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by-chelsea-bieker

Good Afternoon!

Good Afternoon! Writing to you from Miami—I’m in my hotel lobby. There is a beautiful strange wood ceiling, incense burning, and cacti. And everyone is walking through in bathing suits.

Some of the elements of life
will survive microbial disaster,
will refuse to recognize us,
will come up to the newspapers
and affect a response.

Descartes found himself in the bright blue
strong wind of the northern climate. There,
the erratic queen demanded he give her philosophy
at five in the morning and, calling in a cold,
he died.

 

All your books are unique in the sense that you wrote them in English and French. Can you tell us about your process?

French is my mother tongue but English became the dominant language when I moved to the United States. Actually it took over even before, when I wrote my thesis on Henry James for my Masters at the Sorbonne. I was already an anglophile, having lived and studied in England, and I loved writing in English. So I wrote my first book in English. It was my first publisher’s idea that I present it as a bilingual collection. This turned out to be a brilliant idea because the books become a dance between languages.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea 

                                                                   ―E.E. Cummings

The angel who smells of my childhood
My mother, piano and oboe
Whose face the icon reflects
Auburn hair like a Modigliani
Eyes the color of rain

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Where are you now?

In my apartment in New York City. Eating mac n’ cheese. I just got back from having a few beers with an old friend, TJ.

Nebraska

By Devin Kelly

Poem

If you know a quiet that sings
the song of footsteps, if you know
an open window is an invitation
to trespass on another home’s
scent, if you know the lesson
of the Bible that says the man
who holds the taste of blood
in his mouth is the one who holds
the truth, if you know tall grass

Whats the difference between poetry and other writing?

Poetry is writing minus the traffic lights, bridges, and boring parts.

Maxine doesn’t only love men’s bodies. She wants to grasp the logic
of their internal organs. She craves blueprints, circuit diagrams,

sewing patterns. First time she saw Frankenstein she wasn’t afraid.
She wanted to know how the mad doctor did it,

where to get dead people parts, which graves were best
for culling, whether a whole family of ladybugs

could live inside those zombie bellies.
When the high school guidance counselor

asked the inevitable career question, she told her
all she really cared about was weaving back and forth

between the inner and outer life of people, what you could see,
what you couldn’t, writing down what she found there,

taking ideas apart and putting them back together
to make them more ecstatic.

 

Terry Wolverton: Douglas, I first spoke with you about the dis•articulations project at the opening for “Oasis,” an art exhibition at Descanso Gardens in which poets and artists made work that responded to the landscape. I described to you how each month I was asking a different Los Angeles poet to collaborate with me on a series of exchanges that would result in new poems by both of us. The process was this: We would each find four poetry prompts in the media (print, broadcast or social), something we did not generate. We would exchange those prompts and use them to do four different segments of “fevered writing” (timed writing, without specific intention, a word spill for 3 minutes.) Then we would exchange the fevered writing, and write new poems using the words given to us by the other. So your poem would be comprised of words I had given you; my poem would be comprised of words you had given me. We didn’t have to use every word we were given, but we couldn’t add any words.

I remember feeling shy about asking whether you might consider participating, and was over-the-moon thrilled when you said you would. What made you decide to say yes?

 

Douglas Kearney: We’ve known each other for a minute, Terry, and I remember fondly our discussion about your adaptation of Embers for opera. I think it gave us an insight into each other’s ways of approaching language. At the time of your invitation, if I recall correctly, I had been kind of off-the-grid, locally. Holed up. It was a good way to get back out with someone I respect but hadn’t worked with in a creative capacity for some time.

I mentioned at a Dis•Articulations reading that I connected the approach to sample chopping—like say, Bob James’ “Nautilus” as sampled by 9th Wonder on “Murray’s Revenge.” Were you drawing the project frame from any particular aesthetic traditions?

we’ve places in our properties for them,
lots for growing them into lots more for us.
in the places, there, we can watch them,
our faces like hands having want. we, beaten

by a cooler outside, said they got a coat kind-of-
a-skin sewn up on their body until—beaten
by the cooler outside—we slip them out it
to wear it on us and so we

are we, for we wear their skin for us.

Janky Mojo

By Terry Wolverton

Poem

I came in with janky mojo,
head peppered with hard thoughts,
face painted with Kaiju’s blood,
skeleton in a spooky suit.

Who was that vampire in a red cape,
its song tracing through my pulse,
heckling my impatient choices,
talking shit about God?

When did I become a cold machine
that breathes frost and coughs dust?
My bone cage jumps
in the attic of my disappointment.

Food Pantry

By Soo Na Pak

Poem

Pack belly full of rotund cannot get in the way
Cannot drown or starve or die or be missed
Cannot be overlooked

Shields against the hunger
There is no
Shield against the hunger

Food pantry, rotting produce
Long lines, old white women holding clipboards
Bored-looking volunteers with
dark hair and judging eyes

ellyn-robbie

Hi Ellyn,

Hi backatcha!

 

Tell us about your background.

As an incredibly shy kid growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I expressed myself through writing early in life. I scribbled stories about going to California and meeting Barry Manilow, I never imagined reading this work aloud.  I mean, I was too timid to order in restaurants or even to ask where the bathroom was.  My shyness, in part, stemmed from having a hyper-critical father (luckily my mother was loving and supportive), a proverbial dysfunctional family in general, and from enduring classmates’ criticism that I was “an unusual-looking girl.”

Myth

By Ellyn Maybe

Poem

I wanted to feel the music of your shoulders
Watch the tension of C.D. turn to 8 track
I read your nonfiction – if that’s not a crush, what is.

You live twenty years away from Richie Havens turning up at a café.
I watch the liner notes of your wrists like a fortune teller.
Jerome Robbins choreographs your neighborhood with a pale peony.

First, attach yourself to the sky.
Go to the furthest edge of city, violet,
Starstruck, closer to god. Not everyone
Has the heart for it. Some hearts are less red.

Find yourself a cloud kingdom. Don’t
Come down easily, stay up in that thin air.
Don’t think about how you can’t breathe.
People have not breathed here for 11,000 years.