SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EMILY BLAIR


By Emily Blair:








Today’s poems previously appeared in cream city review (vol. 41.1) and Indiana Review (vol. 39, no.1) and appear here today with permission from the poet.

Emily Blair’s poetry has appeared in Gulf Coast, Sixth Finch, Juked, Indiana Review, New Ohio Review, cream city review, Gettysburg Review and the Brooklyn Poets Anthology, among other places. She received a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship in Poetry in 2014 and in Fiction in 2006, and is the author of the illustrated chapbook Idaville (Booklyn Artists’ Alliance, 2010). Also a visual artist, she creates multimedia books and collaborates with social practice artist Michelle Illuminato under the name Next Question.

Guest Editor’s Note: To begin reading a poem by Emily Blair is to step onto a sturdy roadway only to find halfway along that you are swaying wildly on a rickety rope bridge, your foot’s about to fall through the rotting jute, and there’s no going back. All you can do is rush forward and hope you make it to the other side before it collapses behind you. She pulls you along with brilliant wordplay: “—were the heavens ablaze—was there a topiary maze—” and half-recognized allusions to the plot points of movies you probably slept through while you were babysitting those demon kids across the street. Toward the end of the poem you realize that the poet is cleverly yet subtly addressing some of your most mundane and commonly shared fears and despite all signs to the contrary–is every single sentence a question?–the poet gives us a temporary reprieve from that anxiety in the form of a quirky answer: “Are you going to haunt me forever? I’m free every night this week.”

Want to read more by and about Emily Blair?
Barrel House Mag
Juked


Originally from MN, Guest Editor Julie Hart has lived in London, Zurich and Tokyo and now in Brooklyn Heights. Her work can be found in PANK Magazine, The Rumpus, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Poets Anthology and at juliehartwrites.com. She is a founder with Mirielle Clifford and Emily Blair of the poetry collective Sweet Action.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LAURA READ


RIP, LAURA’S VAGINA
By Laura Read


Your vagina is beginning to devitalize,
the doctor explained, when I asked him why
I had had so many urinary tract infections lately.
The first thing I thought was that I should say
No, your vagina is devitalizing, because I have
two teenage sons, and that is what passes for wit
in our house. But then I got lost in the fact
that he didn’t, in fact, have a vagina,
and I thought I should point that out instead
because in some circles—say, mine—
that would be an insult. Then, in the little
room inside my mind where Dorothy Parker
was holding court at the Algonquin,
I thought maybe devitalize is just a medical term,
give the guy a break. But I didn’t even know
this man. Couldn’t he just give me a prescription
and say something vague about aging?
What about euphemism? I guess devitalize
was one because he went on to more vividly
explain that my tissues were, frankly, deteriorating.
At that point, I was thinking But you haven’t even
seen the area in question
and How did you get
this far without knowing how to talk to women?

Devitalize reminds me of de-ice which is what
I was doing just before this tricky moment
at the Urgent Care. My son was late to Algebra
because it’s really cold and it took a while
to clean the car. And at 8:00 the door
where he usually goes in automatically closes,
so I had to take him around to the front,
and he dropped his phone in the snow
and it got run over, so now there’s a crack
in the screen. He wants me to replace it,
but I said, No, it still works.



Today’s poem previously appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Volume 68, No. 1. Winter 2018, and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Laura Read’s first collection of poems, Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral, was published in 2012 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her second collection, Dresses from the Old Country, will be published by BOA in fall of 2018. She teaches English at Spokane Falls Community College.

Guest Editor’s Note: This poem moves through thought and returns to previous memory in a deceptively effortless progression, as if listening to someone recount an experience in conversation. The speaker fixates on a word that informs the tone of the experience and the poem: devitalize. This word takes her down a linguistic path that leads to another path and another, but, unlike Robert Frost, she returns to the fork in the road at the end of the poem with her response to her son that is meant for the insensitive doctor: “No, it still works.”

The allusive dark humor of Dorothy Parker is conjured as a familiar satirical connection and an anchor for association or a metaphorical leap. The “little room” inside the speaker’s mind is where pithy retorts are stored for occasions such as the encounter at the Urgent Care clinic, but she doesn’t respond in the way that she wants to, keeping her thoughts to herself, as many women do in these situations when they are being told that their bodies have failed them in some way by doctors who make assumptions without being completely sure.

The significant linguistic turn the speaker takes to a new word: “Devitalize reminds me of de-ice” leads her to recent memory, and the experience of taking her son to school that morning evokes mournful anger and defiance in the face of a doctor’s proclamation that a vital part of her female-ness is deteriorating. The details are important in her reliving the moments with her son as she is sitting in the clinic, and seemingly mundane facts become the thematic crux, informing the reader how life and language connect to produce intense emotion when we least expect it.

Want to read more by and about Laura Read?
Laura Read’s Official Website


Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), the Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, and Rivet Journal.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: DEEP CALLS TO DEEP




From DEEP CALLS TO DEEP
By Jane Medved:


WINTER BURIAL

For the sky that reaches into its hushed pocket,
                                           for the bridle of winter waiting to be released.

For the ghost face which slips over everyone,
                                           for the tusk of the same white beginning.

For crystals that shape themselves while falling,
                                           for the storm’s icy laugh.

For the charred bars of the petting zoo,
                                           whose cages were made out of wood and went up fast.

For the twin goats trapped, for the small fire they turned their back on,
                                           the bread burning, the coffee.

For the one surviving goose housed in a Little Tikes kitchen,
                                           the black centers of his eyes and the string closing the door.

For the fenced-in storage area now zoned for a park,
                                           where there used to be patches of dried grass.

For the last time it snowed on the Jerusalem highway,
                                           and they wouldn’t let anyone in or out.

For the holiday makers who were stranded
                                           without fun.

For my niece’s baby who never woke up that day,
                                           she was an angel in her crib.

For they got her into the ground just before it froze,
                                           but no one knows where.

For the hidden ear of the tzaddik she is buried next to,
                                           for the cooing she drops into the ground where it melts.

For her small breaths, none of which are
                                           shaped the same.

For the soul, which cracks open the body,
                                           for the body, which is told what it must carry.

For when the ice let me back down the hill,
                                           I found my niece in her kitchen, forgiving everyone.



from THE LAST TIME I SAW HEROD

I. Women’s shelter, Miriam HaHashmonait St., Jerusalem

He was banging on the gate
even though there is no way
to know that we are in here.

He was looking for his wife,
aren’t they all, which is why
we make the children play

in the yard and of course
he knew her real name,
which makes me wonder

what’s the point of being
a princess if even that
can be taken away. I’m not

sorry he looked thin. I used
to feed my own husband
but I never watched him eat.

In my mind he was gulping
me down, tearing everything
apart so as not to miss a piece.



EVERYTHING WILL TELL ITS OWN STORY

sooner or later, coins, a copper lantern,
bits of colored glass, Napoleon’s diary
on loan from Harvard and the endless
lap of water at the world’s toothless edge.

These were found in the Phoenician port
where Napoleon threw his cannonballs
into the Mediterranean to lighten the load.
He wised up soon enough and tossed
his soldiers overboard instead.

The metal balls are shocked into rust
and stare like thick black eyeballs
from their shelf in the dusty museum.
History ignores the bodies though,
their bones turn to fine sand
that tricks the treasure hunters
with its unpredictable lapses. Never mind.

We are all one part ocean anyway,
which is why sex smells like fish, and waves
always come back to a dry river bed.

We are all one part earth, which is why
snow angels cannot fly but lose themselves
to the ground, only the children
leave a clue, a small piece of spine
that still remains even if they are forced into ashes.

We are all one part fire, angry
as a kidney stone, a fist, absolutely certain,
a blaze that hides for months in the smoking
roots of the rotem tree, waiting
to be lifted out, spoken into flame and taken.

We are all one part wind, did you notice
how birds spread out like notes
when they fly, faithful as radio beams
to their unseen connections.

I inhale the invisibility of it, using up
my appointed breaths, certain
that the air will always pass through me
cold and hot and justified.



WHICH IS TO SAY,

                               there is another way home.
                                                                                Just
yesterday, I saw the beating arc of starlings

who migrate to the Negev every year. It was late
and you have to take my word for this. They

became a single body that exhaled a melody
of startled scales made out of bones and feathers,

a flock of notes that scattered to swoop and play,
then reassemble in a different serenade, a fist of

sky squeezing its shape, or the curve of a swan’s
neck.
                   It was remarkable,
                                                      how soundless waves
could cart away the distance,
                                               and how I forgave,
in that moment, everyone.
                                                             Which is to say,

that the desert is a grave and lonely place,
where silence reappears as another kind of music.



Today’s poems are from Deep Calls to Deep (New Rivers Press, 2017), copyright © 2017 by Jane Medved, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Deep Calls to Deep: “Taking its title from Psalm 42, Deep Calls to Deep explores the nexus between the depths of biblical history and the depths of the self, and the twin powers of faith and doubt that drive them both. Building from a masterful sequence exploring the legacies of Herod to a final richly lyrical sequence, Deep Calls to Deep becomes richer with multiple readings. With stunning formal variety and skill, it enacts not only the struggle to maintain faith, but to ground it equally in past and present, chaos and void, self and other.” — Leslie Adrienne Miller, author of Y and The Resurrection Trade

Jane Medved is the author of Deep Calls to Deep (winner of the Many Voices Project, New Rivers Press 2017) and the chapbook Olam, Shana, Nefesh (Finishing Line Press, 2014) Her recent essays and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, The Tampa Review, The Atticus Review, The Cortland Review, 2River View and Vinyl. She is the poetry editor of the Ilanot Review, the on-line literary magazine of Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv. She lives and teaches creative writing in Jerusalem, Israel.

Editor’s Note: “History ignores the bodies,” but Jane Medved does not. It is through her own determined lens on history that the poet shapes this stunning new collection. The history she embraces is personal and familial, ancient and deeply entrenched, a history of people and place, of nature and land, of violence and loss. One might approach this work like an archaeologist, gentle and sifting, knowing that “coins, a copper lantern, bits of colored glass” are all precious, that every word and artifact you come across has a story to tell.

Deep Calls to Deep is ambitious, provocative, heart-wrenching and sacred. Within its pages the spiritual commingles with the archaeological, and words lay bare lost treasures like a desert wind revealing fact and fiction from beneath centuries of sand. The collection is divided into four sections, each so distinct and compelling that I could only begin to give you a taste of the whole by sharing a poem from each.

How visceral it is to read this collection. How engrossing. How evident on every page the capable hand of the poet who wrought the work, her knowledge and skill as writer and reader, how in tune she is with the human experience. Deep Calls to Deep is a masterpiece of the lyric, overflowing with stunning language and accessible imagery, at once startling in its beauty and reassuring in its familiarity. “Which is to say, // there is another way home… Which is to say, // that the desert is a grave and lonely place, / where silence reappears as another kind of music.”

Want more from Jane Medved?
Buy Deep Calls to Deep from Amazon
Queen Mob’s Teahouse
Cortland Review
2River View

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. It is an honor and a unique opportunity to now share this series with a number of guest editors, and we’ll be hearing more from them in the coming weeks. Today’s feature, however, is a labor of love from yours truly.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LYNN POWELL


By Lynn Powell:


THE MOON RISING

Sly old guru, Rorschach moon,
you’re calling me again with your round riddle,
your paradox of Ohm and moan.
All day the sun was up on its soapbox, a Pollyanna
casting out the darkness in everybody else.
Now we’re back at the window where we started—
me with my midnight weakness, and you
with your sleight-of-silver ministry
to anyone unguarded and alone.

Slow moon, you’ve lingered near the cloister and the dance hall,
laid your soft law down on wide and narrow beds.
You’ve faced yourself in ponds, thrown yourself
on the mercy of a moody sea. You’ve been the slick
Houdini of horizons, sliding out of each tight spot
the night has tried to trap you in.
What’s left for me to misconstrue?

I’m tired of my mind and its whitewash,
tired of your low-light revelations.
And how will I find the dark forest if you keep
murmuring silky nothings to the trees?

Cold moon, unmake me
in your image. Pare me down
to the bleak beatitude, the black sum
of all you know for sure.



AT THE EQUINOX

             Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew?
                                                                         —Job 38:28

From the car window, after the fog lifts,
the autumn fields flash with sudden flowers—

              like filigrees of mirror, like alloys of lace and light.

A weird miracle? Some brilliant, manic manna?
Until, of course, it’s only spiders—ten thousand

              that have worked the dark with rigs of silk

to snag a fly and then, surprising themselves,
have step-fathered the dew.

              And so, for an odd hour, hunger

glistens in galaxies, sieved
from passing thoughts of lake and air.



Today’s poems are from the collection Season of the Second Thought (University of Wisconsin Press, 2017), copyright Lynn Powell, and appear here today with permission from the poet.

Lynn Powell has published three books of poetry: Season of the Second Thought (winner of the 2017 Felix Pollak Prize), The Zones of Paradise, and Old & New Testaments. Her nonfiction book Framing Innocence won the Studs & Ida Terkel Award from The New Press in 2010. A native of East Tennessee, Powell teaches in the Creative Writing Program of Oberlin College.

Guest Editor’s Note: Lynn Powell’s work is reminiscent of “The Parable of the Sunfish” in Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading. Powell is a poet who gains deep understanding and insight into her subjects, examining them over and over from unique angles until she has observed their essence. In “The Moon Rising,” for instance, the moon is a “Sly, old guru” a “Rorschach,” a “slick/Houdini of the horizons.” It possesses a “slight of hand ministry” or can lay its “soft law down on wide and narrow beds.”

Throughout her collection Seasons of the Second Thought, line by line Powell examines, prods, and dissects until she has mastered her subject, rewarding her readers with an intimacy and understanding that is both profound and revealing. In “At the Equinox,” she observes the world with such intensity that she is able to see the creators of the miracle she is viewing not as their mundane selves — “only spiders—ten thousand” — but as creatures that “have step-fathered the dew.” Powell’s work is an enlightenment that allows the reader to see the world for what it can be when observed fully.

Want to read more by and about Lynn Powell?
Buy Seasons of the Second Thought from University of Wisconsin Press
POETRY Magazine
Bellingham Review
Shenandoah
American Literary Review


Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RACHEL HEIMOWITZ


REFRESH
By Rachel Heimowitz

We raise them in lemons, in buttercream, in cornmeal,
we cut the crust off every loaf and serve blueberries
to those who can’t abide the crumbs. We let them

ride our arms like cowboys, and when their imaginations
cry elephants, we give them elephants, thick skinned
and wrinkled, but theirs. We sail them off due west,

into the froth of their own desires, tell them their lives
will roll like the hills behind the hills behind the hills
into a mist the color of tamarind and smoke. Lovely

parenthood, open and bright, sunlight through a window,
a hand smoothing sheets, Lego basketed in a corner.
The refresh button under my index finger, set to the local news site

pressed over and over and over to discover
if my child has gone to war.

 

Today’s poem previously appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Prairie Schooner (Volume 91 Number 4) and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Rachel Heimowitz is the author of the chapbook, What the Light Reveals (Tebot Bach Press, 2014.) Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Spillway, Prairie Schooner and Georgia Review. She was recently a finalist for the COR Richard Peterson Prize, winner of the Passenger Prize and she has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Rachel received her MFA from Pacific University in Spring 2015 and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California.

Guest Editor’s Note: This is a poem of immense restraint, power, and impact. How we are lulled by its lyric, set softly adrift amid its imagery, then gutted by its simple, brutal truth. How effortless the poet makes it appear to live this unbearable life, to write this poem.

Today’s poem is dedicated to the children’s lives lost to gun violence. It is offered as a battle cry as we take to the streets today with the #NeverAgain movement to save our children, to march for their lives. So that the next time this poem is written it does not end: “The refresh button under my index finger, set to the local news site // pressed over and over and over to discover / if my child has died at school.”

Want to read more by and about Rachel Heimowitz?
Rachel Heimowitz Official Website
Buy What the Light Reveals from Amazon
Atticus Review
Twyckenham Notes
Tinderbox Poetry Journal
Cutthroat
The Missing Slate

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. It is an honor and a unique opportunity to now share this series with a number of guest editors, and we’ll be hearing more from them in the coming weeks. Today’s feature, however, is a labor of love from yours truly.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: HALA ALYAN

 

IN JERUSALEM
By Hala Alyan

Forgetting something doesn’t change it.
In Jerusalem a man blocked the door in front of a hostel

to tell me to unpin my hair. I did,
but then kept the story from anyone for years.

There are times I can see the bus stops clear as day,
the jasmine soap I bought from the Armenian quarter,

how I rewatched an episode of The Wire in bed
the first night, afraid if I left my room I would lose it.

That summer I was lousy with photographs—
church pews, skinny trees. A single one

of myself, peeking into a mirror. My hair over one eye.
Sometimes I wonder if the man even asked,

if I am misremembering, whether I am the culprit
of my own fear. But then I remember the two pairs of shoes

I wore through the soles that trip, how I finally walked barefoot
down the Mount of Olives until a cab stopped for me,

speaking in English first, then Arabic,
asking if I’d like to see photographs of his granddaughter,

telling me to write a story about him. The city was all men.
But he was kind and eager and me ka’ak

to eat, calling me asfoura when I picked it apart
with my fingers. Bird. You eat like one.

What should I name you in the story, I asked.
Land remembers like a body does. A city full of men

still has a mother. I told myself I disliked Jerusalem
but that was code for couldn’t shake it. I was capable of too much.

I cursed the heat and cried on the way to the airport.
There never was another story. When I got back home,

I cut my hair, then dreamt I buried my grandmother
under Al-Aqsa mosque, but she hadn’t even died yet.

 

Today’s poem first appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal and appears here today with permission from the poet.

 

Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Guernica and elsewhere. Her poetry collections have won the Arab American Book Award and the Crab Orchard Series. Her debut novel, SALT HOUSES, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017, and was longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize.

 

Guest Editor’s Note: Hala Alyan’s “In Jerusalem” begins with a maxim: “Forgetting something doesn’t change it,” laying the groundwork for what is to come. In this poem of place, the poet sets out assured that she knows where she is going, and in the cascade of couplets, following her steps through her narrative seems natural and the conclusions the speaker draws instinctive. Cultural conflicts filled with contradiction arise in “A city full of men,” in which the traveler wonders “whether I am the culprit/of my own fear,” creating a distinctive turn and shift to a slight difference in tone and purpose for the reader and the speaker, ending with a dream of an act of preservation that could leave evidence that she had been there and remembered things as they really happened. She tells us that “Land remembers like a body does,” and her wish to bury her grandmother under the Al-Aqsa mosque is her way of wanting to add to the land’s memory what she knows to be true, that “A city full of men/ still has a mother.” Sensory imagery contributes to the veracity of the speaker’s recollections and to an understanding of her conclusions drawn from the experiences that, like most human experiences, are filled with conflict and uncertainty, ripe for introspection.

 

Want to read more by and about Hala Alyan?
Hala Alyan’s Official Website

 

Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), the Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, and Rivet Journal.

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. It is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this series with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LITTLE CLIMATES

 

From Little Climates
By L. A. Johnson:

 

EPISTEMOLOGY

I never had quiet times in the kitchen
making an icebox cake.
I never inspected the back of the box,
folded wafers up with cream.

In the morning, you fix whatever
needs fixing. You make eggs
with toast. And in the afternoon, I walk
out far past the end of the acre.

Only then do the strays come
to the porch, looking for a dish of milk,
a can of fish left open. No arguing
or crying can be heard nearby.

In the evening, the walls confine
the regular angers. We listen
to the kettle sing on the stove
that nobody bothers to stop.

In the freezer, always, only the notion
of an icebox cake—its layers
softening to be like the real thing.
The icing, milk and smooth.

Stranger, if only things had been
a little different, I could be
old-fashioned in my happiness,
blushing and easy to love.

 

SPLIT-LEVEL

Today the six of us perform a funeral for a home—
we wreathe the doorway with lilies, carry
our possessions above our heads like caskets.

We scatter the enviable parts of our lives
across the lawn: a radio, ceramic bowls, a sweater

that never fit. Strangers stop by to look
at all our things, each one dressed in black.

Then with hammers, we begin the destruction.
Afternoon sun exposes the fine particles
of wool and fiberglass that kept us warm.

Behind the medicine cabinet, we find razor blades
rusted in a wall-hollow. In the vacant lot next door,

a ravine appears that no stray dog will cross.
We know in some towns, this demolition is modest

or even ordinary. A bulldozer loiters elsewhere.
In a future, this house will become honeycomb
and bees will make clear honey out of all our mistakes.

 

“Epistemology” previously appeared in the Antioch Review and “Split-Level” previously appeared in the Indiana Review. Both peoms are from the collection Little Climates (Bull City Press, 2017; copyright L. A. Johnson) and appear here today with permission from the poet.

 

Little Climates: The lyric poems of Little Climates address the divisions between the self and the world, the self and the lover, and self with the self. In her debut collection, L. A. Johnson examines of the disparate spaces humans occupy in relationships: together and separately, alone and as unit. Each partner’s past, how they’ve changed, how they dream of the present—these are the little climates.

 

L. A. Johnson is the author of the chapbook Little Climates (Bull City Press). She received her MFA from Columbia University and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost’s Fellow. She’s received scholarships and fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, The Iowa Review, Narrative Magazine, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

 

Guest Editor’s Note: I first heard L. A. Johnson’s poems at a reading the poet gave in Los Angeles. When I read Little Climates a few weeks later, I realized that her imagery is so acute and vivid that it had stayed with me. Johnson is an expert at creating poignant landscapes and visceral environments. At times, they are intensely familiar: “the notion/of an icebox cake—it’s layers/softening to be like the real thing,” but the poet also deftly moves in directions the reader might never have imagined; “In the evening, / the walls confine the regular angers.” The detailed, sensory world the poet creates builds into unforgettable landscapes that stay with the reader long after the pages of Little Climates have been closed.

 

Want to read more by and about L. A. Johnson?
L. A. Johnson’s Official Website
Buy Little Climates from Bull City Press
Buy Little Climates from Amazon
Read more poems via At Length
Read more poems via The Account

 

Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. Today and in the coming weeks, please help me welcome a series of guest editors to the newest incarnation of the Saturday Poetry Series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: PATRICE BOYER CLAEYS

By Patrice Boyer Claeys:

Favorite Color
after Ruth Stone’s “White on White”

A yellow flag iris,
a lick of flame,
glass of Sauternes.

Blinking lights at intersections,
the bills of mallards, old knotty pine
paneling, sticky to the touch.

Lemon meringue pie,
spent elm leaves, the fish brought home
from the fair in its water-filled bag.

Caution tape to mark the murder scene,
the road to Oz,
a wobbling flan, chicken fat.

The burning hydrogen of Arcturus,
broken brooms,
xenophobic dread.

A cheesy joke, wheezy phlegm,
the running rheumy eyes and shaded
teeth of jaundiced men.

Mustard, pus and broken yolks.
The nicotine-stained fingers
of Johnny Cash and Vonnegut.

Slimy bile, old bruises, the pulsing
membrane on the poisonous gland.
The dusty, bitter sex of crocus throat.

 

Today’s poem first appeared in Volume 5, Issue 1 of Bird’s Thumb and appears here today with permission from the poet.

 

Patrice Boyer Claeys enjoys the freedom of the empty nest. She thanks her writing group, Plumb Line Poets, for keeping her chiseling away. Her work has appeared in Mom Egg Review, Found Poetry Review, Blue Heron, Avocet, ARDOR, the Aurorean, Beech Street Review and Bird’s Thumb, and is forthcoming in Nassau Review. She was featured in Light, a Journal of Photography and Poetry. She was nominated for Best of the Net.

Guest Editor’s Note: On the surface, the literal and the metaphorical are given equal weight in this poem by Patrice Boyer Claeys. Each item anticipates the next, and the effect is a list of things that are yellow that might or might not be favorable in spite of the title “Favorite Color.” The poet references Ruth Stone’s “White on White” to give some direction for reading, which feels like an excavation, a mining for truth in the scrutiny of the color, its denotation and connotations.

Each line of the poem seems innocuous until the fifth stanza which ends with “xenophobic dread.” This metaphor stops the speaker’s examination of the more benign imagery that includes mallard bills, knotty pine, and “Lemon meringue pie,” and illuminates the “blinking lights of intersections” that has become a portent of imminent threats.

The final three stanzas do not disappoint in providing perilous symbols of imminent dangers, both familiar and unfamiliar. The depictions of disease—the “wheezy phlegm,” the “rheumy eyes,” the “old bruises”—succeed in changing the tone and in producing a mood of ominous expectation. The speaker observes instances of yellow and presents those that are the most necessary to the theme which seems to be a warning and a lesson in keen observation and meaning in context.

Want to read more by and about Patrice Boyer Claeys?
RHINO Poetry
Blue Heron Review
Beech Street Review

 

Anne Graue

Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), the Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, and Rivet Journal.

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. Today and in the coming weeks, please help me welcome a series of guest editors to the newest incarnation of the Saturday Poetry Series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MAX RITVO

Portrait of poet Max Ritvo. Photo Credit: Ashley Woo, Ari Ritvo

By Max Ritvo:


Holding a Freshwater Fish in a Pail Above the Sea

He strips health out
of the water,
reminding me
of my mother.

I walk in sea
and hold my sweet
fish above me,
no small feat

given the rice-
hard salt scraping
my eyeballs twice
each blink of lid.

I put the pail
in the ocean
and then unveil
the decorous

frail white-eyed koi.
But the salt, I
think, will destroy
his rocking breath.

Where he wants space
he will get salt.
Where key traces
of the silence

should hang inside
his cathedral
of musical
blood—

Instead, delicious
crystal drills
will crack it all
open; the church,

its ebbs and flows.
I scoop the fish
up by its nose,
a forked affair.

I show you him.
Looks fine to me
you say (Ha!), dim
and lovely you.

This happens more
times, stopping and
starting, me showing
you my full hand,

my fish. Where have
you gone? I was
hoping to wake
from this dream

with you drawing
the curtains, a gold
glow on the sheet
wrapping me up.

You aren’t here
but I’m aware
that somewhere
you have moved.



Today’s poem is from Four Reincarnations (Milkweed Editions, 2016), copyright © 2016 by Max Ritvo, and appears here today with permission from Milkweed Editions.

Max Ritvo (1990 – 2016) was an American poet. Milkweed Editions posthumously published a full-length collection of his poems, Four Reincarnations, to positive critical reviews. Milkweed has announced two more books, Letters from Max (co-written with Sarah Ruhl); and a second collection of Ritvo’s poems, The Final Voicemails, forthcoming in 2018. Ritvo earned his BA in English from Yale University, where he studied with the poet Louise Glück, and his MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. In 2014, he was awarded a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship for his chapbook AEONS. He edited poetry at Parnassus: Poetry in Review and was a teaching fellow at Columbia. Ritvo died from Ewing’s sarcoma on August 23, 2016, and is survived by his wife Victoria; his father Edward Ritvo, his mother Riva Ariella Ritvo-Slifka, and his three siblings, Victoria Black, Skye Oryx, and David Slifka. Ritvo’s work has appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, Boston Review, and as a Poem-a-day on Poets.org. (Annotated bio courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Guest Editor’s Note: Knowing about the life and death of the poet can provide a lens through which to read each poem in Max Ritvo’s Four Reincarnations. This poem from the collection, “Holding a Freshwater Fish in a Pail Above the Sea,” offers a number of thematic opportunities, but is most powerful through the biographical filter. The poet controls the language—each word, line, and stanza confounds expectations and inspires repeated visits to the poem and its evocative images.

At the outset, there is fear and love for the fish bound in memory and fear. The gentle rhyming quatrains are almost imperceptible behind the fierceness of feeling, but they provide the rhythm and sway of the water controlling the speaker’s emotions even in a dream state. Shifting awareness supplies a type of psychoanalytic wish fulfillment accompanied by an acceptance of the inevitable.

Each turn in the poem feels natural and effortless within a controlled formal structure, and this makes the emotional charge more concentrated and pungent. The lines “Where he wants space/ he will get salt” are especially potent and seem to anchor the speaker in reality revealed by the metaphors and symbols that emerge from the subconscious. Ritvo’s poem exposes the terror in living a life that ends in death and does so in language that is accessible and miraculous.

Want to read more by and about Max Ritvo?
The Poetry Foundation


Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), the Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, and Rivet Journal.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. Today and in the coming weeks, please help me welcome a series of guest editors to the newest incarnation of the Saturday Poetry Series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MARISA CRAWFORD



By Marisa Crawford:


I’m too sensitive for this world / this Foot Locker

Oh right, the bomb
Sorry so boring
300-year-old wiener dog
China teacups rimmed in gold
Oh right, underwater
Backwards somersault, no
Outside w/ the flowers
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh like it matters
9th grade Metallica disaster
Cutest hottest-pink dress ever
Janie / not Janie / not over
Summer that bled into forever
See that backslash that’s the gash in my left arm
See that scar that’ll always be there
Janie’d be like, so show me so stop doing it
So eat something, J
So coconut cake bonne bell
You shoved it in my face / posted on my wall
Smell it, smells like a memory
Smells like a fake cake
This metal gate has been a gift to me
That metal guy at the party with the long hair and the gift for
Piercing the beer can / swallowing it all in one gulp
Was that the first time
He like, put his arms around me from behind
Somehow I willed it to happen w/ my mind
& then there was / a porch swing
Macbeth, my whole life, my death, everything


Poem

I like being a lil bit mean to Stephen
Wearing things that look architecture-y
Eating apple pie with my ice cream
I guess I couldn’t help it
I imagined my wedding brunch
on the tabletop catalog spread
called “A Perfect Match”
Girls at work who talk on the phone
in another language, girls who don’t
She asks me where I live in New York City
I don’t live there, I don’t live anywhere
Clip art of a nine-year-old
girl climbing a tree
leaning on her elbow
skinning her knee
VP of Creative sending an email
with the subject line “The Future”
You calling my tampon a “little mouse”
as you pulled it out



Today’s poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Marisa Crawford is a New York-based writer, poet, and editor. She is the author of the poetry collections Reversible (2017) and The Haunted House (2010) from Switchback Books, and the chapbooks Big Brown Bag (Gazing Grain) and 8th Grade Hippie Chic (Immaculate Disciples). Her poetry has appeared in publications including Prelude, Bone Bouquet, Glittermob, and No, Dear, and she’s written about feminism, art, and pop culture for Hyperallergic, BUST, Bitch, Broadly, The Hairpin, and elsewhere. Marisa is the founder and editor-in-chief of Weird Sister, a website and organization that explores the intersections of feminism, literature, and pop culture.

Guest Editor’s Note: Reading Marisa Crawford’s poems reminds one of the feeling you get while looking through a Viewmaster. The reader experiences a gut punch of image and sensory recognition as Crawford takes the reader to the a New York City street, to a party, to a phone screen, face-to-face with a tampon. She plays on our olfactory senses. Macbeth shows up and makes us briefly feel those feelings of doom and futility in the face of human fallacies, blood trails and all. In “Poem” we confront the absurdity and futility of office life. Crawford writes, “VP of Creative sending an email / with the subject line ‘The Future,’” and with that the future unfolds. What will it taste like? What will it remind us of? She is a master of non-sentimental nostalgia. There’s a lightness of being to reading these poems, but the poems themselves are not light. They speak of the feminist and the feminine, the collective experience of being alive in these weird times.

Want to read more by and about Marisa Crawford?
Marisa Crawford’s Official Website
Buy Reversible from Swtichback Books
Weird Sister


Guest Editor Natalie Lyalin is the author of two books of poetry, Blood Makes Me Faint, But I Go For It (Ugly Duckling Presse 2014), and Pink & Hot Pink Habitat (Coconut Books 2009), as well as a chapbook, Try A Little Time Travel (Ugly Duckling Presse 2010). She is the co-editor of Natural History Press. She lives in Philadelphia and is working to befriend a flock of crows.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. Today and in the coming weeks, please help me welcome a series of guest editors to the newest incarnation of the Saturday Poetry Series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB