how a woman goes mad
whole by blood
in pastel panties,
marvel at the blood
for the blood
by the blood
masses and sacs
blot and rub
tamp stained slacks
to the bottom
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
Untitled (from the New York Times crossword puzzle, March 7, 2017)
we are unfinished
we leave the things we leave
like sighs in the wind
the sound of a voice
how do I do this
bit by bit the letter openers scuffle in to shape the space the void of the
something that by the life that came out
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
over the invisible
of the open [a] air
Untitled (from the New York Times crossword puzzle, February 17, 2017)
love goes where you wish
the icicles you disturb with light admit
(feeling the light i already love you)
and through the perpetual rain of reconciliation the popcorn and chips
the gardens spoil with
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
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
and the sun flowed in
and the [a] air as wild
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.
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?
When I was five
I saw a rainbow.
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?”
I want to kneel
and remove the
Any pain to you
is pain to me.
When I lean close
You smell like
fresh baked bread
After so many years
after each other
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
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
bring the reader to
And this line
That it needs no punctuation
if your poem is understood
you have failed. You must
in such a way
as to allow others
to resist the urge
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.