poetryfoundation

do you remember the first time you were called annoying?

how your breath stopped short in your chest

the way the light drained from your eyes, though you knew your cheeks were ablaze

the way your throat tightened as you tried to form an argument that got lost on your tongue?

your eyes never left the floor that day.
you were 13.


you’re 20 now, and i still see the light fade from your eyes when you talk about your interests for “too long,”

apologies littering every other sentence,
words trailing off a cliff you haven’t jumped from in 7 years.

i could listen to you forever, though i know speaking for more than 3 uninterrupted minutes makes you anxious.

all i want you to know is that you deserve
to be heard

for 3 minutes

for 10 minutes

for 2 hours 

forever.


there will be people who cannot handle your grace, your beauty, your wisdom, your heart;

mostly because they can’t handle their own. but you will never be

and have never been

“too much.”

—  Tyler Ford “too much”
It had lately been a problem that poems didn’t make money, you couldn’t sell them, so what were they worth… . When I was younger I watched [poetry] become money and that saved me. It became my work. Now I was just standing in the day. Had I ever considered what this was worth. Just standing in the goods. If the words I plucked out of standing here were incomplete then probably they were not “it.” And maybe this was. The thing was existence itself.
—  Eileen Myles, from Inferno (A Poet’s Novel)
poetryfoundation.org
Writing Like a White Guy by Jaswinder Bolina

More importantly, when it comes to writing about difficult issues of identity, especially those with far-reaching political and cultural implications, maybe the choice needn’t be a dichotomous one. Maybe I don’t need to choose between being the brown guy writing like a white guy or the brown guy writing about being Othered. Instead, maybe I need only be a brown guy writing out his study of language and the self—the same as the Paterson doctor, the Hartford insurance executive, the lesbian expat in Paris, the gay Jew from New Jersey, the male white poet teaching at the University of Houston, or the straight black female professor reading her poem at the American president’s inauguration. Though “high” English might be born of a culture once dominated by straight white men of privilege, each of us wields our English in ways those men might not have imagined. This is okay. Language, like a hammer, belongs to whoever picks it up to build or demolish. Whether we take language in hand to deconstruct itself, to confess a real experience or an imagined one, or to meditate upon the relationship between the individual and the political, social, historical, or cosmological, ownership of our language need not be bound up with the history of that language. Whether I choose to pound on the crooked nail of race or gender, self or Other, whether I decide on some obscure subject while forgoing the other obvious one, when I write, the hammer belongs to me.

Color kindness #Mgwriting
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“She is changing the landscape of fashion and the downtrodden with Color kindness” @findingpaola ☜
- M.G

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SALAD DAYS

We were not green in judgment or cold
in blood like Cleopatra in her youth
who still was ordering chopped radish
in her bowls back then,
the hearts all gone to pieces
next to the winter greens
that in our days we never had use for
so smitten were we with fire
and ovens that I was gravy in judgment,
which might not mean much
unless you’ve taken a spoon
of it and poured it back over a dumpling
shaped like your heart
so that it became even softer,
something you could not have thought possible.
It’s all happening now,
you liked to say, and I agreed,
though it was not the news
from the outside I relished,
but the daily Extra! Extra! the light
of the morning brought to my attention
every time we woke in your house
or my house and my heart
— salty, risen — was warm
again in a way it hadn’t been for years.
Organ of passion, organ of righteousness
that has never had a single flavor cross its lips,
how could you know
how much I would miss the honey of those days,
her drizzle of it on the turkey bacon,
my cracking pepper up and down the pan,
the sweet meat of happiness
I would no longer let pass between our teeth.

TOMAS Q. MORIN

I drank bleach to kill the butterflies that fluttered in my stomach when I thought of your face.

I scrubbed my skin with a grater to eviscerate your fingertips brushing against my broken body.

I took morphine and poured it into my bloodstream like a concoction designed to get rid of you.

But you are a part of me and I am a part of you and even if I corrupt

my flesh and

my bones and

my blood and

my soul;

I cannot destroy you without utterly destroying

me.

—  it’s 3 am, get out of my fucking head already
Pluto Shits on the Universe

On February 7, 1979, Pluto crossed over Neptune’s orbit and became the eighth planet from the sun for twenty years. A study in 1988 determined that Pluto’s path of orbit could never be accurately predicted. Labeled as “chaotic,” Pluto was later discredited from planet status in 2006.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops.
My bad. Your graph said I was supposed
to make a nice little loop around the sun.

Naw.

I chaos like a motherfucker. Ain’t no one can
chart me. All the other planets, they think
I’m annoying. They think I’m an escaped
moon, running free.

Fuck your moon. Fuck your solar system.
Fuck your time. Your year? Your year ain’t
shit but a day to me. I could spend your
whole year turning the winds in my bed. Thinking
about rings and how Jupiter should just pussy
on up and marry me by now. Your day?

That’s an asswipe. A sniffle. Your whole day
is barely the start of my sunset.

My name means hell, bitch. I am hell, bitch. All the cold
you have yet to feel. Chaos like a motherfucker.
And you tried to order me. Called me ninth.
Somewhere in the mess of graphs and math and compass
you tried to make me follow rules. Rules? Fuck your
rules. Neptune, that bitch slow. And I deserve all the sun
I can get, and all the blue-gold sky I want around me.

It is February 7th, 1979 and my skin is more
copper than any sky will ever be. More metal.
Neptune is bitch-sobbing in my rearview,
and I got my running shoes on and all this sky that’s all mine.

Fuck your order. Fuck your time. I realigned the cosmos.
I chaosed all the hell you have yet to feel. Now all your kids
in the classrooms, they confused. All their clocks:
wrong. They don’t even know what the fuck to do.
They gotta memorize new songs and shit. And the other
planets, I fucked their orbits. I shook the sky. Chaos like
a motherfucker.

It is February 7th, 1979. The sky is blue-gold:
the freedom of possibility.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops. My bad. 

Fatimah Asghar

2

August 3, 2015

Sitting Near the Downburst Of An Extravaganza-

Sitting near the downburst

of an extravaganza

watching this grand performance

storm
my body pulsing electric

the night is one continual current

of lightning flashes

wind howling above the tree tops

pushes them closer to ground than sky

Upoarious thunder

banging, banging,

against the hot light

expanding, in motion,

unrestrained, willful and wild

indifferent to its own consequence

Rain splash lands

pelts my eyelashes

but I can see everything

feel everything

underneath skin bone cover

this is who I really am

The smell of lily, wisteria, and rot lunge up

and flood into the atmosphere

between the splitting atoms

I scream at the top of my lungs

Until my voice collapses under

big moon tears

until finally,

I know I have been heard-

By: Terri Ann Bird

First Draft / No Edit / No Revisions

Energy Field
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ARRHYTHMIA

The heart of a bear is a cloud-shuttered
mountain. The heart of a mountain’s a kiln.
The white heart of a moth has nineteen white
chambers. The heart of a swan is a swan.

The heart of a wasp is a prick of plush.
The heart of a skunk is a mink. The heart
of an owl is part blood and part chalice.
The fey mouse heart rides a dawdy dust-cart.

The heart of a kestrel hides a house wren
at nest. The heart of lark is a czar.
The heart of a scorpion is swidden

and spark. The heart of a shark is a gear.
Listen and tell, thrums the grave heart of humans.
Listen well love, for it’s pitch dark down here.

HAILEY LEITHAUSER

sound check at Poetry Foundation “Freedom of Shadow” ✨🎶✨ #staycreative #makemusic #sound #poetry #honor #inspire #empower #terryadkins #douglaskerney #duet #valjeanty #vestax #roland #akai #digital #soundchemist #chicago #poetryfoundation #legacy #legba #knowyourmagik #knowyourpower (at Poetry Foundation & Poetry Magazine)

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"Gymnopédies No. 1"

That was the week
          it didn’t stop snowing.

That was the week
          five-fingered trees fell

          on houses & power lines
          broke like somebody waiting

for payday in a snowstorm.
That snow week, my daughter

& I trudged over the broken branches
          fidgeting through snow

          like hungry fingers
          through an empty pocket.

Over the termite-hollowed stump
as squat as a flat tire.

          Over the hollow
          the fox dives into
when we open the back door at night.

That was the week of snow
          & it glittered like every
          Christmas card we could
          remember while my daughter

poked around for the best place
to stand a snowman. One

with a pinecone nose.
          One with thumb-pressed

          eyes to see the whole
picture once things warm up.

–Adrian Matejka

This poem is published in the January 2014 issue of Poetry, and I have enjoyed this issue of the magazine more than any issue in a long while. I’m not sure why, and I’m not by any means implying that there’s anything wrong with the work featured in previous issues. I just really connected with several of these poems.

I like Matejka’s poem because it takes small instances and uses them to turn us on our heads. The poem is one long event: “the week / it didn’t stop snowing,” and there are several strong images used to support the narrative. There are “five-fingered trees” falling, broken power lines “like somebody waiting / for payday,” and “broken branches / fidgeting through snow / like hungry fingers.” Some of these images paint a picture for us, but others help us to connect with the emotion of the poem. If we can’t see someone waiting for payday, we know how that feels. How can broken branches fidget? The motion isn’t as important as the emotion the image invokes. Things look pretty desperate here.

The poem also uses repetition like “that was” and “over” to both draw us deeper into the poem and help us connect to it. There’s a variation of “that was” in the line “That snow week, my daughter.” This variation keeps the repetition from becoming monotonous. We don’t lose interest.

There have been some very conscious decisions about language and word choice in this poem. Consider the lines “while my daughter / poked around for the best place / to stand a snowman.” I’ve always heard the term “build a snowman.” The choice of the word stand is significant, especially since so many other things in the poem seem to be falling. If this is the case, then this image offers hope to us. The snowman is standing, not falling, and not being built. In the last line, we’re really hammered with the lines “One with thumb-pressed / eyes to see the whole / picture once things warm up.” At the beginning of the poem, I really felt like everything was pretty bleak. I know from personal experience that it’s rough to endure a week of snow, and so many things in this poem are falling and are broken. But the end of the poem implies that there’s so much more that we don’t see, things that are hidden. We get caught up in the here and now, and don’t consider what’s going to be present once conditions, things, and people change. To me, this is hopeful, if we only take the time to think about the things that are unseen.

-S

Anders Nilsen. Books won’t be in stores for another two weeks, but you can get one tonight at the #PoetryFoundation in #Chicago, the first stop of the tour. 6:30pm, catered by #Lula Cafe. Also with #ErikaLSánchez and #AmyNewman. #Music by #KSRA. Stay tuned in a couple weeks for the candid interview w/ Anders Nilsen on Lines & Marks. #bookrelease #booktour #poetryisuseless #drawing #comics #cartoon #cartoons #sequentialart #andersnilsen #drawnandquarterly #lines #talkinghead #humor #philosophy #poetry #interview #illustration #linesandmarks @andersbrekhus @drawnandquarterly

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“Alone”
BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—

—  Edgar Allen Poe (poetryfoundation.org)

Setting everything into flames ||
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