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Month: February 2013

“We wave to him from underneath / our opened black wings”: Reading Jay Baron Nicorvo


Deadbeat To those of you out there who may have forgotten the details, or are currently available, Jay Baron Nicorvo will be reading at Western Michigan University in the Bernhard Center, Rooms 208-209, at 8pm tonight!

In preparation for tonight’s festivities, I decided to dedicate part of my day to rereading his first poetry collection, Deadbeat.

I always like to share a few poems—for those who may not know or may not have read the writer’s work before, or may not own any of his/her work—and this time, well, let’s just say that I struggled. . .because there are SO many poems that I wanted to share! I ended up settling on the following eight—

“Ruthless and Brutal, Deadbeat Wants the World.”
“Deadbeat Thrown on the Potter’s Wheel, and at Sea.”
“Cosmos Certainly Silly.”
“Mistake the Window for the World”
“The Hope for Physical Deformity”
“Paradigm Shift”
“Into the Undrinkable Atlantic”

—though it obviously would not be fair to the publisher for me to share so many, so I (through gritted teeth) narrowed the selection down to the following five shorter poems (I was aiming for four, and I just couldn’t decide). I hope you find as much enjoyment in them as I do, and I hope you’ll attend the reading tonight!




How do planets pass for stars? Less
stars. The corona that rings the moon,
stupid satellite—no halo, no crown.
Such metaphors for so big a thing make
the cosmos certainly silly. Tomorrow,
they’ll have snow. The elm, engraving
that face up there more panda than man,
is soon to sag under whiteweight. If some see
the world in a grain of sand, is Deadbeat
to understand fallen stars in snowflakes?
In the end—or at it—an hour’s nothing
if not an hour, and the moon’s seas aren’t seas.
They’re nothing. Nada into nada. Sealess.




Deadbeat is a closed window.
Reflections in glass
are poems of sand.

A scrub jay, chased
by two larks,
convulses beneath the sill.

He watches the tangelo tree,
waits for a fruit to land
and echo the thump

made by the bird
that mistook the window

for the world.




As a boy, Son of Deadbeat cupped his hand
over every flashlight he found,

turning peek-a-boo fingers into a bloodrun
dusk. Sky, invisible after dark, scatters

what adult sense of self he knows—

In Deadbeat’s closet, a curiosity: a baby
rattle devised from a water bottle

and the foreshortened bones
of thalidomide limbs.




Son of Deadbeat makes out his first and last initials
in the dark windows of a toppled highrise.
A girl with sad teeth like bits of eggshell

tells him he’s a bobble-head doll. He nods.
Inside his chest, the fraught lubdubs start
sounding like applause—resting curbside,

a white pump, whim of a beatnik bride’s maid.
The outside becomes a porcelain tub,
emptied, as debris fills distance between debris.

Ground rises to meet a settling sky as he fathoms,
for a moment, how much space space holds.




Everyone around Deadbeat dies
of something, slow rot of blood and bone—
finite heartchurn. Deciduous trees play
dead. He hears the industry of marrow
failing. Diaphragm cells, red corpuscles,
whish through clots, through plaque.
He shakes with the dead skin he sheds.
As he says, I’m dying, the sun, still,
rises, seagull perched—soot and stone.
The tired woman who emptied his cup
wades into the undrinkable Atlantic.




Nicorvo, Jay Baron. Deadbeat. Tribeca: Four Way Books, 2012. Print.




“We wave to him from underneath
our opened black wings.” is from Nicorvo’s poem, “Vigil,” from Deadbeat.




Also, after reading “Head,” a shout-out to Robert Creeley.




If you’re interested in purchasing Nicorvo’s collection, please visit Four Way Books!




When Dancers Turn to Writing


bone dream body of a dancer


Tuesday evening, I planned on attending what looked to be an interesting reading. . . but what it turned out to be was an inspirational, uplifting and hilarious multigenre experience.

The event was titled “After Dancing: Dancers Turn to Writing,” and for good reason. These two wonderful, strong women were dancers for the majority of their lives, and when they eventually “left” that part of their lives “behind” (though, we did discuss that you never leave such a big part of you behind, not really), they turned to writing, and eventually writing about dancing with new vigor that many dancers never find the words to express.

As the original event flyer explains, Moira MacDougall’s first poetry collection, Bone Dream, from Tightrope Books, summoned much of her training in classical ballet and modern dance, as well as her experiences as an Iyengar yoga instructor. From my experience of listening to her read (in the crisp, precise enunciating way she is so blessed with!), her poems are filled with pain, raw truth (about the physical body and emotions of the mind), as well as a Dream World from which she draws references of Greek Mythology, Christianity/Catholicism (from which she was raised) and some various forms of old and new pop culture. Despite the strange way these various topics may move or taste in one’s mouth, what was then produced was a new way of expressing her experiences and feelings about dance that maintained a dancer’s vitality and spirit in the most admirable of ways.

Similarly, Renée E. D’Aoust’s memoir, Body of a Dancer, from Etruscan Press, is expressed through a series of “Acts,” or narrative essays, which discuss her time in New York at the Martha Graham School. I purchased, both, MacDougall’s and D’Aoust’s books before the reading began, and I spent a few minutes exploring each. What I found in D’Aoust’s work was a stark quality often lacking in fiction, the harsh truths of performing at a professional level, elevated to a whole other state of hilarity, strength and heart. D’Aoust additionally has “what it takes” to make that clean, wide divide between what it means to read a work and what it means to see a work, a performance of a work. Throughout her reading, she had memorized passages, acted, gestured—in a very real way, danced, to what her work demanded. Her work, and her performance, and her attitude, were inspirational and uplifting, and the experience of watching her, of experiencing her work through her performance, left me feeling lighter and more inspired than I have in a long time.

What made both of these women’s equally, individually, inspirational and beautiful performances all the more honest and real was the fact that they were performing together, in a multigenre performance, within a dance studio—a multimedia room with a large dance area, mirrors along one wall, and a ceiling that made me want to return to singing. The first third of their performance was their movement, back and forth, from poetry to memoir, account after account, one truth after another. Experiencing this first brought an unusual excitement for life, dance and writing into the room that I very rarely have seen or felt in a reading. This then led seamlessly into the second section, during which Moira read some of her published, and new, poetry, followed by Renée in the third section, who read and performed purely from the first section of her book, regarding the Martha Graham School. The way each of these forms of art—dance, poetry and memoir—all worked together, moving, in this room, was so telling and real and beautiful. Beautiful in a way that is often removed from a writer’s reading, when placed in a room, pinned behind a podium. It was different, and it was breathing.




After I have fully read their books, I will post reviews on each… This will absolutely be a wonderful project to complete; I’m truly looking forward to it.




Moira MacDougall has been published widely in Canadian and American literary journals and is currently the Poetry Editor for the Literary Review of Canada. She lives on The Beach in Toronto, Ontario.

If you are interested in purchasing her book, Bone Dream, please visit Tightrope Books.




Renée E. D’Aoust has numerous publications and awards to her credit, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism at American Dance Festival (a mouthful, huh?). She lives half of the year in Switzerland, the other in Idaho, where she manages her family’s forestland.

If you are interested in purchasing her memoir, Body of a Dancer, please visit Etruscan Press.




On Taking a Year Off


It’s about that time again—the act of road-tripping across a series of states, taking large sums of money for a range of books, getting those books signed by authors, seeing those authors read, attending a diverse set of panels that delve into various levels of meaning and importance. . .

This is how I like to describe the AWP experience.

When I was a junior in my undergraduate, I received an invitation in the mail regarding AWP. The front had a mailing sticker with “McKenzie Sanders, Poet.” I was still a Sanders, then, hardly weeks engaged to my husband, and the “comma Poet” made me giddy. While I know retrospectively that the “invitation” was sent because of my subscription to the magazine, rather than my actually being of any real importance in the literary world, I was hooked on the idea of attending this thing. Later receiving an email confirming my beliefs that this would be a big deal, the attending, it was final: I was going.

Because I was young, and because I’d never gone across multiple states alone before, my mother simply required that I have someone along for the ride. Eventually, my then-fiancé consented, and we drove the sixteen hour trip from Northern Indiana to Denver, Colorado—the place I would love to live for the rest of my life!—for the Tuesday through Sunday experience. . . which amounted to driving all day Tuesday, picking up AWP registration materials and exploring Denver on Wednesday, Conference on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (which consisted of my day-long fascination of the conference, followed by an evening spent having dinner with Dragan and, either, exploring Denver or attending a reading), and driving all day Sunday. We still look back as a couple as that trip being some of the six best days of our life together.

That trip was the decision-maker: I went back to AWP the next year, 2011, in Washington, D.C., and again in 2012, in Chicago. While both of these trips were fantastic, there was something particularly special about Denver—perhaps because it was my first AWP, or because it was in Denver, or because, let’s face it, I had my best companion by my side for the trip. But something about the vibe, the excitement, the overall involvement in literature and language, was more deeply woven in Denver, Colorado.

Then there’s the 2013 rendition in Boston, Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, due a range of issues, this will be the first AWP in four years that I will not attend.

I cannot say that I am happy about it, or that I have truly come to turns with the fact that I am not going, yet. What I continue to remind myself of is the fact that it is fairly unlikely that I will be able to attend EVERY rendition of AWP for the rest of my life, but also that missing one year will not automatically result in a rockslide of never-attending-again-itis. There will be more AWPs, under better conditions!

So, for this year of taking some time off, I’ll be giving myself a little retreat, as it were. For the most part, I intend to disconnect from technology—Facebook, texting, etc.—though I will have to check my email every once and again for my students’ needs, and I will probably post here daily, simply for commitment’s sake. Otherwise, it should amount to time for reading, writing, and relaxation. It should be a good, much-needed, writing time.

To those of you out there planning to attend AWP, I wish you all the best enjoyment. Safe travels, and please do read something good for me. Until later ~ Best, from me.




Misty Mornings: inspired by Thoreau’s Journal


                                       The air is filled with mist, yet a transparent mist, a
                                       principle in it you might call
flavor, which ripens fruits.
                                       This haziness seems to confine and concentrate the
                                        sunlight, as if you lived in a halo. It is August
                                                           —Aug. 29, The Journal of Henry David Thoreau




It only seems to gather for a moment, and
I become wrapped in it, like

the two waterfowl entwined over water—
the moment of an apple tree and mist


at the same time.

The image of apples falling.




There was a small apple tree in
my mother’s backyard

that grew for years. The bark was
twisted, gnarled, uncomfortable, from its

isolated position in the back-40.
The side facing the house was covered

in poison ivy.




Deer used to wrap themselves
around it, very early in the morning,

before the low, country fog was
swallowed by the sun.

They had a way of standing
behind it, positioned between

the tree and corn fields,

wrapping their necks around
the trunk, reaching for low apples—

though never those on the ground,
for they had long since drowned

in the wet grass, and pursued collapsing.




Very early one morning, I kneeled
by the house, and waited.

First, there were birds finding their way
into other trees.

Then the deer, two fauns,
collecting one apple at a time.

They were like pale shadows through
that low misty haze, not all there

like the nightly shadows, not fully
evaporated with the sun.

Before it was over, I watched their forms
fade back into the corn fields.




Project: Reading Thoreau’s Journal (2)


Aug. 28—(an excerpt)


Evening.—A new moon visible in the east.

I omit the unusual—the hurricanes and earthquakes—and describe the common. This has the greatest charm and is the true theme of poetry. You may have the extraordinary for your province, if you will let me have the ordinary. Give me the obscure life, the cottage of the poor and humble, the workdays of the world, the barren fields, the smallest share of all things but poetic perception. Give me but the eyes to see the things which you possess.


Aug. 29—


The air is filled with mist, yet a transparent mist, a principle in it you might call flavor, which ripens fruits. This haziness seems to confine and concentrate the sunlight, as if you lived in a halo. It is August.


Sept. 23—


Notwithstanding the fog, the fences this morning are covered with so thick a frost that you can write your name anywhere with your nail.


Sept. 25—


The season of flowers may be considered as past now that the frosts have come. Fires have become comfortable. The evenings are pretty long.

2 P.M.—To bathe in Hubbard’s meadow, thence to Cliffs. I find the water suddenly cold, and that the bathing days are over.

I see numerous butterflies still, yellow and small red, though not in fleets. Examined the hornets’ nest near Hubbard’s Grove, suspended from contiguous huckleberry bushes. The tops of the bushes appearing to grow out of it, little leafy sprigs, had a pleasing effect.


Nov. 9—


I, too, would fain set down something besides facts. Facts should only be as the frame to my pictures… Facts to tell who I am, and where I have been or what I have thought… Facts which the mind perceived, thoughts which the body thought.


Nov. 25—


That kind of sunset which I witnessed on Saturday and Sunday is perhaps peculiar to the late autumn. The sun is unseen behind a hill. Only this bright white light like a fire falls on the trembling needles of the pine.


Dec. 31—


There is a low mist in the woods. It is a day to study lichens. The view so confined it compels your attention to near objects, and the white background reveals the disks of the lichens distinctly. They appear more loose, flowing, expanded, flattened out, the colors brighter for the damp. The round greenish-yellow lichens on the white pines loom through the mist (or are seen dimly) like shields whose devices you would fain read. The trees appear all at once covered with their crop of lichens and mosses of all kinds—flat and tearful are some, distended by moisture. This is their solstice, and our eyes run swiftly through the mist to these things only. Nature has a day for each of her creatures, her creations. To-day it is an exhibition of lichens at Forest Hall, the livid green of some, the fruit of others. They eclipse the trees they cover. Ah, beautiful is decay! True, as Thales said, the world was made out of water. That is the principle of all things.




Thoreau, Henry David. The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861. Ed. Damion Searls. New York Review Book Classics, 2009. Print.




Project: Reading Thoreau’s Journal (1)


Over the past two weeks or so, I have been reading Henry David Thoreau’s Journal extensively and have been extremely inspired by it.

Despite my growing interest in this collection, though, I have found that it is Thoreau’s least-well-known work, if not arguably his most extensive and successful.

So, for my own inspiration’s sake, and to share some aspects of Thoreau’s journal with others, I have decided to give myself a somewhat long-term project: to read Thoreau’s entire journal.

Along the way, I intend, first, to hand-write in my own journal (and then type here, as posts), those portions which are the most meaningful to me. Second, I plan to couple my reading of the Journal with Thoreau’s poetry, and to post those poems here which connect best with the passages I’ve chosen from his Journal—whether in a literal, intellectual or imagistic sense.

Below, I have included the first edition of my project. I hope you enjoy the passages as they come along!


Reading The Journal of Henry David Thoreau: Part 1


Sept. 19—


The trees on the bank of the river have white furrows worn about them, marking the height of the freshets, at which levels the water has stood.

Water is so much more fine and sensitive an element than earth. A single boatman passing up or down unavoidably shakes the whole of a wide river, and disturbs its every reflection.

The air is an element which our voices shake still further than our oars the water.

My companion said he would drink when the boat got under the bridge, because the water would be cooler in the shade, though the steam quickly passes through the piers from shade to sun again. It is something beautiful, the act of drinking, the stooping to imbibe some of this widespread element, in obedience to instinct, without whim. We do not so simply drink in other influences.

It is pleasant to have been to a place by the way a river went.

The forms of trees and groves change with every stroke of the oar.


Nov. 11—


Now is the time for wild apples. I pluck them as a wild fruit native to this quarter of the earth, fruit of old trees that have been dying ever since I was a boy and are not yet dead. From the appearance of the tree you would expect nothing but lichens to drop from it, but underneath your faith is rewarded by finding the ground strewn with spirited fruit. Frequented only by the woodpecker, deserted now by the farmer, who has not faith enough to look under the boughs. Food for walkers. Sometimes apples red inside, perfused with a beautiful blush, faery food, too beautiful to eat—an apple of the evening sky, of the Hesperides.

This afternoon I heard a single cricket singing, chirruping, in a bank, the only one I have heard for a long time, like a squirrel or a little bird, clear and shrill—and as I fancied, like an evening robin, singing in this evening of the year. A very fine and poetical strain for such a little singer. I had never before heard the cricket so like a bird. It is a remarkable note. The earth-song.


Nov. 16—


I found three good arrowheads to-day behind Dennis’s. The season for them began some time ago, as soon as the farmers had sown their winter rye, but the spring, after the melting of the snow, is still better.

In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is only another name for tameness. It is the untame, uncivilized, free, and wild thinking in Hamlet, in the Illiad, and in all the scriptures and mythologies that delights us—not learned in the schools, not refined and polished by art. A truly good book is something as wildly natural and primitive, mysterious, and marvelous, ambrosial and fertile, as a fungus or a lichen. Suppose the muskrat or beaver were to turn his views to literature, what fresh views of nature would he present! The fault of our books and other deeds is that they are too humane, I want something speaking in some measure to the condition of muskrats and skunk-cabbage as well as of men—not merely to a pining and complaining coterie of philanthropists.

I discover again about these times that cranberries are good to eat in small quantities as you are crossing the meadows.

What shall we do with a man who is afraid of the woods, their solitude and darkness? What salvation is there for him? God is silent and mysterious.

Some of our richest days are those in which no sun shines outwardly, but so much the more a sun shines inwardly. I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests. It is cheerfully, musically earnest. I lie and relie the earth.

Land where the wood has been cut off and is just beginning to come up again is called sprout land.

The partridge-berry leaves checker the ground on the side of moist hillsides in the woods. Are they not properly called checker-berries?

My Journal should be the record of my love. I would write in it only of the things I love, my affection for any aspect of the world, what I love to think of. I have no more distinctness or pointedness in my yearnings than an expanding bud, which does indeed point to flower and fruit, to summer and autumn, but is aware of the warm sun and spring influence only. I feel ripe for something, yet do nothing, can’t discover what that thing is. I feel fertile merely. It is seedtime with me. I have lain fallow long enough.

Notwithstanding a sense of unworthiness which possesses me, not without reason, notwithstanding that I regard myself as a good deal of a scamp, yet for the most part the spirit of the universe is unaccountably kind to me, and I enjoy perhaps an unusual share of happiness. Yet I question sometimes if there is not some settlement to come.




Thoreau, Henry David. The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861. Ed. Damion Searls. New York Review Book Classics, 2009. Print.