Raina Fields

how a woman goes mad
   

change marked
by blood

womanhood held
whole by blood

in pastel panties,
marvel at the blood

magnificent
clots
and
clumps

virginity lost
with blood

pray
for the blood

saved
by the blood

inside, sprout
masses and sacs
of blood

fear this
blood

blot and rub
the blood

ruin sheets
tamp stained slacks

to the bottom
of hampers

no secret
the blood
can't share

Peter Valentine

old tree  (from the New York Times crossword puzzle, March 11, 2017)
   

[a] you are the lover
worn and wise
doddery and blind
born in the field to twist and turn
flakelike little fellow
[d] holding the wrong apologies
waiting to say the wrong word
waiting waiting to
[a] see
   
     
     
     

Untitled (from the New York Times crossword puzzle, March 7, 2017)
   

[a]
we are unfinished
we leave the things we leave
work overlooked
like sighs in the wind
the sound of a voice
how do I do this
[d]
shhh
bit by bit the letter openers scuffle in to shape the space the void of the
something that by the life that came out
came out
[a]
to speak of it
   
     
     
     

Untitled (from the New York Times crossword puzzle, February 17, 2017)
   

[a] to sketch the association of songbirds
the sound of rain
would already be too much
[d] for there it is
in delicate pattern
wordlessly draped
over the invisible
information
of the open [a] air
   

   
     
     

Untitled (from the New York Times crossword puzzle, February 17, 2017)
   

[a]
love goes where you wish
the icicles you disturb with light admit
(feeling the light i already love you)
[d]
and through the perpetual rain of reconciliation the popcorn and chips
the gardens spoil with
[a]
love love love my love
   

   
     
     

Untitled (from the New York Times crossword puzzle, November 4, 2016)
   

[a] this [d] poem starts in the bright [a] trees
   
     
     
     

old dog (from the New York Times crossword puzzle, October 31, 2016)
   

[a] down i lay
down away
all the talking like a word
to a yawn
like a sweet music going dying down
like a finger on the clock
[d] setting time
back to a time
left behind
and the sun flowed in
and the [a] air as wild
   

   
     
     

An interview with Juliana Spahr

Gramma : What initially drew you to poetry? How did you become involved with it?


Juliana Spahr : I wrote poetry as many a teenager. And then I went to this small liberal arts college for rich kids who couldn't get into the ivy leagues. And it had this introductory writing program for freshmen and you did a lot of freewriting in it. And I started writing a lot. Then I took some poetry workshops. I am someone who more or less entered poetry through the academy, as many of my generation. And although I do not have an MFA, most of what I know about poetry comes from the academy and/or adjacent socialities. I'm not super happy about this but I didn't get a lot of choice in it.


G : At what point, if any, did you realize you wanted to work with/within poetry professionally?


JS : I'm not sure I wanted to. I wanted to have a job. I had a PhD in literature. It was hard to get a job so I applied in as many areas as I could. 


G : What's the point of poetry?


JS : Lol. I don't know.


G : Much of your work engages thematically with the concepts of connection & disconnection (personal, interpersonal, physical, emotional, cultural, etc.). Do you view poetry as a way of reconciling this connection/disconnection?


JS : I think a lot of my work is about that because that is something that I am confused by and I am trying to figure it out. 


G : In An Army of Lovers, you describe a narrative of writers who have become jaded by certain aspects of the academic side of poetry. What do you think about the prevalence of the MFA presence within poetry communities? 


JS : I think about it a lot. I have two sort of contradictory thoughts. One is that I'm not against the idea of twelve or so people sitting around a table talking about work written by people at the table. And I'm not against the idea that reading and talking about poetry is a bad idea. But I'm also not into the hierarchies of the academy and I'm not into how much it costs to study poetry and I'm not happy about how so much poetry production happens in the academy or by its graduates. 


G : Is anything different about the 'world of poetry' now compared to how you knew it when you first became interested in writing?


JS : More MFA for sure. 


G : What is poetry's place in US culture today?


JS : I'm also not sure I know how to answer this one either. It for sure has a place as an art practice or as Literature, especially as Prestige Literature. And it continues to play a significant role in cultural diplomacy. And it also has a loyal oppositional and resistant role, although I think less so all the time. As far as we understand things, humans have always had poetry (as in patterned language). They probably always will.

Rodney Koeneke

things unseen
   

Brief as the activities of man,
January’s calendar loses all its places.
Do you look up and not want
to see it, a star arriving firmly
at the center of its cluster?

But length of days have taught us
to not need it, to watch the only calendar
go wrong. What else will get you looking,
considering the shopping, tree’s schema
in its mutable green sleeve?

Pretend it’s arrived, though no one
could see it, a column in building
hid by walls. If you had believed it
for only five minutes
then you, too, have believed.
   
     
     
     

scott walker sings
   

Rains have arrived,
filling a ripped canopy with the building’s
spoiled water. What would it take
for the month to invest us
with everyone’s regular happiness

reliably discovered under evening’s
growing clutter, pulled upward on wires
to access and confound the ordinary
properties of intermission?

Pumps fill swales till green
has place to rest in, alone in the lane
crossed by wet rocks
where age gets stuck and counts
itself as nothing, is sick

of the mood of being old,
of the cold things meter brings you:
hard drops beat loose slates,
froth swells drain’s loud pan.
   
     
     
     

another hapless functionary
   

Another hapless functionary
placed to block the show.
Love made like a lectionary:
chapter, snippet, curse.
Troubles shorten February,
iced bulbs hoard up woes
colorless as conscience,
but loved for that no worse.
It’s all we could demand now:
green earth under snow.
   
     
     
     

in order to signal
   

In order to signal the formal unfreezing
they’ve left us to drink from a brook.
And we’re making no progress
eroding our problems—
life tings and is varied
as a new-poured set of bells.

Who will care when we’re gone
and the offices cancelled,
hours there revealed as so much air?

Absolutes go batshit when they hear this
but brook, bell, and bank,
ice and earth’s ether: once
gods rage all this goes.
   
     
     
     

it might as well be spring
   

crocuses eat earthlight
  wait in a thin coat of fat

the entirety of love
  is a delaying

but it is also absorbing
to be made
and remade in her image

sit high on your dromedary
  come into your crown

mine was the site
you visited least
before the net slipped

but who cares now?
   

   
     
     

poem with line by kazimir malevich
   

I’ll do that in part—
rebuild with dressed stones,
prepare for iteration like an administrator

Busy as fish by rivers swept
months when colors change on dates.
Send for the beams, I am building!

I ride in my car a great distance,
offer a jumble on a white plate.
Hours and weeks are continuously passing by.

The project’s unfinished—
what use is whining?
They are roasting an ox. How fun!

East of the flats, a street of regrets.
Short wheat, green wheat—
the deed anticipates its penalty.

Each form is a world. The work
is unfinished. Have you changed
that much? Have you changed?
   
     
     
     

Amy Temple Harper

SPECTRUM
   

When I was five
I saw a rainbow.
I wondered
if the same colors I saw
through my eyes were
The same exact colors
Other people saw
Through their eyes.

Then I wondered,
“What is the nature of misery?”
   
     
     
     

SO LOVE
   

I want to kneel
beside you
and remove the
stone from
your shoe.

Any pain to you
is pain to me.

When I lean close
You smell like
fresh baked bread
and sweat.

After so many years
of looking
after each other
We discover
In time
That in the dark
All cats are black.
   
     
     
     

THE BODY IN NATURE
   

In the wild,
when a mother dies,
its young will stay
with the body for days.

A mother can sleep soundly
for a good long time.

Only when the babies
are hungry
do they move on.

Because their sense of
smell is keen
and tells them to go.
   
     
     
     

HOW TO WRITE POETRY FOR THE ELITE
   

First the title:
“Inaccessible,” might be a nice title.

Second, use elevated language like
Erudite and Arcane.
If you do not know any of the aforementioned words,
Please stop writing poems.
Limericks might work better for you.

All good poems might contain any or all of the following:

  Things that can’t help, but turn in upon themselves

  Bees that hum tunes you and I possibly can’t hear

  Perhaps some conditions of the universe

  Allusions to Sysiphus or Pyramus or Hieronymus
  But never Hippopatamus

  Things becoming “undone”

  Found poems, either found
  or made from refrigerator magnet poetry
  and parading as conceptual poetry

  Here a page rustles as it turns quietly, like a proper poet would turn it!

   And the form!
 See how the form
    of this poem
       Is
       dramatic
And might
   bring the reader to
           tears?

And this line
Is broken
So cleanly
That it needs no punctuation

Lastly
if your poem is understood
you have failed. You must
re-write it
in such a way
as to allow others
to resist the urge
to understand
   
     
     
     

Fields, Valentine, Spahr, Koeneke, Harper

Raina Lauren Fields is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Virginia Tech. Her poetry has been published in Blackbird, Callaboo, The Collagist, Fjords Review, PANK, and Hyphenate, among others.

Peter Valentine makes poems using words found in the New York Times crossword puzzle. For the "across" section of the poem he uses words from the "across" clues. For the "down" section he uses words from the "down" clues. For the "answers" section he only uses words in the "answer" grid. The title can be made from words in any section.

Juliana Spahr's most recent book is That Winter the Wolf Came, from Commune Editions.

Rodney Koeneke is the author of three books of poems, most recently Etruria (Wave Books, 2014). He lives in Portland, OR.

Amy Temple Harper is an Asian American poet who teaches writing and film at Portland State University.

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