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Kristina Marie Darling
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Brenna Womer is a prose writer and poet in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and an MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University, where she teaches creative writing, literature, and composition as well as serves as an associate editor of Passages North. Her work has appeared in The Normal School, Indiana Review, DIAGRAM, Pleiades, and elsewhere, and she is the author of honeypot (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019) and Atypical Cells of Undetermined Significance (C&R Press, 2018). ___________________________________________________ Artist’s Statement I think utilizing the craft of textual difficulty, in its limitless forms, is essential for contemporary poets and prose writers. Obviously, stream-of-consciousness has been a part of the mainstream for some time now and paved the way for writers like myself who intend for the aesthetics of some pieces to weigh as heavily as the text itself. In my piece “Hypochondria, or The Disease,” I rely on the difficulty of the formatting to evoke a sense of anxiety in the reader as they decipher some of my personal experiences with debilitating mental illness; the reader has to work a bit harder for the narrative. I’ve been told the piece is frustrating and exhausting, which isn’t language typically attributed to successful work, but in the case of this particular piece as well as some of my other creative nonfiction and poetry, it’s exactly the point. I like to think of it as an exercise in empathy. ____________________________________________________ A Folio of New Writing by Brenna Womer company put on a show for me he asks while I ride on top and wonder what it is he thinks I’m doing now does he think I mash my own breasts and pinch nipples hard and red and raw at home alone with my dogs watching he asks tell me what you really want tell me where you want it but I want to go back to the couch and eat my cold bagel but I know he has to come before I get my everything toasted with plain cream cheese ______________________________________ tenure I trade my body for good company or company more often than not but professor doesn’t see me in the hallway copy room elevator parking lot doesn’t see me if my tit’s not in his mouth when his red stag isn’t dribble down my chin and sticky to the leather of his couch like my grandparents’ couch the family I don’t call family because they only love me during second service vacation bible school bless this food and the women who prepared it a family by any other name is a sexual history an untethered novelty so I ask him about his parents but of course they’re dead of course because professor is so many years of being a white man in this world in this grad-student pussy is sixty-five years of asking let’s go to the bedroom and I am forty fewer of okay ___________________________________ slow burn my age always closer to the scotch in his glass we slow-dance next to the pool table he asks... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Born and raised in the Bronx, poet Laurie Sheck was educated at the University of Iowa. She has published several collections of poetry, including Captivity (2007); The Willow Grove (1996), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Amaranth (1981). Her poems often use myths as frames within which to explore ideas of motion and stillness, consciousness and the body. In a 2002 interview, speaking to the attentiveness, rather than narrative, that drives her work, Sheck noted, “if you create a world on the page in which things that seem not to hold together can interact with each other, they can hold, and part of what’s holding, part of what’s interesting, is the way that things don’t directly hook up.” Her 500-page hybrid novel, A Monster’s Notes (2009), uses prose fragments and deletions, letters, and embedded texts to reimagine the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. “As Sheck demonstrates, the lyric essay is a kind of Frankenstein's monster, equipped with parts sliced out of others, stitched up with genius and white space,” observes novelist and editor Ed Park in a review for the Los Angeles Times. Sheck’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the New Jersey State Council for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her poems have won several Pushcart Prizes and have been included in Best American Poetry. Sheck edited the anthology Poem a Day, Volume 2 (2003). Sheck has taught at Princeton University and the New School. She lives in New York City. _________________________________________ On Textual Difficulty Toward the end of Dostoevsky’s great novel, The Idiot, there is a scene of astonishing and transgressive beauty—the frightened, epileptic Prince Myshkin holds the murderer Rogozhin in his arms, stroking and comforting him, as they pass the night only a few feet from the bed where Rogozhin has left Nastasya’s dead body. Myshkin is horrified by Rogozhin, so much so that after that night he will never speak again. But he understands in the deepest parts of his being that if he turns from Rogozhin he is turning from everything human, suffering, radiant, ambiguous, complex. What is termed “textual difficulty” seems to me nothing less than the attempt to be faithful to the ambiguities, extremities, and textures of experience and of language itself. What Dostoevsky knew: nothing is more radical, more strange, than reality. Facts are astonishments. The mind seeks to briefly capture and wonder at, interrogate, what it senses. Angles into the real. A fragility of holding. Unsettled. Volatile. Unstable. “The artist knows there is nothing stable under heaven.” (James Baldwin). I am moved by the unstable text. The precarious, the marginal, the de-centered, is also strong. ___________________________________________ An Introductory Note The hybrid works I have been writing over the past decade involve interactions with one or two source texts and a large body of factual material. A Monster’s Notes involves itself with Frankenstein, the Shelleys, The Dream of the Red Chamber, and facts from a wide... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Elizabeth Powell is the author of The Republic of Self, a New Issue First Book Prize winner, selected by C.K. Williams. Her second book of poems, Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter: Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances was a 2016 New Yorker Books We Love, a Small Press Best Seller, and won the 2015 Anhinga Robert Dana Prize, selected by Maureen Seaton. Her novel Concerning the Holy Ghost’s Interpretation of JCrew Catalogues, will be released in Spring 2019. Her work has appeared in the Pushcart Prize Anthology 2013, Ecotone, The Colorado Review, The Cortland Review, Harvard Review, Indiana Review, Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Sugarhouse Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She is Editor of Green Mountains Review, and Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Johnson State College. She also serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. A Process Note All poetry is physics, is a theology of being and thingyness, is transformative narrative. I am attracted to hybrid form as a way to push the imagination into new ways of thinking and seeing. The imagination is what helps to express what is difficult or unseen and begin to understand how its creative stance can revolt against status quo of American consumerism. There is a strong link between social justice and experimental prose and the hybrid lyric essay/poem because the power of the imaginative/spiritual/dream propulsion of writing is beginning to move us away from the old ways of seeing that no longer serve. The creative force is that which has the power to free. My lyric hybrid novel, “Concerning the Holy Ghost’s Interpretation of JCrew Catalogues” explores how that redemptive idea interfaces with and investigates the consumerism and desire so rampant in American culture. I employ a pastiche of forms from disparate places such as a JCrew catalogue to the Book of Common Prayer. The book looks, in part, at the intersections of conservative evangelical misogyny, the new cult of domesticity (that is fashioned, in part, out of the idea of retro), and the social drive of the American advertisement and consumer system of belief. My book thinks about creative force as prophecy, as the muse of history, as spiritual guide, as metaphor, as structural device, and, ultimately, as resistance. __________________________________________________ A Folio of New Writing by Elizabeth Powell AUTOCORRECTING THE LYRIC I I keep autocorrecting myself. I don’t want to autocorrect myself. I autocorrect when I don’t want to autocorrect. It disturbs the fusion of my interior monologue. I cannot keep up with how fast things are changing. If I use autocorrect I am more suitable for you to see. I am dressed. I am not as naked as my fast typing might insist. Autocorrection is a kind of conspiracy theory of reality based on the probability of words and un-nimble fingers. Thought is more easily rendered when you autocorrect, so it is said. But I know I am made from a God that makes homemade bread in the desert, even if He doesn’t have... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Veronica Golos is the author of three poetry books, Rootwork: Lost Writings of John Brown and Mary Day Brown (3: A Taos Press), Vocabulary of Silence (Red Hen Press, 2011), winner of the 2011 New Mexico Book Award, poems from which are translated into Arabic by poet Nizar Sartawi, and A Bell Buried Deep (Storyline Press, 2004), co-winner of the 16th Annual Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize, nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Edward Hirsch, and adapted for stage and performed at Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA. Golos has lectured at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, Hunter College, Julliard School of Music, Regis University, University of New Mexico, Dine Technical College, Kansas State University, and Colorado State University; she is co-editor of the Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art, former Poetry Editor for the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and core faculty at Tupelo Press's Writers Conferences. She lives in Taos, New Mexico with her husband, David Pérez. ____________________________________ Artist Statement What is "difficulty" in a poem? And to whom is it difficult? And why? The debates over what is Feminist poetry for example, underscore a question: Is there a feminine voice? And if so, is it one relegated only to the female? IN my own work, I have the female voice, that is, poems clearly in the voice of a women, to be one that may be, I hope, perceived as universal, as well as particular. I model this thinking based on comments made by Toni Morrison. In my newest collection, GIRL, I find that both the text, content, and texture of the poems create in many readers a disturbance. That creates both link and space between the poet and the reader. It creates movement. Ultimately, what we mean to do, I think, is the "break the ice" that surrounds the reader, and, the poet. ____________________________________ Poem because her mother inscribes an open=eyed Braille with her slap slap slap the girl never cries refusing her secret to her chest like the Spartan boy and his fox inside her in the hold of her mute never the blue-black of the slap face arms her back invisible that ink ^^^ sometimes in the summer she heard singing dense music peeling from the bark of trees who sang? wind like weeping. whose? a wild sound roiling into the lovely ears of the girl: "live, yes, live." ^^^ The dark god has stuffed my mouth with silk -- Vikas Menon ^^^ now step into the room of the massive bed white flung and twisted sheets and the mother's tangle of black hair and her necklace O terrible one the spiked halo of blue around her head a shimmer a trace of voices drugged an envelope of black/white/black/white iwanttodieiwanttodieiwanttodie small crickets in a jar, a bow string snapping against wind the scar unraveling itself... ^^^ If you, Girl, do not rise out of yourself this room you will swallow such hunger you have never known because the law of blessings is also the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Karla Kelsey is the author of four books: Knowledge Forms the Aviary; Iteration Nets; A Conjoined Book; and Of Sphere. With Aaron McCollough she edits Split-Level Texts and with Poupeh Missaghi she edits Matters of Feminist Practice. Her website is www.karlakelsey.com. ______________________________________ Difficulty: A Spillage To honor being’s complexity requires, of necessity, a fray along the edges of the known, a jostling of the lens of representation, a discharge of difficulty. Difficulty: resistance, a refusal to compress or cauterize excess according to received form. Or according to received relation, knowledge, sensation, thought, utterance. Because in what overflows the easily recognizable body, object of thought or material we find vivacity, living tissue, incandescence powering syllable, word, sentence, line, text. And thus to reinvent what has been given, to make and be made new, to bathe in the thrill of what transpires beyond ease. _______________________________________ A Folio of Poems by Karla Kelsey THRALL Enthralled to the buzz of neon we yield to instruction we stare at the gallery’s sole object a red square of light projected on the wall source invisible. We yield, I yield inhaling 1-2-3-4-5 exhaling 1-2-3-4- 5 mind sky-blank and you, you stand beside me a solid object, steadfast in Yves Klein Blue. If you yield I do not know because surrender is individual is sole my body, my I, my mind, my me abandoned to mystic red, scarlet red, coquelicot red and I cock-lee-co I red-corn-rose I wild-poppy-poppy, do you pulse with this, you, next to me, you blue, you International Klein Blue? The square pulses me poppy source invisible, with the same questionable status of objects revealed many years ago by a boardwalk psychic off-season air crystalizing just before snow. Holding up the nine of swords she had said this is you as you believe yourself to be, facedown and pierced by these swords. But notice the flat sea, the rising sun and so pull will you pull-pull who will pull-pull tucking a greasy strand of hair under a purple turban, yes, she wore a purple satin turban those swords from your back? Whetted blades hilts of hammered gold the psychic said cigarette, sweatshirt with rhinestone-studded cat my time us nearly up they need to come out. The cat’s emerald eyes flash in candle light. Petals crumple in the bud then bloom, showy before flattening and radiate out a perfect red disk before falling away. ____________________________________________ The swords had needed, I need, needed need mystic scarlet coquelicot red corn roses coursing through my body seeding, blooming, tissue-heads shuddering in wind. I need because under fabrics and plastics we are exposed, vulnerable to impression and it is exhausting this pretense otherwise, exhausting to wake early, make coffee, shower, dress advance into the day with formal hello and yesyes as if the moment wasn’t all around us vibrating green and shimmering and spitting gravel like sparks, like stars. As if we didn’t ourselves vibrate star spark. And after noon the vibration becomes inner violin, tremolo up to a high... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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VI KHI NAO is the author of Sheep Machine (Black Sun Lit, 2018) and Umbilical Hospital (Press 1913, 2017), and of the short stories collection, A Brief Alphabet of Torture, which won FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize in 2016, the novel, Fish in Exile (Coffee House Press, 2016), and the poetry collection, The Old Philosopher, which won the Nightboat Books Prize for Poetry in 2014. Her work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. Her stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in NOON, Ploughshares, Black Warrior Review and BOMB, among others. She holds an MFA in fiction from Brown University. ________________________________________ On Textual Difficulty Textual difficulty allows me to take wit to the next level of the linguistic playing field. Textual difficulty can also make one’s work more disruptive and when done right, more electrifying and sharp. I love and I try to condition the materiality of humanity’s mundane emotions so they align homosexually with my love affair with tenderness. Sometimes they express themselves non-linearly, awkwardly, and playfully on the page and I let them be so. They may look difficult, but they are not really. Humor is important to me. No one in the heteronormative culture wants amnesia, but amnesia exists when obvious connections appear to be absence, thus provoking humor. More known for my Sapphic writing, some of these poems here take a homosexual detour, provoking some comedic heterosexuality that resembles more loosely to a lemonade stand. This is where sometimes my writing stands: at the intersection between amnesia & wit. _______________________________________ A Folio of Poems by Vi Khi Nao G O O D M A R R I A G E S S H O U L D L I V E O N I C E Slender glacier teases the innocent husband To hand over his wife, the ice tray. The icy husband resists Of course, he resists The wife, divided and compartmentalized Sometimes the husband notices a pool by his side Love is confusing: indeed, when husband can't gather wife together On Sunday and on thirsty days Husband places three quarters of wife in a glass No one believes in singing with divided tears A choir is required, and then a drink to quench the thirst of voices Husband can't believe that wife Can hold a mosquito that long He can brush away her subconscious By draining her of her liquid free will Sometimes volition doesn't belong to husband entirely Sometimes wife can be thick, like jello Even solid objects can be unfaithful. _______________________________________________ T R A N S C R I P T S A F T E R E M P T I N E S S : O N I N C U B A T I O N A N D R A P T U R E [i] This sparkle, after the great forfeiture, fathered vacuity. Her mounting nerves at a loss. After the fright, seizure in prolonged tenderness. Our desires—she clamps in her private closet for me. Below... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Allison Benis White is the author of Please Bury Me in This, winner of the Rilke Prize and a Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award, and Small Porcelain Head, selected by Claudia Rankine for the Levis Prize in Poetry. Her first book, Self-Portrait with Crayon, received the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, 2017 Pushcart Prize XLI: Best of the Small Presses, and elsewhere. Her next book, The Wendys, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2020. She teaches at the University of California, Riverside. _____________________________________ On the Aesthetics of Textual Difficulty In her introduction to her novel Sula, Toni Morrison writes, “Outlaw women are fascinating—not always for their behavior, but because historically women are seen as naturally disruptive and their status is an illegal one from birth if it is not under the rule of men.” To be an “outlaw woman” on the page, to create a disruptive, ungovernable, or unclassifiable text, is vital to my poetics, as it serves to ensure an intellectual and aesthetic freedom outside the binary, the linear, the traditional. “The duty of the writer,” Solmaz Sharif writes, “is to remind us that we die. And that we aren’t dead yet.” This is a tall order, which often requires a new kind of language, syntax, form, and/or approach. The outlaw or difficult text asks the reader to give themselves briefly to an unfamiliar world, to a particular mouth and mind, to another human being who will die but is not dead yet. ______________________________________ A Folio of Poems by Allison Benis White DARLING Come back, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy. —J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan ________________________________________ “And Wendy fluttered to the ground with an arrow in her breast.” Maybe this is the dream of the dead bathed in milk— so many red feathers in my mind. I remember being alive as a child—on a towel in the grass, from a white plastic kettle, I poured air into a cup, two cups. What else still but to imagine heat, sugar, death. We drank nothing and it was good. ___________________________________________ “‘A lady to take care of us at last,’ said one of the twins, ‘and you have killed her.’” Smoothing the brain, holding a knife to build another mother. Like a house in the trees, I wanted to believe in God to be safe and have somewhere to go. We are all the same and inconsolable, legs twitching during the nightmare. Please wake me up, press one finger between my eyes like a doorbell. __________________________________________ “Perhaps she is frightened at being dead.” Perhaps the cry, the electricity before the mouth goes black, glossy, and hollow. Perhaps all singing aspires to silence (I have nothing left to say), to burn down the house where the song began. Perhaps the sizzle in the teeth, the string of smoke rising from the lips, a hiss of opera, the last note (glittering) sung but still in the air, half-charred, half-disappearing.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Julia Story​ is the author of ​Post Moxie​ (Sarabande Books), the chapbook ​The Trapdoor​ (dancing girl press), and the chapbook ​Julie the Astonishing​ (forthcoming in March 2019 from Sixth Finch Books). She is a 2016 recipient of a Pushcart Prize and her recent work can be read in ​Sixth Finch, Tinderbox​, and ​Tupelo Quarterly​. She is a Midwesterner who now resides in Massachusetts. ________________________________________ A Brief Statement about Textual Difficulty The poems I am working on now are based on the life of Christina the Astonishing, the 12th-century saint who came back to life at her own funeral and then spent the rest of her days living in trees and towers, as she had rejected heaven and had chosen instead to return to earth for a life of suffering. As I write these poems, some of which are her (the “her” is a character called Julie rather than Christina) letters to Jesus about her chosen life on earth, I find them getting smaller and smaller--the poems themselves are small, but the images too diminish as Julie spends her life erasing herself, or as already erased. Living on the edges of things and people, her experiences (and even her prayers) can be best documented in fragments. _________________________________________ A Folio of Poems by Julia Story Poems from ​Julie the Astonishing How She Would Return from the Dead. The body brought out like empty wood, silent as a dark whale in dark water. The body a citadel in trees: getting there was land-swimming, pushing aside loneliness, a white man in rubber boots and all his little dogs, the sun flashing in and out like god’s face upon the water before the invention of cardboard and radio transmissions. And then the second before she knew she was going to give it all up— everything, all of it, until she was walking down the road in the dark with lungs full of the scattered, old-fashioned promises of beginning again—the house of her body would light up, the feet marching as they had been instructed to do. ________________________________ My fugue state, but brittle. Pieces of me broke off, each one a little you. That night we washed our socks together in the hotel sink then watched an old Murder She Wrote.​ A blank face as white as breaths on the screen. I wept because I knew it was my face. Then together we went into the painting of the ocean. _______________________________ We approach the defunct nudist colony. Worn chorus of evening doves, no naked folks. Every moment an ossuary. I’m a body. You are dead like the invisible nudes. But you walk with me. The moon mothered in clouds. ______________________________ As you know, I am no one’s bride. And yet I belong to you and you are like me, a suit of armor made of mercury. The creatures lilt and gambol when they sense our hovering. I am a wraparound porch bound to my own heart and you an afternoon filled with street corners. _________________________________ The... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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A Guggenheim fellow, Terese Svoboda is most recently the author of Professor Harriman's Steam Air-Ship, her seventh book of poetry, and Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet. She has also published six novels, a memoir, and a book of translations from Nuer, a South Sudanese language. Great American Desert, a book of stories, is forthcoming March 2019. _________________________________ A Process Note I don't see my poetry as difficult, I see it as playful. The mind wants to play. It wants, in its aesthetic experience, to return to a work of art and retrieve something more from it at every contact. Otherwise it will discard that glittering toy, bored. I'm currently playing with plays, getting on and off the stage of poetry. I'm also interested in technical language, and its poetics. Everything has already been written – or else nothing has been written, each moment its own possible play of sound and sense. _________________________________ On the Aesthetics of Textual Difficulty Poetry that requires interpretation is perhaps a show of dominance: you have to know so much in order to appreciate my work, e.g., Eliot and Pound. Enter Hope Mirrlees, her long poem “Paris” published by Virginia Woolf four years before “The Wasteland,” critiqued by TLS as “spluttering and incoherent statement displayed with various tricks of type...It is certainly not a “Poem.” Verlaine’s bed-time…Alchemy Absynthe, Algerian tobacco, Talk, talk, talk, Manuring the white violets of the moon. Here was a woman who knew six languages by the time she was twenty, including Zulu, friend of Stein, Woolf, Bertrand Russell, and of course Eliot, and she lived with a classics scholar. She was not lacking in cultural references. More contemporary evidence of different political and aesthetic pressures that have affected what is considered acceptable as experiment is the erasure of radical poetry of the 20s and 30s, with the conservative 50's and 60's emphasis on sunsets and in formal structure. _________________________________________ A Folio of Poems by Terese Svoboda Out of Ringing Ears Renegade automated car says it can get us back [automated voice: get us back] Where? Slip of paper crushed still warm thigh-curved from its sleep-upon says Called Forth ring ring no sympathy the better the sooner get back Whose renegade scalp do you see taken in a world of get back? The tonic someone (No, we have not met) the invisible people on stage clothes on hangers the gin [the automated voice: get back] well-dressed vs. ill-dressed she said and Not this time beat time [schottische] slow polka to you and over the table, the bedspread under which a house hides the chair-rung entrance and the costume I wore her clothes all my life even now her blouse curses me from the closet Pretend! Limp possum at the vet's The chorus needs feeding The chorus has broken the toilet The chorus on its hind legs The chorus, its back to Greece Water deliciously advances voices over it [stage mis-direction] under it A canon signals The End... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Traci Brimhall is the author of three collections of poetry: Saudade (Copper Canyon Press), Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton), and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press). Her next collection, a hybrid of essays and poems, Come the Slumberless from the Land of Nod is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in 2020. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Slate, The Believer, The New Republic, Orion, and Best American Poetry 2013 & 2014. She’s received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Kansas State University. A Process Note The selection below is from my most recent collection, Saudade (Copper Canyon, 2017). They are verse plays spoken by a chorus of ageless girls and appear spread out in the book across multiple personas. They’re supposed to function sort of like a Greek chorus and some of them were once written as poems in a single voice but got broken into this community voice. I’m interested in the ways oral storytelling are narratives that can be reshaped or lost and how poetry is often so focused on the singular “I”. My books so often engage the mythic, and myths seem to me to be collaboratively composed as allegories for the social and cultural moment. Formally, I think it’s difficult only in that it is unexpected. And because it is formally odd, I try and make its content a bit more clear at times. Although I want to challenge a reader at times, I also want to be generous with them. I love them, though it’s fair to say my love isn’t always easy. The form also allows me a different form of maximalism. In workshops, rejections, and reviews of my books I’ve been criticized for being, essentially, too much. I know I’m a poet (and person) of excess. The verse play lets me take up lots of visual space and extend the line beyond even the lengths I usually allow myself. I think female poets have traditionally been celebrated for being concise and controlled, and I feel downright naughty for trying to spread across both margins. _________________________________________________ In Which the Chorus Describes Cafuné on the Eve of the Passion Maria Helena: The night in costumes, in church bells, in pews sucking on free salted caramels. Maria Thereza: In the general’s breath before he pinches the child's jaw open and spits in her mouth. Maria Helena: We did nothing to stop it. Why would we? We only witness, record, recite. Maria Thereza: Besides, no one else tried to stop history from making itself on stage. Everyone fantasized a different present. Maria de Lourdes: In the pews, the unrepentant traced their hands onto hymnal pages. Behind the curtain, the toothless, the leprous, burying themselves in scherzo and nude boas. Maria Thereza: Jesus makes it to stage but forgets his lines, the new Passion simmers in the journalist, the priest, the poet watching the dictator's parade from an unlit room, composing meager epics... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Adeeba Shahid Talukder is a Pakistani American poet, singer, and translator of Urdu and Persian poetry. She is the author of What Is Not Beautiful (Glass Poetry Press, 2018) and her book Shahr-e-jaanaan: The City of the Beloved, forthcoming through Tupelo Press, is a winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize. Adeeba holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and is a Poets House 2017 Emerging Poets Fellow. Artist’s Statement As a Pakistani-American and neurodiverse poet, I am, at different times, both included in and excluded from my understanding of Self. My own thoughts elude me, though I have spent many years scrutinizing and pulling at their threads. My work resides in the Urdu poetic tradition but in the English language. My poems are still trying to understand themselves. So naturally, I have received criticism for my poems’ lack of “access.” It is the curse of being “other”— a rejection by those who hold power, but also their impatient curiosity. To understand the perversity of many readers’ obsession with access, consider predominant Western attitudes towards Eastern countries, then consider, for instance, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, who painted his imaginings of undressed Muslim women in The Turkish Bath (1862). From this dimension, the idea of access is vaguely colonialist and orientalist, where reading a poem becomes an act of conquest, and the intent goes from honest engagement to intellectual domination. When the reader begins to feel themselves deficient in this regard, it becomes a “sour grapes” situation, where the inaccessibility of a poem proves it lesser. What if we were to interrogate our motives behind reading poetry? To quell the desire for control and humble ourselves before each poem? What if we were to restrain ourselves from “[tying] a poem to a chair with rope/ and [torturing] a confession out of it”? Subh-e-firaaq: Morning of Separation You’re a saint, the mountain carver told the lonely Shireen. More even than stone. He carved for her, almost a stream of milk. Then threw himself off. Fell, his limbs with the leaves he clutched. _______________________________________ Exotica: Three Poems Ambrosia He is a glass cup in her hands; she pours wine, honey, and lime- light. A thing of beauty; Conquest he steals a glance or two, begins to stare— she is the shape of a woman. His eyes are steel. She blushes. He moves closer, demands her secrets. Domination A cure for lust. _________________________________________ On Beauty When I was 19, I trembled to meet men’s eyes. Scarf, burqa, black eyeliner. I was more than Muslim, more than beautiful, more than sexual. They wanted to know what they could not see. ~ ~ The cruel beloved of Urdu poetry slays her lovers with glances, leaves them to languish, rubbing their foreheads in her doorstep’s dust. In this intricacy is power: I cannot lift a suitcase, which means I will never have to. ~ ~ James once wrote me poems as Majnoon, as the nightingale, as the prey. I was engaged. Together, we witnessed the snow... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Jennifer Minniti- Shippey is the Managing Editor of Poetry International literary magazine, Director of Poetic Youth programs, and a lecturer at San Diego State University. Her most recent collection of poetry, After the Tour, is available now from Calypso Editions, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Salamander, Spillway Journal, Cider Press Review, and others. Visit jennyminnitishippey.com for more. A Process Note I’m interested in private vocabularies, private languages at work in lyric poems. There is, in the particularity of image, an assertion of individuality: only this speaker could have made the images of this poem; what emotions you draw from the arrangement of images are yours. I’m also fascinated by how pursuing a sound through a poem can add energy, mystery. When a sequence of sounds “makes sense” to me, I’m generally inclined to leave it, even if it creates unlikely connections between images or narrative points. I haven’t thought of this as “difficulty” before, but I can see the ways it asks the reader to be involved in the meaning-making of a poem. I see also how important it is to me to use my own, particular, private language in the writing of these pieces. * Last Days of June A whole sun-skinned nation later and I am on my knees in the trolley, the trolley south bound, everything dark and rattling— June in this country comes jacarandad and sky-bruised—and me wailing hallelujah quite silently, good-bye brave ponies grazing in the green wind, good- bye thin socks abandoned to the soft mercies of rain, good-bye plastic peonies on the high heels of happiness. I am trying, just try ing to love this again, my life. * Questions for Adam What is love to you: the walls, beyond the walls, the garden, beyond the garden, the alley— what of the words you made, that avocado pitted, that dog wriggling on the carpet, that poetic form, shorelines unmourned, in what bright east heaving ocean you buried your feet— wanderer, o wanderer, you ribless, you gutted, you black-haired belovéd first, what of ash stockpiled in the sideroom, what of our mother dust, our Juliet balcony, our aloe vera, bright green walls and our red bookcase— what is love to your black-penned vision made in the shape of a god, or some kind of cloud, cumulous or nimbus, what is love to your silence, click-clack the machines of your dreams, uncut nails of the Airedale terriers, string of patio lights hung by your here-now generosity, what of the garden? What of what is beyond— * Third Tour there’s waiting, then wait and how dare you take so long to get here, air blasted past dust and dusty blinds, detonation of overripe, out-seasoned vine-grown tomatoes, so come through, blown open: I’ll make tea, pay half the bills, we’ll census dead birds and marvel at their eyes still, still unblinking into us * Sig Sauer she put a gun in my hand why else would I hold it? I wanted her the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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This week, as Guest Author, I will be spotlighting innovative work by women poets in the form of new writing and review-essays. Today I'm delighted to share a new poem by Karyna McGlynn. Karyna McGlynn is the author of Hothouse (Sarabande Books 2017), I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl (Sarabande Books 2009), and several chapbooks including The 9-Day Queen Gets Lost on Her Way to the Execution (Willow Springs Editions 2016). Her poems have recently appeared in The Kenyon Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Witness, Georgia Review, New England Review, and The Academy of American Poet’s Poem-A-Day. Karyna is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Christian Brothers University in Memphis. She’s an avid collagist and is currently working on a new book, 50 Things Kate Bush Taught Me About the Multiverse. Happy summer, and enjoy! A New Poem by Karyna McGlynn HOW TO TALK THE MANIC AWAY I used to be so mad—I had daggers coming out of my puffed sleeves. I decorated Easter baskets with the plastic daisies of my Fury & mounted them on Playtex-pink three-speeds. Every bike I ever owned suffered a spectacular death: hit by a grey Grand Am, tossed like a stone into the quarry, snatched through a broken window, found mangled in a ditch. I shook my swampy sobs out of their frames & ironed my playbills for breakfast. I mounted my miscues on the walls of a rocket. I covered my mistakes in neon & called it Art. I charged people to listen to me scream. I moved to the desert because I'm supposed to be capricious like that. Some people said my hubris would be better in the mouth of a dinosaur, or as the silhouette of a disgraced news anchor. In a West Texas bar, some girl asked if I'd seen the Marfa Lights. I stood up whiskily on my stool & said, “Bitch, I AM the Marfa Lights!” I used to collect lace collars & white gloves made for the Nervous & the Consumptive. I stalked old ladies’ estate sales. Some of still had boxes of seamed stockings wrapped in tissue paper & lavender water & bakelite hair combs. None of this stuff ever fit or endeared me to others. Imagine going through life with white cotton seams around your fingers. Imagine the Whole World saying, “Don't Touch.” Still, in several nightdresses I clambered over a field of sods. There was a desk in the distance with one light in its Top Drawer. The night was open to me. I took out my loudest shears & cut a hole in the landscape to make a space for the Silence I was immediately accused of violating. My afterlife was a trial of ill- fitting hats, spilled sugar & Little Girls who loved their pet bunnies too much. So much, they squeezed their lights out, nestled their bodies in the doll carriage. What shall I paint for the mourners: an old schooner marooned in a field of clover?... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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This week, as Guest Author, I will be spotlighting innovative work by women poets in the form of new writing and review-essays. Today I'm delighted to share a folio of poems by Dora Malech. Dora Malech is the author of three books of poetry: Shore Ordered Ocean, published by The Waywiser Press in 2009; Say So, published by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center in 2011; and, most recently, Stet, selected by Susan Stewart for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets and forthcoming from Princeton University Press in September 2018. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Poetry, The Best American Poetry, Poetry London, Tin House, Lana Turner, The New England Review, and The Kenyon Review. She is the recipient of awards that include an Amy Clampitt Residency Award from the Amy Clampitt Foundation, a Writer’s Fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she is an assistant professor in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. Happy summer, and enjoy! A Folio of Poems by Dora Malech Essay as yes, begged off bad beginnings, false starts of a star-sat self, her benched head cartoon bird spun, stunned out a long season. I came to claim I wouldn’t burden you with the trailed-off scrap heap of all the times I tried to explain (plain) already, but even without evidence of wadded paper, snowdrift of not that, it is those attempts that act as apologia, sense in absence, itinerant iterations’ cairns at the crossroads, hobo code in chalk or coal, worlds not long for these words. In other words: in other words, diary’s everyday no entry, inverse relationship between clarity and efficacy. I needed forms that could flail, fail, lists listing back toward their not-so-fresh catalysts, sepsis of afterbirth still lodged in the body, that which once nurtured lingering malignant.The I, just talk: just like that. Same went for the you(s): free on what messy out. I didn’t want to spill it—it meaning guts, etcetera, but mostly guts—because they weren’t all mine to spill, those two tin cans strung from the ends of viscera, the what-we-listen-to and where-we-feel-it, so to speak. In my belly, twisted sum [sic] sine in test. It’s an old story, sure, and came in waves. I left my name at the front desk. I waved. I left. Abbreviation: sin. The take lodged in to speak that leaves us P.S., postscript as remaindered O, sighed apostrophe to what we turn away (from). Even some years later, when the nurse explained the blood test, I felt the familiar flush as something else made sense. Material released: information that circulates in the bloodstream. To point to the center and say there wasn’t quite right after all. There were bits of the story flowing through me. In fact, the old imperative, echo of act in the sense of what’s done. Is done. What is, in a manner of speaking, riveted to the text?... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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This week, as Guest Author, I will be spotlighting innovative work by women poets in the form of new writing and review-essays. Today I'm delighted to share a poem by Lisa Olstein. Lisa Olstein is the author of four poetry collections, most recently, LATE EMPIRE (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). PAIN STUDIES, a book of lyric nonfiction, is forthcoming in 2020. Recipient of a Hayden Carruth Award, Pushcart Prize, Lannan Writing Residency, and Sustainable Arts Foundation Promise Award, she is a member of the poetry faculty for the University of Texas at Austin’s New Writers Project and Michener Center for Writers. Happy summer, and enjoy! A New Poem by Lisa Olstein SOFT TARGET I’d rather not walk through a lightning storm to see you, but that’s just the weather. Last night something struck out so suddenly from deep inside me, arriving it seemed to flee: a new feeling, a sudden realization, ancient knowledge forged in the chemical present. I meant to say soul, soul is where from, once forged, it fled, bringing its news of another place but it felt silly to say so. Anyway, a little death as coyly in literature they say was in play and outside the darkened room, too, explosions, but not the good kind. You see what I did there? By morning, I’d thought it would’ve died down but it hasn’t: angry alto monks, darkest echoes. I’m wearing my best boots for the occasion. Maybe it’s useless to carry this umbrella, maybe worse. Turbulence becomes you, becomes me, erases the difference, the distance by which we measure. I see I’ve played this all wrong, waiting, rushing, talking, still talking when silence is the only place we might meet. Continue reading
Posted Jul 10, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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This week, as Guest Author, I will be spotlighting innovative work by women poets in the form of new writing and review-essays. Today I'm delighted to share a folio of poems by Virginia Konchan. The author of a poetry collection, The End of Spectacle (Carnegie Mellon, 2018), a collection of short stories, Anatomical Gift (Noctuary Press, 2017), and two chapbooks, including That Tree is Mine (dancing girl press, 2018), Virginia Konchan's poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Boston Review, and elsewhere. Happy summer, and enjoy! A Folio of Poems by Virginia Konchan Spring Out of view, more galaxies. Out of time, more light. A naturalist or archeologist can decipher symptoms, messages engraved in the flesh of ordinary things. When the engine begins to purr again, the crowd applauds. Lord of tissue, lord of hieroglyphs and a puzzle full of theological quibbles, it’s prettiness that counts in china dolls. Lord of allegory, of hidden meanings, of radical fissures in the heart of rain, I have a skeleton underneath my skin, I am serious. I careen through the house like a killer. Lord knows I tried, like a dove, to mate for life. I failed. It was the trash, the detritus, I adored. No images but in things. No things but in images. There could have been so many versions of us, why this one? Love will creep where it cannot go, through the eyes of the dead horse that burns slower than my hair. It’s spring—meta chirp, meta chirp, goes the bird, philosopher’s stone. It is a conduit between what was, will be. It is, like everyone, alone. _________ Guiding Light I wasted my life on language and other soft constructions, held the clammy hand of death as if death was the snot-nosed kid last to be picked for any team where skill actually matters. I could be a bride, and was, was bridled, harnessed, and groomed. Now I live in, and by, a burning timetable, abetting the landfill crisis by buying ream after ream of paper. The bright white paper. The laser paper. The paper whose opacity rivals that of God. I indicate I would like the dessert menu by pointing to it with my bony finger. When it comes, I order a financier. As The World Turns, I remain still, Mona Lisa’s resting bitch face blunted only by my silky curtain of hair. Throw it all in the cauldron, I don’t care. People keep mistaking me for a doll when in fact I am a cyborg, surrounded by The Young & Restless snorting coke and drinking corpse revivers in the General Hospital—downward, I mean backward, glance of Orpheus softening my every blow. My fantasy for this script is simple: I just want to edit out the boring parts, the parts where I forgot to scream. Guiding Light is my real life: the world around me is the dream. ______________________ Meridian I’ve been in this body so long. My ace in the hole body, my one... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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In anticipation of Tupelo Press’s forthcoming anthology project, Native Voices, I’m pleased to continue a series of posts honoring Indigenous poetry from North America. But first, I’d like to say a few words about this exciting and necessary anthology. Tupelo Press is eager to celebrate a more complete version of the story we tell—about ourselves, our past, and what is possible in language. In this book, the first of its kind, every poet will present new poems, as well as an original essay, and a selection of resonant work chosen from previous generations of Native artists. Our anthology is intended to embody the dynamic and ongoing conversations that take place in Indigenous poetry through writerly craft across generational, geographic, and stylistic divides. With that in mind, I'm thrilled to introduce one of our poets, Deborah Miranda. An enrolled member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation of California, poet Deborah Miranda was born in Los Angeles to an Esselen/Chumash father and a mother of French ancestry. She grew up in Washington State, earning a BS in teaching moderate special-needs children from Wheelock College in 1983 and an MA and PhD in English from the University of Washington. Miranda’s collections of poetry include Raised by Humans (2015); Indian Cartography: Poems (1999), winner of the Diane Decorah Memorial First Book Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas; and The Zen of La Llorona (2005), nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. Miranda also received the 2000 Writer of the Year Award for Poetry from the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Her mixed-genre collection Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (2013) won a Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher's Association and the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan Award. It is a delight to feature her poem, "Acorn." Enjoy! Acorn That sound inside you is a sacred sound: heartbeat of a seed, eager to emerge. That sound inside you is an urgent sound: life’s sharp, percussive pulse. That sound inside you is the future, rattling a polished brown shell shaped like a goddess, or a breast. You are what Jesus meant when he said the meek shall inherit the Earth. You are what Hillel had in mind when he said, this is the whole Torah. You are the secret that begs to be told, a treasure whispering find me. You are the fingerprint of the Creator left behind in soft red clay, hardening in sun. You are the sleek amulet snug in the palm of my hand; you are the ripe mother of nations. From your flesh comes invention of all words for holiness, sacred, celebration, awe. Palatsa, little rattle, you hold time in your belly – round and full and kicking its way into life. For more information about the anthology, our mission, and how you can help, please visit our Kickstarter page. Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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In anticipation of Tupelo Press’s forthcoming anthology project, Native Voices, I’m pleased to continue a series of posts honoring Indigenous poetry from North America. But first, I’d like to say a few words about this exciting and necessary anthology. Tupelo Press is eager to celebrate a more complete version of the story we tell—about ourselves, our past, and what is possible in language. In this book, the first of its kind, every poet will present new poems, as well as an original essay, and a selection of resonant work chosen from previous generations of Native artists. Our anthology is intended to embody the dynamic and ongoing conversations that take place in Indigenous poetry through writerly craft across generational, geographic, and stylistic divides. With that in mind, it is an honor and a delight to introduce one of our poets, Sammie Bordeaux-Seeger. Sammie Bordeaux-Seeger is a Sicangu Lakota from Rosebud, South Dakota. She writes and teaches at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation. Here is a poem forthcoming in the anthology, entitled "1900." Enjoy! 1900 Great grandma as a little girl holds the quilt in which she is buried. They had only had fabric for dresses and quilts a few years at that point, only ten years past the ‘Knee. Little girls knew then any wildness could be punished with bullets, the way we knew fear of spanking or The Big Owl, who would come and take us in our sleep to the top of the water tower, shove us off. Grandma warned us every night before bed, The Big Owl is going to come and take your bottles. And five year old me would come home from Headstart, make a double batch of chocolate milk for my little brother in the cheap plastic bottles. Screw on the tops, put ourselves down for a nap. In 1900 there was only the breast, the milk, the dead mother the child slipped next to for suckle. That sigh. For more information about the anthology, our mission, and how you can help, please visit our Kickstarter page. Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Dean Rader publishes widely in the fields of poetry, American Indian studies, and visual/popular culture. His debut collection of poems, Works & Days, won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize. His recent collection, Landscape Portrait Figure Form, (Omnidawn Chapbook Series 2014) was named by the Barnes & Noble Review as one of the Best Books of Poetry of the year. In 2016, he won the Common Good Books Prize (judged by Garrison Keillor) and in 2015 was the recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s George Bogin Memorial Award (judged by Stephen Burt). He has also written scholarly books, including Engaged Resistance: Contemporary American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI (University of Texas Press, 2011), which won the Beatrice Medicine Award for Excellence in American Indian Scholarship and Speak to Me Words: Essays on Contemporary American Indian Poetry(University of Arizona Press, 2001, edited with Janice Gould). He is a professor at the University of San Francisco. For more information, visit his website. An Indigenous daughter of the West, CMarie Fuhrman was born in Southwest Colorado and has lived in various rural towns of states all along the Rocky Mountains. She has earned degrees in Exercise Physiology, English and American Indian Studies and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Idaho where she co-teaches Native Literature and Ethnic Studies classes and is associate poetry editor for Fugue. Cindy’s poetry has been featured in Broadsided Press’s NoDapl compilation, two anthologies, and several literary journals including Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, and Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art. She is recipient of the Burns Award for poetry and multiple fellowships. Her current project, The Problem of My Body, focuses on the forced sterilization of Native women. CMarie divides her time between Moscow and McCall, Idaho. In anticipation of Tupelo Press's forthcoming Native Voices anthology, I'm pleased to introduce a conversation with our co-editors about what the book makes possible in the classroom. KMD: You are all both accomplished educators, with positions at such colleges as the University of San Francisco, University of Idaho, and many others. I’d love to hear more about your experiences teaching poetry. What’s missing from contemporary writing programs and the conversations that take place within them? DR: I think there are two answers to your question. One answer involves what gets taught to undergraduates in terms of Indigenous poetry. This includes classes to both English majors and--in some ways more importantly--to non-English majors. For example, at USF we have a very popular class called “Native American Literature and Film” which fulfills the university’s literature core requirement. It is designed for non-English majors and will be, for most students in the class, the only literature class they take in college. Increasingly, there are courses like this all over the country. And they are popular. Professors who teach these classes are often overworked and perhaps even under-prepared--especially for poetry. This anthology will help them teach contemporary Indigenous poetry in an inclusive way... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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In anticipation of Tupelo Press’s forthcoming anthology project, Native Voices, I’m pleased to continue a series of posts honoring Indigenous poetry from North America. But first, I’d like to say a few words about this exciting and necessary anthology. Tupelo Press is eager to celebrate a more complete version of the story we tell—about ourselves, our past, and what is possible in language. In this book, the first of its kind, every poet will present new poems, as well as an original essay, and a selection of resonant work chosen from previous generations of Native artists. Our anthology is intended to embody the dynamic and ongoing conversations that take place in Indigenous poetry through writerly craft across generational, geographic, and stylistic divides. It's an honor and a delight to introduce one of our contributors, Ernestine Hayes. Alaska Writer Laureate and University of Alaska Southeast Associate Professor Ernestine Hayes belongs to the Kaagwaantaan clan of the Tlingit nation. Her first book, Blonde Indian, an Alaska Native Memoir, received an American Book Award and an Honoring Alaska Indigenous Literature (HAIL) Award, was named Native America Calling Book of the Month, and was finalist for the Kiriyama Prize and PEN Nonfiction Award. Blonde Indian was the inaugural selection for Alaska Reads, a program launched by her predecessor, Writer Laureate Frank Soos. Her works have appeared in Studies in American Indian Literature, Yellow Medicine Review, Cambridge History of Western American Literature, and other forums. Her poem “The Spoken Forest” is installed at Totem Bight State Park, and her comments on Indigenous identity are installed in the Alaska State Museum. Her latest book, The Tao of Raven, weaves narratives and reflection in the context of “Raven and the Box of Daylight.” We're thrilled to feature her hybrid text, "Shapeshifters." Enjoy! Shapeshifters My grandmother told me that if I saw myself on the street, I should approach and embrace the familiar shape. Her exact instructions were “Saankalyek’t, walk up and hug yourself.” The beings we might see, she explained, can present themselves in the form of those who see them. I spent childhood summers at Hawk Inlet on the island whose name is Xootsnoowoo. I explored the forest and the beach while my grandmother and other Tlingit women worked in the cannery increasing the wealth of white man colonizers. On late evenings, shadows crept along the boardwalk between two rows of dark red cabins. Worn-down women unwrapped bandanas that had protected their hair from the raw smell of wealth sucked from the ocean, the smell of profit now headed into the pockets of white men through tins of salmon that should rather have been smoked and dried and baked and boiled on Tlingit fires. Grandmothers and aunties unpinned their now-uncovered waist-length graying hair and sat around kerosene lamps, gossiping and laughing and reminding little girls to stay inside. Beings could be heard just outside the walls. As soon as someone sensed their nameless movement, the beings began to whisper like willow branches, whimper like dogs that... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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In anticipation of Tupelo Press’s forthcoming anthology project, Native Voices, I’m pleased to continue a series of posts honoring Indigenous poetry from North America. But first, I’d like to say a few words about this exciting and necessary anthology. Tupelo Press is eager to celebrate a more complete version of the story we tell—about ourselves, our past, and what is possible in language. In this book, the first of its kind, every poet will present new poems, as well as an original essay, and a selection of resonant work chosen from previous generations of Native artists. Our anthology is intended to embody the dynamic and ongoing conversations that take place in Indigenous poetry through writerly craft across generational, geographic, and stylistic divides. I recently had a chance to interview one of our contributors, Ishmael Angaluuk Hope, about his poem, "Canoe Launching into the Gaslit Sea," featured in a previous Best American Poetry post, and forthcoming in the anthology. Ishmael Angaluuk Hope is a Tlingit and Inupiaq storyteller, poet and scholar who lives in Juneau, Alaska. Notable projects includes serving as the lead writer for Kisima Ingitchuna: Never Alone for E-Line Media and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council; and publishing two poetry books under the Ishmael Reed Publishing Company, Courtesans of Flounder Hill and Rock Piles Along the Eddy. He is raising a family of five children with his wife, Lily Hope, a Tlingit weaver. A Conversation With Ishmael Angaluuk Hope KMD:  Tell us about your first encounter with poetry. IAH: Both of my parents, the late Elizabeth “Sister” Goodwin Hope, Taliiraq, an Iñupiaq who grew up in Kotzebue, Alaska, and Andrew Hope III, Xhaastánch, a Tlingit born and raised in Sitka, Alaska, were poets. Boy, do I sure miss them. My mother’s book of poems, A Lagoon Is In My Backyard, was, as far as her and her publisher–Ishmael Reed Publishing Company–knew, the first published book of poems by an Inuit, in 1984. Now there are incredible Iñupiaq poets like Joan Kane and dg okpik, among many, to which I have joined ranks with my two books, Courtesans of Flounder Hill and Rock Piles Along the Eddy, by the same publisher of my mother’s book. Ishmael Reed and his wife Carla Blank have been family friends for many decades, and tremendous supporters of my parents’ and my work, along with countless others. So I grew up around it. It was weird growing up in a community where anti-Nativeness was very strong, yet my parents were these respected poets and cultural leaders. I think more than anything the resonance of humanity my parents brought to me, the warmth and love, and joy of creation, led me to poetry. KMD:  Your poem, “Canoe Launching into the Gaslit Sea” reads as a gorgeously rendered imperative, a call to action. In what ways is the practice of poetry political for you as a writer? IAH: Thanks much for your kind comment. I think we need a very expansive idea of what poetry... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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In anticipation of Tupelo Press’s forthcoming anthology project, Native Voices, I’m pleased to continue a series of posts honoring Indigenous poetry from North America. But first, I’d like to say a few words about this exciting and necessary anthology. Tupelo Press is eager to celebrate a more complete version of the story we tell—about ourselves, our past, and what is possible in language. In this book, the first of its kind, every poet will present new poems, as well as an original essay, and a selection of resonant work chosen from previous generations of Native artists. Our anthology is intended to embody the dynamic and ongoing conversations that take place in Indigenous poetry through writerly craft across generational, geographic, and stylistic divides. With that in mind, I'm thrilled to introduce another one of our talented contributors, Michael Wasson. Michael is the author of This American Ghost (YesYes Books, 2017). His poems appear in American Poets, Beloit Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, Gulf Coast, Kenyon Review, Narrative, Poetry Northwest, Best New Poets, and Bettering American Poetry. He is nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. I'm pleased to present his poem, "Mourning Ceremony." Enjoy! Mourning Ceremony hipe’síweme kaa wáaqo’ ‘ilcwéew’cixnim cilakátki ‘iceyéeyenm wéetesne péetek’ene. They carved and now Coyote distributed Monster’s body to various lands. When grief is allowed to us it’s in the stern shape and voice of a man who walks around ‘n yells at us and his hollering holds our faces while we are handed polaroid photographs and old portraits and lip-stained cups with either coffee or red Kool-Aid rings inside and dirty paintings and ashy ashtrays and almost clean enough pots and iron skillets and washed pans and jean jackets still glazed with the scent of sweat ‘n armpits and pine-rubbed flannel coats and pants so dirty when you glide your hand across ‘em dust slips off and fades into the blaring gymnasium lights and cracked and bent glasses frames with a little resin of ear oil and a smear of dried blood still in the screws and plain moccasins and porcupine quill roaches ranging from child-size to adult-size worn out shoes and torn boots and a wristwatch an elderly woman puts to her ear and keeps it there like a phone and a phone though we don’t have enough money to buy an answering machine to record your lost breathing soft into some spooled static and a collection of tapes and your Black Sabbath and Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and the Eagles and Led Zeppelin and Credence Clearwater Revival and the blankets you took with you when you ended up homeless for a little while and slept along the Clearwater River and baskets with nothing inside them and door knobs and rugs and your dirty shirt that had Mickey Mouse adorned in a headdress and more blankets and letters and notes and he’s yelling at us that this is the only time we get to mourn for you for this loss and for this collection of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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In anticipation of Tupelo Press’s forthcoming anthology project, Native Voices, I’m pleased to continue a series of posts honoring Indigenous poetry from North America. But first, I’d like to say a few words about this exciting and necessary anthology. Tupelo Press is eager to celebrate a more complete version of the story we tell—about ourselves, our past, and what is possible in language. In this book, the first of its kind, every poet will present new poems, as well as an original essay, and a selection of resonant work chosen from previous generations of Native artists. Our anthology is intended to embody the dynamic and ongoing conversations that take place in Indigenous poetry through writerly craft across generational, geographic, and stylistic divides. With that in mind, it is an honor and a delight to introduce one of our poets, Karenne Wood. Karenne Wood is an enrolled member of the Monacan Indian Nation who directs Virginia Indian Programs at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She holds a MFA in poetry and a PhD in linguistic anthropology. She has worked at the National Museum of the American Indian as a researcher and at the Association on American Indian Affairs as a repatriation specialist. In 2015 she was honored as one of Virginia’s Women in History. Karenne is the author of two poetry collections, Markings on Earth (2000) and Weaving the Boundary, (2016). Her poems have appeared in such journals as The Kenyon Review, Orion, and Shenandoah. Here is one of her contributions to the anthology project, "Deer Woman." Enjoy! Deer Woman He hunted me into the clouds as I sought the blue star-petaled flower, its scent like magnolia and peach. I left my family in the meadow to pick my steps Across patched snow, where fields grasped edges of sky. There is within some of us a longing to be stripped clean. Alongside, the forest held his shape. His scent rose to me with the wind. Too late I knew him, too late to find cover, and I ran as I was made to—haunches taut, nostrils steaming, like a swallow I darted into glistening whiteness. When I tired, he was there. His circle tightened. Dark, and dark-eyed, hypnotic—I could feel his hunger as my own. I had taunted his dreams more than once, dreamt that mouth, the merciless craving in him. There is within some of us a longing to be stripped clean, To give it all—strings of sinew, tufted hair, marrow, white ropes of fat, to bare the body’s pulse. I froze, heavy with the need to dissolve into him, his mouth the deep red song of an appeasable desire. On the wind, I hear another song, my family calling out to me, calling me into my name. But I cannot return from this altitude, bound to his hunger, which is a kind of love. I will kneel in a cloud’s wisp of grace, to discover how completely our own wanting wounds us. Published in Weaving the Boundary, University of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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In anticipation of Tupelo Press’s forthcoming anthology project, Native Voices, I’m pleased to announce a series of posts honoring Indigenous poetry from North America. But first, I’d like to say a few words about this exciting and necessary anthology. Tupelo Press is eager to celebrate a more complete version of the story we tell—about ourselves, our past, and what is possible in language. In this book, the first of its kind, every poet will present new poems, as well as an original essay, and a selection of resonant work chosen from previous generations of Native artists. Our anthology is intended to embody the dynamic and ongoing conversations that take place in Indigenous poetry through writerly craft across generational, geographic, and stylistic divides. With that in mind, it is an honor and a delight to introduce one of our poets, Ishmael Hope, with a piece entitled “Canoe Launching into the Gaslit Sea”…. “Canoe Launching into the Gaslit Sea” Now, as much as ever, and as always, we need to band together, form a lost tribe, scatter as one, burst through rifle barrels guided by the spider’s crosshairs. We need to knit wool sweaters for our brother sleeping under the freeway, hand him our wallets and bathe his feet in holy water. We need to find our lost sister, last seen hitchhiking Highway 16 or panhandling on the streets of Anchorage, couchsurfing with relatives in Victoria, or kicking out her boyfriend after a week of partying in a trailer park in Salem, Oregon. Now, as much as ever, and as always, we need to register together, lock arms at the front lines, brand ourselves with mutant DNA strands, atomic whirls and serial numbers adding ourselves to the blacklist. We need to speak in code, languages the enemy can’t break, slingshot garlic cloves and tortilla crumbs, wear armor of lily pads and sandstone carved into the stately faces of bears and the faraway look of whitetail deer. We need to run uphill with rickshaws, play frisbee with trash lids, hold up portraits of soldiers who never made it home, organize a peace-in on the walls of the Grand Canyon. We need to stage earnest satirical plays, hold debate contests with farm animals at midnight, fall asleep on hammocks hanging from busy traffic lights. Now, as much as ever, and as always, we need to prank call our senators, take selfies with the authorities at fundraisers we weren’t invited to, kneel in prayer at burial grounds crumbling under dynamite. We need to rub salve on the belly of our hearts, meditate on fault lines as the earth quakes, dance in robes with fringe that spits medicine, make love on the eve of the disaster. For more information about our mission, and how you can help, please check back for information about our fundraiser, which will be available in the coming days. Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Kristina Marie Darling is now following The Typepad Team
Nov 7, 2017