When asked to say a few words of the winning piece, “The Gun Joke,” judge Nikky Finney writes:
This poem’s acuity has much to do with the human truth it reveals, in a new way, a determined, nuanced, beautiful, uncompromising way. THE GUN JOKE’S highly thoughtful word choice and graceful line decisions, the subtle but sacred repetition it evokes about the subject itself, all of this and more is built into this winning poem. Last but not least, it is often the courage of the poet who opens his mouth and boldly speaks into the dumbed-down news of last week, saying with each stroke of his pencil: Wait! Slow Down! This is not old news. This is now. Won’t you pay attention? Courage counts.
The winning poem will appear in Indiana Review 35.2, due out in Winter 2013.
Jamaal is the author of the poetry collection Hum (2013, Alice James Books).
“Blender Day,” a short piece by Ethna McKiernan (poetry, ’04) appears online at the Huffington Post.
Today could have been a day as bad as yesterday, only it was worse. All week I’d felt like I was inside a blender that someone had deliberately stuck on HIGH, then walked away. Today was something so backwards that I couldn’t wrap my mind around it, which made my brain hurt and my sense of humor break into brittle pieces. Today was the day Rebecca was scheduled to move from her apartment back into homelessness. She had arrived from the street (under a bridge, actually), slept in a bed for six months, and was now headed back to the street, but only after everything had been packed in boxes in a weird reverse motion, and shoved into a 5″ x 10″ storage rental unit which promised the first month free, but lied.
Ethna is the author of the poetry collection Sky Thick With Fireflies (Salmon Poetry, 2012).
Our accommodations were fancy by archaeological standards: not the usual motel or tent. We had a real house, where we would sleep like babies after twelve-hour days walking in the wind and sun, cutting our way through vines and branches, lifting our legs over underbrush like mounting a horse a thousand times an hour, and setting our feet down with a hyper-awareness of those damned sinkholes—just the size of a boot (ankle breakers) or a baby pool (journey to the center of the earth). These were the stressors of a day’s work in Hawai’i, out past Hana, Maui.
After work, pau hana. Back to the house with the feral cats, poisonous centipedes, and self-strangling gardens. Cold beer, shower off dirty sunblock, suck papayas on the porch. Cook, read, and hit the sack despite knowing that waking up before the sun in six hours means another ride through the Hawaiian dawn in the back of the Jeep—intestines, spleen, kidneys, liver, all slamming against the stomach so there is no question of eating breakfast before arriving on site. …[Keep Reading]…
Belle Laide, a poetry collection by Joanne Dwyer (poetry, ’09) is now available from Sarabande Books.
ARS POETICA, OR-KEEPER-OF-THE-WATER
First my father Killing Me Softly with his Roberta Flack album.
Then my son Killing Me Softly with his Fugees CD.
On my shoulder a carcinoma that will eventually kill me –
will eat my flesh, as I eat yours.
I bit hard, sucked hard, not to mark you as my possession
as the rancher burns his ranch insignia into young calves –
but to try and ingest, to take in
that which cannot be eaten.
Outside my window the tiny clawed feet of birds
slip on the ice in the cement birdbath
like the elderly couple who have not skated in half a century.
The birds peck and peck, but the ice remains
an impenetrable obstacle to thirst. Read More…
Three new poems by Michael Collins (poetry, ’03) appear in the latest issue of BlazeVOX.
I didn’t really want to murder lots of people
back when I drove around, windows up, doors locked,
Tupac counseling me on how to cope
when I ran out of endo and my mind
couldn’t take the stress – and how to die
straight thuggin’ even in dark times
when I could no longer trust my homies –
In point of fact, I had no homies
in my head that had done passed away,
was not, in reality, a G,
for whom getting high was a way to be free,
and my interactions with actual gangsters
“Scouts,” a poem by Mary Lou Buschi (poetry, ’04) appears online at Swarm.
We told stories with our eyes closed. Peeled grapes
passed around to signify eyeballs. Cold spaghetti
spilling into our laps—the boy’s disemboweled intestines.
That year, we were making gifts for the elderly.
I had never seen one, an elderly.
My gift was a gigantic corsage, pointy stiff leaves
like stars, held together with floral tape.
We were each given one name—Helen.
The name, a wooden box filled with pressed leaves
and fireflies sliding through summer mist. …[Keep Reading]…
Mary Lou is the author of The Spell of Coming (or Going) (2013, Patasola Press).
What was your heart like?
Dropped crumbs in a wide forest
Slow drip slow chant
In the chapel of want
One said he will not live
Long like this
Your body sounding a bell
To my body …[Keep Reading]…
Colleen is the author of the chapbook Housewifery (2013, Dancing Girl Press).
“Beauty and the Beast,” a poem by faculty member Gabrielle Calvocoressi, appeared recently in the New York Times Magazine. The poem is accompanied by an original drawing by artist Joshua Abelow.
He’s huge. Standing there in the woods where I didn’t even see him at first. He doesn’t know I’m looking and then he moves a little bit and kicks the ground. I was walking by myself as the sun set. I kept going in deeper to the greenest spot until I found a clearing. He was the clearing. He took the clearing up and stood there still and watched me till I saw him. I saw his shoulders first and then his neck. I think he was so golden in the sun I didn’t know what he was. And I thought the branches were his horns. I thought he was an eight point stag. And how his chest made a kind of giant heart out of me out of my eyes looking. And he let me look. …[Keep Reading]…
Gabrielle is the author of Apocalyptic Swing Poems (2009, Persea Books).
“Three Rooftops,” a poem by Justin Bigos (poetry, ’08) appears online at Driftless Review.
It happens on rooftops: the jump, the cut, the kiss smack between the stripper’s
breasts, your lover holding her lips right there, watching you watch.
October, 2001, Chinatown highrise apartment building, flags of restaurants and America
whipping below, before the sordid and banal became photographed
on phones, dilated cyclopean eyes, sent to other eyes across the globe, across the room,
the rooftop. Now she’s dancing with some guy, some dude, tall and lanky like you
Three poems by Abigail Wender (poetry, ’08) appear online at New Orleans Review.
House on the Bluff
In winter you strapped the canoe
to the basement ceiling,
every rib written in silt.
Every year the huge lake froze,
ice figures clawed
and covered the pier.
Even in summer we shivered with cold,
my two brothers and I,
the lake growing inside us,
farther from your shore.