SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RIVER ELECTRIC WITH LIGHT

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From RIVER ELECTRIC WITH LIGHT
By Sarah Wetzel:


A WORSHIP OF RIVERS

If I must choose a word for you,
let it be river. Not the river’s smoothed banks
that, like skin, give form
to breath and blood, the throb
of twenty trillion red cells wildly
ferrying their burdens.
If I must choose a word for you,
let it be the word
for what flows. Down one river,
a ruined house, down another,
eight empty boats bobbing. Inside a ninth,
there is a girl on her knees, knife
in hand. A kind of river
is running through her.
Because the worship of rivers
is also the worship of a chimney
for smoke, the needle its thread
as it closes the wound, of the wire
for its extra electron.
Because all three are worships
of motion, which is why
I race after rainclouds and trains, the postman
and bicycle messengers. Why I think
wind speaks to me. You,
you don’t speak. Yet you take
whatever I throw in. Which is why
I will always live close to water
but never again by the sea
from which everything eventually
finds its way shore again—
arthritic driftwood, the bones
of dogfish and dogs, and Mr. Levi,
the wristwatch still on his wrist. Which is why
I believe the girl puts down the knife
and she rises, the river
                                          electric with light.



THIRD VERSION

The rain leaves fingerprints
in last summer’s
window dust,

while just off shore, anchored
and waiting,
the barge that will ferry the lucky.

In one version of my story,
I sell my hair
and the good skin of my stomach.

In one version, I carry you
from the burning car
and this time you don’t die.

The sea with the rubber hose of a river
down its throat
is swallowing as fast as it can.

If you watch long enough, you’ll see that rain
shapes a path in the pane
for what falls behind it—

yet if you put a hand
to the glass,
the water will fall toward you.

Our lives are always half over.
There’s still time.



SAYING JERUSALEM

It’s become tricky to talk about Jerusalem
these days. Tricky, that is, without saying
cinnamon trees and narrow alleys, overfed
sparrows
, or Hasidic boys in metal spectacles.

I’ve nothing to say about trees or sparrows
or quaint Jerusalem characters, mustached men
selling talismans. Why don’t you like Arabs,
one asked, when I tried to bargain. Some Israelis joke

all we really need is Tel Aviv and the freeway
to Ben Gurion airport. Let the Arabs and fanatics
fight over everything else. From the roof
of my Tel Aviv house, I can sometimes glimpse

Jerusalem, the gleaming tip of al-Haram ash-Sharif.
Let them have everything else. Everything.



Today’s poems are from River Electric With Light (Red Hen Press, 2015), copyright © 2015 by Sarah Wetzel, and appear here today with permission from the poet.



River Electric With Light: Sarah Wetzel’s stunning second collection of poems, River Electric with Light, is a work of pilgrimage, a work in search of the sacred and the spiritually significant. Touching down in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Kabul, New York, and Rome, Wetzel’s poems, ranging from lyric meditations to discursive drama, weave themselves from her life as wife, lover, stepmother, and traveler. She names the force propelling her River—“If I must choose a word for you, / let it be the word / for what flows,” she writes. At times joyful, at times grief-ridden, Wetzel’s poems accumulate associatively pulling slivers of secular solace from a world where violence infuses the body, the landscape, and even dreams, recognizing that while: “Our lives are always half over. / There’s still time.” – See more at Red Hen Press


Sarah Wetzel is the author of River Electric with Light, which won the AROHO Poetry Publication Prize and was published by Red Hen Press in 2015, and Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published in 2010. Sarah currently teaches creative writing at The American University of Rome, Italy. She still spends a lot of time on planes, however, dividing time between Manhattan, Rome, and Tel Aviv, Israel. Sarah holds an engineering degree from Georgia Institute of Technology and a MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. More importantly for her poetry, Sarah completed a MFA in Creative Writing at Bennington College in January 2009. You can read samples of her work at www.sarahwetzel.com. ​​


Editor’s Note: Sarah Wetzel’s River Electric With Light is enigmatic, transversive, transformative. There is a motion within its pages–between sections and poems, between concepts and experiences–that is reminiscent of the Italian notion of attraversiamo; crossing over, moving on, getting to another place. Be it that of the smallest rain drop or the greatest ocean, be it that of trains, planes, or automobiles, this collection is electric with movement, even in its deepest and most sacred moments of quiet contemplation.

There is water–and the life water ensures–running through this book. Rivers that carry words, ideas, people. “If I must choose a word for you, / let it be the word / for what flows.” And along with this motion comes an unsettled feeling underlying the life of these poems: “Which is why / I will always live close to water / but never again by the sea.”

This collection hums with a delicate, thoughtful lyricism that lulls the reader so that we float along easily–though shifting locales, through political commentary, through mindful meditations on religion, relationship, life and death. Never set or singular–because life is never as black and white as one experience or perspective–we are reminded that “Our lives are always half over,” but, in the same breath, “There’s still time.”


Want to see more from Sarah Wetzel?
Superstition Review
Poetrynet.org
Ilanot Review
Recours au Poeme

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MIRIAM’S SONG

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“Miriam the prophetess” by Anselm Feuerbach. Public Domain image.


“Miriam the prophetess… took the tambourine in her hand; and all the women followed her with tambourines and dances. And Miriam called to them: Sing…” (Exodus 15:20-21)




Editor’s Note: The most important thing that has happened to Passover this year is the Notorious RBG’s decree that when we remember the Exodus, we need to remember the women. First and foremost among them, for me, is Miriam. The unsung hero of what is usually thought of as “Moses’ story,” Miriam is responsible for everything from Moses’ birth to his survival to providing water for the Israelites throughout their forty-year-sovereign in the desert. The first person in the Bible to be called a prophet, Miriam was beloved by her people but less-loved by her creator, who struck her down with leprosy to teach her the consequences of a woman voicing her opinion.

Song is one of the oldest forms of poetry, and the poetry of the Bible is one of the oldest written records of poetry we have. Sadly, all that remains of Miriam’s song in the Bible is a call to action: “And Miriam called to them: Sing…”

We are lucky, therefore, that Debbie Friedman (1951-2011) picked up this mantle. In “Miriam’s Song” she joins her voice with a new generation of women to remember and celebrate the heroine of the Passover story, responding to the prophetess’ call to action: “Sing.” Beloved by women and men alike all the world over, Debbie Friedman and “Miriam’s Song” are the kinds of modern Passover traditions we need. Inclusive and powerful, shedding new light on ancient traditions. For, as Debbie Friedman reminds us, “The more our voices are heard in song, the more we become our lyrics, our prayers, and our convictions.”

Want more Miriam, Debbie Friedman, and Feminist Passover?
Read the lyrics to “Miriam’s Song” by Debbie Friedman on Ritualwell
Debbie Friedman via the Jewish Women’s Archive
Miriam via the Jewish Women’s Archive
Buy The Journey Continues: The Ma’yan Passover Haggadah on Amazon

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RESURRECTION PARTY

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From RESURRECTION PARTY
By Michalle Gould:


SELF-PORTRAIT AS A SERIES OF PREPARATORY STUDIES FOR A NUDE BY MATISSE

The breasts hang low like fruit hoping
to be picked yet still on the branch,
While the body largely reclines, a letter K
lain on its side and slightly bent,
or in a less common pose, my back faces the viewer
so I resemble a pushed in O, my arms and legs drawn in,
like a turtle withdrawing far into its shell
to escape some predator that has come to suck;
We are become a rock. Our hearts lie hidden far
Below its skin. The artist scrapes my flesh onto his brush
but cannot touch what lies beneath, whatever he thinks—
nor can you, my dear, even as you read me.



SELF-PORTRAIT AS THE MAIDEN OF ATHENS

That day, I went forth to kill the Minotaur.
Since Theseus, they sent us all naked;
I had no ball of string; I had no sword.
For tools, instead, I had only the instruments
of my body: my nails for daggers, my hair for thread.
I had heard of his legendary cruelty;
I had heard how he killed without a word.
Then I came to the center and saw him.
His strong arms beckoned—and I cut the cord.



SELF-PORTRAIT AS A PAIR OF LOVEBIRDS

Opening their beaks, they thrust
their tongues out for one last kiss
before the long journey south—
like worms they each intend to drop
into the other’s hungry waiting mouth.


Today’s poems are from Resurrection Party, published by Silver Birch Press, copyright © 2014 by Michalle Gould, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


RESURRECTION PARTY concerns itself, almost to the point of obsession, with the question of how the imagination grapples with the fear of death. The collection intertwines religious and mythical subjects and themes with more fleshly concerns about the body and decay, presence and absence. It has been described as containing poems of “almost exquisite refinement, illuminated by the taut glow of sensuous prosody and imagery” and as “a deeply meditative collection at once intelligent, tender, and utterly human.” (From the Silver Birch Press website.)


Michalle Gould has been working on the poems that constitute Resurrection Party for almost 15 years. In that time, her poems and short stories have appeared in Slate, New England Review, Poetry, American Literary Review, The Texas Observer, and other journals. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a librarian, and is in the process of researching and writing a novel set in the North of England during the 1930s.


Editor’s Note: Michalle Gould has a deep and fearless understanding of the self. In her quest to write poems that grapple with life’s big questions—life and death, self-awareness, relationships—she is bold and unafraid. She views her own body as honestly as an artist would. Yet she understands truths about the self that no other can reveal: “The artist scrapes my flesh onto his brush / but cannot touch what lies beneath, whatever he thinks— / nor can you, my dear, even as you read me.”

In “Self Portrait as the Maiden of Athens” the poet re-examines the Greek myth of the minotaur from a female perspective. Here she notes that, unlike the male hero in the story, when the maiden faces the beast, “I had no sword. / For tools, instead, I had only the instruments / of my body: my nails for daggers, my hair for thread.” This concept translates into the larger role of women in the world, and the question of what few tools and resources we have traditionally been allowed.

SPS-beloved poet Louise Mathias writes that the terrain of Resurrection Party “is somewhere between body and spirit, life and death, intimacy and solitude, elegance and intuition. Possessing a sly humor coupled with a laser sharp awareness and assertion of how all is ephemeral, Resurrection Party accomplishes the rare: it makes even the big questions fresh.”


Want to see more from Michalle Gould?
Michalle Gould Official Website
Buy Resurrection Party from Amazon
Resurrection Party on Goodreads
More Excerpts from Resurrection Party

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: JEN CAMPBELL

Jen Campbell


Vaginaland
By Jen Campbell


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“Vaginaland” was previously published in English Pen “Poems for Pussy Riot” and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Jen Campbell is an award-winning poet and short story writer. She’s also the author of the bestselling Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops Series. Her poetry collection, The Hungry Ghost Festival, is published by The Rialto and her latest book, The Bookshop Book, will be published in October by Little, Brown.


Editor’s Note: What is a girl? What is her mouth, her body, her words? Who is that girl when the world tries to hold her down and shut her up? When “She has been baked / as a blackberry pie and / now everyone wants a piece / of her”?

“Vaginaland” was originally published by English PEN as a political act. In an act of solidarity. In support of three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who were then in prison for their outspoken feminism, LGBT advocacy, and opposition to the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Who — and what — does a girl become when she stands up, breaks free, and fires out the words that are deep inside of her? When those words are political? When her voice is political? When “She says: this is the capital of me”?


Want to read more by Jen Campbell?
Jen Campbell Official Website
The Hungry Ghost Festival
The Prose-Poem Project
Jane Martin Poetry Prize 2013
The Plough Prize

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: JOANNA FUHRMAN AND TONI SIMON

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By Joanna Fuhrman and Toni Simon:

from FRIEND OF THE DEAD


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from HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?


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from THE RULER OF RUSTED KNEES


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Selections from “Friend of the Dead” originally appeared in Paperbag, selections from “How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You” originally appeared in Talisman, and selections from “The Ruler of Rusted Knees” originally appeared in Posit. These selections appear here today with permission from the poet.


Artists’ Statement: In our mixed-media literary project, Egyptian gods, stripped of their context and role, wander various New York City neighborhoods trying to figure out where they belong, how to make sense of what they have lost, and how to get along with one another.

In the first step of our project, Toni Simon constructs three-dimensional, small-scale figurines out of paper, modeled on Egyptian gods. She then paints them with abstract, graphic details. We then take the little gods out into different neighborhoods and take hundreds of photographs of them. We select eight to ten images, which become the basis for a series of poems written by Joanna Fuhrman.

So far, we have created picture/poem serial combinations in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Chinatown, the Reversible Destiny Studio, Red Hook and Gowanus. Parts of the project have appeared online in Paperbag, Talisman, and Posit, and in print in the 100th issue of Hanging Loose.


Joanna Fuhrman is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Pageant (Alice James Books 2009). Her fifth book, The Year of Yellow Butterflies, is forthcoming from Hanging Loose Press in 2015. Recent poems appear in The Believer, Court Green, The Brooklyn Rail, and Puerto del Sol. In 2011, Least Weasel published a beautifully printed chapbook, The Emotive Function. She teaches poetry writing at Rutgers, SLC Writer’s Village and in private workshops. Her essays on teaching appear regularly in Teachers & Writers Magazine.


Toni Simon is a multimedia artist living in Brooklyn. Her illustrated book of prose poetry, Earth After Earth, was published by Lunar Chandelier Press in 2012. Over 80 of her illustrations appear in Contradicta: Aphorisms (Green Integer, 2010) by Nick Piombino. She has exhibited her drawings at the Drawing Center and at the AIR Gallery in NYC.


Editor’s Note: What’s not to love? Two stellar artists in collaboration, pairing visual art and poetry. Egyptian gods wandering the streets of New York, searching for life’s meaning. Unique, hand-crafted images. And the words. Yes. The words. After all, this is the Saturday Poetry Series, and as unique as this concept is, it would not be here if it weren’t for the words. “Be honest / like language // is dishonest.” “I am not afraid of you / if you’re not afraid of me.” “One can see through / more than glass.” “You can stand by the window all day, / but you won’t become a window.” “In the beginning, we didn’t need to be friends with all / the parts of ourselves.” These reflections, offered in the guise of meditations of fallen gods, are truly a reflection of ourselves.


Want to read more by Joanna Fuhrman and Toni Simon?
Joanna Fuhrman Official Website
Toni Simon Official Blog
Paperbag
Posit
Talisman

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LAURA E. DAVIS

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By Laura E. Davis:


ATTITUDES TOWARD SEX

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THE BOYS ARE ALWAYS TALKING

about their cocks, naming
names—Rebecca, Elizabeth,
Ashley—we see these girls
all lined up, waiting to admire

the boys’ cocks. And the boys
talk about size of their cocks,
seven inches becomes ten, then
thirteen. They tell us how

they measured their cocks
after their first wet dream: they
woke up sweaty, quick-covered,
got their cocks hard again, pulled

out the ruler. Boys and cocks
everywhere. A boy shows his
cock to a girl on the playground.
Another boy watches girls from

a parked car while he touches
his cock. On the subway, boys
unzip their pants, put cocks
on display. Baby boys discover

their tiny cocks during every
diaper change. I didn’t see
my own clit was until I was
twenty-three. I had to hold

a mirror just to see it rise
like slow-motion stalagmite.
Had to hold back my own skin
just to show it to myself.



WOMAN AS HUMAN BEING

woman as human being.smaller


“Attitudes Toward Sex” was originally published in iARTistas. “The Boys Are Always Talking” was originally published in Muzzle. “Woman as Human Being” was originally published in Toad Journal. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.


Laura E. Davis is the author of Braiding the Storm (Finishing Line, 2012), founding editor of Weave Magazine, and founder of Submission Bombers. Her poems are featured or forthcoming in Toad, Stirring, Corium Magazine, So to Speak, Muzzle, and others. Laura teaches for Poetry Inside Out, a K-12 a bilingual poetry program in San Francisco, where she lives with her partner, Sal.

Editor’s Note: This week I had the honor of working with an artist to create an artistic response to the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. I have already written an editorial response to the ruling, but I wanted to speak out against this injustice in many ways, through many voices.

Today’s poems speak for womankind. They speak for our bodies, for our vantage point within a man’s world. When read together today, they are meant to be a shout from the rooftops. That no one exercises control over our bodies but ourselves. That we are human beings whose rights are superior to the rights of corporations. Yes, that we are human beings. Beautiful, complex, powerful human beings who are as capable of a battle cry as we are of “a vigorous and radiant sigh.”

Want to read more by Laura E. Davis?
Dear Outer Space – Laura E. Davis’ Blog
“Quiet Lightning” on Youtube
Buy Braiding the Storm from Finishing Line Press
“Relics” in Sundress
“Vessels” and “Red Storm” in The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE BURDEN OF LIGHT

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from THE BURDEN OF LIGHT: POEMS ON ILLNESS AND LOSS
Edited by Tanya Chernov
Selected Poems From the Anthology By Sivan Butler-Rotholz:



ELEGY FOR THE STILL LIVING:
FATHER CANNOT STAND STILL

[My father taught me] every time you breathe in,
say thank you. Every time you breathe out, say goodbye.

                                                                             —Li-Young Lee

The thing about my father is I wear my sadness like the inside of a jar.
How can you not see inside of it? How the slightest bit of air destroys me.
How I love him so much          I struggle

                           to love him

                                                                    at all.



GENESIS

i. The thing is, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and in this way the world was created.

ii. Definitions

“Wife”:           The person I love most
                         in the world.

“Death”:         He is not here
                         in this hole
                         in the ground
                         piled with dirt
                         and seashells.

“Mother”:       Inlaid tongue.

“Wedding”:    When I was young I liked to play ‘wedding’ and my father would walk me                          down the aisle and it’s a good thing he did then because
                         Flowers are like that.

“How”:            We go on

“Flowers”:      Are not stones.

“One God”:     Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.



Today’s poems are from The Burden of Light: Poems on Illness and Loss, available by donation on Smashwords and Amazon. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.


The Burden of Light: Part poetry anthology, part field guide, part multimedia art collection, The Burden of Light offers its readers companionship through the darkest days. With work by artists who have confronted serious illness or grief in their own lives, the poems and artwork in these pages hold the power to touch the heart, stir the mind, and heal the spirit, each in its own way. These pieces illuminate the vital force of our humanity, while encouraging us to reach out to others in need.

With 100% of the proceeds benefiting the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, even a small donation from one has the power to affect change when added to the contributions of others. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America, yet this cancer is largely preventable when detected early. By supporting the groundbreaking work of the NCCRA, we’re all helping to promote regular medical screening and fund the research needed to develop better tests, treatments, and ultimately, a cure. Just as The Burden of Light is designed to help readers move forward from trauma, so too will donations help those currently experiencing serious illness.


Editor’s Note: Yes, yes, today’s poems are a first here on the Saturday Poetry Series in that they are written by your faithful editor. I am honored to be featured in this anthology alongside a plethora of talented artists, including SPS-beloved poet Peggy Shumaker. But beyond sharing a little of my own work with you here for the first time, I wanted to share with you this important collection.

Whether you purchase it for your Kindle or download it as a PDF, you get to decide how much you want to pay for this anthology, and 100% of the proceeds benefit the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance. Via the Kindle edition or PDF you will find links to listen to the poets read their poems aloud, for an added layer of experience and immersion. This is a thoughtful, powerful, philanthropic endeavor with the power to both move the reader and effectuate change.

Check out the full anthology for more poems by yours truly and many more talented poets writing through their own experiences with illness and grief. Please donate what you can, and then go forth and read!


Want more from The Burden of Light?
Download the PDF via Smashwords
Purchase the Kindle edition from Amazon
Listen to “Elegy for the Still Living: Father Cannot Stand Still”
Listen to “Genesis”