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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rocking the BOAAT

Thanks to Sean Shearer and Zack Strait at BOAAT for featuring my poem "Summer's End" in their September/October 2015 Issue. So thrilled to be in an an issue with Dorianne Laux, Austin Smith, Joshua Rivkin, Lauren Bylenok, Daniel Smith, Marcus Slease, Bethany Startin, Chelsey Weber-Smith, Triin Paja, Will Sandberg, Jeffrey Hecker, and more.

I love BOAAT!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Cloud II

Love Like Rocks                                                    Stephen Massimilla
Respect the rocks, the way they hold
themselves down, though from the point
of view of geese, the nimbo-

cumuli (their bulky white counter-
parts) drift like icebergs at sea
in the sky. Below

these sunset-catching cliffs, tiger-
lilies also face fire, stalking
and lolling around

unpainted pickets. Lawns
ruffle their pheasant feathers;
uncatchable quarry, snakes

in the blades blaze by. Since hiss
they must, upon proving too loose
for muddy trousers, they hint

now near, now thither, while all
is always about to give, given to
darkling cliffs of shifting
cloud. O

God, my love is my rock,
my weight, said St. Augustine,
my Venusian even on deserted

nights, super-sub-urban,
like bright orbits bound by them-
selves to plunge, however small, however far. 


Last Will                                        Hayden Saunier

When I am ash, as is my wish,
take a stone out to the field for me
and leave it near the meadow wall
where it won't jam machinery.

Nothing cut or polished. Something
tumbled down the stream and smoothed
with sand will do, the sort of stone
that's been there all along. It's just

that in the field tonight, I stopped
and stood beyond the cedars
in the hedgerow's coils and twists—
the heart-shaped lump of a wasp nest

suspended from a maple branch above
my own dark shape—and the moon's
unclouded eye fell on us all so equally,
it seemed as good a place as any I could be.

The Storm                                                                                Jennifer Moss
Where one mind stops,
another begins.

Where cutlery shines on plates,
a voice lowers.

One length of forgiveness,
round and round like a child's game
in the dust.

Outside, the rain formalizing.

When we leave we are replaced.

Shaky clouds in lightning,
my shadow alive on the floor.

Then the small passage for sleep.

How green and spidery the sky.
In its net, the dead bees of memory. 


Habitus                    Thom Satterlee

Language, he asserted, was a habitus... What precisely
he meant by habitus is not explained, but the context in
which the word is applied to language would suggest a
sense of "clothing... "
— Anne Hudson, "Wyclif and the English Language"

All morning he read from a thick volume
propped on a stand. He read and he read,
and when he closed his eyes
he continued to read
until the words took off their clothes
and laid them down on a hillside
that vanished whenever a cloud
passed between it and the sun.

All his life Wycliffe had wanted this:
the words undressed and he going to them,
a child to a fair, burning to see
if Faith wore her hair in a braid,
whether Why held out its hands, palms up,
and where Simony put his coins
when he stood naked in the light.

But no: Wycliffe had got it all wrong.
He was not going to see the words.
They were coming to him
with their arms loaded with robes
stacked so high he couldn't see their faces,
and before he knew it, invisible hands
began measuring him with ropes
stretched between his wrist and his chest,
from his hip down to the ground,
around his waist and around his neck.

The fitting took all day. He tried on
Son and Friend, Scholar, Reformer,
Heretic; he slipped into Priest,
wore also Doctor Evangelicus
and Morning Star. Some robes
hung too loosely; others pinched his neck.

In the end, he had to wear them all
and learn the sadness of being a word —
only one surface to show the world
while he lived underneath the layers
and listened for the barely audible
sound of his own heart beating.


Gone                                                      Malena Morling, from Five Points
          The world
is gone
      like the exact
shape of a cloud
          or the exact shape
of a hand waving
      in the sunlight
from across
          a crowded
to another hand
          that waves back.

Come to think of it,
      everything up to now
is gone.
          And I have also
already left
      even though
I still ride
          the train
through the outskirts
      of the city.

And I still sit
          by the window,
the filthy
while what is left
          of the demolished
      go past
and the empty
and the transitory

It's amazing
          we're not
more amazed.
      The world
is here
          but then it's gone
like a wave
      traveling toward
other waves.

          Or like
the delicate white
of the Dogwood
          that float
as if there were
      no gravity,
as if there were
          no moments
isolated from
      any other

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Elements @ Radiolab

Radiolab, my all-time favorite podcast, did an episode this week about some of the elements from the periodic table, including lithium, carbon, and xenon. You can hear snippets of poems about oxygen and more. The more includes dark matter, which doesn't belong in the periodic table.

It's not Radiolab's first show about the elements of the periodic table (or Mendeleev for that matter), and hopefully it won't be their last. But you don't want to miss this one.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cloud I

Letter to My Imagined Daughter                   Kyle Vaughn

If I could fold this lonely year in half and then in half again, until finally it became next year, I would keep folding until I came to where you are. I would keep folding until this year made a little paper car. This white care would be soft, like a cloud in the air. And even more than a soft cloud, this would be a bright car, more like the sun in the middle of the day. And as it does through certain glass, its light would keep folding , folding in—making the world spin like a red barber’s chair, once around for every fast ray.


You Begin                                                                              Margaret Atwood 1978

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
this is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.

It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.

Inspiration is there all the time. For everyone whose mind is not clouded over with thoughts whether they realize it or not. ~Agnes Martin


Ring               by Melissa Stein

Control was all
I wanted: a handle
on the day, the night
when it curved,
when it swayed,
when I could sense
the teeming stars
in light, in dark
the sun's bare wire.
Some switch
to turn it off:
each shadow
pinned to each tree
like a radius
of some infant's
milk it spilled.
And the leaves,
their gossip
of claw and beak
and wind and heat
and wing. Tether
lake to bank and
cloud to peak.
And weather it.
Weather it. All this
to say I've
taken off my ring. 


Something goes through the world
Without speaking to anyone.
When it falls in water
It doesn't splash, when it enters a tree
It doesn't rustle.

The less you hear it the fiercer its presence is.
Time stops.  There's a mist in the north
And a branch, only one branch pointing to it.
No creature may now share its stillness.

Cloud, drifting in the direction of my birth,
If there's a Hell,
It must have only one inhabitant.
~Charles Simic

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Interview with Erin Malone

JG: The title of your collection, Hover, and the cover of your book both suggest hesitation to me, although they could equally represent the act of looking down from above, or they might have some other meaning entirely for you. Is there a relationship between the title and the cover? Please tell us about how you came to choose each, and if their selection was interrelated.

EM: Hover
is about loss—the death of my brother in childhood—and the consequential fear of loss, which I experienced when my son was born. I like the dual nature of the word hover, which can connote an active, overreaching protectiveness, and also passivity, a hovering at the edge of things. In my book, it’s both: the presence of the past and my anxious hovering over my newborn son. Honestly, I don’t remember how I came to the title, since the book was 12 years in the making and underwent scores of revisions; there is no poem called “Hover” in the book, though the word appears once, thanks to a friend’s suggestion—she noticed its absence, and thought it might bother readers. Now when you read my book, you can go on an egg hunt for the word!

I’m glad you asked about the cover, which is a painting called “Risen” by the artist Eric Zener. I searched for just the right art, and Zener was incredibly generous in letting my press use it. In it, a woman diver has climbed a long way—we can tell by the clouds behind her—and because we can’t see where the ladder ends, we get the feeling that she still has a ways to go. And here’s the hesitation, I think: she’s looking over her shoulder and considering how far she’s come, and maybe thinking about whether she can make it the rest of the way. She’s in-between; what better metaphor for motherhood? Parents are always looking back at the early days and thinking about the next stages. And though the painting uses dark colors, when I look at it I feel an earned hopefulness. She’s going to make it.

JG: A truly unique aspect of this collection is the section break pages which are each entitled “Symbols to Guide Your Viewing,” and numbered, and which then give a key to certain symbols. Why are these important to your book? Tell us as much as you are inclined to about their origin and function.

EM: Whenever I go to a museum, I find myself focusing on the plaques that accompany the art, which explain the origin of the piece and something about the artist. Who is the lucky person whose job that is? It’s an art in and of itself, I think, and so appealing: the side-note, not the star, like theater stagehands in dark clothing silently changing the props between scenes. Anyway, I saw a beautiful exhibit of Australian aboriginal art, and the placards were instrumental in explaining the symbols used. That exhibit inspired me to write “Symbols to Guide Your Viewing,” in which I borrow some of the language and symbols from the exhibit—boomerang, traveling tracks, ceremonial ground, U shapes—interpret them, and make my own as well. It started as a single poem, but I was finishing my manuscript and thinking about how to make the sections more interesting than 1, 2, 3. When I broke the poem up, I realized it addressed the themes I was setting out in the sections. So each of these little notes serves to enhance or hint at what you’ll see in the poems of each section. I feel lucky that I saw that exhibit when I did.

JG: List-making is a technique you employ repeatedly in your book, in poems such as “Questions for My Brother,” “Cuttings,” “Objects Not Visible to the Human Eye,” and “Fable.” In particular, you make lists of ephemeral things. Is this a way of trying to hold onto the ungraspable? Are these talismans against the sense of loss that so permeates your book? Are you also a list-maker in everyday life? Tell us about the function of lists in your art.

EM: I think the lists in this book are the speaker’s way of trying to keep control, and, as you point out, of what ultimately can’t be held. The brother whose death means all her questions have finite answers, no matter how often asked; the baby, growing away from her. In “Objects Not Visible to the Human Eye,” which happens to be the first poem I wrote after my son was born, there’s really a desperation underlying the list. If I put marks on paper it means I’m here, I exist, right? In that poem the speaker is so dislocated, and spinning . . . . Until you asked this question, I didn’t realize how many lists are here, so I would have to say I’m not an intentional list maker. I am an insomniac, though, and in the middle of the night when my mind won’t stop, I’ll finally get up to write things I have to do in the next day or week so that I can go to sleep. And I suppose that sometimes my poems do start from little theme clouds, like, for example, classifications of languages—so maybe I’m more of a list maker than I thought.

JG: Is there any poem in the book that you think hasn’t gotten the attention it deserved? If so, please tell us about why it is important to you.

EM: “Black Forest” is a poem I’m proud of and attached to and yet it didn’t appeal to journal editors. It’s a poem that took me years, fiddling with the form until I got it just right. One half of it is a poem, and the other half is a letter I wrote to a friend while I was living in Germany with my husband and one year old son. The letter is italicized, and it’s merged into the poem. You’re meant to read each half separately but also line by line, so that you experience this weird doubling going on:

Black Forest

All winter I’ve stared. This window is winter
            Dear___, no phone since we left
& reads like a block of ice, like vision
            almost a month ago. This morning
without my coke-bottles on.
            I bundled the baby & walked fast.
It shares the dark & my superstitions: three witches,
            My mouth went numb
a draft. I moved the bassinet. If this window
            from cold, my glasses fogged—
is a mind it marbles with the late afternoon
            I turned back. Tired of
light. From outside, a small room lined
            my own voice. Everything
with the radiators’ teeth. If this window
            I say I say twice. Did I tell you
is a mirror it’s a reasonable facsimile
            he looks like Shawn? Maybe a shadow of
of me, a little fatter, blurred
my brother in him. Why is it
recall. If it’s a door to my past, it’s cracked
            death is never done? You said
just so the blind clatters when I ask
            I cannot shut the door. It’s true
who’s there. This window is my baby,
            his birth made me afraid.
all eyes. Its portrait of the trees shows
            Nothing here
each bare joint as wishbone. If this window
            could harm him. Farmland, horses
is my body you must see
            serene, the sky intact. A few people,
its borders. How far can it travel?
            their dogs. If only my mind weren’t so wild.

And that doubling is key to the book, the blurring of son and brother.

JG: What kinds of poems are you writing, post-publication of Hover? Are you continuing with the themes of motherhood, loss of a sibling, discontent with traditional familial roles, and dislocation, or are new ones now prevalent in your work? Is your style consistent or changing?

EM: The poems I’m writing are again about loss, personal and communal; violence, and the fragility of memory.  They’re also different because I’m trying to tell a larger story, not just my own, so unlike Hover, I’m using more points of view. Specifically, when I was 13, two boys my age from my hometown were abducted and murdered. The first disappeared in September, and the second in December. The killer wasn’t caught until January, and for all that time the community was bound by fear. This was in a small bedroom community, that idealized place where things like this don’t happen. That’s the main story, and it’s complicated by the fact that the first boy’s body was found on the day my 11-year-old brother died. Because of timing, they were buried next to each other. But the other story is that I’d forgotten the boys, the murders, the paralyzed town—or I hadn’t confronted them in my memory—until a couple of years ago, when my own son turned 11. Suddenly there it was, like a house in my neighborhood that I’d never noticed before. Now I’m doing the research and writing poems around the subject. There’s this terrible center but right now I’m staying on the outer edges of it, just revolving here, kind of sizing it up.

As for my style changing, I’m probably not the best judge of that. But I will say that Hover is about disorientation, and the poems reflect that, I think, in their fragmentation and haste. The poems I’m writing now feel different, more direct or controlled, maybe.

JG: After readers finish your book, what would you suggest they read next?

Well, first I’d like to tell them thanks for reading my book! And thank you for these insightful questions, Jessica.

What to read next? I’ve got two of Laura Kasischke’s books I carry around with me: The Infinitesimals, and Space, in Chains. I read these poems again and again and see something new every time. I’m rereading Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard, for its layers and testimony. And I really like reading first collections—right now Sonia Greenfield’s Boy with a Halo at the Farmer’s Market, Jessica Johnson’s In Absolutes We Seek Each Other, and Michael Morse’s Void and Compensation.

You can buy a copy of Hover directly from Tebot Bach, or from SPD, or from

Poets who are interested in being interviewed, please contact me by leaving a comment in the comments field, or email me directly at  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tender Confessions @ Tinderbox

Thanks to Molly Sutton Kiefer at Tinderbox Editions for featuring an interview with me today! Tinderbox Editions, home of Tinderbox Poetry Journal, is expanding and putting out books starting in 2016, including works by Laynie Browne and Athena Kildegaard.

And they have a few calls for submissions out. From their webpage:

Tinderbox Editions will also bring an anthology of lyric essays in early 2017, along with the poet's novel Periodic Companions by Laynie Browne. We are always in the process of reading manuscripts to round out our publishing schedule.If you are interested in submitting to the lyric essay anthology, please follow the Submittalbe link at the bottom of the page. Work by Sarah Blake, Traci Brimhall, Jenny Boully, Alicia Jo Rabins, and Sarah Vap will be included, among others.

If you are interested in submitting a manuscript to Tinderbox Editions, please do so through our Submittable page. We will read prose manuscripts (personal essay, lyric essay, prose poem, hybrid) in July and August of each summer and intend to read poetry manuscripts in December and January. These open submission periods rely on donations, though for those who cannot donate, there is also a fee-free submission option as well.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Neat on the Net: Random Summer

We got back from Viet Nam yesterday--excellent trip.

Here are a few things I missed while away:

1) "12 Things I Know About the Life of Poetry" by Tony Hoagland, over at Gulf Coast. You want to read this. You do.

2) Japanese miniaturist Tanaka Tatsuya has made a teeny tiny diorama every day for five years, using regular household items originally with 28 mm human figurines. Check it out at deMilked here and here, and if you are as captivated as I am, go to Tanaka's website.