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APRIL 2016

F EAT U R ING

Ben Lerner
Ocean Vuong
Linda Hogan
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founded in 19 1 2 by h a r r iet monroe

April 2016

FOUNDED IN 1912 BY H ARRI E T M ONROE

volume ccviii number 1

CONTENTS
April 2016
SPLIT THIS ROCK
sarah browning

3 Introduction

ocean vuong
4

Toy Boat
A Little Closer to the Edge

dawn lundy martin

Our Wandering

jennifer bartlett
10
From The Hindrances of
a Householder
jan beatty
12
Stricken
Asylum
reginald dwayne betts 14
When I Think of Tamir Rice While
Driving
regie cabico
16
Daylight Saving Time Flies Like an
Instagram of a Weasel Riding a
Woodpecker & You Feel Everything
Will Be Alright
dominique christina

20

Chain Gang

martha collins

25

Leaving Behind

linda hogan
38

When the Body


Lost in the Milky Way

craig santos perez

Halloween in the Anthropocene, 2015

42

aracelis girmay
44
to the sea

From The Black Maria
luam/asa-luam

O N N AT I O N A L P O E T RY M O N T H
academy of american
51
Jen Benka, Edward Hirsch,
poets
Olivia Morgan, Ali Liebegott,
Amanda Johnston, Samantha
Giles, P. Scott Cunningham,
Jeff Shotts, Tyler Meier,
Andrew White, Richard Blanco,
Brenda Shaughnessy

THE VIEW FROM HERE


mariame kaba

61

Imagining Freedom

meredith walker

65

Smart Girls Read Poetry

omar kholeif
68
To Speak with Many Tongues
at Once
tilleke schwarz

73

Poetry Is Everywhere

COMMENT
ben lerner

81

From The Hatred of Poetry

michael robbins

92

Make the Machine Sing

contributors

97

Editor
Art Director
Managing Editor
Assistant Editor
Editorial Assistant
Consulting Editor
Design

don share
fred sasaki
sarah dodson
lindsay garbutt
holly amos
christina pugh
alexander knowlton

cover art by d.w. fair


Self-Portrait, 2015

POETRYMAGAZINE.ORG

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Poetry April 2016 Volume 208 Number 1

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S P L IT T H IS RO C K

The poets in this portfolio will be featured at the fifth Split This Rock Poetry
Festival, a biennial national gathering in Washington DC, taking place in April.
To learn more about the festival and all of Split This Rocks programs, please visit
SplitThisRock.org.

sarah browning
Introduction
In the two years since the last Split This Rock issue of Poetry, climate
change has accelerated at an unprecedented rate. Police have continued to murder black and brown people with impunity. Violence
against transgender people is unabated. Radical inequality has worsened, so that now sixty-two people own as much wealth as half the
world. Public figures in the United States baldly echo their fascist
forebears, urging us to refuse those fleeing wars of our own making,
while calling for the branding of our sisters and brothers based on
their religious beliefs.
Split This Rock is a national organization based in Washington
DC that cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness
to injustice and provokes social change. Weve been encouraged and
emboldened by the activists demanding change: in the streets, the
universities, the halls of power, and the literary world. Our programs
integrate poetry into movements for social justice and support poets
of all ages who write this work, such as those we present here.
Youll find in these pages poets crying out in horror and mourning,
as Reginald Dwayne Betts asks how to raise Black boys, given all
the colors of humanity/that we erase in this American dance around
death and Dominique Christina considers the historic chain gang,
The tender meat of palms/Pulped like plums.
Youll read of webs of exploitation and injustice that bind us together, that feed our American hunger with the labor and suffering of
others, as in Craig Santos Perezs Halloween in the Anthropocene,
2015. Martha Collinss long poem, Leaving Behind, is an elegy
and reminder that historic tragedies are echoed in all our losses, as
the heart breaks, day after day.
But youll also read of resistance and even celebration: A human
does throw off bonds if she can, writes Linda Hogan. And Aracelis
Girmay recommits us to the subversive act of giving life: the beauty
of it against these odds/. ../& so to tenderness I add my action.
Every poem here, then, is a struggle for redemption, a voice of
love against the howls of fear and hate. May you find comfort and
challenge, both.

S ARAH B ROWN I N G

ocean vuong
Toy Boat
For Tamir Rice

yellow plastic
black sea
eye-shaped shard
on a darkened map
no shores now
to arriveor
depart
no wind but
this waiting which
moves you
as if the seconds
could be entered
& never left
toy boatoarless
each wave
a green lamp
outlasted
toy boat
toy leaf dropped
from a toy tree
waiting

41

P O E TRY

waiting
as if the sparrows
thinning above you
are not
already pierced
by their own names

OCEAN V U ON G

A Little Closer to the Edge


Young enough to believe nothing
will change them, they step, hand-in-hand,
into the bomb crater. The night full
of black teeth. His faux Rolex, weeks
from shattering against her cheek, now dims
like a miniature moon behind her hair.
In this version the snake is headlessstilled
like a cord unraveled from the lovers ankles.
He lifts her white cotton skirt, revealing
another hour. His hand. His hands. The syllables
inside them. O father, O foreshadow, press
into heras the field shreds itself
with cricket cries. Show me how ruin makes a home
out of hip bones. O mother,
O minutehand, teach me
how to hold a man the way thirst
holds water. Let every river envy
our mouths. Let every kiss hit the body
like a season. Where apples thunder
the earth with red hooves. & I am your son.

61

P O E TRY

dawn lundy martin


Our Wandering
If they would only just beat or shoot me, but they wanted soul substance, to
harbor that like that, so I could never move from this place. So they reach
crackled hands inside and hold it open for raking...
We in a shit
rustle, the way
in ramble and camaraderie,
brown hand of whose mother
makes its smooth noise
over my mouth?
The burden of saying
some thing, a headnodding, and I want to be inside of your knowing. Who
laid their head
on the disappeareds pillow?
One minute a person licks your ear,
the next, you cannot see your own white breath.
We gotta head
on over to the party way
out in Bushwick because were lost,
and our flesh is on fire. Theres
a man walking behind us. And growing.
This is what I tell him:
I am not a boy in anyones body.
I am not a black in a black body.
I will not kowtow inside your opposites.

DAWN LU N DY MART I N

How the world blisters you.


How hunger left you statued.

One falls past the lip of some black unknown, where time, they say, ends.
We got us a sugarmouth, a bit feeding,
walk in circles in circular rooms
built so precisely for our shapes,
hold the figure that is the body that is,
of course, me.
I stroke the feather that feeds me,
that lines my cage floor with minor luxuries,
I say mama in its wanting sugary mouth.
What is the difference between ash and coal,
between dark and darkened, between love
and addiction on Dekalb at 2 am, and I fall
drunk from a ruinous taxi, already ruined
from before before, the absent weight screams
into your breath, you are no good, no good. ..
The space between I and It. Lolling.
The Ibibio man was not born in his cowboy hat.
Even his throat must ache like tired teeth.

81

P O E TRY

Look what I am holding! Not desire, but infinite multiplicity, the mouth
of existence.
To sing the blue song of longing, its webbed feet along jungle floor.
What of our mechanical arm, our off-melody? Purpose in the gathering, I know, dear self. It rains and we think, God, or we think
Universe. I say, portent across the wind. When wind is wrought,
whole song fallen from its lip, some black unknown, where they say,
time ends. What speech into hard God breath just as night park is
godless? What of a silver cube in the mouth? This is our wandering.

DAWN LU N DY MART I N

jennifer bartlett
From The Hindrances of a Householder
Jennifer had a tendency to stop in
the street and listen to the neighbors
problems. She was consoling to them.
Jennifer would look for people in trouble
and offer help, even though
her body was relatively weak, and
she could not carry groceries
for the old people, really.
When the young mothers had issues
they would come to Jennifer because they
knew that Jennifer also had had issues
as a young mother and would listen to them.
Now Jennifer had middle mother issues.

10P

P O E TRY

Everything can be illuminated by water


or most things.
The two women in the black of mourning
knelt by the river in exact tandem, and
they spoke softly.
The film, like life itself, had minimal
plot and extraordinary beauty.
The film, like life itself, was
slow and maniacal. And when
we walked the village afterwards
in search of just the right martini
I thought of the same steps I had
taken years earlier in preparation
for mourning, and I was not unhappy.

J EN N I F ER B ART LET T

11

jan beatty
Stricken
Were sitting in Uncle Sams Subs, splitting
a cheesesteak, when Shelley says:
I think I should buy a gun.
I look up at her puffy face, and shes staring,
her hands shaking. On medication for
schizophrenia, shes serious.
I say, Tell me why you need a gun.
Her voice getting louder: You know why.
No, no I dont, I say.
In case I need it. I might need it to shoot somebody.
I give her a hard lookYou dont need a gun.
No one is after you.
She stares back: You might be after me.
I dont know what to sayI never know what to say.
I know its not her speaking, but its my friend,
far away in some other stricken mind.
Whats it like to know youre right/
youre in danger
and the world says no?
Every woman I know has lived that.
I say: I would never hurt you. Im not a threat to you.
She laughs, says, Well, you might be.
The laughing scares me.
I want out of this place,
this sub shop, to walk away,
knowing she cant walk out of her mind, leave
the illness behind. The long minutes,
the long, long minutes. She says, What do you think?
I think we should eat our sandwiches, then
take a walk, I say.
What about the gun?
Lets talk about it later, I say,
not knowing a thing.
Not knowing a goddamn thing.

12P

P O E TRY

Asylum
After Roselia Foundling Asylum and Maternity Hospital,
corner of Cliff and Manilla

This is the house I was born in.


Look at it. Asylum.
Narrate it:
Notice the sloping cornice, look at the curved windows, etc.
This is the house I was born in.
The cast-iron balconies/not wide enough for bodies.
Look at the photos:
3 stories, 8 front windows and a wide door.
Dark red brick/inlaid with brown stone.
Womens bodies/expelling/banishing/
Leaving the babies there.
Look at the photos, include the photos.

J AN B EAT T Y

13

reginald dwayne betts


When I Think of Tamir Rice While Driving
in the backseat of my car are my own sons,
still not yet Tamirs age, already having heard
me warn them against playing with toy pistols,
though my rhetoric is always about what I dont
like, not what I fear, because sometimes
I think of Tamir Rice & shed tears, the weeping
all another insignificance, all another way to avoid
saying what should be said: the Second Amendment
is a ruthless one, the pomp & constitutional circumstance
that says my arms should be heavy with the weight
of a pistol when forced to confront death like
this: a child, a hidden toy gun, an officer that fires
before his heart beats twice. My two young sons play
in the backseat while the video of Tamir dying
plays in my head, & for everything I do know, the thing
I dont say is that this should not be the brick and mortar
of poetry, the moment when a black father drives
his black sons to school & the thing in the air is the death
of a black boy that the father cannot mention,
because to mention the death is to invite discussion
of taboo: if you touch my sons the crimson
that touches the concrete must belong, at some point,
to you, the police officer who justifies the echo
of the fired pistol; taboo: the thing that says that justice
is a killers body mangled and disrupted by bullets
because his mind would not accept the narrative
of your childs dignity, of his right to life, of his humanity,
and the crystalline brilliance you saw when your boys first breathed;
the narrative must invite more than the children bleeding
on crisp fall days; & this is why I hate it all, the people around me,
the black people who march, the white people who cheer,
the other brown people, Latinos & Asians & all the colors of humanity
that we erase in this American dance around death, as we
are not permitted to articulate the reasons we might yearn
to see a man die; there is so much that has to disappear

14P

P O E TRY

for my mind not to abandon sanity: Tamir for instance, everything


about him, even as his face, really and truly reminds me
of my own, in the last photo I took before heading off
to a cell, disappears, and all I have stomach for is blood,
and there is a part of me that wishes that it would go away,
the memories, & that I could abandon all talk of making it right
& justice. But my mind is no sieve & sanity is no elixir & I am bound
to be haunted by the strength that lets Tamirs father,
mother, kinfolk resist the temptation to turn everything
they see into a grave & make home the series of cells
that so many of my brothers already call their tomb.

R E GI N A LD DWAY N E B ET T S

15

regie cabico
Daylight Saving Time Flies Like an Instagram of a Weasel Riding
a Woodpecker & You Feel Everything Will Be Alright
The giant Slinky
of Spring approaches
& I have nothing
to sport after spending
a fortune on hooded
sweaters that make
me look like Im searching
for the Holy Grail.
Struggling with
granola & soy milk,
dental bills accumulate
like snow & the potatoes
I forgot have rotted.
Im broke & broke
& broke & broke
& broke, a bowling
ball spiraling down
a middle-aged
staircase of doubt.
The night I crazily
fled for the gentrified
grids of 14th Street.
A pinball, I landed
in Playbill. I left
Brooklyn tossing
televisions & futons
like bombs
in the bowels
of hipster bohemia.
In the piano karaoke
bar, I met Kevin,
a Peter Pan

16P

P O E TRY

Tennessee man
who spun quips & wit
like pixie dust about me.
A puckish chariot
fueled by moxie,
this lean tambourine
of charms leaned
over me, a hot flamingo
in the midnight light
& admitted his
once-upon-a-time
fetish for Laotian
men in his youth.
I wanted him to fall
for me as if he stumbled
into the inside
of an Oriental
mansion shaking
the tchotchkes
in my heart, steeping my
crush into sweet green tea.
Kevin would be my model
of elegance, unabashed
confidence, a dragon
fierceness. He said,
Theres more to Rainbow
Pride than RuPaul
& Stonewall kickball
& I finally felt
I belonged in DC.
November, Kevins
jaw ached. He showed
up at The Black Fox
mumbling jumble

REG I E CAB I CO

17

garble through tears.


His feature canceled.
After the first break
from winter gray to blue,
Facebook alerts Kevins
wheeled to hospice,
liver cancer.
I teach Donmike
how to make pancit
noodles. We become
the curse of gossiping
Filipina spinster aunts.
How have we become
giggling little lily pad
princesses behind
invisible hand
fans, waiting for
our potential
suitors to make
the first move?
I wonder whether
youre afraid my hug
lingers a little too long
after I rub your feet
or maybe youre just
a Scorpio expressing
affection & I know
I have 3rd world Daddy
issues but I dont want
to bring up hopes
& fuck ups.

18P

P O E TRY

Maybe Im in love
with you like that
baby weasel riding
the flying woodpeckers
back. Its an Avatar
magical, sci-fi,
unexpected flash
of bliss when really,
the woodpecker is
fighting for his life.
The weasel doesnt
know what its gotten
itself into but a thrill
that will never
come again,
something better
than a feathered
Baby Jane din-din.
Tomorrow, youll
want to go to Rehoboth
& kite surf at the beach
house of the guy who
lusts after you. The priests
sermon makes no sense:
Forest Fires in the Bay,
Water Well Maidens
& Let It Go from Frozen.
Its not that I hate white
people or that were soul mates.
Its that youre beginning
to wash off me like ashes
in holy water.

REG I E CAB I CO

19

dominique christina
Chain Gang
This song is not a language,
Not a thing to be remembered,
The field-holler tradition of
Teeth and knees
Cursing wind,
A concert hall of bloody hands
Spilling the earth,
Strangling dirt,
Sledgehammer curses
Of men busted open.
On Parchman Farm
You could hear it coming
Up through the trees,
The hammering pulpit of
Crooning men and sweat,
The tender meat of palms
Pulped like plums.
Them men gulped down the
Dawn dew air,
Let it catch in their throats,
Broke the sunrise up and
Sang hymns like hexes:
Be my woman gal, Ill beeee your maaaaaaan. ..
And the killing fields of Mississippi
Fizzled down to juke joints and
The hothouse music of illegal clubs
With thick women they loved outright and
Played cards with and
Gave bourbon to when their hands
Didnt hold sorrow like
Pickaxes and the railroad was

20P

P O E TRY

Just a railroad,
A way to ride north if you could
Get your money right.
Redbone gals with rosewater sweat,
When they lifted their knees
Sunflower County was a heaven
They believed in.
Stick to the promise, gal, that you maaaaaade meeeeee. ..
Steady now,
They turned back the clock on
Their hard, hard hands,
Let the memory of fresh linen and
Ladies slips like gossamer
Wings, a parade of plump thighs,
The juju thrust of furious bones
Spread like grease
Across starched-white sheets,
Midwife them out of ol Parchman Farm
And back to the cockfights and gambling,
Back when they had ambition,
Back when they had a sweet woman
To hold, her fat wrists
Soft as butter,
Limp as rain.
When she walk, she reel and rock beeeeeehind
Aint that enough to make a convict smiiiiiiiiile.
Mississippis where the cock crowed,
A hoodwink if ever there was one,
But see how a man can make a

D O MI N I QU E CH RI S T I N A

21

Steeple outta his hands,


See how he can break away
From his hurt and be God
If he wants to,
How he can keep his mind
Wrapped in yesterday,
Drown out memory
Like rain drumming
Down like hornets
Yeahhhhhh.
Them Parchman men,
Ants in single file,
Draft dodgers
Digging trenches
Pounding concrete
Laying tracks
Pretending its Christmas
So they can keep their hands
Away from the colic of axe handles,
The sputtering earth
Snarling under their feet.
Warden says every man
Gotta pay his way on Parchman Farm
Same as the outside.
Yessuh. They remember what it was like to be a man,
To know that didnt mean put a gun in your hand
Or go lookin for somebody to take down, naw.
They sang til the hurt was just an
Experiment in forgetfulness and they
Were back in clean clothes makin plans and

22P

P O E TRY

Tryin to get a little money


To buy tobacco and
A pint with a little left over
To get somethin sweet
For the women who were wet
Underneath them, crooning
A tumorless midnight.
The moans of wild women
Are specific:
A whisper of hell danced pink
By the rosewater sweat and mewling,
Questions they ask when
Their clothes are off.
When you gon take me to the movies?
We goin Saturday, baby
When you gon get you a steady job?
Workin on it everyday, baby
Why you love me anyway, man?
Aint a man alive who could help it
The dance, you know, the dance of being a free man
That never shows its fullness to you til
Its stripped down and gobbled up
By railroad tracks and guards in high towers
With rifles watching your back,
Bend to question mark
Under a sun that wont mind its business,
When the only part of your living life left
Is in the things you remember
About a woman who hung
Pantyhose off her porch to
Dry and made you peach cobbler

D O MI N I QU E CH RI S T I N A

23

In the middle of the night


If you asked nice and
Danced with you to songs
Written on the back of a
Watermelon truck by folk who
Knew something about longing,
And those are the songs you give her now
While you bust the earth open.
Cuz your heart is a burial plot
So stony.
Cant ask nothin of a grave.
Everybody knows that.
So you dig and
Pound and
Snatch and
Haul and
Scrape and
Lift and
Tote and
Hammer.
Lay it down, man!
Pick it up again, man!
Youre knuckles and
Dreams deferred in a place
Where every stone,
Every goddamn stone
Is important!

I go free, lawd, I goooooooo free...

24P

P O E TRY

martha collins
Leaving Behind
November 2015

1
Open up for close
out soul-clothes everything has to go closing
down time call them all
saints souls my own gone
ones: Andy Marcia Mary Alice
Mary Anne cloud of all carried out

2
outside my window: locust, cloth
of gold on the ground: its yellow
tabs linden hearts sweetgum stars
like cut-outs from the same. ..
paper-napkin ghosts in a tree near
the house where a year ago my friend
rust-colored chrysanthemums rust-colored door

3
door to door the angel no the Lord
passed or did not pass

MART H A COLLI N S

25

the angel opened the prison


door doors to pass through, out
or in: our millions, more than any
in the other story the Lord
said: to put a difference between

4
between one and another
a gun: at one end its a good
gun because at the others a cell
phone pill bottle toy gun nothing a
Trayvon Tamir Dontre Michael
Laquan Eric Rekia John: call
them out and the others, black and many

5
many thousand gone no
more auction block slaves gone
up north where I am going
again, coppery oak leaves holding
on, overlaid with gold, then just rust
above the skeletal gray. ..
chains gone, or gone before, more

26P

P O E TRY

6
more new neighbors residing
on these avenues: thousands in white
marble: whitman harvey harris bliss
past yellowing birch and weeping beech
at the intersection of Larch and Oak
whitney spencer jewell: a startle
of Japanese maple spreading red

7
red shadow on pale
moon: earth curtain
drawn slowly across
quarter half almost
across: weeks ago, weeks
of my small life, childsized life so little left

8
left them there
mother father
left leaving their living
their death-days:
his Labor, her June

MART H A COLLI N S

27

yellow circles of leaves beneath


something left behind

9
behind all that is
is not God: still, small
silence of not beyond
beneath before but
no where name
blue sky gray
cloud that is not there

10
There was a road, long,
gray, with dotted line
wanted to write
old, I thought years ago
young, and here it is: road
running out, gold gone
now, cut here cut to old

28P

P O E TRY

11
old vets: in 2012 the last
from the First, the Great, the war
to end all wars, its Armistice honored
the cause of world peace but there was
the Second, not even a million left and now
its all Veterans, suicides, homeless, parades
rained on today, our post-traumatic war

12
wars now, ten to watch: Syria/ISIS
Ukraine S.Sudan Nigeria Congo Afghanistan
while the faithful debate: turn the other or
uniformed Christ with gun, as in the First
while boys spill toy soldiers, khaki and green
with tanks and guns, from a plastic tub
while leaves dry to khaki on our ground

13
ground covered with oak leaves, crisp
and tan, and others under, crushed
into brown, soon to be earth
but sun still lighting the threadleaf
Japanese maples apricot plum

MART H A COLLI N S

29

sun still paling my pink-tinged skin


blood showing through my thinned

14
thinned to spindly twigs with dangles
of pods the once-gold locust
thinner the ice and higher the seas
and hotter the planet and what will be done
at the Paris talks to slow it Paris
where last night terrorists killed and Beirut
to stop the killing the dying earth to turn

15
turn on red stop
light to go light
touch blood love
light wrote mindfield for mine- its
a gold mine rising
into light field to go

30P

P O E TRY

16
go with me, my love, my one
into that night where one will go
before the other but still our night
boat our bed our lovers tongues
songs in the night nor the moon
by night our little light nightnight my love by and by

17
by order of no exit except
the angel troubled the pool but
stubble before the wind just
two apples left on this tree
cloud from cld, rock, but
the stars we see are not stars but
light but cloud over light

18
lights out wars on last
days end times reckoning left

MART H A COLLI N S

31

behind but which us them not one


stone upon another nation against
mirror terror Jesus Isa no one knows but
hurry it up faster let climate also be
a sign beginning of sorrows

19
sorrow sorrow my friends last bed
just five months after they said he. ..
behind the rust-colored door
brown brown all leaves on the ground
requiem aeternam we sang together
year years all tumbled down
et lux perpetua light

20
light of sun on sweetgum leaves
glisten of amber and green or
sudden light of gunfire, bombs:
Nigeria now: two girls, one
eleven, strapped into suicide
vests, and Mali, the world

32P

P O E TRY

lit with the light of darkness

21
darkness He called. ..or darkness
we make, denying the fallen among,
the recent threatened tortured escaped:
send them back send them to camps
make them register carry IDs
close down their mosques let only
Christians passing by on the other

22
other, the once-red Japanese
maple, bare now, gray but
see its great muscled limbs
stretch out low, then curve up
as if to embrace, climb on a limb
and see in the cleft a small cluster,
as if arranged, of curling red

23
red heart pulse of
red the fountain filled

MART H A COLLI N S

33

with Jesuss blood, in another


country filled with martyrs
red the last apple on the tree I
could reach if I leaned
red that looks blue until its shed

24
shed skin feathers leaves water
-shed dividing line deciding
time earth-age named
anthro- for us, our own doing our
undoing losing dying unless
the most fit the worst
fit for earth in all its ages

25
age mine day mine past
my appointed night
mine full moon mourning
moon in a clear sky old
light: wanted to make an opening
out from closing down but
enough to leave behind

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26
behind them a mighty ocean
around them beasts and wilde men
after them us, closing our shores
ahead of us, rising oceans
forgive us this day our
immigrant past that isnt even
first which shall be last

27
last chance ditch effort gasp:
gone-before last and could-be last:
how much can one elegy hold?
could this be it? a friend wrote, her last
wordslast lost it for all our earth?
but last night that moon, all the way home
from Old English follow: to last beyond last

28
last night I woke and found my bodyheld living-for-now a piece of all

MART H A COLLI N S

35

over the graves the beautiful


skeletal: chalice and vase, tangle
and dance, the white bones
of the birch, its vertical script
over my bones, this living that is my

29
my life my living my being my loving
my friend my friends my one my love
the huge white moon, missing almost nothing
my love in my arms, in my bed again
the advent candle for earth for hope
this almost last this work these leavings
my blessings my many my thanks for these

30
these days and nights, these lines
have changed (you must change)
my life my loving (my one) and
now this leaving behind this opening

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out (the spaces between the dark


lines of the great unleaved) to where
the night is as clear as the day

MART H A COLLI N S

37

linda hogan
When the Body
When the body wishes to speak, she will
reach into the night and pull back the rapture of this growing root
which has little faith in the other planets of the universe, knowing
only one, by the bulbs of the feet, their branching of toes. But the
feet
have walked with the bones of their ancestors over long trails
leaving behind the roots of forests. They walk on the ghosts
of all that has gone before them, not just plant, but animal, human,
the bones of even the ones who left their horses to drink at the
spring running through earths mortal body which has much to tell
about what happened that day.
When the body wishes to speak from the hands, it tells
of how it pulled children back from death and remembered every
detail,
washing the childrens bodies, legs, bellies, the delicate lips of the
girl,
the vulnerable testicles of the son,
the future of my people who brought themselves out of the river
in a spring freeze. That is only part of the story of hands
that touched the future.
This all started so simply, just a body with so much to say,
one with the hum of her own life in a quiet room,
one of the root growing, finding a way through stone,
one not remembering nights with men and guns
nor the ragged clothing and broken bones of my body.
I must go back to the hands, the thumb that makes us human,
but then dont other creatures use tools and lift what they need,
intelligent all, like the crows here, one making a cast of earth clay
for the broken wing of the other, remaining
until it healed, then broke the clay and flew away together.
I would do that one day,

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but a human can make no claims


better than any other, especially without wings, only hands
that dont know these lessons.
Still, think of the willows
made into a fence that began to root and leaf,
then tore off the wires as they grew.
A human does throw off bonds if she can, if she tries, if its possible,
the body so finely a miracle of its own, created of the elements
and anything that lived on earth where everything that was
still is.

LI N DA H OG AN

39

Lost in the Milky Way


Some of us are like trees that grow with a spiral grain
as if prepared for the path of the spirits journey
to the world of all souls.
It is not an easy path.
A dog stands at the opening constellation
past the great helping hand.
The dog wants to know,
did you ever harm an animal, hurt any creature,
did you take a life you didnt eat?
This is the first on your map. There is another
my people made of the great beyond
that lies farther away than this galaxy.
It is a world that cant be imagined by ordinary means.
After this first one,
the next could be a map of forever.
It could be a cartography
shining only at some times of the year
like a great web of finery
some spider pulled from herself
to help you recall your true following
your first white breath in the cold.
The next door opens and Old Woman
counts your scars. She is interested in how you have been
hurt and not in anything akin to sin.
From between stars are the words we now refuse;
loneliness, longing, whatever suffering
might follow your life into the sky.

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Once those are gone, the life you had


against your own will, the hope, even the prayers
take you one more bend around the river of sky.

LI N DA H OG AN

41

craig santos perez


Halloween in the Anthropocene, 2015
Darkness spills across the sky like an oil plume.
The moon reflects bleached coral. Tonight, let us
praise the sacrificed. Praise the souls of black
boys, enslaved by supply chains, who carry
bags of cacao under West African heat. Trick
or treat, smell my feet, give me something good
to eat, sings a girl dressed as a Disney princess.
Let us praise the souls of brown girls who sew
our clothes as fire unthreads sweatshops into
smoke and ash. Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me
something good, whisper kids disguised as ninjas.
Tonight, let us praise the souls of Asian children
who manufacture toys and tech until gravity sharpens
their bodies enough to cut through suicide nets.
Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me, shout boys
camouflaged as soldiers. Let us praise the souls
of veterans who salute with their guns because
only triggers will pull God into their ruined
temples. Trick or treat, smell my feet, chant kids
masquerading as cowboys and Indians. Tonight,
let us praise the souls of native youth, whose eyes
are open-pit uranium mines, veins are poisoned
rivers, hearts are tar sands tailings ponds. Trick
or treat, says a boy dressed as the sun. Let us
praise El Nio, his growing pains, praise his mother,
Ocean, who is dying in a warming bath among dead
fish and refugee children. Let us praise our mothers

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of asthma, mothers of cancer clusters, mothers of


miscarriagepray for usbecause our costumes
wont hide the true cost of our greed. Praise our
mothers of lost habitats, mothers of fallout, mothers
of extinctionpray for usbecause even tomorrow
will be hauntedleave them, leave us, leave

CR AI G S AN TOS PEREZ

43

aracelis girmay
to the sea
You who cannot hear or cannot know
the terrible intricacies of our species, our minds,
the extent to which we have done
what we have done, & yet the depth to which
we have loved
what we have
loved
the hillside
at dawn, dark eyes
outlined with the dark
sentences of kohl,
the fl we shared
beneath the lime tree at the generals house
after visiting Goitom in prison for trying to leave
the country (the first time),
the apricot color of camels racing
on the floor of the world
as the fires blazed in celebration of Independence.
How dare I move into the dark space of your body
carrying my dreams, without an invitation, my dreams
wandering in ellipses, pet goats or chickens
devouring your yard & shirts.
Sea, my oblivious afterworld,
grant us entry, please, when we knock,
but do not keep us there, deliver
our flowers & himbasha bread.
Though we cant imagine, now, what
our dead might need,
& above all cant imagine it is over
& that they are, in fact, askless, are
needless, in fact, still hold somewhere
the smell of coffee smoking

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in the house, please,


the memory of joy
fluttering like a curtain in an open window
somewhere inside the brains secret luster
where a woman, hands red with henna,
beats the carpet clean with the stick of a broom
& the children, in the distance, choose stones
for the competition of stones, & the summer
wears a crown of beles in her green hair & the tigadeltis
white teeth & the beautiful bones of Massawa,
the gaping eyes & mouths of its arches
worn clean by the sea, your breath & your salt.
Please, you,
being water too,
find a way into the air & then
the river & the spring
so that your waters can wash the elders,
with the medicine of the dreaming of their children,
cold & clean.

ARACELI S G I RMAY

45

From The Black Maria


The body, bearing something ordinary as light
Opens
as in a room somewhere the friend opens in poppy, in flame, burns
& bears the childout.
When I did it was the hours & hours of breaking. The bucking of
it all, the push & head
not moving, not an inch until,
when he flew from me, it was the night who came
flying through me with all its hair,
the immense terror of his face & noise.
I heard the stranger & my brain, without looking, vowed
a love-him vow. His struggling, merely, to be
split me down, with the axe, to two. How true,
the thinness of our hovering between the realms of Here, Not Here.
The fight, first, to open, then to breathe,
& then to close. Each of us entering the world
& entering the world like this.
Soft. Unlikely. Then
the idiosyncratic minds & verbs.
Beloveds, making your ways
to & away from us, always, across the centuries,
inside the vastness of the galaxy, how improbable it is that this
iteration
of you or you or me might come to be at allBody of fear,
Body of laughing& even last a second. This fact should make us
fall all

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to our knees with awe,


the beauty of it against these odds,
the stacks & stacks of near misses
& slimmest chances that birthed one ancestor into the next & next.
Profound, unspeakable cruelty who counters this, who does not see.
& so to tenderness I add my action.

ARACELI S G I RMAY

47

luam/asa-luam
the afterworld sea

there was a water song that we sang


when we were going to fetch river from the river,
it was filled with water sounds
& pebbles. here, in the after-wind, with the other girls,
we trade words like special things.
one girl tells me mai was her sisters name,
the word for flower. she has been saving
this one for a special trade. I understand
& am quiet awhile, respecting, then give
her my word mai, for water,
& another girl tells me mai is mother
in her language, & another says it meant,
to her, what belongs to me, then
belonging, suddenly, is a strange word,
or a way of feeling, like to be longing for,
& you, brother, are the only one,
the only one I think of to finish that thought,
to be longing for
mai brother, my brother

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O N N AT IO N A L P O E T RY M O NTH

academy of american poets

This April marks the twentieth anniversary of National Poetry


Month, a celebration founded by the Academy of American Poets
with input from other nonprofit poetry organizations and publishers.
The original aim remains today: to create a time-bound occasion in
which we might work together to spotlight poets and poetry. Many
publishers take advantage of the month to release their poetry titles;
many libraries and schools celebrate the art form with special events
that inspire young people to engage with poetry, some for the first
time. More and more, National Poetry Month has become an event
to inspire the next generation of readers, with thousands of grade
school and high school students participating in Poem in Your Pocket
Day (April 21 this year) and other educational projects. The hope has
always been that this increased visibility for poetry might spark an
interest in readers that would carry forward into the rest of the year
and even last a lifetime.
Of course the month also inspires critics to question whether a
month-long observance of an art form is a kind of boosterism. While
the month is a platform, poetry is not a product. Theres no packaging the poetic imagination and the wilds of poetry communities
across the globe that celebrate the art form regularly. National Poetry
Month is what we make it. It is a concentrated time to explore the
ways in which poets work changes language and lives. This year, the
Academy of American Poets asked poets, leaders of poetry organizations, and publishers to respond to the question: What should poets
and poetry readers be thinking about or doing for the next thirty
days? Their responses are below.
Jen Benka, Executive Director, Academy of American Poets

I once suggested that a friend and I compile and read some of our
favorite short poems. It would be an event for National Poetry
Month. He is a great proponent of reading poems aloud, so he would
stand up and recite them from the podium. Meanwhile, I would

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51

sit on a chair hidden in the corner and read them silently to myself.
I was kidding about the event, but half-serious about the idea. Much
can be said for performing poems aloud, using our bodies as their
instruments, but an equal amount can be said for keeping them to
ourselves. Reading is contact. What we read can be shockingly personal because it so deeply activates our inner lives, the daydreaming
capacity of the mind. Reading poetry has helped deliver me to myself. It has given me a language for experiencenot just my own
experience but also the experience of others. I wouldnt recognize
myself without being able to read and reread poetry. Thats why Im
sure it can be so determining. Reading is both private and social. For
National Poetry Month, I recommend this sustaining way of being
alone with others.
Edward Hirsch

When I was appointed to the Presidents Committee on the Arts and


the Humanities in 2009, I felt the weight of opportunity and expectation. How could we live up to the promise of Barack Obamas
historic campaign? How could we contribute to realizing the hope
for change that inspired millions of Americans?
I turned to poetry.
Poetry is a careful medium, a practice of observation and thoughtful articulation, and a centuries-old conversation. But it is also a
space of exploration, of bringing the inside out. We cannot change
our country or ourselves without the courage to speak honestly about
who we are and who we hope to be. We need to put our unique
knowledge into words and insist that it be seen.
In 2011, the Presidents Committee created a program to elevate
and invest in our countrys most promising teen poets. To date,
twenty of these National Student Poets have been pinned by First
Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. They each spend a
year bringing their poetry to communities across the country, encouraging and inspiring others to bring out the poetry of their own
communities, and of themselves.
Michelle Obama tells these poets that they are brave to share
something so personal and so precious. I would tell them that kind
of bravery is both the hardest and most powerful way to change the
world. National Poetry Month is a time to combat a fearful, chaotic,

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and angry world with the courage to raise your voice, to pour your
hope into poetry.
Olivia Morgan, member of the Presidents Committee on the Arts and the
Humanities, founder of the National Student Poets Program

This morning, a friend said, Be in the life youre in. Why is it so


difficult to live by these words?
Over my lifetime, Ive used poets and poetry as a way to ground
myself. When depressed or lost or crazed or in love, Ive written a
poem or read a poem or corresponded with a fellow poet. Its commonly said that after great personal or national tragedy people turn
to poetry. Poetry sales rose after 9/11. It is reassuring to know that
poetry somehow answers the unanswerable. Over the last few years,
several people in my peer group have died unexpectedly. Some of
them were writers. I was put not just in the position of turning to
poetry for solace in these instances, but to their poetry.
My friend, the poet Justin Chin, died unexpectedly in December.
I drove to San Francisco, where he was spending his final days in a
coma. People came in and out of his hospital room to bid him farewell. Many were poets. Some I hadnt seen in twenty years. Wed all
shared the same San Francisco literary community. And now wed
gathered to say goodbye to one of our own. It gave me such peace
to see Justin surrounded by writers. His mother had flown eighteen
hours from Singapore and never left his side. Justins brother was
there too. All the poets kept telling Justins family, Justin is a great
writer. An important writer. His mom, sharing Justins wit, said,
Unless hes writing about you. We laughed. Later, I tried to write a
poem about Justin. The poem never went anywhere. But I still stand
by the first line, Poets are everything.
Ali Liebegott

As we celebrate National Poetry Month, let us widen our gaze to see


clearly the people and lives blurred in the margins of rhetoric. Let us
ask ourselves how we are using our power and privilege in language

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53

to empower our communities, lift the voices of others, and speak for
those who have been silenced. Over the past year, I have watched
poets and allies rally in the word to speak out against police brutality
through the Black Poets Speak Out campaign. Ive seen poems raised
at demonstrations in the name of justice. Ive watched a man attend
an open mic searching for the best words to share with his son when
children were killed by those sworn to protect them. He was given
James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, and more. The poets read
him the words of Ross Gay, Evie Shockley, Danez Smith, and others.
In this way, I have turned to my own writing, searching for the best
words in darkness and light. Ive asked myself: Who and what are my
poems in service to? Let our poems be in service to the people. Let
each word work relentlessly to call forth the best of our humanity.
Amanda Johnston, Cofounder, Black Poets Speak Out

There is a familiar argument that gets reorchestrated every year to


proclaim that poetry is dead. The argument cleaves to the idea that
poetry has outlived its usefulness as an archaic, inaccessible art form
and assumes that poetry is only something done in service to the distant past, perhaps in the presence of a Grecian urn.
Yet, if you look around, you will see a vast and diverse ecosystem
of poetry and poets all around you, teeming with life and vitality.
You will see poetry not only as a thriving community and conversation, but the extraordinary poets who are continuing to serve as vital
translators of the most intractable problems of being alive in our current moment of beauty and collapse.
For National Poetry Month, try to spend the month engaging in
the extraordinary work of living poets. Read a book (or 30!) by a
contemporary poet. Go see a reading (or 30!) in your community.
Take a poetry workshop, write a few poems yourself, and contribute
your own bit of DNA to the evolving ecosystem of living poetry.
Look around and be amazed.
Samantha Giles, Executive Director, Small Press Traffic

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This past fall, for the culminating reading of a poetry class at a Miami
elementary school, we tried to order pizza from a major commercial
chain. They told us that they didnt deliver to that particular neighborhood, despite it being technically inside their delivery zone.
Their refusal was blatantly discriminatory (the neighborhood has a
bad reputation), and we were frustrated. We wanted pizza and were
willing to pay for it; why wouldnt they just bring it to us? I relate
this story because sometimes I think the poetry world, for all of its
good intentions, behaves like that pizza shop. We make decisions
about who does and doesnt receive poetry, about where poetry
should exist, and about who should be writing it. Much of poetry
advocacy would be better defined as poet advocacy and comes packaged with unspoken rules about who is and who isnt a poet. It says: if
and when poetry receives more attention (insert: money, fame, etc.),
here is who should benefit. This advocacy becomes a frail mouthpiece for a fringe sector of society. If we want poetry to have a more
central place in our culture, we have to let go of our personal investment in its growth. We have to admit that we dont fully understand
how poetry exists in the lives of people who dont have MFAs, who
dont take workshops, who have no idea what AWP stands for, and
we have to admit that those people have far more to teach to us than
we have to teach to them. Poetry isnt pizza. It doesnt need to be
delivered. Its already in our communities, and by listening to those
communities, we might learn that poetrys power is far greater than
we had ever envisioned.
P. Scott Cunningham, Director, O, Miami Poetry Festival

Poetry asks us to pledge to one another, I see you. Poetry has been for
centuries our great social media. You are its great theme.
I should have made my way straight to you long ago.
Walt Whitman

My life has been one of too much care, which ruins a person. I have
turned through many pages. To summarize: we are invisible to each
other. Lets look into the first persons claim of being first. Lets look
past the first person to see the second person.

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55

Then you, hey you


Claudia Rankine

But let us pledge that its not enough to see you, in the poem, in the
world. Lets also set the poem humming so that the world may hum.
Let me be you in the poem, and let me look up from the poem and
still be you. Let me look up from many pages. Let me be you and you
and you, and even you.
Lets be simultaneous
Christopher Gilbert

April to-do list:


1. If prose is called for, write a poem.
2. Write to someone, not to no one.
3. You will do.
A challenge for you, You-ness./Add yours.
Thomas Sayers Ellis
Jeff Shotts, Executive Editor, Graywolf Press

Early in the year, Natalie Diaz pointed me to a New York Times


opinion piece by Pagan Kennedy: How to Cultivate the Art of
Serendipity. Kennedy explores whether we can create conditions for serendipity and profiles the research of Dr. Sanda Erdelez.
Dr. Erdelezs work reveals distinct groups: non-encounterers,
occasional encounterers, and super-encounterers. Imagine the
spectrum: non-encounterers focus too much for serendipity; superencounterers find connections everywhere, always. The research
shows the frequency of serendipity is not exclusively the domain of
luck. How then do we move around in the spectrum of encountering,
increasing our capacity to see and feel connections? You become
a super-encounterer, according to Dr. Erdelez, in part because you
believe that you are one.
Cultivate serendipity. Use poetry to do it. In showing us anothers
experience of the world, poetry has a lot to serendipitously teach us
about ourselves. Czesaw Miosz famously said that language is the

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only homeland. I have always felt this to mean that how we talk about
things that matter is who we are. Poetry is a record of our best uses of
language. Try it for a monthit might become a life.
Tyler Meier, Executive Director, University of Arizona Poetry Center

Lets be reckless. As humans and as artists, it is our natural instinct


to take the risk of questioning what we know, what we like, and why.
Similarly, the art of writing poetry does not progress without the
constant questioning of poetry by poets. We are in a new age. An
age when many of us are wild with our forms, our styles, our performances, and our ideas. So lets be reckless. Write without form.
Write without punctuation, without capitalization, without the
letter e. Write with form, in extreme iambic hexameter, in a strict
Shakespearean sonnet, in Victorian language. Put your poetry in
a new place. Do what youre uncomfortable with, but most of all,
write without regard to the possible consequences. Poetry allows
recklessness; it allows us to question certainties without caring about
whats to come.
Andrew White, Houston Youth Poet Laureate

As a Presidential Inaugural Poet Ive been blessed with the opportunity to share my love of poetry at such unlikely venues as the Federal
Reserve, the Mayo Clinic, Silicon Valley, the USDA, engineering
firms and conferences, law firms, and advocacy groups of all kinds. In
every instance, I witness audiences taken by a newfound connection
to poetry. I hear comments such as: I never knew poetry could be
like this; Thats not what they taught me in high school; This is
my first time at a poetry readingand Im hooked. For many, its
the first time theyve been exposed to contemporary poetry and engaged with a living poet. Their sudden delight and appetite for poetry has made me question why poetry isnt a larger part of our cultural
lives; why poetry isnt as connected to our popular conversations as
film, music, and novels; and why poetry isnt more entrenched in
our history, rooted in our folklore, and established in our national

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57

identity as it is in other countries. Where is the disconnect? I think


the bottom line is education. The way poetry is generally deemed
to be taught (especially in K through 12 grades) falls short of exploring its full potential for students as well as teachers. As such, this
National Poetry Month, I urge poets and lovers of poetry to engage
teachers of all disciplines, encourage them to discover the relevance
and power of poetry, and the importance of enabling young people
to encounter poetry in schools. Thats what Ive committed to as
Education Ambassador for the Academy of American Poets, which
offers a plethora of resources for educators, including lesson plans, a
monthly newsletter for teachers, and the Teach This Poem email
series with activities to help teachers quickly and easily bring poetry
into the classroom. Involving ourselves in education is important not
simply for the sake of poetry, but to ensure that the world-changing
power of poetry continues to enrich lives, not just in April, but every
month of the year for generations to come.
Richard Blanco

You open Aprils front window wideits bursting with flowers and
the best words jostling to be seen and heard. These are the poems
of April. Its not so much a national month as it is a month of inner life pushed forward, flattened against the page, the glass, the
mirror, the front window. We see you! It is poetrysoul on paper,
never-to-die. But then, as you must, you open Aprils basement door,
where the rotted poems, so stinking and so much more plentiful, are
pushing up through the floorboards, shoving the flowers to the front
window saying, Go go my beauty! Take your chance, and dont
think of us. We wont make it to May.
Brenda Shaughnessy

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T HE V IE W F RO M HE R E

The View from Here is an occasional feature in which people from various fields
comment on their experience of poetry. This is the fourteenth installment ofthe series.

mariame kaba
Imagining Freedom
I am not a poet. Nikky Finney, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks,
and Pat Parker are. I started writing poetry when I was eleven years
old. My poems were melodramatic diatribes about poverty, homelessness, and war. I was a strange kid who grew into a weird adult
who is not a poet but reads, loves, and still occasionally writes poems
in her journal.
I am an organizer: a prison abolitionist who wants to see black
people, my people, free. To achieve this goal, we need imagination.
Poetry helps me to imagine freedom.
It is possible. ..
It is possible at least sometimes. ..
It is possible especially now
To ride a horse
Inside a prison cell
And run away
From The Prison Cell by Mahmoud Darwish

Over the past year and a half, more people across the US have been
circulating images of black death in part because of the current focus on police violence and impunity. These images, however, are
traumatic and to some degree mind- and soul-numbing. How do
we mourn? How can we grieve? I think poetry opens a door. Poetry
helps us to resist.
Last summer, I stood on a soapbox, a real one, and used poetry to
call out the cops while grieving in public.
The previous Friday, Dominique Damo Franklin, Jr. had been
laid to rest after having been tased to death by police. I hoped to
attend his funeral but in the end I was unable due to a previous commitment. It was just as well. I hate funerals, especially when the person being buried is in his early twenties.
i saw
three little black boys
lying in a graveyard

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61

i couldnt tell
if they were playing
or practicing.
Rehearsal by Baba Lukata

On an overcast Saturday afternoon, on a concrete island at the intersection of Ashland, Milwaukee, and Division, I joined a couple
dozen people (mostly young) who were reading and performing
poetry in opposition to state violence. The organizers of the gathering were from the Revolutionary Poets Brigade of Chicago and they
invited me to say a few words. I said yes, hoping to find an outlet to
express my grief.
I was preceded by Damos good friend, artist and activist Ethan
Viets-VanLear, who shared an original poem:
And the police of the block that got a vendetta on every Black
boy child;
The perpetrators of this fabricated peace weve apparently
disturbed!
I was born in the gutter
handcuffed on the curb.
I was born in a dungeon,
medicated and shackled,
smothered so I couldnt speak.
I was transfixed by Ethans words and gutted by his pain. His poem
was part eulogy, part primal scream. I hoped that his spoken words
were a catharsis on the long journey toward healing. Maybe poetry
can be a balm. When one reads Dennis Brutus, for example, it is impossible not to believe in the healing power of art:
Somehow we survive
and tenderness, frustrated, does not wither.
From Somehow We Survive

It was my turn. In memory of Damo and other victims of state violence, I read two poems by Langston Hughes and Ai, holding on to
their words like a raft in choppy waters.
Three kicks between the legs

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That kill the kids


Id make tomorrow.
From Third Degree by Langston Hughes

At some point, we will meet


at the tip of the bullet,
the blade, or the whip
as it draws blood,
but only one of us will change,
only one of us will slip
past the captain and crew of this ship
and the other submit to the chains
of a nation
that delivered rhetoric
in exchange for its promises.
From Endangered Species by Ai

As I read, I pictured Damo being tased (twice) by Chicago police and


hitting his head so hard that he was brain dead when he arrived at
the hospital. Unable to adequately convey my horror, I borrowed the
poets tongue and took comfort in losing myself in anothers words.
The gathering was titled No Knock an Artistic Speak-Out
Against the American Police State. The title was of course inspired
by Gil Scott-Herons poem No Knock.
No Knocked on my brother, Fred Hampton,
bullet holes all over the place!
No knocked on my brother, Michael Harris
and jammed a shotgun against his skull!
It is as it ever was. No knocked on Damo who is now six feet underground.
Passersby stopped to listen as various people read poems about
Guantanamo, police violence, prisons, surveillance, and more. Lorde
is right:
Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be
thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears
are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of
our daily lives.

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63

There is magic in hearing voices speaking out for justice over the
din of a bustling city. Gathering as a collective to recite poetry cant
end state violence but it can lift our spirits so that we might live another day to fight for more justice. Now more than ever we need words
to help us think through that which cannot be thought. Poetry can
help lift the ceiling from our brains so that we can imagine liberation.

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meredith walker
Smart Girls Read Poetry
What is the impact of poetry in our creative, professional, and personal lives? For me, all three of those are intertwined, and have been
since I created Smart Girls with Amy Poehler. Smart Girls is an organization dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic
selves. We emphasize intelligence and imagination over fitting in.
We celebrate curiosity over gossip. We are a place where people can
be their weird and wonderful selves.
Smart Girls has grown into a real community. One of the main
goals of that community is to let people, especially young girls, know
that they are not alone. Poetry is a part of that picture. I turn to poetry to know that I am not alone in my own feelingsfeelings that
I dont know how to articulate. Poetry reminds me to be generous
with acknowledgment, to advocate for others, and to stay the course.
The earliest memory I have of poets and poetry is Shel Silverstein.
At the time I wasnt even aware that it was poetry. I just liked the
sound and feeling of his words. Im probably not alone when I say
a lot of that feeling was lost when I encountered poetry at school.
There it was mostly learning about iambic pentameter and onomatopoeia. Looking back on it, I didnt really connect with or understand
most of the poetry I read in school. I connected with Doonesbury
and Judy Blume instead. I wish I had encountered Edna St. Vincent
Millay. That would have been pretty incredible.
The first time a poem resonated with me in a way that made it
stick was when I was told to read The Guest House by Rumi, the
Sufi poet. This poem helped me stop and think about the uninvited
aspects of my life. By welcoming them, they became less frightening.
I still read The Guest House when I find myself hiding in the familiar. This poem probably helped inspire our motto at Smart Girls:
get your hair wet!
There is a kind of teaching without lecturing in Rumis poetry that
inspires me. In my frequently competitive and sometimes negative
world, his optimism gives me a sense of hope. It has been said that
his poetry celebrates unionbringing together, ending isolation.
I know that we all need that.

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Welcome and entertain them all!


Even if theyre a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
From The Guest House, tr. by Coleman Barks

Now that I am older and, I hope, wiser, I have had the good fortune to befriend a real life poet: Amber Tamblyn. She is everything
you want in a fellow human being. Shes intelligent, artistic, funny,
curious, and poetic.
I invited her to be the Poet in Residence at Smart Girls immediately
after I first encountered her poetry. Here was someone who seemed
to know what I was thinking, feeling, afraid of, encouraged byshe
made me feel understood. I look forward to her poems in our ABCs
of Smart Girls every month, but her poem for H, Heartbreak,
made me go deep. In this poem, Tamblyn pulls off what most of us
arent able to: she distills grief and loss down into words that help
others understand their own grief and loss.
as all the teenagers inside of me
and all the voices inside of those teenagers
and all the pain inside those voices
and all the bloom inside that pain
and all the fruition inside that bloom
and all the years
and all the love
and all the past
and all the broken
and all the beauty still feels you
laying here beside me
forever.
From Heartbreak by Amber Tamblyn

Our relationships are the one beautiful and difficult thing holding
us together. Otherwise, we are in constant risk of isolation and a subtle but persistent loss of our humanity. I am the first person to roll my
eyes when someone says Its just business because I think human-

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to-human encounters deserve more respect than that. The origins of


our lives are a mystery, but Im pretty sure its safe to say that those
origins werent from a benevolent energy cultivating cubicle farms.
When the measurements I use for success arent adding up to what
society uses to measure success, I turn to Mary Oliver.
As you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own.
From The Journey

This poem expresses what it feels like to discover your vocation. For
me, that was discovering that I wanted to move forward with creating Smart Girls. But the poem is also about dumping your addictions,
or dumping what is not working for you. The Journey affirms my
theory that unconventional choices work out more often than not.
I live with a wonderful and kind-hearted man with whom Ive made
a familyof our adopted dogs. I put all my effort into starting an
online community to help girls know themselves better. It isnt always a blast, but this is my life, and almost every Mary Oliver poem
sheds light on it.
There is something positive about people of all kinds finding
something of themselves and their world in poetry, even if others
consider the poetry less than brilliant. Its like music. I would rather
go to somebodys home and listen to something thats not my favorite than go someplace where no music is played at all. What feeds my
life may not feed yours. Where you find understanding and meaning, I may not. What matters is bringing ourselves to a poem and
being open about what we find within the words. Poetry becomes
that honest, beautiful, scary, confrontational, wonderful door for our
imagination.

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omar kholeif
To Speak with Many Tongues at Once
I have always been an immigrant, wherever it is I have lived in
the world. I left Egypt, where I was born, at three months of age.
I lived in the West as an Arab infant whose family had imposed exile. When I returned home as a teenager, I was a stranger to my own
extended family who scoffed and giggled at my polyglot Arabic accent. Now that I am living in the United States again, I realize that
I have been code-switching my whole life: not only speaking, but
also writing in a foreign language, a tongue and vernacular that is
not my own, constantly attempting to assimilate. Being a millennial
diasporic Arab, I have watched the world devour the image of my
people and their collective identities on many stages. Ive been privy
to everyone from presidents to school kids spewing bigoted rhetoric,
seeing the Arabic-speaking world conflated with the violence of religious extremism, a condition created and spoon-fed to the public
by political commentators who have perhaps withdrawn themselves
from their own complicity in making history.
Ive always longed to find a native polyglot like me, someone who
could discuss the mutilation of the Arab image in the Western consciousness, with whom I could talk about Putin and Paris, Netanyahu
and Nagasaki, Tehran and Tel Aviv. But increasingly, the freedom
of expression is stripped and buried in the Arab worldthe critical young Egyptian author Ahmed Naji, for example, was this year
sentenced to prison for writing novels that speak of sex and hashish.
Egypt, the largest of Arab countries, is becoming akin to the violently
oppressive and homophobic Cuba that Reinaldo Arenas protested.
With the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the image of the
Muslim as well as the Arab became hollowed of any poetry: an apocalypse engulfing image and text.
As we seek resurrection and resuscitation from these ashes, there is
one figure that I keep returning to, one who eloquently captures the
essence of this collective trauma, and that is the poet, essayist, and
painter Etel Adnan. She was born in Beirut to a Syrian father and a
Greek mother from Smyrna in 1925. Adnan grew up in a household
where multiple languages were exchanged: Greek, Arabic, Turkish,
and French, to name the ones that I am certain of. However, in her

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meditation on growing up, To Write in a Foreign Language, Adnan


explains how writing in English (as opposed to the many languages
spoken in her familial home) became a form of resistance; she then
proceeds to untangle the concept of home and the diasporic tongues
potential to roam across multiple territories. Hers was a life lived in
multiple self-imposed and forced exiles from the Arab world (specifically her native Beirut); she spent much of her life between the urban metropole of Paris and amidst the mountain ranges of Sausalito,
California. In these places, Adnan worked between prose, poetry
and painting, merging these worlds into a tapestry of her imagination. Her elucidations evoked a hybrid beinga creolized subject,
persistently developing a sense of home in foreign lands.
In her collection In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country,
Adnan negotiates these memories of her native Lebanon. She begins:
place
So I have sailed the seas and come...
to B...
a city by the sea, in Lebanon. It is seventeen years later. My
absence has been an exile from an exile.
As she continues, she meditates:
The most interesting things in Beirut are the absent ones. The
absence of an opera house, of a football field, of a bridge, of a
subway, and, I was going to say, of the people and the government. And, of course, the absence of absence of garbage.
Absence is a theme that recurs in her landmark text The Arab
Apocalypse, a book where hieroglyphic painted forms sit and breathe
next to evocative passages of text. Here, Adnan reflects on the violently mediated image of the Arab, who has become a violently contested and loathed public enemy:
A Hopi filled with bitter whiskey a solar bar in the midst of
America.
.........................................................................
The night of the non-event. War in the vacant sky. The
Phantoms absence.
Funerals. Coffin not covered with roses. Unarmed population. Long.

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69

The yellow suns procession from the mosque to the vacant Place.
Mute taxis.
................................................................................
The much awaited enemy has not come. He ate his yellow sun
and vomited.
............................................................................
A green sun on the Meadow of Tears sun in my pocket
wretched pocket sun.
The sun in these words is an embittered and pulsing device that
evokes, absorbs, and contains the trauma of Beirut after the Lebanese
Civil War. The specificity of this context, however, can be used as an
allegory for the collective trauma that has ensnared the nations of the
Arab world since the collapse of the Pan Arab ideal in 1967. Yet within Adnans words are coping mechanisms, ways out of the alienation
induced by diasporic Arab status. This is often most clearly evoked by
her renderings of landscapesin poetry, accompanied by her thick
broad brushstroke paintings. In Journey to Mount Tamalpais, Adnan
retreats from the burden of the past, seeking solace in the hills before
her: open wide the earth, shake trees from their roots, she submits, as she makes her way through numerous returns and crossings.
In Journey to Mount Tamalpais, we begin to sense a kind of liberated renewal taking place. Adnan is emancipating herself from the
burden of being placeless (or indeed, of many nonplaces), claiming
art as the site of her escape and shelter. By the time we reach forth to
2012, a new form of critical resolve is conjured in her treatise on love,
which was first printed as a notebook for the renowned art event
Documenta 13, The Cost for Love We Are Not Willing to Pay.
Love begins. ..becomes a desire to repeat the experience. It
becomes an itinerary. A voyage. The imagination takes over
that reality and starts building fantasies, dreams, projects. ..It
creates it own necessity, and in some people encompasses the
whole of life....
How can one bear such an intensity?...
But what is love? And what are we giving up when we relinquish it?
Love is not to be described, it is to be lived. We may deny it,
but we know it when it takes hold of us. When something in
ourselves submits the self to itself.

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Submitting the self to itself, to acknowledge ones own polyphony


within the world as a conditioned code-switcher is the ultimate resolve of these poetics. Etel Adnan dances through language, speaking
not only of many tongues but also of many places. Through her writing, the condition of exile becomes one of possible resistance.

OMAR K H OLEI F

71

Playground, 2008, by Tilleke Schwarz, with detail.

tilleke schwarz
Poetry Is Everywhere
I make hand-embroidered work that contains images, texts, and traditional items such as sampler designs. My work typically has what
some might call a poetic character, a result of the content, lively composition, and sensitive use of color. I love poetry and relate to it, not
by quoting lines in my work, but through the inspiration that is offered by the free spirit of poets. A great example of such a poet is
Kira Wuck. Here is one of her poems, which I have translated myself:
Finnish girls seldom say hello
They are not shy nor arrogant
One only needs a chisel to come closer
They order their own beer
Travel all over the world
While their men are waiting at home
When angry they send you a rotten salmon.
From Finnish Girls

I am very impressed by this young Dutch poet. In 2011, she won


the Dutch Poetry Slam Championship. Wuck is half Finnish and
half Indonesian. The poems have a remote kind of humor with unusual but precise language. I relate to the free and creative way she
combines images, like a chisel, beer, and a rotten salmon. I combine
items in a similar way in my own work. I have not used this beautiful
text in my work yet, but I often use repetition of a traditional image.
I now have started to add a carrot in each work as a kind of running
gag. I was very happy when Nigel Cheney machine-stitched plenty of
carrots for me when he heard I had run out of carrots.
In art school we practiced a kind of calligraphy while copying
a section of Lament for the Death of Ignacio Snchez Mejas by
Frederico Garca Lorca. (We needed to practice calligraphy and our
teacher thought it would be best to use a good poem instead of a stupid text. A great idea!) The repetition of A las cinco de la tarde (At
five in the afternoon) had a huge impact on me. The rhythm of the
second (repeating) line reminds me of the ringing of church bells. It
is one of the few lines of poetry I remember after all these years.

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73

100% Checked, 2005, by Tilleke Schwarz, with detail.

I rarely include lines of poetry in my work, but a few times I was


invited to do so. For instance, when I was participating in a group
exhibition that celebrated the two hundredth birthday of Alfred Lord
Tennyson, the curator sent several lines for inspiration. In general I
hate to use other peoples themes for my work but the lines of poetry spoke to me and I rather appreciated them, so I included As
the thistle shakes/When three gray linnets wrangle for the seed and
I am a part of all that I have met in my work Playground.
I always like to include text in my work, mostly out of its original
context, whether it is poetry or not. I like to think that it becomes a
kind of poetry (if not already) as new meanings appear and the oddities of our modern society surface, which seems to be the main theme
in my work. For instance, last summer I had a layover in Detroit. The
airport is modern and pleasant, and not only people but also dogs are
welcome. There were specially designated pet relief areas, which
sounds a lot more inviting than the blunt toilet or WC for human
beings. Pet relief can be understood variously as a device to get rid
of ones dog or as a kind of liberation. This poetry leaked through to
the design of the facility itself, including the tiny dog bidets. I probably will use some of this inspiration in my work. As the visual artist
Susan Hiller has said in her work, which mainly consists of huge texts,
There is no distinction between reading images and reading text.
Security is an extremely important issue in our modern world. It
makes us behave stranger than ever and dominates our way of living.
I love signs that say secret access code for a simple locker at the
train station or suspicious circumstances for an area one is not allowed to enter. This sounds so mysterious but does not give any clues
to what is going on. Last year I received a parcel from the US with
the notice that it does not contain any unauthorized explosives, destructive devices, or hazardous materials. The US seems to require
the sender to add this kind of information to a package. To me it is
absolutely unusual to inform the addressee about what is not in the
package.
When on holiday in Iceland I was intrigued by the content of their
national phone book. The first pages contained instructions for the
general public regarding natural disasters. Attention was paid to volcanic eruptions (Always wear a helmet in the vicinity of eruptions),
lightning and thunderstorms, earthquakes, and avalanches. Exciting!
The text would even improve when shortened (take the shortest way out by moving perpendicular to the wind). It offered me

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75

Losing our memory, 1998, by Tilleke Schwarz, with detail.

something to think about: Why the general public? Why natural disasters? My favorite line is: Stay where the wind blows and do not
go into low (!) areas. First of all, it sounds romantic. Then I realized
that I am also living in a low area (below sea level) and that area is also
called the low countries (the Netherlands and Belgium). So maybe
I am risking my life over here.
Sometimes quotes knock on my door and insist to be part of my
work. On ne mange pas tulipes (one does not eat tulips) is an original quote from the French chef Paul Bocuse when a Dutch television
host interviewed him about what kinds of Dutch ingredients he uses
in his world-famous cuisine. His first answer was Gouda cheese, but
the interviewer insisted on hearing a bit more. Bocuses answer was
a little arrogant and humorous, but probably more dramatic than he
realized. Tulip bulbs were a common dish near the end of WWII
when there was a great shortage of food in Holland. My mother-inlaw told me she even liked them as they taste like onions. Needless to
say, she is not a very fussy eater.
I was born in 1946 but WWII had quite an influence on my life.
I am Jewish and my parents survived the war by being hidden by
very courageous farmers in the north of Holland. My eldest sister
was protected by a minister and his wife. Most of my relatives, however, were murdered. My parents hardly spoke about those times or
the loss of their numerous relatives. We hardly dared to ask; even in
our childhood we somehow sensed that it was too painful and too
difficult to cope with.
The famous Dutch visual artist, writer, and poet Armando was
raised in the town of Amersfoort near a transition camp for prisoners who were to be sent to concentration camps in Germany. The
suffering of the victims and the cruelty of the Nazi camp guards, so
near to his home, influenced him for the rest of his life and became
the main theme in his work. He blames guilty landscapes and guilty
trees and wonders why they did not do anything when the drama
took place.
Yes, the trees are still there, actually. But that
noise, where does that noise come from.
That did not used to be there.
From Notes on the Enemy

I like the way he makes very short poems, often consisting of just a

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77

few lines with subtle references to the past. I try to deal with this past
in a similar way. I have known them all has many references to WWII
and my family. Tally marks recall the many murdered people. I used
different colors from reddish to gray to black to indicate that their fire
is still slightly burning. In 1999 I included the Star of David and the
words millenium proof in my work Losing our memory.
Leo Vroman was a very interesting and sensitive Dutch poet. Like
Armando, he is multitalented as a Dutch-American hematologist, a
prolific poet (mainly in Dutch), and an illustrator.
If I know better as a poet
My heart I do not know you very well
And uncertain if you know me well;
You are maybe used to me
Or mainly attached to me.
From If I know better as a poet

I am not certain about the meaning behind the quoted lines. But I assume they are part of a love song for his wife, Tineke. Their mutual
history is a moving love story. I have never expressed my love on
linen, except for maybe the love for my main muse: my cats. Almost
all my works contain some cats.

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COMMENT

ben lerner
From The Hatred of Poetry
We were taught at an early age that we are all poets simply by virtue of
being human. Our ability to write poems is therefore in some sense
the measure of our humanity. At least thats what we were taught in
Topeka: we all have feelings inside us (where are they located, exactly?); poetry is the purest expression (the way an orange expresses
juice?) of this inner domain. Since language is the stuff of the social,
and poetry the expression in language of our irreducible individuality, our personhood is tied up with our poethood. Youre a poet and
you dont even know it, Mr. X used to tell us in second grade; he
would utter this irritating little refrain whenever we said something
that happened to rhyme. I think the jokey clich betrays a real belief
about the universality of poetry: some kids take piano lessons, some
kids study tap dance, but we dont say every kid is a pianist or dancer.
Youre a poet, however, whether or not you know it, because to be
part of a linguistic communityto be hailed as a you at allis to
be endowed with poetic capacity.
If you are an adult foolish enough to tell another adult that you
are (still!) a poet, they will often describe for you their falling away
from poetry: I wrote it in high school; I dabbled in college. Almost never
do they write it now. They will tell you they have a niece or nephew
who writes poetry. These familiar encountersmy most recent was
at the dentist, my mouth propped open while Dr. X almost gagged
me with a mirror, as if searching for my innermost feelingshave
a tone thats difficult to describe. There is embarrassment for the
poetcouldnt you get a real job and put your childish ways behind
you?but there is also embarrassment on the part of the non-poet
because having to acknowledge ones total alienation from poetry
chafes against the early association of poem and self. The ghost of
that romantic conjunction makes the falling away from poetry a
falling away from the pure potentiality of being human into the
vicissitudes of being an actual person in a concrete historical situation, your hands in my mouth. I had the sensation that Dr. X, as he
knocked the little mirror against my molars, was contemptuous of
the idea that genuine poetry could issue from such an opening. And
Dr. X was right: there is no genuine poetry; there is only, after all,

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and at best, a place for it.


The awkward and even tense exchange between a poet and nonpoetthey often happen on an airplane or in a doctors office or
some other contemporary no-placeis a little interpersonal breach
that reveals how inextricable poetry is from our imagination of social life. Whatever we think of particular poems, poetry is a word
for the meeting place of the private and the public, the internal and
the external; my capacity to express myself poetically and to comprehend such expressions is a fundamental qualification for social
recognition. If I have no interest in poetry or if I feel repelled by
actual poems, either I am failing the social or the social is failing me.
I dont mean that Dr. X or whoever thinks in these terms, or that
these assumptions about poetry are present for everyone or in the
same degree, or that this is the only or best way of thinking about
poetry, but I am convinced that the embarrassment or suspicion or
anger that is often palpable in such meetings derives from this sense
of poetrys tremendous social stakes (combined with a sense of its
tremendous social marginalization). And its these stakes which
make actual poems an offense: if my seatmate in a holding pattern
over Denver calls on me to sing, demands a poem from me that will
unite coach and first class in one community, I cant do it. Maybe this
is because I dont know how to sing or because the passengers dont
know how to listen, but it might also be because poetry denotes an
impossible demand. This is one underlying reason why poetry is so
often met with contempt rather than mere indifference and why it is
periodically denounced as opposed to simply dismissed: most of us
carry at least a weak sense of a correlation between poetry and human
possibility that cannot be realized by poems. The poet by his very
claim to be a maker of poems is therefore both an embarrassment and
accusation.
And when you are foolish enough to identify yourself as a poet
your interlocutors will often ask: A published poet? And when you
tell them that you are, indeed, a published poet, they seem at least
vaguely impressed. Why is that? Its not like they or anybody they
know reads poetry journals. And yet there is something deeply right,
I think, about this knee-jerk appeal to publicity. Its as if to say:
Everybody can write a poem, but has your poetry, the distillation
of your innermost being, been found authentic and intelligible by
others? Can it circulate among persons, make of its readership, however small, a People in that sense? This accounts for the otherwise

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bafflingly persistent association of poetry and famebaffling since


no poets are famous among the general population. To demand proof
of fame is to demand proof that your song is at once utterly specific
to you and exemplary for others.
(At the turn of the millennium, when I was the editor of a tiny
poetry and art magazine, I would receive a steady stream of submissionsour address was onlinefrom people who had clearly never
read our publication but whose cover letters expressed a remarkable
desperation to have their poems printed anywhere. Some of these letterstens of themexplained that the poet in question was suffering
from a terminal condition and wanted, needed, to see his or her poems published before he or she died. I have three letters here that
contain the sentence I dont know how long I have. I also received
multiple letters from prisoners who felt poetry publication was their
best available method for asserting they were human beings, not
merely criminals. Im not mocking these poets; Im offering them as
examples of the strength of the implicit connection between poetry
and the social recognition of the poets humanity. Its an association
so strong that the writers in question observe no contradiction in
the fact that they are attempting to secure and preserve their personhood in a magazine that no one they know will see. It is as though
the actual poem and publication do not matter; what matters is that
the poet will know and can report to others that she is a published
poet, a distinction that nobodynot Death, not the social death of
exclusion from the Lawcan take from her. Poetry makes you famous without an audience, an abstract or kind of proto-fame: it is less
that I am known in the broader community than that I know I could
be known, less that you know my name than that I know that I am
named: I am a poet/and you know it.)
And when you are foolish enough to identify yourself as a poet
your interlocutor will often ask you to name your favorite poets. When you say, Cyrus Console, he squints as if searching his
memory and nods as if he can almost recall the work and the name,
even though of course he cant (none of the hundreds of non-poet
acquaintances who have asked you this sort of question ever can). But
I have decidedam deciding as I writethat I accept that look, that
I value it; I love that the non-poet is conditioned to believe that the
name and work are almost within reach even though the only poems hes encountered in the last few decades have been at weddings
and funerals. I love how it seems like hes on the verge of recalling a

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specific line before he slowly shakes his head and concedes: Ive never
heard of him; it doesnt ring a bell. Among other things this is a (no
more than semiconscious) performance of the demands of poetry, at
this point almost a muscle memory: the poem is a technology for mediating between me and my people; the poem must include me, must
recognize me and be recognizableso recognizable I should be able
to recall it without ever having seen it, like the face of God.
Exchanges of this sort strike me as significant because I feel they
are contemporary descendants, however diminished, of those founding dialogues about poetry that have set, however shakily, the terms
for most denunciations and defenses in the West. Plato, in the most
influential attack on poetry in recorded history, concluded that there
was no place for poetry in the Republic because poets are rhetoricians who pass off imaginative projections as the truth and risk
corrupting the citizens of the just city, especially the impressionable youth. (Socratess questions in the Republic are so leading and
full of traps that he might as well have his hands in his interlocutors
mouths). One difference between Platos Socrates and Dr. X is that
Socrates fears and resents the corrupting power of actual poetic performancehe thinks poets are going to excite excessive emotions,
for instancewhereas Dr. X presumably fears and resents his inability to be moved by or comprehend what passes for a poem. Still,
Socratess interrogations of poetswhat do they really know, what
do they really contributewill feel familiar to many of my contemporaries. Plato/Socrates is trying to defend language as the medium
of philosophy from the unreason of poets who just make stuff up as
opposed to discovering genuine truths. The oft-remarked irony of
Platos dialogues, however, is that they are themselves poeticformally experimental imaginative dramatizations. We might say that
Socrates (He who does not write, as Nietzsche put it) is a new
breed of poet who has found out how to get rid of poems. He argues
that no existing poetry can express the truth about the world, and
his dialogues at least approach the truth by destroying others claims
to possess it. Socrates is the wisest of all people because he knows he
knows nothing; Plato is a poet who stays closest to poetry because he
refuses all actual poems. Every existing poem is a lie and Plato reads
the claims made on behalf of those poems and refutes them in order
to promote the endless dialectical conversation that is reason over
the false representation that is an actual poem. Socratic irony: perfect
contempt. Platos famous attack on poets can be read, therefore, as a

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defense of poetry from poems. Socrates: Of that place beyond the


heavens none of our earthly poets has yet sung, and none shall sing
worthily.
I remember first reading Plato at the Topeka & Shawnee County
Public Library and feeling poetry must be a powerful art if the just city
depended on its suppression. How many poets outsized expectations
about the political effects of their work, or critics disappointment
in what actual poems contribute to society, derive from Platos bestowing us with the honor of exile? Of course, many poets under
totalitarian regimes have been banished or worse because of their
writing; we must honor thoselike Socrates himselfwho died for
their language. But the Republics attack on poets has helped sponsor for thousands of years the vague notion that poetry has profound
political stakes even in contexts where nobody can name a poet or
quote a poem. Anybody who reads (or reads the SparkNotes for)
the Republic is imbued with the sense that poetry is a burning social
question. When I declared myself a poet, I knew it was an important
calling not because I had seen the impact of actual poems, but because
the founding figure of the Western tradition was convinced that poets had to go. (The difference between what Socrates and I meant
by poet or poem never occurred to me; the point was my work
would be revolutionary; I, like many poets and critics, acquired my
idealism via Platonic contempt).
It didnt stop, of course, with the Greeks; when I read around in
the Renaissance, there were more assaults on poetry, the assailants
often deriving their authority from Platopoetry is useless and/or
corrupting (somehow its at once powerless and dangerous); its less
valuable than history or philosophy; in some important sense its less
real than other kinds of making. Philip Sidneys famous and beautiful
and confusing The Defense of Poesya work that helped establish the
posture of poets and critics of poetry as essentially defensiveis the
assertion of an ideal of imaginative literature more than an exaltation of actual poems. Poetry, Sidney says in his wonderful prose, is
superior both to history and philosophy; it can move us, not just
teach us facts; the poet is a creator who can transcend nature; thus
poetry can put us in touch with whats divine in us; and so on. But
Sidney doesnt worry much about specific poems, which often suck:
we shouldnt say that poetry abuseth mans wit, but that mans wit
abuseth poetrywe shouldnt knock poetry because of bad poems.
At the end of the defense, instead of supplying examples of great

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poems, Sidney just pities people who cannot hear the planet-like
music of poetry. (I, too, cant hear it).
Even the most impassioned Romantic defenses of poetry reinscribe a sense of the insufficiency of poems. Percy Bysshe Shelley:
the most glorious poetry that has ever been communicated to the
world is probably a feeble shadow of the original conceptions of the
poet. A feeble shadow of an original conception sounds like Plato,
although Plato didnt think a poet could really conceive of much. In
Platos time poetry was dominant relative to the new mode of philosophy he was attempting to advance; by the nineteenth century,
defenses of poetry had to assert the relevance of the art for a (novelreading) middle class preoccupied with material things, what Shelley
calls the excess of the selfish and calculating principle. To defend
poetry as an alternative to material concerns is both to continue and
invert the Platonic critique. It is to accept the idea that poems are
less realless truthful, according to Platothan other kinds of
representation, but to recast this distance from material reality as a
virtuous alternative to our insatiable hunger for money and things,
credit and cattle. This enables poets and their defenders to celebrate
poetic capacity

original conceptions

over and against the


feeble shadow of real poems.
Reading in my admittedly desultory way across the centuries,
I have come to believe that a large part of the appeal of the defense
as a genre is that it is itself a kind of virtual poetryit allows you to
describe the virtues of poetry without having to write poems that
have succumbed to the bitterness of the actual. Which is not to say
that defenses never cite specific poems, but lines of poetry quoted in
prose preserve the glimmer of the unreal. To quote the narrator of
my first novel who is here describing an exaggerated version of my
own experience:
I tended to find lines of poetry beautiful only when I encountered them quoted in prose, in the essays my professors had
assigned in college, where the line breaks were replaced with
slashes, so that what was communicated was less a particular
poem than the echo of poetic possibility.

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Many of the periodic essays worrying over the state of American


poetry havedespite their avowed democratic aspirationsan implicit politics that makes me uneasy. Consider one of the most recent
high-profile jeremiads, Mark Edmundsons Poetry Slam: or, The
decline of American verse, which appeared in the July 2013 Harpers.
Edmundsonss essay contends that contemporary poets, while talented, have ceased to be politically ambitious. The primary problem is
that, while many poems are good in their ways, they simply arent
good enough; this is because they dont slake a readers thirst for
meanings that pass beyond the experience of the individual poet and
light up the world we hold in common. Once again, the problem
with poets is their failure to be universal, to speak both to and for
everyone in the manner of Whitman, who Edmundson of course
evokes. (Why Whitman should be considered a success and not a failure is never addressed; again, its as if Whitmans dream was realized
in some vague past the nostalgists can never quite pinpoint.)
Edmundson makes a few silly claims, e.g. that contemporary writers havent responded to the influence/language of popular culture
(maybe he didnt read any of the Ashbery he criticizes?), or that the
poets he singles outmainstream, celebrated poets such as Jorie
Graham and Frank Bidarthave never attempted to take on issues
of national significance. Whatever you think of these poets, these
claims are merely false. Putting that aside: according to Edmundson,
the problem with contemporary poets is that theyre concerned with
the individual voice.
Contemporary American poets now seem to put all their energy into one task: the creation of a voice. They strive to sound
like no one else. And that often means poets end up pushing
what is most singular and idiosyncratic in themselves and in the
language to the fore and ignoring what they have in common
with others.
Seamus Heaney is criticized for sounding like Seamus Heaney and not
everyone; John Ashbery sounds emphatically like John Ashbery;
etc. Individuals are too individual to speak for everyone. Who is at
fault? The university.
How dare a white female poet say we and so presume to
speak for her black and brown contemporaries? How dare a

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white male poet speak for anyone but himself? And even then,
given the crimes and misdemeanors his sort have visited, how
can he raise his voice above a self-subverting whisper?
Well, how dare he or she? Edmundson raises these questions as if
it were obviously PC cowardice not to claim the right to speak for
everyone. But then, his essay strongly suggests that he considers
speaking for everyone the exclusive domain of white men. He praises
Sylvia Plath, for instance, but note how her worksingled out as an
example of the ambitious writing we currently lackturns out only
to speak for women:
Sylvia Plath may or may not overtop the bounds of taste and
transgress the limits of metaphor when she compares her genteel professor father to a Nazi brute. (Every woman adores a
Fascist.) But she challenges all women to reimagine the relations between fathers and daughters.
Edmundson apparently cannot imagine a father reading the poem
and feeling challenged. When Robert Lowell writes, however, he
is calling things as he believed them to be not only for himself but
for all his readers. Somehow, according to Edmundson, Waking
Early Sunday Morningone of Lowells most famous anti-war poemsspeaks for everyone: Lowell speaks directly of our children,
our monotonous sublime: few are the consequential poets now who
are willing to venture that our. Plath helps daughters reimagine
their relationships with their fathers; Lowell is everybodys father.
Lowells specific cultural allusionsthe title echoes Wallace Stevens,
the prosodic structure recalls Andrew Marvellapparently make
him universal (Whitman, by the way, would have rejected these techniques as too exclusive and staid for the American experiment).
The weirdest moment in the essay might be when Edmundson,
probably eager to give an example of a nonwhite person who can
speak for the collective, discusses what he calls Amiri Barakas
consequential and energetic political poem, Somebody Blew
Up America. The poem received widespread attention because
Barakawho was then the poet laureate of New Jerseyincluded
the following quatrain:

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Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?
The poem was consequential in the sense that it caused New
Jersey to dissolve the position of poet laureateBaraka refused to
resign and it turned out there was no constitutional mechanism for
his removaland the poem earned a place in the Anti-Defamation
League archive. I can imagine cogent arguments praising or excusing
or bashing Barakas poem, but I am startled by Edmundsons claim
that this poem is at least an attempt to say not how it is for Baraka
exclusively but how it is for all. Its true that Barakas poem is not
concerned with the particulars of his individual experience, but it
is not at all true that the poem isnt unmistakably in Barakas voice;
regardless, how do lines like the following speak for all:
They say its some terrorist,
some barbaric
A Rab,
in Afghanistan
It wasnt our American terrorists
It wasnt the Klan or the Skin heads
Or the them that blows up nigger
Churches, or reincarnates us on Death Row
It wasnt Trent Lott
Or David Duke or Giuliani
Or Schundler, Helms retiring
Most of the poem is devoted to cataloging the violence done to people of color by white Americans. Since Edmundson evokes Barakas
intentions, we might as well quote Barakas account of his own poem:
The poems underlying theme focuses on how Black Americans
have suffered from domestic terrorism since being kidnapped
into US chattel slavery, e.g., by Slave Owners, US & State Laws,
Klan, Skin Heads, Domestic Nazis, Lynching, denial of rights,
national oppression, racism, character assassination, historically, and at this very minute throughout the US. The relevance of
this to Bushs call for a War on Terrorism, is that Black people

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89

feel we have always been victims of terror, governmental and


general, so we cannot get as frenzied and hysterical as the people who while asking to dismiss our history and contemporary
reality to join them, in the name of a shallow patriotism in
attacking the majority of people in the world, especially people
of color and in the third world.
The we here is purposefully not all; indeed, Barakas point is explicitly to refuse the false we politicians are attempting to deploya
we that tactically forgets the history of anti-Black violence as it attempts to constitute a unified front in the War on Terror, which in
turn involves killing more people of color. To suggest that Barakas
we is an attempt to speak for all is therefore to repeat the dismissal of our [people of colors] history and contemporary reality.
I can forgive Edmundson for his bad examples only in the sense
that there are no good examples of superb lyric poetry that at
once have something to say utterly specific to a poets experience and can speak for all. (Edmundson might say what he demands
is that a poet attempt that impossible task and fail, but his readings
lead us to suspect he believes that white men will fail better.) The
lyricthat is, the intensely subjective, personal poemthat can
authentically encompass everyone is an impossibility in a world characterized by difference and violence. This is not to indict the desire
for such a poemindeed, the word we often use for such desire is
poetrybut to indict the celebration of any specific poem for having achieved this unreachable goal because that necessarily involves
passing off particularity as universality. Edmundson lacks a perfect
contempt for the actual examples he considers.
The capacity to transcend history has historically been ascribed to
white men of a certain class while denied to individuals marked by
difference (whether of race or gender). Edmundsons (jokey?) acknowledgment of the crimes and misdemeanors white men have
committed in their effort to speak as if they were everyone can hardly
count as an engagement withlet alone a refutation ofthis inequality. As Beth Loffreda and Claudia Rankine put it in a recent essay:
What we want to avoid at all costs is...an opposition between
writing that accounts for race. ..and writing that is universal.
If we continue to think of the universal as better-than, as
the pinnacle, we will always discount writing that doesnt look

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universal because it accounts for race or some other demeaned


category. The universal is a fantasy. But we are captive, still, to
a sensibility that champions the universal while simultaneously
defining the universal, still, as white. We are captive, still, to
a style of championing literature that says work by writers of
color succeeds when a white person can nevertheless relate to
itthat it transcends its category.
What makes Walt Whitman so powerful and powerfully embarrassing a founding figure for American poetry is that he is explicit about
the contradictions inherent in the effort to inhabit all. This is also
what makes it so silly to imply Whitmans poetic ideal was ever accomplished in the past and that weve since declinedbecause of
identity politicsinto avoidable fractiousness. I am the poet of
slaves, and of the masters of slaves, Whitman wrote in his journal,
indicating the impossible desire to both recognize and suspend difference within his poems, to be no one in particular so he could stand
for everyone. You can hate contemporary poetryin any eraas
much as you want for failing to realize the fantasy of universality, but
the haters should stop pretending any poem ever successfully spoke
for everyone.

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91

michael robbins
Make the Machine Sing
War Music: An Account of Homers Iliad, by Christopher Logue.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $28.00.
In 1937 Sergei Eisenstein noted an affinity between filmic montage
and the imagistic sequencing Homer employed in The Iliad. Joanna
Paul, in Film and the Classical Epic Tradition, traces several arguments
that certain pre-modern societies understand visuality in a way that
can be equated to cinema. Paul Leglise, working from Lucretiuss
conception of vision, wrote in 1958 that it is no paradox to claim
that the new terms of cinema define very exactly certain literary
techniques used by an ancient Latin poet. Leglise thought of Virgil,
not Homer, as the first cineaste; in 1970 we find Alain Malissard
arguing that Homers poetry, but not Virgils, anachronistically
exemplifies the seventh art.
Obviously, it is problematic to liken ancient poetry to a medium
that was invented around the same time as Coca-Cola. But Ive been
thinking of The Iliad in cinematic terms since I first read it in college,
when I was also learning about Eisenstein and Dovzhenko, Godard
and Nicholas Ray. Eisenstein, drawing on Lessings Laocoon, isolates
Homers description of Heras chariot, pointing out how the poet
depicts the wheels in stages. In Stanley Lombardos flinty rendition:
Hebe slid the bronze, eight-spoked wheels
Onto the cars iron axle, wheels with pure gold rims
Fitted with bronze tires, a stunning sight,
And the hubs spinning on both sides were silver.
Strangely, there is no good film version of Homers epic. Or
perhaps thats not so strange. As cinematic as its techniques may
be, The Iliad does not lend itself easily to conventional commercial
moviemaking. Maybe it would take something like Jacques Rivettes
Out 1a thirteen-hour film in which theater groups rehearse avantgarde adaptations of Aeschylusto capture its sweep and roil.
(This is one reason Godards Le Mpris remains the best Homeric
movieamong other things, its a consideration of how one might

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bring Homer to the screen; Fritz Lang plays himself, hired to adapt
The Odyssey.) Directors tend to play up the romance angle and tack
the sack of Troy from The Aeneid onto the end, as in Robert Wises
Helen of Troy (1956) and Wolfgang Petersens Troy (2004). As Paul
notes, The Iliad does not claim to be about the Trojan War, and it
does not matter that it ends before the war does.
Troy is a bad movie, peppered with basic errors and laughable dialogue. But it contains one scene that seems to me to possess genuine
Homeric insight. Its the battle between Achilles, played pretty well
by Brad Pitt, and Eric Banas Hector. Achilles is insane with rage and
grief over Patroclusyou know the storyand controls the fight
from the outset. But at one point, Hector scores a blow, nicking
Achilless breastplate. Achilles looks down at the mark in astonishment. Its just a scratch on the leather, not worth a second thought,
but Achilles cant believe itand you realize, no one has ever penetrated his defenses that far before. No sword-point has ever been
that close to his flesh. Its a brilliant moment: it tells you how good
Hector is, and, even more, how good Achilles is. And in a flash, from
a simple glance, you have a sense of these two warriors as titansthe
son of a god contending with the son of a king.
This is the sort of effect that the late Christopher Logue achieves
again and again in War Music: An Account of Homers Iliad, the
greatest film adaptation of Homer ever set down on paper. The new
edition gathers the poem, written over forty years and published in
installments over twenty-fiveWar Music (1981, covering books
1619); Kings (1991, books 1 and 2); The Husbands (1995, books 3
and 4); All Day Permanent Red (2003, books 5 and 6); Cold Calls
(2005, Books 79)and adds as an appendix Big Men Falling a Long
Way, editor Christopher Reids reconstruction of Logues projected
final installment, which contains fragments from books 1024.
Its very far from a translation, by designLogue, who couldnt
read ancient Greek and worked from existing translations, rearranges
Homers material as he pleases and drags the diction into the present by way of Pounds Cantos, even borrowing lines from August
Kleinzahler. The redoubtable classics scholar Bernard Knox was
shocked at the liberties taken in The Husbands. It might have helped
to think of it as a movie. Indeed, Logue opens with an establishing
shot worthy of John Ford:

MI CH AEL ROB B I N S

93

Picture the east Aegean sea by night,


And on a beach aslant its shimmering
Upwards of 50,000 men
Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet.
Now look along that beach, and see
Between the keels hatching its western dunes
A ten-foot-high reed wall faced with black clay
Split by a double-doored gate;
Then through the gate a naked man
Run with what seems to break the speed of light
Across the dry, then damp, then sand invisible
Beneath inch-high waves that slide
Over each others luminescent panes.
The filmic qualities become explicit at times, infiltrating the poems
vocabulary. The shift of speakers in Achilless insolent exchange
with Agamemnon is produced by Silence. // Reverse the shot. //
Go close. // Hear Agamemnon... After Hector kills Patroclus, as
the Greeks mass on the beach to attack: Close-up on Bombax; 45;
fighting since 2. Quick cuts like these may give / Some definition
to the minds wild eye.
Critics have focused on these cinematic aspects of the poem, but
Paul brings out how properly Homeric they arehow The Iliad is
primed and ready to be made cinematic. Logues poem, Id argue,
zooms in closer to Homer than the plodding literalism of a version
like Richmond Lattimores, made to please professors, as Guy
Davenport said. Of course lines like these take us far from the Greek
text:
Theres Bubblegum! Hes out to make his name!
Hes charging us! Hes prancing! Get that leap!
thock! thock!
Hes in the air! Bubblegums in the air! Above the dust!
Hes lying on the sunshine in the air! Seeing the Wall! The
arrows keep him up!
thock! thock!
And youll find Kansas in these pages, and Uzis, binoculars, Stalingrad
and Cape Kennedy, headroom and guitars, helicopters, airplanes,

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fly-fishing, gigantic font, and the earth revolving around the sun. But
like Brad Pitts stunned face, War Music finds a visual and emotional
equivalent for Homers human realities, as when Achilles looks over
the armor Thetis has brought him:
Spun the holy tungsten like a star between his knees,
Slitting his eyes against the flare, some said,
But others thought the hatred shuttered by his lids
Made him protect the metal.
His eyes like furnace doors ajar.
When he had got its weight
And let its industry assuage his grief:
Ill fight,
He said. Simple as that. Ill fight.
And so Troy fell.
It doesnt always work. But Logues reconciliations of idea and
image are often perfect.
Think of a raked sky-wide Venetian blind.
Add the receding traction of its slats
Of its slats of its slats as a hand draws it up.
Hear the Greek army getting to its feet.
These lines even have a soundtrack, the repeated staccato alliteration
of the slats recalling Ginsbergs boxcars boxcars boxcars.
There are fine passages in the unfinished material culled from
Logues noteswith a title as delicious as Big Men Falling a Long
Way there would almost have to beincluding an initial stab at Brad
Pitt vs. Eric Bana, the scene I most lament Logue not having lived to
complete. But welcome as it is, this material is mostly undeveloped
and diffuse, and cant add much to our experience of the poem. We
can all regret that the poet was unable to undertake his planned rewriting of Homers famous 130-line description of Achilless shield,
which Logue proposed in his notes to extend.
But War Music is complete in its way, one of the mad socko follies
of the twentieth century, writhing with coarse, fevered life. Logue

MI CH AEL ROB B I N S

95

conveys the terrible rush of war with the guerilla pathos of Samuel
Fullers epigraph to The Big Red One: Why are you crying?An
insane child to a burning tank. Odysseus to Achilles:
They do not own the swords with which they fight,
Nor the ships that brought them here.
Orders are handed down to them in words
They barely understand.
They do not give a whit who owns queen Helen.
Ithacas mine; Pythia yours; but what are they defending?
They love you? Yes. They do. They also loved Patroclus.
And he is dead, they say. Bury the dead, they say.
A hundred of us singing angels died for every knock
Patroclus tookso why the fuss?thats war, they say,
Who came to eat in Troy and not to prove how much
Dear friends are missed.
Yes, they are fools.
But they are right. Fools often are.
Bury the dead, my lord,
And I will help you pitch Troy in the sea.

Western literature is born in rage. But it is also born in song.
and . Our machine was devastating, Michael Herr wrote of
Americas profane destruction of Indochina. And versatile. It could
do everything but stop. Logues Homer makes the machine sing.

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c o n t r i bu to r s

jennifer bartletts most recent book is Autobiography/Anti-Autobiography (Theenk Books, 2014). She also coedited Beauty is a Verb:
The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011).
jan beattys books include Jackknife: New and Selected Poems (2017),
The Switching/Yard (2013), Red Sugar (2008), Boneshaker (2002),
and Mad River (1995), all from University of Pittsburgh Press.
jen benka* is the executive director of the Academy of American
Poets and the author of Pinko (Hanging Loose Press, 2011) and A Box
of Longing with Fifty Drawers (Soft Skull Press, 2005).
reginald dwayne bettss second poetry collection is Bastards of
the Reagan Era (Four Way Books, 2015). He won an NAACP Image
Award for A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and
Coming of Age in Prison (Avery, 2009). In 2012, President Obama
appointed Betts to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention.
richard blanco* is the fifth US Presidential Inaugural Poet,
author of three collections of poetry and two memoirs, and the firstever education ambassador for the Academy of American Poets.
sarah browning is cofounder and executive director of Split
This Rock. Author of Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (Word Works,
2007), she is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.
regie cabico* is a former Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam
Champion and received top prizes in several National Poetry Slams.
He produces Capturing Fire: An International Queer Poetry Slam.
dominique christina* is an educator, poet, and author of three
books including This Is Womans Work (Sounds True, 2015).
martha collinss most recent books of poetry are Admit One: An
American Scrapbook (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016) and Day
Unto Day (Milkweed Editions, 2014).
p. scott cunningham* is the founder and director of O, Miami,
a festival that aims for every single person in Miami to encounter a

CON T RI BU TORS

97

poem during the month of April, and the editor of Jai-Alai Books.
d.w. fair* is an artist currently incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center. His work on the cover of this issue was part of The
Weight of Rage at the Hyde Park Art Center, which was the third annual exhibition of work developed in classes in the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project (P+NAP).
samantha giles* is the author of deadfalls and snares (Futurepoem
Books, 2014). She is the director of Small Press Traffic and lives in
Oakland, California.
aracelis girmay* is the author of the poetry collections Kingdom
Animalia (BOA Editions, 2011) and Teeth (Curbstone Press, 2007).
The Black Maria is forthcoming. She teaches at Hampshire College.
edward hirschs most recent books are Gabriel: A Poem (Alfred
A. Knopf, 2014) and A Poets Glossary (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
2014).
linda hogans* recent books include Indios (Wings Press, 2012)
and Rounding the Human Corners (Coffee House Press, 2008). She
received a National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Culture Foundation in 2015.
amanda johnston* is an Affrilachian poet and Cave Canem graduate fellow. She is a cofounder of Black Poets Speak Out, founder of
Torch Literary Arts, and faculty with the Stonecoast MFA program.
mariame kaba* is the founder and director of Project NIA, a grassroots organization with the long-term goal of ending youth incarceration. Her work focuses on ending violence, dismantling the prison
industrial complex, and supporting youth leadership development.
omar kholeif* is the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of
Contemporary Art Chicago and teaches visual arts and art history at
the University of Chicago. He is the author or editor of over twenty
books of narrative prose, art criticism, and fiction.
ben lerner* is the author of three books of poetry and two novels
concerned with poetry. His monograph, The Hatred of Poetry, will be
published this summer by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
ali liebegott* has published Cha-Ching! (City Lights/Sister Spit,
2013), The Beautifully Worthless (City Lights, 2013), and The IHOP

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P O E TRY

Papers (Carroll & Graf, 2007). She also writes for Transparent.
dawn lundy martin* is the author of three books of poetry including, most recently, Life in a Box Is a Pretty Life (Nightboat Books,
2015). Good Stock is forthcoming from Coffee House Press this year.
tyler meier* is the executive director of the University of Arizona
Poetry Center. His poetry has appeared in Boston Review, Indiana
Review, jubilat, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere.
olivia morgan* was appointed by President Obama to the Presidents Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and led the
creation of the National Student Poets Program.
craig santos perez is the editor of two anthologies and the author
of three collections of poetry. He is an associate professor at the University of Hawaii, Mnoa.
michael robbins is the author of two poetry collections, The Second Sex (2014) and Alien vs. Predator (2012), both from Penguin.
His collection of criticism, Equipment for Living: Poetry & Popular
Music, is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster.
tilleke schwarz* exhibits her work all over the world and has appeared in many books and magazines.
brenda shaughnessys forthcoming collection is So Much Synth
(Copper Canyon Press, 2016).
jeff shotts* is executive editor at Graywolf Press.
ocean vuong is the author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press, 2016). Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he lives in New
York City.
meredith walker* has been the producer for Nick News and the
head of the talent department for Saturday Night Live. She cofounded and directs Amy Poehlers Smart Girls and lives in Austin.
andrew white* was recently appointed the first Youth Poet Laureate of the city of Houston, where he is currently a senior at the High
School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

* First appearance in Poetry.

CON T RI BU TORS

99

Recent books from WFU Press,


celebrating

i rish

40

poetry to

Medbh
McGuckian

years of bringing

a merican

Caitrona
OReilly

Eilan
N Chuilleanin

readers

Ciaran
Carson

Michael
Longley
Frank
Ormsby

Wake Forest University Press


dedicated to Irish poetry

wfupress.wfu.edu | 336.758.5448 | wfupress@wfu.edu

LORAINE WILLIAMS POETRY PRIZE


an annual award of $1000 and publication in the
Spring issue of The Georgia Review for a single poem.
The submission period for the 2016 award opens
1 April and closes 15 May. See our site for details.

thegeorgiareview.com

Powerful. eloquent.
intimAte. true.

Poetry and prose tell the story of war refugee


immigrants in America.

Powerful
deserves attention
and high regard.
Kevin Stein,
Poet Laureate of Illinois

A seAring
memoir.
Shelf Awareness

devAstAting,
one-of-a-kind
collection.
Foreword Reviews

Deeply moving. A powerful, lasting,


and sometimes shocking book. Superb.
Kelly Cherry, Poet Laureate of Virginia (20102012)

excePtionAlAstonished me.
reveals an enormous ability for grasping reality.
Nobel Laureate Czesaw Miosz
on Guzlowskis earlier work

Watch THE BOOK TRAILER Now!


Shelf Awareness
Book Trailer of the Day

www.polww2.com/EchoesTrailer

AQUILA
POLONICA
www.AquilaPolonica.com

WORKSHOPS IN POETRY,
FICTION, AND PLAYWRITING
JULY 1931, 2016
THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH
SEWANEE, TENNESSEE
Accepting applications through April 15
Thanks to the generosity of the Walter E. Dakin Memorial Fund,
supported by the estate of Tennessee Williams, every participant
receives assistance covering two-thirds of the actual cost to
attend. Additional funding is awarded to fellows and scholars.
FACULTY &
READERS
Daniel Anderson
Richard Bausch
John Casey
Tony Earley
B.H. Fairchild
Adrianne Harun
Robert Hass
Andrew Hudgins
Naomi Iizuka
Mark Jarman
Randall Kenan
Maurice Manning
Charles Martin
Jill McCorkle
Alice McDermott
Erin McGraw
Marilyn Nelson
Dan OBrien
Wyatt Prunty

Christine Schutt
A.E. Stallings
Sidney Wade
Allen Wier
Steve Yarbrough
VISITORS &
LECTURERS
Millicent Bennett
Beth Blickers
Paul Bone
Valerie Borchardt
Michelle Brower
Sarah Burnes
MaryKatherine
Callaway
George David
Clark
Barbara Epler
Gary Fisketjon
Mary Flinn

931.598.1654 | swc@sewanee.edu
sewaneewriters.org

Emily Forland
Rob Griffith
Gail Hochman
Mike Levine
David Lynn
Alane Salierno
Mason
Speer Morgan
Kathy Pories
Elisabeth Schmitz
Anna Stein
Philip Terzian
N.S. Thompson
Liz Van Hoose
Les Waters
Michael Wiegers
Amy Williams
Robert Wilson
David Yezzi
Rene Zuckerbrot

celebrating
20 years of
national poetry
month
april 2016
Visit poets.org to learn more
about National Poetry Month
2016 initiatives, including Poetry
& the Creative Mind on April 27
and Poem in Your Pocket Day on
April 21, and to sign up to receive
.
our

academy of
amercan
The Academy of American
Poets thanks the
organizations that help
make National Poetry
Month possible.

PoetryMag_STR_Ad_2016.pdf

2/23/16

6:27 PM

2016 SPLIT THIS ROCK

POETRY FESTIVAL
poems of provocation & witness

april 14-17, 2016

washington, dc
C

CM

MY

CY

CMY

TIM SEIBLES BY KRISTIN ADAIR

FEATURING:

amal al-jubouri
jennifer bartlett
jan beatty
reginald dwayne betts
regie cabico
dominique christina
martha collins
nikky finney
ross gay
aracelis girmay
rigoberto gonzlez
linda hogan
dawn lundy martin
craig santos perez
and ocean vuong!
plus a special
library of congress
kick off with
us poet laureate
juan felipe herrera
on april 13!

READINGS, WORKSHOPS,
PANEL DISCUSSIONS,
OPEN MICS, YOUTH PROGRAMS,
ACTIVISM, AND MORE

Join the list serve for updates! | Group rates available!


MORE INFO AT: www.splitthisrock.org info@splitthisrock.org 202-787-5210
With support from Busboys and Poets,The Institute for Policy Studies,The Poetry Foundation & Poetry Magazine,
the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz, Compton, CrossCurrents, and Reva & David Logan Foundations,
the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts,
and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art

T HE P OE TRY F OUN DATI ON P R E S E NT S

April Features
Poetry Podcasts

On the Poetry Magazine Podcast, Poetry editors


Don Share and Lindsay Garbutt go inside the
pages of this issue, talking to contributors and
sharing their poem selections with listeners.
Poetry Off the Shelf, a bi-weekly podcast, explores
the diverse world of contemporary American poetry.
Podcasts are available free from the iTunes store.

Harriet News

During National Poetry Month, guest editors


Dawn Lundy Martin, Daniel Borzutzky,
Stephanie Young, and Brandon Shimoda each
curate and introduce five essays by five poets at
poetryfoundation.org/harriet

Learning Lab View educational resources including a sampler


featuring the poetry and politics of US Poet Laureate
Juan Felipe Herrera from our Poet 101 series.
Events Plan your trip to the Poetry Foundation in
Chicago to see some of our April events!
Young Peoples Poetry Day
Poetry and Home: Jacqueline Woodson
Saturday, April 9, 10:00 AM3:00 PM
Documentary Film
and when I die, I wont stay dead, the Life
of Bob Kaufman
Thursday, April 21, 6:00 PM
Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry
Rachel Zucker
Thursday, April 28, 7:00 PM
Exhibition

Bernadette Mayer: Memory


March 3April 27, 2016
MondayFriday, 11:00 AM4:00 PM
P OE T RY FO U NDAT I ON
61 West Superior Street, Chicago, IL
(312) 787-7070
www.poetryfoundation.org

Founded in 1912 by Harriet Monroe


Volume 208, Number 1

& so to tenderness I add my action.


A R AC E L I S G I R M AY

ALSO

Sarah Browning
Jeff Shotts
Jennifer Bartlett
Jan Beatty
Regie Cabico
Martha Collins
Craig Santos Perez
Jen Benka
Edward Hirsch

Olivia Morgan
Ali Liebegott
Amanda Johnston
Samantha Giles
P. Scott Cunningham
Dawn Lundy Martin
Tyler Meier
Andrew White
Richard Blanco

Brenda Shaughnessy
Mariame Kaba
Meredith Walker
Dominique Christina
Tilleke Schwarz
Reginald Dwayne Betts
Michael Robbins
Omar Kholeif
D.W. Fair