National Poetry Month Goals!!

 

Hi everyone!

I hope everyone was able to get out and enjoy the first day of spring a little bit yesterday. It was about 40 degrees here, with beautifully crisp air. We wound up barbecuing out with some friends, so it was a great time. It gave me a chance to pause, and to think about my writing life a little bit, too.

I haven’t really had the chance—or given myself the time—in the past to plan for National Poetry Month, but since I have ten more days, I thought now would be a good time to make some commitments!

First, I’m going to get back into the swing of posting a poem each day. That has been a really fun venture and one that I haven’t stuck with as well as I had originally hoped. So April will be a great time to recommit!

Second, I’m going to do NaPoWriMo and write one poem per day, BUT I’m putting a special twist on it—I have started a blog called “April and May” to invite writers to attempt to write one poem per day throughout April… but if they can only write every other day, or every few days, they’ll have May to make up for it. So I’m hoping to write a poem per day, or every other day, throughout the months of April and May, and I am inviting other writers to do the same.

And third, my largest plan is to review one book of poetry per day. It’s a big venture, and my reviews may not be QUITE as long as usual, but they will be as detailed. If any writers would like to take this challenge up with me, or if anyone would REALLY like to see their book reviewed during April, please be in touch with me (this would also be a great opportunity to get some author interviews in!).

Thank you all for your support! I can’t wait to hear from some of you, and to see your writing popping up around the web! Until Later, All Best ~ from me.

 

 

A Poem with a Gun Inside

 

It beats. It hums. My heart—

what else could beat so cold and low

as this : make me a list. give me

a kiss : Kalamazoo, I love you. Paris,

Baghdad, and Beruit, I love you. What more harm

can we inflict than gunfire

on a summer’s day, a winter walk, what life

can we take but ours : for every trigger

that’s pulled, down falls another mother,

another son, and I don’t think you’re ready

for that, I don’t think you’re ready

for what that calls up

in the hearts around the world—but take it.

Pull the trigger. There’s nothing more

I can hide from you, no secret,

no immortality spell, just me

and my skin and my heart

and what’s inside it : I believe

you have the power to stop. So stop.

So choose. Because darling, I love you too.

 

 

Poem of the Day: Christine Garren

 

THE WOVEN MESSAGE

 

come hide near me

I’ll count however long I need to count the insects in the web—

I like

the still living ones—that beat of wing I hear

or

the still turned-on

ignition of the firefly—I see one’s underbelly

blink

on and off—come hide near me, somewhere in this wild grove, in its umbra green

where

my mind turns down the bed

 

—previously appeared with StorySouth

 

 

Her Heart of Hearts & The Art of Discovery: Reading Jackie Haze’s Borderless

 

3166F-qlX3L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_When I think of highways, I think of other cars, the open road, corn fields. I think of how limitless, how borderless these highways can be, allowing us to go straight, turn left, or turn right, as we please. But there are also barricades: toll roads, No U-Turn signs, and Detour Turn Left/Right; these are instances, largely like the ones of our own lives, that surprise us and may even challenge us to change course and adapt to the situation. Maybe truly being ourselves works that way, too, constantly challenging us to stay true and move forward, no matter the detours or roads not taken. Jackie Haze tackles these concepts in her debut memoiristic piece, Borderless, head on, coming to terms with her identity, her sexuality, and her role in society, with her friends, and as a member of her family. Detours are taken, roads end, and sometimes we have to make an illegal U-Turn to keep up with her characters, but this adds a richness and vivacity to the text that becomes something more genuine than simply describing a life-changing experience.

I think what I loved most about this book were its affinity toward exploration and its challenging of social norms. My favorite “mini chapter” of this book continues to be “balloon,” in which Haze states that she “couldn’t seem to settle with the common or the traditional.” Haze also spends a great deal of time considering the role of wonder in our lives, and how that transforms for so many from magic in their childhood to mundane or triviality in adulthood. Haze, on the contrary, felt that there was still magic to be found in the world and that “the magical people must be in the hidden back roads and dusty cubby holes of life: on highways, in hostels, and in shabby, smoky cafes.” Haze believes in the magical and the extreme, but also the mundane; and when these two existences are placed side-by-side and forced to work through it all together, moments of beauty are able to happen.

My primary issues with the book related to the inclusion of mundane details and some questionable expressions of emotion. Haze is very comfortable in her use of repetition, and at times perhaps a little too comfortable, in which case the reader finds themselves in a repeated place, which ultimately becomes a distraction: too much description provided to a mundane activity (on more than one occasion), full letters included when only a glimpse would have done a better job, and the expression of crying or eyes welling up with tears. However, despite this notation, I feel that this is a strong story by a very agreeably good writer, who will only get better with time, further publications, and the pursuit of her wanted MFA.

This author and this book value wonder and imagination and taking chances. Take a chance and read this book. It will pick you up and carry you through quickly, and you will appreciate its journey.

 

JACKIE HAZE, according to Jackie: What does one really say in these about sections to give an idea of a person as a whole? Here’s to trying. I am a 29 year old lesbian trying to truck my way through school in hopes to become a Creative Writing Professor. Unlike the usual lesbian, I don’t switch partners like my underwear and I don’t have to fit under any category. I will rock a tie or a dress just the same and appreciate that we have such versatility. Perhaps more like the usual, I really can’t dress well. Despite being an artist. I do have personal rules, though. Like I can’t wear black with brown. And I will never wear white socks. Socks must be black, brown or gray for the most part. I am super ultra sensitive. To and with everything. I feel people’s energies strongly. At 29 I have never had a one night stand and do not have a need for outside validation or approval. I always want to travel, always want to pick up and go. To live on the road would be idea for me. I have always been big on words and language. Do not talk to me or write to me like you are texting or change “to” or “too” into “2” or replace “er’s” with “a’s,” etc… I am not sentimental about things. I am quite the minimalist. I love travel and if I could live on the road most of the time, I would. I have been described as a well-traveled old soul who sees the world through young eyes.

 

 

Poem of the Day: Cynthia Cruz

 

SELF-PORTRAIT

 

I did not want my body
Spackled in the world’s
Black beads and broke
Diamonds. What the world

Wanted, I did not. Of the things
It wanted. The body of Sunday
Morning, the warm wine and
The blood. The dripping fox

Furs dragged through the black New
York snow—the parked car, the pearls,
To the first pew—the funders,
The trustees, the bloat, the red weight of

The world. Their faces. I wanted not
That. I wanted Saint Francis, the love of
His animals. The wolf, broken and bleeding—
That was me.

 

—previously appeared with The Academy of American Poets

 

 

Poem of the Day: Claudia Rankine

 

/ 

You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.

You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.

Why do you feel okay saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, be propelled forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind.

As usual you drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said. It is not only that confrontation is headache producing; it is also that you have a destination that doesn’t include acting like this moment isn’t inhabitable, hasn’t happened before, and the before isn’t part of the now as the night darkens 
and the time shortens between where we are and where we are going.

/

When you arrive in your driveway and turn off the car, you remain behind the wheel another ten minutes. You fear the night is being locked in and coded on a cellular level and want time to function as a power wash. Sitting there staring at the closed garage door you are reminded that a friend once told you there exists a medical term—John Henryism—for people exposed to stresses stemming from racism. They achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure. Sherman James, the researcher who came up with the term, claimed the physiological costs were high. You hope by sitting in 
silence you are bucking the trend.

/

When the stranger asks, Why do you care? you just stand there staring at him. He has just referred to the boisterous teenagers in Starbucks as niggers. Hey, I am standing right here, you responded, not necessarily expecting him to turn to you.

He is holding the lidded paper cup in one hand and a small paper bag in the other. They are just being kids. Come on, no need to get all KKK on them, you say.

Now there you go, he responds.

The people around you have turned away from their screens. The teenagers are on pause. There I go? you ask, feeling irritation begin to rain down. Yes, and something about hearing yourself repeating this stranger’s accusation in a voice usually reserved for your partner makes you smile.

/

A man knocked over her son in the subway. You feel your own body wince. He’s okay, but the son of a bitch kept walking. She says she grabbed the stranger’s arm and told him to apologize: I told him to look at the boy and apologize. And yes, you want it to stop, you want the black child pushed to the ground to be seen, to be helped to his feet and be brushed off, not brushed off  by the person that did not see him, has never seen him, has perhaps never seen anyone who is not a reflection of himself.

The beautiful thing is that a group of men began to stand behind me like a fleet of  bodyguards, she says, like newly found uncles and brothers.

/

The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.

At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?

It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.

I am so sorry, so, so sorry.

/

 

—from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen
—previously appeared on The Poetry Foundation

 

 

Poem of the Day: Allan Peterson

 

THE INEVITABLE

 

To have that letter arrive

was like the mist that took a meadow

and revealed hundreds

of small webs once invisible

The inevitable often

stands by plainly but unnoticed

till it hands you a letter

that says death and you notice

the weed field had been

readying its many damp handkerchiefs

all along

 

—from Allan Peterson’s Precarious, 42 Miles Press (2014)

 

 

Poem of the Day: Ross Gay

 

BURIAL

 

You’re right, you’re right,
the fertilizer’s good—
it wasn’t a gang of dullards
came up with chucking
a fish in the planting hole
or some midwife got lucky
with the placenta—
oh, I’ll plant a tree here!
and a sudden flush of quince
and jam enough for months—yes,
the magic dust our bodies become
casts spells on the roots
about which someone else
could tell you the chemical processes,
but it’s just magic to me,
which is why a couple springs ago
when first putting in my two bare root plum trees
out back I took the jar which has become
my father’s house,
and lonely for him and hoping to coax him back
for my mother as much as me,
poured some of him in the planting holes
and he dove in glad for the robust air,
saddling a slight gust
into my nose and mouth,
chuckling as I coughed,
but mostly he disappeared
into the minor yawns of the earth
into which I placed the trees,
splaying wide their roots,
casting the gray dust of my old man
evenly throughout the hole,
replacing then the clods
of dense Indiana soil until the roots
and my father were buried,
watering it in all with one hand
while holding the tree
with the other straight as the flag
to the nation of simple joy
of which my father is now a naturalized citizen,
waving the flag
from his subterranean lair,
the roots curled around him
like shawls or jungle gyms, like
hookahs or the arms of ancestors,
before breast-stroking into the xylem,
riding the elevator up
through the cambium and into the leaves where,
when you put your ear close enough,
you can hear him whisper
good morning, where, if you close your eyes
and push your face you can feel
his stubby jowls and good lord
this year he was giddy at the first
real fruit set and nestled into the 30 or 40 plums
in the two trees, peering out from the sweet meat
with his hands pressed against the purple skin
like cathedral glass,
and imagine his joy as the sun
wizarded forth those abundant sugars
and I plodded barefoot
and prayerful at the first ripe plum’s swell and blush,
almost weepy conjuring
some surely ponderous verse
to convey this bottomless grace,
you know, oh father oh father kind of stuff,
hundreds of hot air balloons
filling the sky in my chest, replacing his intubated body
listing like a boat keel side up, replacing
the steady stream of water from the one eye
which his brother wiped before removing the tube,
keeping his hand on the forehead
until the last wind in his body wandered off,
while my brother wailed like an animal,
and my mother said, weeping,
it’s ok, it’s ok, you can go honey,
at all of which my father
guffawed by kicking from the first bite
buckets of juice down my chin,
staining one of my two button-down shirts,
the salmon-colored silk one, hollering
there’s more of that!
almost dancing now in the plum,
in the tree, the way he did as a person,
bent over and biting his lip
and chucking the one hip out
then the other with his elbows cocked
and fists loosely made
and eyes closed and mouth made trumpet
when he knew he could make you happy
just by being a little silly
and sweet.

 

—from Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Pittsburgh Poetry Series (2015)

 

 

‘This is Not a Pipe’: The Powers of Nature & Grief over Perception & Definition: Reading Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

 

ross gay_gratitudeI don’t know about you, but in my mind, perception and grief are united. This is not to say that one cannot exist without the other, but only that our perceptions vary based on our state of mind—especially when we are talking about grief. On an average, typical day, we know very well that the image of a pipe is not the same thing as the physical pipe we hold in our hands; but when we are grieving, we may see this image as a sign from a lost loved one, and we may believe this so well as to think that we may reach into that picture and pull the pipe straight out, leaving nothing by caramelized canvas stain. We may even believe we can turn into the pipe, or the pipe into the one we are missing, or the pipe into ourselves. I’m not saying this is 100% the point that Ross Gay was trying to get at, but there is also value in what poetry might make us think of, whether or not it is what the work intended. Being entitled “Gratitude,” I ponder my extreme invasion with my thoughts on grief, but maybe gratitude is like a pipe, ready to go somewhere:

A man sings
by opening his
mouth a man
sings by opening
his lungs by
turning himself into air
a flute can
be made of a man
nothing is explained
a flute lays
on its side
and prays a wind
might enter it
and make of it
at least
a small final song

Ross Gay’s collection opens gently, though quickly and persuasively, with the assistance of poems like this one—“Ode to the Flute”—where we are immediately challenged with questions of perception and even agency—what an object or person can do, or has the omniscient right to do. This question of agency, in connection with loss and grieving, and nature, recurs again and again across this collection, whether we are talking about a man “turning himself into air” or a flute being “made of a man” or of spreading bits of a father’s ashes so as to place him everywhere—who has the right to do these things, but more importantly, what actually happens when we do these things? But ultimately, that becomes an inane question; the true question, the one that plagued me and accelerated me through this collection (in celebration, I might add) was the question of what the narrator thought or believed happened when he did something… and to me, the answer goes back to that darn painted pipe having the ability to be the pipe itself. The man can turn into air, the flute can be of the man as easily as Eve, the pipe is a pipe, and when we spread a loved one’s ashes over all the lands they used to love, they’ll stick, and their new form of consciousness will remember those places as if they had just visited them again. Grief can be a celebration, and grief can be a doorway into a higher realm of believing.

And ultimately, I think what makes this collection work so well, and why it’s able to immerse me so well in these ideas, is just how beautiful beautiful beautiful Ross Gay’s poems are. I know I’m writing a review, and I’m here to say something more, but sometimes you just have to proclaim how wonderful a writer’s work is, and Ross Gay’s collection demands that of me: these are wonderful, determined poems. With the use of such short lines, encapsulating these long, thin poems in so much white space, we are accelerated straight through to the meat and bones of these poems, straight to the heart of them, and the endings of these poems always amaze, delight, and harm (in the best way). These poems are powerful, and they read new every time (which is the greatest compliment I can give—that a collection can keep on surprising me at every turn, every time). Much like nature, much like grief, these poems live in a place of urgency and remembrance and even joy and celebration and praise for nature. Even when we think of the idea of “giving and taking away,” these poems find a way to praise that and find beauty in that return. They are strong, witted, and beautiful. I’ll probably be sharing more of these poems with you tomorrow, but in the meantime, start reading. You’ll understand.
 
 

ROSS GAY is the author of three books: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, which was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry and is nominated for an NAACP Image Award. He is also the co-author, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, of the chapbook Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens, in addition to being co-author, with Richard Wehrenberg, Jr., of the chapbook, River. He is a founding editor, with Karissa Chen and Patrick Rosal, of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin’, in addition to being an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press. Ross is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Ross teaches at Indiana University.

 

 

Poem of the Day: Chad Forbregd

 

CAPGUN

 

Imagine a boy holding a capgun.
Now, instead of a boy,

imagine a man holding a portrait
of a boy with a capgun.

There’s an orange tip painted
on the end of his assault rifle.

It’s okay, it just looks fake,
it’s actually quite real.

Later the boy will grow up, get married,
go off to work.

Some men get jobs to find love.
Some men get jobs to deprive themselves sex.

After a while, some men say not having sex
counts as having sex.

Sometimes after not having sex
the boy would take off his wedding ring and hide

it in his work boot or just go home
and microwave a burrito.

Now, imagine the boy alone.
Lonely like a trashcan in a trashless desert.

Lonely like the loneliness of other lonely people.
Lonely like the speed of light.

 

Managing Editor for 42 Miles Press