps made possible a richly productive old age that only the onset of dementia could cut short. When new Gilbert poems began to appear in the Naughts, soon collected in 2005’s Refusing Heaven, I was thrilled to find the same detonations, the same blend of urgency and quietism, particularly in the astonishingly powerful “A Brief for the Defense,” whose crucial passage reads:

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight.  Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
 

It’s no hyperbole to say that “A Brief for the Defense” is the only poem that I’ve read in the pages of The New Yorker that made me want to rush out into the street and declaim it to the first passerby I met—not because it was a great poem, but because it communicated something so vital, so true, so necessary, and did so in a way that anyone, even the most casual or hostile reader of poetry, could feel.

Gilbert’s voice— his direct, unselfconscious, perfectly poised lyricism—his gift for simple complexity, his wholly embodied, visceral voice—has an almost unmatched power in American poetry and is one that, once heard, is impossible to forget. It seems to come from depths of experience and feeling that are scarcely credible in both their calm and their intensity. I was fortunate to see Gilbert read in 2005 or so; he was very frail, his delivery halting, but his voice was precisely the voice that I found so inescapable on the page. It’s the voice that puts paid to the notion that the lyricism in poetry is somehow bankrupt or exhausted. It’s the voice that, in “Trying to Write Poetry,” stays rooted in the impossibility and necessity of the poetic gift (a gift Gilbert once famously likened to the ruinous white elephant of myth):

There is a wren sitting in the branches
of my spirit and it chooses not to sing.
It is listening to learn its song.
Sits in the Palladian light trying to decide
what it will sing when it is time to sing.
Tra la, tra la the other birds sing
in the morning, and silently when the snow
is slowly falling just before evening.
Knowing that passion is not a color
not confused by energy. The bird will sing
about summer having its affair with Italy.
Is frightened of classical singing.
Will sing happily of the color fruits are
in the cool dark, the wetness inside
overripe peaches, the smell of melons
and the briars that come with berries.
When the sun falls into silence,
the two birds will sing. Back and forth,
making a whole. Silence answering silence.
Song answering song. Gone and gone.
Gone somewhere. Gone nowhere.

Rest in Peace, Jack, in the somewhere and nowhere, with grateful thanks for the songs and the silences.

12 Dead Poets (I Would Fuck)

23 Oct

Sometimes you want to fuck a poet but can’t because the poet is dead.  — Boo!  — Last year we did “10 Dead Poets” and this year we did “12”!  Why??  Because it’s 2012.  Also because I meant to do 10 but I miscounted.

Thanks so much to my kinked-up & spooky-awesome contributors for sharing their innermost & wide-ranging necrophiliac tendencies.

Happy halloween & take care.

J. Hope Stein

1) Edward Taylor by Joe Hall

A CONFUSING SEXUAL ENCOUNTER WITH EDWARD TAYLOR

He’d be in his lab, preparing his sermon, and I’d blast down right in front of him, lens flares cutting across our eyes and waists. “Don’t worry, Edward,” I’d say. “I’m from the future, and I’m here to save you.” He’d take his hand from the book leather and touch his hair:

   

               His lovely love on his all
Pinked and masked face? Allowing
Not a kiss? Oh! Screw me up
And make my Spirit bed Blesst and blissfull
Flower, first Thou on me. Thy
Sweet print her shaft flies
Soaring up—Make for me mine
                Tender Bowells run Out streams
Of Grace dropt in thy mouth that   
Cries Eate, Eate me, me dub
With Golden Rod, set my knot
With Honeysuckles, a Rich stick in
My breast, my Spiknard in His
Bright Sedan, through all the Silver Stars
                Rocks and rock, Turffe of Clay, Clod
                Darker by far than any coal-pit stone
All Whirlewinde, All God, All Gone
 

The candles sloughing in convolutions of themselves.  Edward undulating upward like a mermaid to the ceiling of the sea.  I look at the open book on the table.  I guess this is where I live now.

 

2)  Emily Dickinson by Melissa Broder

I am loathe to fuck the dead. I am over the dead. I want to fuck many a living poetboy (rarely for their words) but this want is an illusion, just as fucking the dead is an illusion, because fucking the living is never how we imagine it will be.

I imagine a living poetboy writes the words RUN AWAY WITH ME on his palm and flashes it to me during a reading. Then he fingers me with that hand in a dark alley. I imagine there is kissing on the mouth, then my pussy, then back to the mouth. Eye contact must be sustained throughout the many hours of rotation from mouth to pussy to mouth. Somehow we are back indoors now.

The poetboy must tell me to take as much time as I need to feel pleasure, the longer the better (sort of the opposite of a poetry reading). He must convey a ravenous hunger for my pussy—an I WILL DIE IF I DO NOT TASTE THIS—and the hairier and dirtier my pussy, the more painful the death if he does not taste it. A woman’s casolette is the essence of the woman herself, so to die for a rank casolette is to die for the whole woman with all of her darkesses. Nothing is hotter than that.

But each of these scenes must be perfectly choreographed if they are to translate from fantasy to reality. This means spontaneity will be lacking. If the poetboyfuck does not live up to my narrative, then it is a destroyer of fantasy. It is no good. If the poetboyfuck turns out to be better than my fantasy, then I want the poetboy’s worship, obsession and “love” (as defined by my own solipsism) to come with it. And you can’t choreograph the feelings of another human being. So I am confined to my room with my computer and my fantasies.

When I was 19 I wrote a poem called “Eating Emily Dickinson.” The poem was about eating out Emily Dickinson. I imagined Emily’s casolette as a hybrid of an emmentaler and a vacherin du Haut-Doubs, a French cheese with a Penicillum mold rind. What made Emily’s casolette so special was not only its smell and taste, but some confidence that I imagined she possessed in its sheer beingness. She knew her pussy could be no other way than the way it was and she embraced that. There was a complete acceptance of selfhood: solitary and fermenting with the rhythm of the seasons.

Now I imagine Emily living in our world. I imagine Emily in the shower, a shower with a glass door and on the door appears three amorphous splotches. Emily identifies the shape of these splotches right away as phalluses with testes. She then perceives this moment as sort of a Rorschach: one that shows her where her mind is at.

I imagine Emily feels some shame in having immediately assigned the splotches a sexual identity. Perhaps they could instead be rocket ships blasting off or switchblades in fisted hands. She then wonders about the reductive nature of her own mind and whether it has been limited by her relationship to internet pornography. Emily wonders if she was in some ways more creative 5-10 years ago, prior to her immersion in internet pornography. She wonders whether this loss of creativity is her fault. She feels the opposite of good.

I imagine Emily then turns her thinking to sexuality in America. Perhaps she does this as a defense mechanism against her bad feelings about herself. She thinks about how sexuality in America is this weird hybrid of Puritan cleanliness and Capitalist exhibitionism, which leaves little room for the nuances of the cassolette. I imagine Emily feels momentarily rebellious and empowered, as it is no longer her own mind she must rebel against but an outside structure.

I imagine Emily then washes her bald pussy anyway with a citrus-scented body wash. I imagine she washes it twice.

3)  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe by J.Hope Stein

I read Faust (Part I) for the first time this month and had a pretty strong reaction to the architecture.  The compound nature of the story-telling – set-up on top of set-up, short quick scenes that move back and forth between each other – a narrative syntax I wrongly thought was first developed in the earliest era of film.  For this reason, and perhaps because I was starving for a friend who has pursued a messy long-form verse, Goethe has quickly become one of my closest friends (I am 4 years into my own mess).  The first translation I read, although I’m looking at a couple other translations now,  was by David Constantine who said this in an interview – “I believe in a sort of coincidence of reading and existential need:  I mean, authors arrive as we need them and help us along the way. The best loved writers arrive, depart and return again differently, according to our own changes and development.”

In terms of interpretations of the text itself, I can’t help but to think that the agreement that binds Mephistopheles and Faust is a simple story of sadomasochistic love.    Their premise of quid pro quo, seems only an excuse for two beings who are joyless & nonplussed in their own lives to exchange something at a deeper more feeling sensory level.  Yes, Faust conjures Mephisto, but Mephisto had already chosen Faust — to me that is one of the central points of the Prologue in Heaven.  And there are 2 scenes in Faust’s study, back-to-back, which I find structurally unnecessary other than to communicate this:   in the first scene in the study, Faust conjures Mephisto and in the second scene in the study, Mephisto comes to Faust (un-conjured)– which he continues to do throughout, including his obsessive instigation of Faust’s deflowering and destroying of Gretchen–  an innocent girl who is only foreplay to the affair between F & M. Which by the way, I think is a decent alternative term for S&M – F&M.

Mephisto says this to Faust in his study:

Your senses will enjoy, my friend
In this one hour far more
than in a humdrum year entire.
 
 

In other words– Love.

I think M is in love with F & F
in love with M.   &  this notion
of quid pro quo —

I think they’d do it for free.

 

4) Federico Garcia Lorca by Sara Lefsyk

It was the hour of sleeping crocodiles.  Federico, you tossed a wilderness of bleeding pigeons into my heart.  I said take me to the friend of dead-smashed butterflies.  Take me to the miniature priests of idiot-brains.  And Federico, you climbed the great mountain of burnt-up flowers in the dark saying “one must wait a thousand years under the cancerous moon to touch the dried-out body of the moth.

And because blood has no sadness one must drown her gods in a sea of infinite kitchens.”

Federico!  Seller of the sky and of gutted-out horses, of the lost landscape of the apple, and the eyes of dogs and skulls and of dug-up roots.  You wore a night-mask of phosphorous and sharp lilies and tore the hems of my gowns.

And I said, Federico of a million granite buildings and of tears, I want a strand that will tremble in the presence of your stillness.  But it was the moment of live fish and broken microscopes and you lifted the black curtains of air.  Your face a bud of light, you smashed the mute fossil of living air and gave to me an earring and handfuls of rope.

But I wanted to sleep the sleep of the infinite crocodile inside your golden chest, so I tied eight ghosts and a thousand sequins to your hair and wore the gloves of one hundred sadnesses under the lemon shadow of your actual dreams.  Federico of torn cloth and murdered grass, of the terrible violence of ants and the nocturnal rooster of madness.  Federico of a thousand tiny birds.

5)  Jean Genet by Janaka Stucky

THERE IS A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FLOWERS AND CONVICTS

 
Jean my love
for you is prison rape
is the vine of moon flowers strangling
the sign post outside the prison
where ex-cons wait with bowed heads
for the bus to return them to the world
 
Jean my love
for you is a tube of vaseline
tucked tightly in the pocket of my jeans
the cops find when they pick me up
is the hot shame I feel as I grow hard
handcuffed to the cold pipe
waiting to be booked
 
Jean my love
for you is a porcelain tomb
at the center of a black continent
is rose water is roses is thorns
tearing the tender palms
of my outstretched hands
 
Jean my love
my fire burning blackly beneath
every breath I exhale upon your neck
I bind my steps with ropes of honeysuckle
and tread sweetly on your naked chest
 
Jean my fire
my exquisite wound
my stone of blood in a lake of nails
I run my tongue along each vein
and quake and quake and quake
and quake
 
Jean my quaking wound
my alabaster chainsaw cleaving
the ocean from me
 
Jean my ocean
my night
I am blacking out
 
Jean my Genet
my Jean my Jean
I am forever pinned
at the limit of your eyes
 
Jean my forever
Jean forever
Jean
Jean
Jean

6) Henry Miller by Maria Garcia Teutsch

Henry Miller says about poetry: Write about what’s inside you . . . the great vertiginous verterbration . . . the zoospores and leukocytes . . . the wamroths . . . and the holenlindens . . .  every one’s a poem. The jellyfish is a poem too . . .

The Ocean Rectangles My Thursdays

Your absence tastes like a meteor shower
over the squashed moon of my head
setting in the mail of rust.
 
On the water, an ampersand carved by blue boats, I remember.
 
The tide erases the concept of a tide.
 
And I find you in this erasure,
sometimes a tin fish in a locket.
 
Around my neck a moat, a pod of tinges swim,
and you, Henry, are sometimes a sea-eagle floating
 
from out of nowhere. On days when you do not turn up
the sea becomes
the sea.

7) John Donne by Leah Umansky

My Dead Poetry Crush is John Donne(and it’s not just how great he looks in this hat). When you think about dead poets you want to $%&!#, the unforbidden comes to the mind, and so naturally, a priest who had a secret marriage fits the bill.  (Plus, my anglophilia plays a role). I remember reading Donne’s poems in the good ol’ Norton Anthology back in Brit Lit I during my undergrad days at SUNY Binghamton, and feeling connected to his love poems and sonnets.  I remember “The Sun Rising” was one of my favorites because of the intensity in which he talks about his beloved.

(I can’t lie -the priest factor is sexy,right?)  Then again, I could be regressing back to my childhood when I read sweeping romances like Gone with the Wind  and The Thorn Birds  and had my heart broken. At a young age, I remember sobbing over Father Ralph de Bricassart, from Colleen McCullough’s  The Thorn Birds.  Maybe Father Ralph is the reason I fell for Father Donne.

Below is a section of “The Sun Rising” that I especially love.  Especially that first line  … sigh…

She’s all states, and all princes I;
Nothing else is;
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.

8) Marina Tsvetaeva by Gregory Crosby

 

A man is invented and a hurricane begins, wrote her cuckolded husband, but it was Marina’s affair with a woman, they say, that drove him in desperation and depression to enlist. There were many men too, each a hurricane to spin and spend itself, leaving her spent.

There was revolution, separation, and a child, too, dead from starvation; the years of White and Red; the stranglehold of Comrade Steel. But that’s all in the future—here, in 1916, she and I, she and eye, across the blank whites and faded reds of time, find a communion:

Where does such tenderness come from?
These aren’t the first curls
I’ve wound around my finger—
I’ve kissed lips darker than yours.
 
The sky is washed and dark
(Where does such tenderness come from?)
Other eyes have known
and shifted away from my eyes.
 
But I’ve never heard words like this
in the night
(Where does such tenderness come from?)
with my head on your chest, rest.
 
Where does this tenderness come from?
And what will I do with it? Young
stranger, poet, wandering through town,
you and your eyelashes—longer than anyone’s.
 

Marina, have I told you—I address you, I can’t help it, and whenever I read Kenneth Koch’s “To Marina” I think somehow he too is addressing you, even though I know he is/isn’t—about my long eyelashes? From high school onward, so many girls, either close up upon the white of the pillow or across the impenetrable red of their lipstick, have told me I’m so envious, you have such long, beautiful eyelashes, it’s so unfair, you’re a boy, boys shouldn’t have such long eyelashes. I never knew what to say to this. I felt guilty and pleased and odd, since nothing else about me seemed to partake of such gifts.

But Marina, reading your letters, I know what to say. I know where this tenderness comes from now, and I have always known, even before I knew its origins, what to do with it. I have never heard those words in the night, and did not recognize at first my own voice, saying them. In the life of a symbolist everything is symbolic, you write. There is nothing that is not symbolic.

Ah, but symbolic of what, asks the professor, and the possessor, and the young poet, becoming younger by the moment.

I close my eyes, and open them, slowly, lashing out at the world, tenderly, and read you, your open eyes, the words, the page, again, again, again.

9) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Lauren Gordon

 

THEY’RE LONGFELLOWS

Later, when the children were asleep
we snuffed the candle and furled
under the heavy quilt and the ghost
of your last wife floated atop the bed
like a wax stamp and your breath rose
and your breath fell
amongst thread, the night air
the tickle of an American whisker:
I remembered the first time I fell in love with you
and your vigor:
Life is real!  Life is earnest!

Over coffee in a brass urn
with the children bed-headed
but polite, we butter our bread on both sides
and wait for the birds to lift the trees
with the surprise of morning —
Life is real.  Life is earnest.

A century later in pajamas
a leather chair holds us under a soft light
rain patters, the carpet in the basement dampens
and something in the attic is frantic to be heard.

10) T. S. Eliot by Kristy Bowen

Dear Tom.
I’ve thought about it and you’re right, April is the cruelest month. I think of you all afternoon at the bank, the sleeves of your dress shirt rolled just above your wrists, holding the short stub of a pencil bent over the massive wooden desk, wiping your forehead and beginning again to write. Oh Tom, my nerves are bad tonight. What are you thinking? When summer came it wrecked me. I dreamed of clairvoyantes and tiny pearl eyes for weeks. Your voice a yellow fog that licked its way up and down my spine. I wrote poems about coffee spoons and clties crumbling around me.I imagine you the calmness surrounded by tempestuous women and hundreds of unruly cats. I have known the hours, known them all. But really, that is not what I meant. Not at all.
 
At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest –
I too awaited the expected guest.
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
A small house agent’s clerk, with one bold stare,
One of the low on whom assurance sits
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.
The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
Endeavours to engage her in caresses
Which still are unreproved, if undesired.
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
Exploring hands encounter no defence;
His vanity requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference.
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall
And walked among the lowest of the dead.)
Bestows one final patronising kiss,
And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit . . .

11)  Rainer Maria Rilke by Joanna Penn Cooper

Once in my late 20s, I found myself walking along Lombard Street in Philadelphia listening to the Duino Elegies being read aloud by a tall young man who walked a few paces ahead of me as he read, occasionally half-turning to see what effect your words were having on me.  If I cried out who would hear me up there among the angelic orders?  [pause-turn-glance]  It was, anyway, one of those fall days in that city when the light hits the brick row houses in the late afternoon in a way that creates a feeling both pure and tempestuous, a feeling of being in the first throes of a soulful but short-lived passionate romance.  And this man, as I have mentioned, was very tall.  So, you can imagine.  He kept pausing as he read to say things like, “What does that even mean?  Do you know what that even means?”  He would read your words– Beauty is only the first touch of terror we can bear and it awes us so much because it so coolly disdains to destroy us—   then he would turn to interrogate me about it, and I would be speechless.

Rainer, I am no longer so young, and I have read the Duino Elegies on my own many times since then.  And I do, in fact, have an idea of what it means to me, even if I am, in fact, still speechless.  I will meet you in the afternoon, with the light like that, in a place where we can be together and also alone, as we always are.  You will chide me, Is it easier for lovers?  Ah, they only manage by being together to conceal each other’s fate!  I will choke back my own dark birdcall my sobbing.  Dear Rainer.

12) Edgar Allan Poe by Susan Yount

Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart; of its constant hunger for whatever it is it wants. The way it stops and starts.” –Edgar Allan Poe [with whom I’d happily get drunk and take advantage of.]

Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” was one of the last poems he ever wrote and the first poem to ever move me. It was quite literally the first time I had ever realized there was real love and lamenting in the world. Of course, I was a tween at the time and had more or less already experienced a rotten life of my own. Therefore, I was immediately drawn to the details of Poe’s life and charmed with his struggle, poverty, tragedies and of course, his triumphs too. Many nights I’ve passed with his poems and stories still in my bed, still in my head. His macabre and passion still turn me on today. I’d gladly have been his matron and I’d have begged him to take me. I’d easily have loosened my corset and exposed my wounds. I’d have caressed his head and taken his jingle into my soul. Furthermore, I’d have whipped Whitman for suggesting Poe had no heat, for I would have known. There is indeed lasting heat in the haunting.

I leave you with my dead lover and I banging The Bells; the last poem Poe ever wrote.

I

Hear the sledges with the bells –
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II

Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight! –
From the molten – golden notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle – dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! – how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells –
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

III

Hear the loud alarum bells –
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now – now to sit, or never,
By the side of the pale – faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear, it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells –
Of the bells –
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
In the clamor and the clanging of the bells!

IV

Hear the tolling of the bells –
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people – ah, the people –
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All alone,
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone –
They are neither man nor woman –
They are neither brute nor human –
They are Ghouls: –
And their king it is who tolls: –
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
Rolls
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells: –
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells –
Of the bells, bells, bells: –
To the sobbing of the bells: –
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells –
Of the bells, bells, bells –
To the tolling of the bells –
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells, –
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.