Saturday, April 30, 2011

"sadly, i disappoint them"

So another National Poetry Month goes by. Thanks to everyone who shared their amazing work.

Sheep in Fog

The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.

The train leaves a line of breath.
O slow
Horse the colour of rust,

Hooves, dolorous bells -
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,

A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.

They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.

-Sylvia Plath

Friday, April 29, 2011

a poem by michael montlack

Venus Doesn’t Glitter When She Stands Next to You

And she knows it.
So she keeps a mercurial distance, arranging and re-arranging
her crown of coreopsis before the powder room vanity—
where Mother Earth chain-smokes and chats with a pock-marked cousin
(you know, the pasty one who always follows her around)—
a grand entrance planned for quasi-twilight when (she knows) you’ll slip away
to another soiree just getting started on the other side of town.
Where does she get the energy? Pluto asks.

Mars, already bored without you, issues a trademark barb:
I’ve heard she’s a fiend: coke, meth, diet pills …
Nonsense, blurts tipsy Jupiter. Jealous gossip amongst the lesser stars.
It’s like this all night.
With poor Venus in her polished rhinestones
vying to be their diamond center.

-from Michael Montlack's collection Cool Limbo forthcoming from New York Quarterly Books. Check it out here.

Michael Montlack is the author of the poetry collection Cool Limbo (New York Quarterly Books, 2011) and the editor of the Lambda-nominated essay anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them (University of Wisconsin, 2009). He splits his time between New York City, where he teaches at Berkeley College, and San Francisco. Currently he is at work on his first novel.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

a poem by aaron jorgensen-briggs

Enigma machine

A cloud inside the patina’d warehouse,

the arrogant song of the ice cream man.

Kids with their small, legitimate demands,

buds on the trees like tiny fists.

What followed me home in the sooty light

was the sketch of an animal, the mere idea

of hunger. Can’t find it now, but sometimes I feel

my hair lift in the dark.

I saw a magician vanish

a whole airplane once, but later found out

that he had just turned us

into the kind of people who wouldn’t notice.

I heard the GOP has got a plan, a kind of breathing

machine. The song it plays

is positively amniotic, even at the highest

setting, you’ll hardly notice—you’re soaking in it!

As for me, I’m required to sleep

all day, like a sheet of tin in the sun.

Like a girl in a yellow school bus

with glossy hair that reminds me of horses

and a sad, pink shirt. One day she’ll know.

Someone stares out of every window. Everyone follows

the long shadows

into the afternoon, the golden hour.

Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs lives in Brooklyn. Sometimes he puts stuff on the internet -

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

a poem by rickey laurentiis

Mood Indigo


How is it out? Is, from the sky,
water still coming?

Are trees out? Do you hear
their argument? Do you know

it for an argument: how to manage
(they are yelling) this weather?

Where are birds? Why are they made
clairvoyant—flitting off, fluttering

like leaves on a single branch: they know
to evacuate, to separate from the living

world, about to be changed, world,
and the trees—?


Though I cannot see you
still I know it is

you: man with the hard
kiss, the touch of Scorpion in his blood.

That means life for you is absolute.
There is either hunger

or no hunger. There is either a body pleased—.
You ain’t been blue, no, no, no: the radio’s

dim utterance—the sole utterance.
This dark house. The way we move,

aimless—is that an utterance? The dishes
slowly washed: ignorance or utterance?

The weather outside, weather,
and the trees—.


They are still trees, right, slamming the roof-tiles?
They are trees—the world not yet totally remade?


There is either a body pleased—
or no body. Violence

or there is creation. How are they out?
Not palmetto. I mean, oak. I mean, magnolia.

Aren’t they lonely? Don’t they feel somehow
cheated, somehow violated? Here is my body

for you to use and also to protect—that
was their contract with the birds, who are gone,

who didn’t tell us they were gone. Are you listening?
Can you tell me where they went?

Tell me of their solitude. How they share it.
Tell me how to be that alone

(here is my body, Scorpio, won’t you top it?)
—together and alone.


Is the body responsive?—your question.
But don’t you feel me? My body’s tremor?

My legs? My back-in-an-arc? Each trembling as if
each the alcove for where the birds go?


Splinters are not trees. Trees are not
flesh. Here is the scene:

Two men. Blacked-out. Half-embracing.
As, from the sky, falls the still-coming water.

Life is absolute. There is either danger
in this house or there is love. Either fear

in the radio’s voice (your arrogance will not
protect you) or there is love. Where are the gods

now, prophecy in a hard beak? Let them say:
Your body will not be spared. Let them say: Your life

is not recyclable like the trees.

"Mood Indigo" originally appeared in Ganymede Unfinished and PANK.

Rickey Laurentiis was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. His manuscript, One Country, received an honorable mention for the 2010 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, judged by Claudia Rankine, while his other honors include a 2010 Pushcart Prize Nomination, and first- and third-runner up in the 2009 International Reginald Shepherd Memorial Poetry Prize, selected by Carl Phillips. The recipient of fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation and the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Rickey's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several literary journals, including Indiana Review, jubilat, Knockout Literary Magazine and Vinyl.

Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

a poem by sommer browning

Acts of Misinterpreted Surrender

From a car a woman yells: Pick a lane, bitch—
and thusly, you are welcomed to the jungle.

A kind of chosen birthday
with no perfect pianoness, a kind of chosen Milwaukee,
with no abyss.

The instant becomes funny & numerous
beyond the lake’s glassier, exacting mirror,

as if of a note’s three parts,
you chose the middle eternal.

Take away a thinker’s thuses and her mouth
lacks giving, take her contradictions

and she lights up like the fire climax pine.
And this whole time, did you notice, the little, tired flea?

His grain of rice is raised;
what a gorgeous way to say bless you.

Sommer Browning is the author of Either Way I'm Celebrating (Birds, LLC; 2011), a book of poetry and comics. With Tony Mancus, she founded Flying Guillotine Press. She enjoys things in Denver.

Monday, April 25, 2011

a poem by marin sorescu


I shall look at the grass
Till I obtain the degree
Of Doctor of Grass.

I shall look at the clouds
Till I become a Master
Of Clouds

I shall walk beside the smoke
Till out of shame
The smoke returns to the flame
Of its beginning.

I shall walk beside all things
Till all things
Come to know me.

-Marin Sorescu

Translated by D.J. Enright and Joana Russell-Gebbett; from The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry

Sunday, April 24, 2011

a poem by yehuda amichai

Love is Finished Again

Love is finished again, like a profitable citrus season
or like an archaeological dig that turned up
from deep inside the earth
turbulent things that wanted to be forgotten.

Love is finished again. When a tall building
is torn down and the debris cleared away, you stand there
on the square empty lot, saying: What a small
space that building stood on
with all its many floors and people.

From the distant valleys you can hear
the sound of a solitary tractor at work
and from the distant past, the sound of a fork
clattering against a porcelain plate,
beating an egg yolk with sugar for a child,
clattering and clattering.

-Yehuda Amichai

from The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell

Saturday, April 23, 2011

a poem by anne sexton

The Truth the Dead Know

For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one's alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in the stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

-Anne Sexton

Friday, April 22, 2011

a poem by wislawa szymborska


Me — a teenager?
If she suddenly stood, here, now, before me,
would I need to treat her as near and dear,
although she’s strange to me, and distant?

Shed a tear, kiss her forehead
for the simple reason
that we share a birthdate?

So many dissimilarities between us
that only the bones are likely still the same,
the cranial vault, the eye sockets.

Since her eyes seem a little larger,
her eyelashes are longer, she’s taller
and the whole body is closely sheathed
in smooth, unblemished skin.

Relatives and friends still link us, it is true,
but in her world almost all are living,
while in mine almost no one survives
from that shared circle.

We differ so profoundly,
talk and think about completely different things.
She knows next to nothing —
but with a doggedness deserving better causes.
I know much more —
but nothing for sure.

She shows me poems,
written in a clear and careful script
that I haven’t used for years.

I read the poems, read them.
Well, maybe that one
if it were shorter
and fixed in a couple of places.
The rest do not bode well.

The conversation stumbles.
On her pathetic watch
time is still cheap and unsteady.
On mine it's far more precious and precise.

Nothing in parting, a fixed smile
and no emotion.

Only when she vanishes,
leaving her scarf in her haste.

A scarf of genuine wool,
in colored stripes
crocheted for her
by our mother.

I've still got it.

-Wislawa Szymborska

Originally appeared in Granta and in Szymborska's collection Here.

Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak

Thursday, April 21, 2011

a poem by woody loverude

Have You Seen This Man? This Blue Box?

Of us all, the mannequins look healthiest rioting down Bowery
in their three piece suits and pocketed dresses,
the occasional hollow limb flexing the grid.

We'll never be doctors, are no longer students,
& when asked about our apartments, mutter
It's bigger on the inside.

There are cracks in the sidewalk. Cracks in the walls.
For a moment, silence barrels down the avenues
and our friends and neighbors are forgotten. Never were.

The world is stranger than we expected.

We had so little time with our mothers (gone, gone)
who supplied us with food mill and money clip
until our hairless selves grew rich & fat & loved.

We can’ t remember the books they read us as we slept.
There was something about a god & something about an angry boy
& something about a machine & something about a lightning storm.

It made sense, then. Our mothers said they named a month
after us, but we would only know which when we grew up & married.
Now we’ re adults & it’ s November. Our mothers are far away.

Now we open the refrigerator to applesauce & chutney.
We remember there’ s a war or two.
On the ceiling, we hear the ghosts of our fathers’ footfalls.
We turn the music louder.

Woody Loverude's favorite Doctor is David Tennant & his favorite companion, Donna.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

a poem by christopher roberts

The Highrise Is Planted in the Years

i. When Godfrey and Linda Fall Back into the Quarrel

How can these two lovers snagged in the mesh
of their contended past, continually, be never spent,
still squabbling, still mired in this tireless endeavoring
to take some dumb gibe back? They keep trudging back,
and what could we expect?—harm out-running harm
in piled-on replies, then Godfrey’s eyes gone
the beamed-glass blanks of grease-thumbed specs
as Linda hoists last night’s bottle overhead,
last drops drizzling her arm—

Caught up in this charged, over-trampled bickering
they could do anything. There’s no place left to go.
And this blanched, flimsy leeway vertigo
Godfrey feels within himself, bristling, may grow,
spanning out until he could, if indeed he would,
hoist the spindled chair and hurl it through the glass!
He digs a heel into his calf to clench it up
and flicks a wicker trivet from the counter to the floor.

Neither’s gonna talk about this matter later on—
wet grounds spilling from the filter cone,
muffin crumbs and CD sleeves and ice cubes from a cup,
all tidied back later till there’s nothing but to scatter
the last ridge of dust at the dustpan’s lip
and swab the spackled wall where the red sauce drips
where the flung bowl struck:

Neither’s gonna relent, or wholly break the sense
of being riled in the tiff, both bearing back
some dumb rebuff, the stiffened jaws of stifled yawns—
but there for a time the catastrophe stumps,
where a popsicle is running in the sink
and the overboiled vermicelli clings
cooling in the pot to a sticky knotted clump.


Come time packed down we press on
    Our aged demure appraisal of the years
We scrape up: For we have stalked
    The quick protrusion of a bright hotel
Over land pressed and tucked into a faultless verge:
    And we’ve been hoisted on a surge
Of air and dust to rooms we hoard inside the years.
    And finding nothing left of us
To occupy the rooms, how long will we last
    Tarrying in bearings we are unprepared to pass,
All our lagging trails gathering in hotels lunging
    Bright up through the gust?

Christopher Roberts grew up in New Hampshire, received his MFA from New York University, and currently lives and teaches in Lafayette, Indiana. His poems have appeared in Cimarron Review and Clementine.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

a poem by jameson fitzpatrick

Ode to Paul Newman as Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Blue eyes bore me, baby, but not yours,
blue as your bathrobe, bluer even, blue as
your convertible’s long blue body, wet with rain.
The only pair pretty enough to stare into Liz Taylor’s
and refuse her.

What is it about a man with a glass of whiskey in his hand?
What is it about a crutch, silk pajamas, a broken ankle?
I’m not even into feet, really, but the toes peeking
out from the white mass of cast, if they aren’t
the most beautiful toes

in the whole history of film—the big toe,
especially. All through the movie, Poor Liz struggles
to pronounce your name: Brig, Brig! she keeps insisting,
as if a soft terminal consonant is the only trick
to sounding Southern.

Me, I’m from New England; I like the ck
hard in my mouth. Why do you wear your wedding ring
on your pinky, Brick? Are your fingers too fat from the booze?
I’d jump out a hotel window over you. Wouldn’t it be funny
if that was true.

Jameson Fitzpatrick is an editorial assistant at Barrow Street and a poetry editor for He lives in New York.

Monday, April 18, 2011

a poem by sasha debevec-mckenney

A Half Black Girl’s Guide to White Guilt

I can’t stop imagining
what never happened to my father;
sometimes I forget
he grew up black in Georgia, born
to a Town Clerk’s Office that left
the date on his birth certificate blank,
that the stories he told me
are more real than the things I know,
that our past hangs at the back of my neck—
a knot that doesn’t loosen.

Sasha Debevec-McKenney lives in Wisconsin and was a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts youngARTS finalist. Her poems have appeared in the Oregon Literary Review and were featured in Lambda Literary's Poetry Spotlight. In 2008 she was a featured reader at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival Night of Fresh Voices. She is currently working on a series of poems about the Presidents of the United States of America.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

two poems by rachelle cruz

Scratching Jesus

It began with an innocent nick
from the crown of thorns.
Then our fingernails
brimmed with blue paint
and his invisible left eye
laid broken in my hand.
In my parents' bedroom,
the statue stood between
two mirrors over false
wooden drawers,
his hands heavy with air.
Every day, after school,
a scratch from his callused
feet, a comb of fingers
over the grooves of his hair.
My sister and I couldn't
explain the rainbows
of archeological dust
on our cheeks.
Even after our mother spanked us,
(the Slipper or the Belt?)
we swiped tiny curls
from the sacred heart, burning.
We wanted to dig for the fire
that made the heart beat.
Our hands open to the beauty
of ruin.

After Sylvia Sukop’s I forget myself (I forget you)

Walking to the office, a man forgets his leather
watch, his valise and climbs inside a billboard,
stapled with night sky and stars. He is tired
of losing. The stars are lined up, ready for
their labor of dark, aching. There’s no moon
here to guide them, some romantic notion.
They’ve punched their gas, their glint like nails
through a tin lightbox. Outside, the day is hotter,
brighter, and the man notices his hands
for the first time. His body unknotting from
the concrete, then nothing, nothing. Air.

Rachelle Cruz is from Hayward, California (in the Bay Area). She has taught creative writing, poetry and performance to young people in New York City, the Bay Area and Los Angeles. She hosts “The Blood-Jet Writing Hour” Radio Show on Blog Talk Radio. An Emerging Voices Fellow and a Kundiman Fellow, she is working towards her first collection of poems. Please check out her blog here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

a poem by holly mitchell

Transfusions End, July, 1995

The marrow came
from my hip. It was the blood.
They gave Guy his old blood and it ate
my marrow. I wish
she had told us. It was a morphine drip.
I feel bad singing that song
Morphine, morphine, she’s the gal for me.
If that woman of his hadn’t been--
You hear who she’s with.
Mom didn’t tell us he would be emaciated.
The worst was when we couldn’t see him
for weeks. They locked him in
a sterile room. It was like something
from Fringe. We went all the way
to Texas. Why did I come back?
There will be no whiskey.
Nobody thought he’d survive except him and Mom.
You’ve got the future in your arms. I want to go
home. I’ve forgotten which kind
of blood. John Harder took Dad’s sample.
I didn’t know. Guy played basketball
with this man. He apologized for the preacher
not mentioning us. Mom was still
pregnant. You were three. I wasn’t ready.
I knew it was going to be okay
when he came home from Houston.
Went back the next day, and he died.
I felt that he needed me to come.
He waited for him. My morphine
be the death of me. We’re all going
to miss Stork. You’re not about to drink that.
My arrival allowed him to
release the grip
on life he held so
tenuously. This is called
the intermittent casket.

Holly Mitchell has lived in Kentucky for most of her life. Currently, she is a student at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Her poems can be found in Verbosity and The Quick Brown Fox.

Friday, April 15, 2011

a poem by lily brown

The Natural World

He drew dirty
flowers, then clayey
flowers. Then mint

against gray. Trees
look like legs
beneath low clouds.

Blooms implode
up close, mucked
with color.

Handles for the landscape:
sea scraped
of water, sketch with

hidden humans.
All the skeletons
here look

alike—their walking
stick bones, their

"The Natural World" originally appeared in Cannibal

Lily Brown's first book, Rust or Go Missing, is available from Cleveland State University Poetry Center. She currently lives in Athens, where she is a PhD student at the University of Georgia. She edits the online journal, RealPoetik, with Claire Becker.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

a poem by dan rosenberg


Giving up on the day, I climb to the roof
and spread-eagle. Birds choose
a representative to peck out my liver,
but I’m not interested in the role.
Go away. The gold capital dome
feeds the clouds like a giant nipple.
The clouds are no single thing.
I’m worried that my blood will go
where it must, completely unaddressed.
How can I be heard inside myself?
The shingles flap like mouths,
pathetic toothless mouths. I want
to cover them all. If I spread myself
thin enough, I can go totally limp
and their charades of speech will move me.
From high above, I might be said to ripple.

"Purpose" originally appeared in Pool.

Dan Rosenberg's poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in several journals, including American Letters & Commentary, Pleiades, Subtropics, and Thermos. His chapbook, A Thread of Hands, is available from Tilt Press. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at The University of Georgia and co-editing Transom.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

a poem by david groff


To folk before the rood
it colored the air like the glass,
echoed beyond belief.
The certifiers of God

pronounced it the sound of the soul
slipping the traces of plow,
promising great beyondness,
beyond the sheep on the close.

The purified mouths of men,
their tone absent of organ,
the doubt of vibrato forgotten
like sketches of perspective,

exhort the stricken me
here in this beachside condo
that I am offered God,
as naked before the window

I wrestle my angel of Clay,
their CD’d voices bleeding
their sated, unstained avowal—
to hell with my ocean howl.

"Chant" originally appeared in Barrow Street

David Groff’s Theory of Devolution was selected by Mark Doty for the National Poetry Series. With Philip CLark, he has edited the anthology Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

a poem by alicia rebecca myers

Alas, his fears are well founded.
There is thunder and lightning in the sky.

-Vivaldi, The Four Seasons

At St. Bartholomew's After a Breast Biopsy

The longest day -- Summer Solstice -- daylight
bides. I learn that dusk will wane
sometime during the Second Movement.
Adagio in Fall, then darkness.
I am twenty-nine.

In the mural above the nave
Christ lifts his arms to an invisible
practitioner. He's suspended
in a weatherless sky. And that grey dove,
is she coming or going?

I think of the story of you
painting a comedian's apartment high
on cocaine, how you confused colors,
reversed walls and ceiling.
I didn't know you then.
I only know the sober god who kisses
my nipples each morning before walking dogs
for a living: a change, a benediction.

Originally published in Greener

Alicia Rebecca Myers's chapbook of poems, Greener, was released from Finishing Line Press in 2009. She has four poems in the current issue of Cream City Review, and a poem forthcoming in the Southern Poetry Anthology: Georgia. She is the Co-Editor of the online literary journal Clementine, and blogs about being a travel consultant and a poet at

Monday, April 11, 2011

a poem by chip livingston

A Proposal
-for Gabriel

I am a young man, Fire. You
are a young man, Wood. Listen,
I will go with you. In the air,
I enter, ancient. You in the smoke.

Kingfisher just kissed you.
The green frog, he just kissed you.
The dragonfly, wood, water, stone.
Choices are frequently made through inspiration.

A cloth, a chair, a walking stick.
Various symbols to elevate you.
The little white dog made footprints.
You and I just hold up the stars.

"A Proposal" originally appeared in The Florida Review

Chip Livingston is the author of the poetry collection Museum of False Starts (Gival Press, 2010). His most recent publications include New York Quarterly, The Florida Review, Drunken Boat, and Court Green. Chip lives in New York City and Montevideo, Uruguay. Visit his web site at

Sunday, April 10, 2011

a poem by salita bryant

Near Sleep

You pray and pray until the prayer becomes like honey in your mouth
—Coptic Monk

Each night, in that space between chaos,
like the lull in a terrible war,

before my dreaming self begins to pray
its long pleading for no drawn breath,

my night body stands its unplumbed self up.
And on the bank of this river I am a disciple

of stars, and of what quiet gods will have me.
Oh, how much I love, in this river of my almost

sleeping, that which has always slipped
away beneath my grasp. Where in the

shallows, without shame, the sawgrass
kneels down into the river’s need.

And the shore ferns bury the tips of their fronds
into duff and root themselves forward, and walk

eastward or westward for want of the sun.
Where I am little more than ache rising

up like smoke the color of the open sea.
Yes, just think of pausing on the edge

of that bank, holding not a single desire
but the desire to call forth only the memory

of the mountain bell, and the profound silence
of the un-struck clapper in motion, of its hurdling

between the borders of its world. Think of
hearing the boundlessness of such nothingness.

Here it comes like the un-sound that swoops
in behind sound: a feathered winged thing in hushed

air, the slender silence before the lover’s gasp,
the sound of cobblestones after the horses.

Oh, every night, every night, undefended. Flowers,
flesh, years ripen and fall open, rot and fall away.

A blush of cherry blossoms eddy in the wind.
A devotion of silver-bellied fish lolls in sunshot water.

Fruit falls silently from the trees into my hands—
plum and pear. And I am not afraid

of all my sorrows rising up from slumber. Oh,
to come to know such in this land of bridges,

out along the edge of dream where there comes,
each night, the returning journey to where

there is no sound but the deep low moan
of the universe and stars huddled at the edge

whispering in the voice of a true voice, calling
my true name. Oh, quicken me now love, send me back

whole. And in wakefulness, let this ken sate the hollows
of my bones. And in silence and in near silence,

let the fruit fall from the trees in to my hands.
Let my honeyed tongue say what it must.

Salita Bryant is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Lehman College—City University of New York and has recently published in The Connecticut River Review, Alimentum, Agenda, Nimrod, Boulevard, Snake Nation Review, Dogwood, and The North American Review, among others. She lives in New York City.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

a poem by matthew hittinger


was the name of her hit single. Critics
panned her performance, complained
her voice had echo, too much reverb,
too much feedback. She went straight
to number one. When she showed
at Virgin to sign copies, a rush of teens
trampled white flower petals scattered
at her bequest on a pink carpet. Squeals
echoed down mall corridors, around
street corners, the same scene at each
stop until a bootlegged demo surfaced
on the web, showed her shadow voice
lip-synched a digitally-altered, vocodered
track of Narcissus singing come to me.

"Crush" originally appeared in Narcissus Resists (Goss183/MiPOesias, 2009).

Matthew Hittinger is the author of the chapbooks Narcissus Resists, Platos de Sal, and Pear Slip, which won the Spire 2006 Chapbook Award . You can read more of his work and follow his blog at

Friday, April 8, 2011

a poem by rio cortez

Work Song of the Ballad-Hunter

[Dobie Red] still managed to demonstrate an evocative field holler for the recording equipment
-Ted Gioia

You steal my clothes and try to say they yo's
-Mos Def

I want to take things
without asking
your body your name
then I want to take the sound
your body makes
and make that sound too

I wake up in a house
next to the field
I follow the field holler
I find the field hollerer
I cut the holler from his throat
I swallow it
I try to holler too

Rio Cortez is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she was the recipient of the Lucy Grealy Prize in Poetry. She is currently an MFA candidate at New York University. Her work has appeared in Dark Phrases, Through the Looking Glass & upcoming in Tidal Basin Review. Rio loves & lives in Queens, NY.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

a poem by saeed jones

The Fabulist

He puts my hand against his chest
so his nipple can read the lines on my palm.
He insists in his certain voice
that the beat in his chest isn’t a beat at all,
but an echo: the sound of two fearful feet
heading down into some poorly lit cave
made of bats and blood red gems.
He tells me again. He’s told me before.
The feet walk slower the further down they go.
No, I say, taking my hand back.
It’s a heart. It’s always been a heart.
I say it once for him, once for myself.
He steps back and looks at me;
he needs to tell me the story again.

"The Fabulist" originally appeared in the last edition of Ganymede, edited by John Stahle.

A 2010 Pushcart Prize Nominee, Saeed Jones received his MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers University – Newark. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in publications like Hayden's Ferry Review, StorySouth, Jubilat, West Branch, Weave, The Collagist & Line Break. His chapbook When the Only Light is Fire is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press. His blog For Southern Boys Who Consider Poetry is dedicated to emerging queer poets of color.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

a poem by jeffery conway

A poem from a poet I love who spells his name Jeffery, the same way my name is spelled!

Formal French Garden

Boxwoods arrive en masse. Biofeedback
unravels the high poodle caliber
of these verdant plants, delivered at crack
of dawn to transform latest high water-
mark of Cottage Street’s remodels. Fortune
smiles on the new owners: magenta
hollyhocks (ripped out) make way for cartoon
Versailles-esque yard, complete with aroma
of royalty gone to seed. A balmy
eve reveals teak furniture lit by globes
of therapeutic candles. Queens calmly
chat behind just-planted privet hedge—nope,
cackles cut into night—a resurgence
of gossip, bitchiness, utter nonsense.

Jeffery Conway is the author of The Album That Changed My Life and co-author of Phoebe 2002: An Essay in Verse. His recently completed manuscript is "Showgirls: The Movie in Sestinas."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

a poem by morgan parker

Quiet Alcohol

It is our usual holiday.
You ask if you can trouble me for a glass
of whiskey. Someone asks me offhand
about the hate in my spine. I say,
Fuck babies, and my mother
didn’t like the flowers I bought her
and do you see what I mean?
My mother is always a different person.
These are standard answers. But lately
in pale light I examine bruises
I hope are from you, teach myself mechanics
of clear evenings and I am
steeped in insults for you.
I want quiet alcohol
untouched by light and fingertips,
settled safely under half-moon,
crests dilating with slow breath.
There are no feelings here
and I do not want to go home. Soon
we will be underwater, life forms
in air pockets. And I do not trust
this place to scoop us up, teach us
to move, hips following current,
arms like pillars expanding and stretching
under highway glow. You know
I always cry at holidays.

Morgan Parker lives with her dog, Braeburn, in New York City, where she is an MFA candidate in poetry at NYU. She holds a BA in Anthropology and Creative Writing from Columbia University. She is the recipient of the Arthur E. Ford Poetry Prize, and her work has been featured in The Columbia Review, The Blue & White Magazine, and on

Monday, April 4, 2011

interview with ryan quinn

Ryan Quinn's debut novel The Fall brought me back to the awkwardness of university life in the same way Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep did. Both books have a keen sense of the banal and the thrilling, life-changing moments of that time. Set at a small college, The Fall follows three students—Casey, a jock; Ian, a film buff discovering his sexuality; and Haile, a talented musician. The novel successfully moves in and out of their point-of-views with compelling first person narratives. I asked Ryan Quinn a few questions about his writing process and thoughts on his novel.

When and how did you begin writing The Fall?

RQ: I started writing the first chapters nearly five years ago. The motivation was a convergence of a few things. The characters came first. They just kept surfacing in my consciousness, I think because their story was interesting to me and yet I didn't see characters like them being portrayed in novels or movies. About the same time I was writing more and more articles for various websites and realizing how much I loved the challenge of crafting a narrative. Also, I read a few bad, very commercially successful books and it made me think, "Hey, I can do this!"

You are originally from Alaska and went to school in Utah. What was it like growing up in these areas? Did you feel any personal connection to Wasilla during the 2008 election when the town was suddenly on a national stage?

RQ: I grew up in Wasilla. It's not a big town, which I think makes it a wonderful place to grow up in. But I never thought of is as a political place. The whole Palin obsession has been surreal. I don't think there is anything to take away from it. It's just a weird coincidence. Maybe one takeaway is that I wish Tina Fey had been my mayor instead.

People usually wince when I tell them I went to college in Utah. I have to clarify that it was for skiing reasons—I was on the ski team at the University of Utah—not religious reasons. But the truth is that the Mormon influence didn't really impact my everyday life. I hung out with a lot of other student-athletes, many of whom had been recruited from other states or countries and weren't Mormon. And Salt Lake City has a fantastic gay community. It was the perfect place for me to be at that time.

I love how the title relates to many different aspects within the novel. Can you discuss that a little?

RQ: The story takes place during the fall semester at this college, which is the obvious reference. But on a more interesting level, there is a painting called The Fall of Man that figures into the plot, and this painting has some themes that echo the plot of the book. Also, some of the characters experience what you might call "a fall," but I don't want to spoil anything! I knew the novel was working when I started to discover that all these themes and layers existed within the story—at that they felt very organic, not forced. The title kind of ties them all together.

I thought the shifts between point of view was pulled off well. The voices of the three main characters felt believable to me. Were there any difficulties in writing in different voices? Did you always picture the novel to be set up that way?

RQ: Yes and yes. I was fascinated by the idea that we each kind of take for granted our own perceptions of reality—when I think what is probably happening more often is that we have hilariously different perceptions of the same situation. I wanted to explore this by structuring the book as three very intimate, first-person narratives so that certain scenes would be seen through all three of the main characters. Honestly, I didn't know if it would work, and at first I was very self-conscious that it would come off as a gimmick. But I think I knew it was working when it became not just a way of telling the story, but a key part of the story and the characters' journeys.

Attempting to channel a female voice was a challenge for me. So was making each character's voice distinct enough so that the reader could tell them apart. A lot of smart people told me it was too ambitious. Usually I'm very coachable in that way, but in this case I had a vision for how it was supposed to work and I just kept revising and revising until I got there. When the book was published I was still worried that people would quit after thirty pages because the alternating narratives was confusing. I was relieved when I started to get feedback from people who said they rarely read books and they read it in a day.

The use of point of view reminded me a bit of the structuring of Michael Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World. Are there any particular authors who have had an influence on you?

RQ: I did read A Home at the End of the World before writing The Fall, as well as Bret Easton Ellis's The Rules of Attraction and a great book called Sea of Tranquility by Paul Russell. Those are the most obvious, transparent influences. But I think we are what we read, and everything we read—whether we liked the book or not—seeps into the gears in our brain that are grinding out any story we're writing.

Since you are an athlete, how did your personal experiences in the athletic world lend to crafting The Fall?

RQ: I was a competitive cross-country skier in college and since then I've run a few marathons. Writing a novel is incredibly similar to training for an endurance sport. You have to put in a lot of hours day after day. There aren't bursts of glory to sustain you. And it's lonely; not in a sad way, just in a literal way. You have to take a long view and be competitive with yourself in order to keep going back and trying to make it clearer—better. It can't be a whim; it's a mindset.

Did anything surprise you while writing the novel? Did you have days where you felt you related to certain characters more than others?

RQ: Absolutely. Actually, one of the things that surprised me the most was how closely I was able to relate to Haile and Casey. I guess I expected to relate to Ian, but the other two were a surprise. Maybe it's because the point-of-view narratives are so intimate, and when you drill down to that level we're all sort of dealing in universal emotions even if what we express to the world seems more unique.

I felt a kinship with Ian who is a film buff and trying to figure out his sexuality and what he wants to do with his life. Do you think his favorite film, Lawrence of Arabia, has any particular significance?

RQ: Yeah, you can draw some parallels, though the relevance of that particular film was only in the back of my mind when I was writing the book. I guess the larger theme of the book is "the search for meaning," which is introduced in the Art History class, but it's also something each character explores on his/her own. I think in Ian's case, he's drawing those cinematic parallels in his mind, even if I didn't make that explicit in the story.

Are you working on writing anything new at the moment?

RQ: I am. I have a rough almost-draft of a new novel. It needs a lot of work, and I'm excited to return to it with fresh eyes and start revising and rewriting. I'm afraid to say more because that'd be like showing you my new apartment before I've gutted it and had all the fixtures redone!

On a scale from 1 to 4 stars, how many stars do you give your day?

RQ: Four. Definitely four. Have you read the news lately? This world is nuts. I'm happy to be here.

Ryan Quinn grew up in Alaska. After graduating from the University of Utah, where he was an NCAA Champion and All-American college athlete, he worked in book publishing for five years in New York City. He now lives in Los Angeles. The Fall is his first novel.

You can purchase the paperback here and also the kindle edition of The Fall here.

a poem by jerome murphy

Two Masters

The baby would drive us crazy.
Just listen to that dog outside your door
while we nestle in the chill,

our bodies in love. Only pinched nerves
whine so high. No doubt I would savor
the torment of something sentient.

Once, in the unbalanced state
called childhood, I harassed
a cousin’s caged hamster for its

absent-eyed look. It was fretless,
overfed. I wanted to constrict
that little emperor’s belly. How is it

we call ourselves human, when moved
by glandular hungers that make
such menageries—body lust,

money lust, the lust of perception
for limits of sense. Our open yard
of free will has one rickety gate,

a falling-down fence: all that’s missing
is a sign with the Rottweiler’s name.

Jerome Murphy is a New York-based freelancer and administrator in the Creative Writing Program at NYU. He is a member of the Wilde Boys poetry group, and currently loves Szymborska and Valzhyna Mort.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

two poems by cynthia atkins

Face Book

It should come as no shock, our faces
as books, our faces the envy of
broken down clocks—Right-brain, left brain—
          Let us be plugged in
at every turn, in every orifice.
This is our body! This is our office!
          Staple every button-hole
that is latchkey and sad. Credentials culled,
there’s no turning back now.
We’re here to be cut and pasted.
Prepare us to be a billboard
          blessed by the waste
of a flightless bird. All the toasters lost
the tender prints left from a lover’s
scorched breakfast. (Too much work?)
So stack our shelves with a library
          of perfect smiles.
Salacious minds need routine, packaged
as shiny shrink-wrapped trinkets.
Screens screaming for sex kittens
and war porn—takes the place
          of breakfast and love?
Honk if you’re lonely and your wardrobe
resembles a caption, wearing white
in winter—such poor taste!
          Don’t fret, an underling
took the place of your former self.
Pupils plaited and distal, the story
and the people got ransacked out—
exchanged for a remote page
          of faceless doubt.

Letter to Metaphor

Soundless as a disc on a dot of snow
   -Emily Dickinson

It goes without saying, there’s something
for everyone. Remember the slut
of the multi-purpose room,
         legs spread and bearing
the burden for everyone—?
         Lipstick put on
for all the wrong reasons,
and all dolled-up for what
the bed of roses stole.
         A note was penned
by simile’s hand—your first cousin
allergic at the ersatz country house,
flirting with images and glyphs.
         Ask for subtlety, you’ll get
a mixed strip-tease every time.
No consequence, no punishment,
like when you helped write
         cheat notes on the inside
of my hand—the same naked hand
that braided hair, slipped off a coat—
traded in sex for a prayer.

-"Face Book" originally appeared in BigCity Lit, Fall 2010.

-"Letter to Metaphor" originally apeared in The Broome Review, Spring 2011

Cynthia Atkins received an MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Her first collection of poems, Psyche’s Weathers (Wordtech, 2007) was recently featured on Verse Daily, and reviewed in Poets' Quarterly, Winter 2011. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals including, American Letters & Commentary, BOMB, The Broome Review, Caketrain, Cold Mountain Review, Denver Quarterly, Harpur Palate, Inertia, The Journal, New York Quarterly, Seneca Review, Sou’Wester, and Valparaiso Review, and was nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize. Atkins teaches creative writing and literature, most recently, at Roanoke College, and worked formerly as the assistant director for the Poetry Society of America in NYC. She now resides on the Maury River of Rockbridge County, VA with her family.

Friday, April 1, 2011

three poems by gregory laynor

April is National Poetry Month. You can sign up for the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day on

This month, I'm going to try to post a poem-a-day as well.

Here are three from Gregory Laynor.

From the Deleted Poems of Gregory Laynor

Will you put me in your diorama
Will you tie me to your shoe
Googly eyed stick figure

From the Deleted Poems of Gregory Laynor

Are we having fun counting sausages for beans
Asking Ronald Reagan for a Jasper Johns
Boys in bowties asking about our fun

From the Deleted Poems of Gregory Laynor

As every schoolboy knows
The best of all possible worlds
Leaves much to be desired

Gregory Laynor is a poet working on a PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle. He previously studied & taught at Temple University in Philadelphia. His reading of Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans appears on UbuWeb & he does a blog at