A Few Ideas from My Black Box
Orange crush. No, blue field.
Wait, green ember. Maybe red beam.
In-any-case yellow. Possibly,
Netherworld gray. Quivering purple?
Skylark white. Taking out the trash
beneath a shuddering sadness indigo.
Color of the sand in the hourglass.
Orange in the sky where you can stand
and see the dead ones waving back.
Never, never, never loose the feeling blank.
Thin line of chartreuse separating
dream from disaster. All the while ravens
gathering above the graveyard.
You’re already too late forest green.
A sign that they’re gone forever beige.
Now the moonlight in heaps of nothing
upon the doorstep, shimmering pink.
Portal to who knows what burnt
umber. Trial by fire silver blue.
Hand dipped in river hand color.
Final color zero flare death stare.
—Ben Mirov, PEN American Poetry Series
“When one poet reads another poet, it is like one explorer studying the maps of a predecessor. If the complete works of a poet are a world map of his own making, then to be influenced by another poet is to have the map of his writing placed over your own. Every time another strong influence is experienced, another map is placed on top of a growing pile of maps, which adds up to a weight of influence. And then, if the poet is lucky enough, he discovers his own way of writing, and at that point all the accumulated maps of his reading become transparencies, through which we look into the palimpsest of the new poet’s psyche.”—Billy Collins, in PEN America 15
PEN New Members/New Books Party
Last Wednesday, Randolph and I attended PEN’s annual New Members/New Books party.
When I saw Mere on display with all the other books, I pointed and let my mouth hang open, like a kid on her first trip to the zoo. I was delighted to see my book both in captivity and also (sort of) in the wild.
Randolph went to get a drink. I wandered around and my attention was caught by a laptop on the bottom shelf of a cart where, again, I saw Mere’s familiar face. I was less delighted and more confused. Then, I looked up and Mere was on the wall, possibly as tall as I was. The display was part of a slideshow of all the covers from new books published by PEN Members this year.
It was surreal and funny and made me feel a little drunk.
I was happy to be at the party, not just because I had a new book out this year, but because PEN funds a great number of integral programs, including the Prison Writing program, the Writers’ Emergency Fund, and the World Voices Festival (among many, many others). I was also a little overwhelmed and more than a little impressed. powerHouse Arena, the venue, had suffered over $10,000 in damages due to Hurricane Sandy. It was in great shape.
Also, a little nervewracking, here’s a sampling of the writers who I saw and wanted to talk to, but didn’t (either because they were busy talking to someone else and I didn’t want to interrupt or because I felt nervous): Fiona Maazel, Marie-Helene Bertino, Leigh Newman, and Elinor Lipman. Writer I found out was there after we had already left: Matt Dojny. Writer whose hair I complimented and didn’t know who she was at the time: Megan Gilbert.
And a photo I didn’t take (rather, it was taken by a photographer named Beowulf Sheehan), but which I’m in, looking silly and kind of old: