Throwback Thursday featuring Roy Bentley from issue 293.2

“Funerals in the South” first appeared in issue 293.2, March-April 2008. It was a finalist in the James Hearst Poetry Prize in 2008.

DVD 731 GRIEF FOOD . (Mobile Register, John David Mercer) LIVING RELIGION

Funerals in the South

We didn’t sing “My Old Kentucky Home” or “Dixie,”
but we might as well have. Without fail, neighbors
poured in with Tupperware-sealed Texas sheet cakes,
Jello, to-die-for fried chicken, ham, pecan pie. Grief,
it turns out, swallows easier than you might think.
I can tell you now the adults scared us, the children,
opening their hearts to loss. The scariest of mourners
had to be Myrtle, my aunt, a holy-roller fond of saying
Satan had her by the throat—she called him Beelzebub,
as though a sort of respect or friendship had sprung up.
At the eulogy—hellfire and damnation were preached
over our dead who, byGod, had to listen—she’d raise
a bony arm to signify that the Holy Ghost, “the Spirit,”
was upon her. Sooner or later, shouting Je-sus! Je-sus!
until it echoed in the funeral home like a braking train
whose wheel-song of descent calls to mind journeys,

an end to journeying. If the casket was closed, she’d
pound a lid; if it was open, she’d take hold of a hand
or trace the rouged-and-powdered contours of a face.
Thankfully, she had limits. Mouths were sacrosanct.
No smooching the chill lips of the Departed. Which
I understood, even then: a body’s temperature after
embalming isn’t a thing to have register at any age.
If April is the cruelest month, then it’s always April
in some part of eastern Kentucky. I wanted to sing:
Weep no more my lady. Oh! Weep no more today!
But I was a kid. I sang what and when I was told.
If there’s a God, enthroned in some obscene palace,
weeping because one Cross and Savior isn’t enough,
not in the coal towns, then she was right to sign on
as cheerleader. If not, there’s the solace of food—
napkins under chins to catch the hallelujah crumbs.


Ohio, 2014

Roy Bentley has received fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. Books include Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man (Bottom Dog, 1992), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine, 2006), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House 2013). He has taught creative writing and composition at universities and colleges throughout the Midwest and in Florida. These days, he teaches English and composition courses for Georgian Court University and lives in Barnegat, New Jersey. 

Advertisements

Flashback Friday featuring Devi Laskar from issue 294.2

Necessity breeds invention!

4-17

I was in an online poetry boot camp and had a few hours to come up with that Tuesday poem. Everything I had written that day stunk like raw fish baking on a dry dock. I overheard my children discussing their favorite movies at the time. My oldest said “Little Mermaid” and my middle said “Sleeping Beauty” and my youngest said “Snow White.” When I asked my youngest why, she said the wicked stepmother had the best laugh. And a poem was born.

“Cackle like a Wicked Stepmother” first appeared in issue 294.2, March-April 2009. Here is a flaskback of the poem as well as link to purchase your very own issue.

How to Cackle like a Wicked Stepmother

First you’ll need the accessories,
dazzling with mischief and ill-
intent: poisoned apples, floor-length
mirrors that talk back in iambic
rhyme; sinuous black evening
gowns, eye-shadow the color
of a bruise, lips too crimson to
be kissed, a castle with a working
dungeon; stone stairs always in need
of mopping, henchmen, preferably
hunchbacked, a charcoal forest whose
trees disappear into the abyss
of moonless nights, a thunderstorm
thick with jagged rain; oh, and a man
with a charmed life standing before
you, confessing his abiding
love for your sister, or best friend
since the second grade. The rest
is easy, look into the glass, bite
through to the core, delicious,
forbidden down to the guttural,
and feel the crows’ wings fluttering
in your belly finally rise.


photoselfie

DEVI S. LASKAR was born and raised in Chapel Hill, N.C. She holds a BA in journalism and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MA in South Asian Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MFA in writing from Columbia University. Ms. Laskar is a photographer and writer—and a former crime reporter in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Illinois. Her poems have been published in the Atlanta Review, the Squaw Valley ReviewPratichi, the Tule Review, and the North American Review, where her poems were finalists for the James Hearst Prize in 2009 and 2011. 


CLAIRE STIGLIANI (b. 1983) is a drawer and painter known for her works inspired by paintings, photographs, magazines, posters, YouTube clips, literature, performance and plays. These works explore the act of watching and being watched and blur fiction with reality. Her recent shows include The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, The Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, (WI), The Dean Jensen Gallery, Milwaukee, (WI), RussellProjects, Richmond (VA), and the Jenkins Johnson Gallery (NY). She is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking and Photography in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.

Writing an Aleister Crowley lipogram by Michael Kriesel from issue 300.2

crowley

“Aleister Crowley Lipogram” is written in a form that excludes one or more letters of the alphabet. A few years ago, my friend Wisconsin poet Mark Zimmermann further refined the lipogram by developing first-person narratives using only the letters contained in a literary or historical character’s name.

I wrote this poem from May 26th to June 6th, 2014. The first week was spent assembling a word list. I printed the letters of Crowley’s name in alphabetical order across the top of a page, and then searched the dictionary for words consisting of only those letters. I did this an hour or two each morning.

I ended up with 500 words, three pages of handwritten columns, five columns per page. Next step was highlighting likely words (a, access, act, actor, air, aisle…). Of 183 highlighted words, I ended up using 65. Actual composition was June 2 – 6, again, an hour or two each morning. Writing this poem was a blast!

Even more than other forms, a lipogram meets the writer halfway in the writing. Phrases assemble themselves independent of author intent, like crystals forming in a supersaturated solution. The poem is part artifact, conveying far less of the poet’s personality than other forms. Picture an old pachinko machine—the dropping metal ball diverted by each set of pegs encountered on its trip from top to bottom.

Besides a certain inevitability of composition, the form’s narrow word choice parameters give you a relative handful of similar words. It’s a process of sonic distilling, resulting in the lipogram’s rich sounds.

Once you’ve plodded through the dictionary grunt work, the composition part of writing a lipogram is FUN…and results in a product that’s fun for the reader! For your first one, I’d suggest a subject you’re thoroughly familiar with—an author you’ve read every book by, or a favorite musician whose songs have been your soundtrack more than once.

Speaking of fun, a book-length collection of lipograms by Mark Zimmermann is due to be released soon from Pebblebrook Press, You can find out more at  http://www.stoneboatwi.com/index.htm


mikeK (1)

Winner of North American Review’s 2015 James Hearst Poetry Prize Award, and President of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, Michael Kriesel, 53, is a poet and reviewer whose work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly, Antioch Review, Crab Creek Review, Rattle, Small Press Review, Library Journal, Nimrod, North American Review, Rosebud, and The Progressive. His manuscript Forgiving the Grass was a finalist in the ABZ Press 2014 First Poetry Book Contest. He served on the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission 2006-2008 and was the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Conference Coordinator 2006-2012. He’s won the 2012 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Triad Award, the 2011 Wisconsin People & Ideas Poetry Contest, the 2009 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Muse Prize, and the 2004 Lorine Niedecker Poetry Prize from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. He was featured poet for the 2010 Great Lakes Writers Festival. He also judged the 2014 Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring Poetry Competition. Books include Chasing Saturday Night: Poems about Rural Wisconsin (Marsh River Editions), Whale of Stars (haiku) (Sunnyoutside), Moths Mail the House (Sunnyoutside), and Feeding My Heart to the Wind: Selected Short Poems (Sunnyoutside). He has a B.S. in Literature from the University of the State of New York, and was a print and broadcast journalist in the U.S. Navy 1980-1990. He’s currently a janitor at the rural elementary school he once attended.


Photo from: http://aleistercrowleyfoundation.net/

Should White Poets Write About Race? by Holly Karapetkova

Reginald Dwayne Betts wrote in a recent issue of Poetry magazine,  “Don’t write about being white,” a quote the editors thought important enough to reprint on the back cover of the magazine. Certainly Betts and the editors wanted to raise a few eyebrows, and certainly a careful reader will relate the statement to a quote elsewhere in the essay: “I am not sure it is possible for a Negro to write well without making us aware he is a Negro; on the other hand, if being a Negro is the only subject, the writing is not important.” The comment, which Betts attributes to an unnamed “reviewer,” happens to belong to Louis Simpson discussing Gwendolyn Brooks’s Selected Poems in 1963, and it highlights the dilemma at the core of the American experience where whiteness is taken as the given and anything questioning (or even calling attention to) the centrality of white experience is marginalized and disparaged.  But the essay, and the response it elicited from some white readers, raises a good question. Should white poets write about race?

HeadsnClouds_web

I am certain that many white poets who are sensitive to the subjects of racism and injustice are wary of the potential to inflict harm. Many of us fear that because we are not fully aware of what it means to move through this world in non-white skin our words might, no matter how good our intentions, cause others pain. Hasn’t racism as an ideology and an institution done enough damage without white poets putting their foot in the hornet’s nest? This fear is closely connected with another reason I believe white poets shy away from the topic of race: the sense that we are not really the experts here. What white people do know about race is often enough to assure us of just how little we don’t know about the impact it has on the lives of people of color.

Indeed, contemporary poetry offers us some key reminders of what can go wrong when white poets attempt to take on the subject of race. In the worst cases, the text can come across as ignorant and dismissive, and insensitivity to the insidious nature of racism can create hurt and offense, as in the famous case of Tony Hoagland’s “The Change.” We do not, of course, have to identify the poet with the white speaker of the poem. We can also appreciate Hoagland’s comment in a later interview that “white anxiety about race is an under-represented, under-articulated part of American society”; the poem is intended to make such anxiety visible. But the response of Claudia Rankine on The Academy of American Poets website reveals the potential harm in such a piece, whatever its intent. 

clay11

Major Jackson takes on the reticence of white poets on the subject of race in his 2007 essay in American Poetry Review, “A Mystifying Silence: Big and Black,” attributing white silence to a desire for poetry to create a politically correct, emotionally safe sphere for language and thought: “so earnest are we in the vision of poetry as the province of communal good that we fail to create ‘speakers’ in our poems who are contemptible and dishonorable.” Of course, he also notes the desire to censor one’s own more embarrassing thoughts in a genre where the speaker is typically received (whether true or not) as a thinly veiled representation of the writer herself.

But at the end of the day he finds (and I agree) that all of this logic begins to sound like sorry excuses. At the end of the day, white silence is potentially as hurtful as getting it “wrong.” This gross ambivalence toward, or even indifference to, the subject of racism allows it to continue, passing itself off as invisible. Even a seemingly more noble reluctance to overshadow non-white voices on the subject of race implies a troubling fact: the relative absence of race from the conversation in contemporary American poetry in general. As one of the key traumas marking the American experience, race is relegated to a shockingly small portion of what is published, read, and written about. And all poets, including white poets, would be well-served by demanding more space for this conversation. Without a more fully developed discussion of racism in all of its various guises, we cannot truly understand its impact. We will remain, as Jackson claims, spectators on one of the key issues of our time.

3-30 clay

Poetry is a space where, as many poets before me have remarked, several things can be true at once. Moral judgement is not required; right and wrong are not required. The truth, which is always more elusive than words can lay their fingers on, is allowed to be complex and bewildering. Racism is complex and bewildering. It is often boiled down to matters of right and wrong, just and unjust, but the truth is not always what we think. I have both benefited from and been traumatized by whiteness. I have been both oppressor and victim. I have been complacent in my racism and I have grown furious, raging against it. Poetry, with its silences and absences, with its contradictions and its refusal to make logical connections, makes excellent territory for grappling with racism.

If we are going to finally confront the sickness that has dominated life in America since its foundation, then we need a literature that explores its impact from as many angles as possible. We need a complete picture, and we very much need poets willing to explore what whiteness is and what it does, even if they sometimes get it wrong. We need more white poets willing to enter the conversation.


Holly Karapetkova’s poetry, prose, and translations from the Bulgarian have appeared in Mid-American Review, Huffington Post, 32 Poems, and many other places. Her first book, Words We Might One Day Say, won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Prize for Poetry. She is also the author of over twenty books for children. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, and teaches at Marymount University. Holly was a finalist for the James Hearst Poetry Prize 2015 with her poem “Big Hair” which can be seen in issue 300.2.


Illustrations by  Clay Rodery, an illustrator who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Clay’s illustrations have been featured in the North American Review issues 298.4, 299.1, 299.3 and the most recently is in issue 299.4, Fall 2014 and most recently 300.2, Spring 2015.

Throwback Thursday featuring Travis Mossotti from issue 294.2

Travis Mossotti’s poem “The Dead Cause” won first place in the James Hearst Poetry Prize in 2009. His poem is featured in issue 294.2, Spring 2009 and can be still be purchased through our online store.  grasshopper-249115_640

The Dead Cause

On the porch, a grasshopper waved its serrated foreleg at me while I juggled

groceries for keys; it was the kind of friendly wave I might expect

from a loved one, recently dead, reincarnated into this green husk.

The whole ordeal triggered an alarm of distant thunder, stuffing my head

with dark seeds; so after waving back, I ducked inside, fearful

of inadvertently giving the dead cause to haunt me—the last thing

I needed. Regina was off doing research in Glen Rose again, otherwise

she would’ve identified the grasshopper using the scientific precision that always

fussed my mouth with cobwebs. As it was, I dialed her number

just to make sure she was okay, that she wasn’t yet a grasshopper.

Probably nothing more than a locust—Melanoplus spretus, she said. It could’ve been Buddha, maybe,

I should’ve invited it in for tea, I said before saying goodbye. Raindrops the size of doorknobs

began chasing a garbage truck past the kitchen window. I set the kettle

on the stove to boil, and with curtains curled back slightly, watched a procession

of locusts lope out from the tall grass, apparently no longer waiting for an invitation


TravieTravis Mossotti was awarded the 2011 May Swenson Poetry Award for his first collection of poems About the Dead (USU Press, 2011), and his second collection Field Study won the 2013 Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Prize (Bona Fide Books, 2014). Mossotti has also published two chapbooks, and recent poems of his have appeared in issues of the Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Southern Review, and elsewhere. Photo by: Regina Mossitti


Illustration Link

Flashback Friday featuring Rebecca Foust from issue 294.2

Rebecca Foust was a finalist in the James Hearst Poetry Prize in 2009. Her poem “The Cormorant” was featured in issue 294.2.

abstract

“The Cormorant”

Satan “flew, and on the Tree of Life . . . sat like a Cormorant;”
—Paradise Lost, Book IV, ll.194-96

The four-chambered heart and wings
somehow transcend his reptilian brain
and come with dusty black feathers

that fray the frock coat of this dour,
penurious parson. An oddly dense
puddle of shadow inking the float,

he does not give deign even one glance
in our direction. We dog-paddle close,
but he waits until we touch wood

to unfold awkward, creaking wing,
splash down on water, upend, dive
and sleek as a snake disappear,

no ripple or wake. We climb up, cold
and late. The sun in decline has turned
the lake red; it’s already starting to burn.


From the author: I wrote this poem when, during a re-read of Paradise Lost, I was struck by the detail mentioned in the epigraph: on his first trip to earth, Satan came not in the form of a serpent but in the form of a cormorant. Cormorants are shore birds, dark-feathered, and sizable, weighing upwards of 11 pounds and with wingspans as wide as 39 inches. All species are fish-eaters, catching their prey by diving from the surface, sometimes as deep as 100 feet.

article-2158119-139191B3000005DC-905_634x438

The events recounted in the poem occurred in the summer of 2008 when I was staying in outer Cape Cod with my family. My husband and I somehow managed to get away by ourselves for a late afternoon swim and decided to go to Slough Pond, a tiny, pristine kettle pond whose location is a closely guarded local secret. To get there, we wound through thick woods on a single-lane sand road, ending at a clearing just big enough to park our car, then picked our way down a narrow foot trail. It was a perfect Mary Oliver kind of cape afternoon, with the smooth surface of the pond inked slightly more indigo than the sky, and a few wild azaleas blooming at the water’s edge. We’d gotten a late start, and when we arrived the shadows were already long on the water, the light beginning to slant. We’re strong swimmers, and so we planned to swim all the way across the pond and back, resting on an old wooden float moored about halfway. We noticed a cormorant there perched on the float, spreading its wings out to dry, and I remember thinking that it looked like a dark blot on or tear in the otherwise bucolic canvas of water and sky.

I may have been musing over the name of the pond as I started out across its cool surface, thinking about how some people pronounce “Slough” to rhyme with “cow” and others to rhyme with “cue.” I may also have been thinking about the “Slough of Despond” in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The sky was completely clear when we entered the water but then dark clouds blew in, turning the pond gray and chopping up its surface. The waves made it hard going, and we wanted to rest on the float before swimming back. We expected the cormorant to fly away but it remained, implacable, and looming larger and larger as we approached. It looked, as I said, like a blot on the day, and I felt some kind of deep, old fear. Utterly unperturbed, the bird waited until we actually touched the float before taking off—huge and black and suspended on air for a second before diving and submerging. As it disappeared, I saw the dark, sinuous form eeling away under the surface, and it may have been then that I thought about how much the bird resembled a snake. While we sat on the float catching our breath, the storm blew over and the sun came back out to descend with fiery radiance, turning sky and pond red and orange as any ember. It had completely set by the time we swam back to the bank and emerged, chilled.

Cormorant,_Great_ArendVermazeren

A few months later I came across that reference in Paradise Lost and remembering the day at Slough Pond, thought about how birds and reptiles share a common ancestral root and have similar physiologies with feathers and beaks perhaps being modified scales. That got the poem started. I must have been reading one of Lemony Snicket’s books in the Unfortunate Events series to my kids that fall, because it occurred to me that the while drying its wings, the bird looked a lot like the Baudelaire children’s evil uncle (Count Olaf), envisioned by me as “a dour penurious parson.” I thought about how the bird didn’t move until we touched the float, and about how that could be expressed as “touch wood,” a superstitious ritual with roots in touching a relic of the true cross. And I loved the connections between the cormorant and the snake, not just what I’d observed, but also their sharing a common evolutionary ancestor, and both being forms assumed by Satan while on his mission to bring about Eden’s fall. I wanted the poem to convey what I felt that day, a horrified realization that evil can show up in the middle of any ordinary beauty and that even when you cannot see it, it is still there, a reminder that what looks like Eden is not really Eden at all. The reference to the fiery lake in the poem’s last line is straight from Paradise Lost.

This poem, in pretty much the same form you see here, was reviewed in a workshop during the second semester residency of my MFA program at Warren Wilson. In what would be my first experience of the “herd mentality” that can mar such workshops, the teacher pretty much advised me to scrap the poem and start over, with the others sitting around the table chiming in their agreement or saying nothing at all. I did not scrap the poem, and my belief in it was validated later when the editors at the North American Review notified me that it was a finalist for the James Hearst Prize. It was my first sonnet attempt and is among the first dozen or so poems I ever published, but “The Cormorant” remains important to me because it was what taught me not to take writing workshop pronouncements as gospel and to trust my instincts about my own work.


Becky_author photo_cropped_7-12-14 (1)

Rebecca Foust was the 2014 Dartmouth Poet in Residence and is the recipient of fellowships from the Frost Place and the MacDowell Colony. Her fifth book, Paradise Drive, won the 2015 Press 53 Award for Poetry and will be released in April. About its linked narrative, Thomas Lux says “There is great music in these poems, and sonnet after sonnet is masterful. Not since Berryman’s Henry have I been so engaged by a persona.” You can order Paradise Drive by visiting http://www.press53.com and clicking through to Foust’s author page.

FYI: Since 2007, Foust’s poem’s have appeared in 7 issues of the North American Review. She won second place for the James Hearst Poetry Prize in 2012, and was also a James Hearst Poetry Prize Finalist in 2013. Rebecca’s poem, “Prayer for my New Daughter” is featured in issue 300.1, Winter 2015.


Top Illustration (Sneak Preview) by Anthony Tremmaglia, an Ottawa-based illustrator, artist, and educator. His clients include WIRED, Scientific American, Smart Money, HOW, and San Francisco Weekly. Anthony is featured in issues 299.1, Winter 2014 & 299.4, Fall 2014 and his most recent work (featured above) in upcoming 300.2, Spring 2015. Find more of Anthony’s work at http://www.tremmaglia.ca/

Second & Third Images: Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Throwback Thursday featuring Devi Laskar from issue 296.2

Devi Laskar’s “The All-Saints, Ga., Overeaters Support Group (meeting 18)” was a finalist in the James Hearst Poetry Prize in Spring 2011.

The All-Saints, Ga., Overeaters Support Group
(meeting #18)

world of imaginationFirst we talk about watermelons—
a modern, American reference
to family picnics, seed-spitting contests,
abating a thirst for summer love
by eating weightless pink flesh.

Then our study of the Greek myths
seeps through our tongues as pomegranates
are hurled onto our invisible
table, pungent olives, golden
apples, blood oranges, Medea.

Someone comments on sorrow
as an appetite suppressant—
death provokes fasting, in some cases
a strict diet of bitter remembrance
until the taste for life returns.

Others blurt out hors d’oeuvres stories
at the theatre, cocktail parties, movies.
And at weddings, how the cake is too sweet,
the toasting champagne always falls flat
by the time the waiter reaches their glasses.

We discuss the reluctant meals we swallow
when there is no money leftover after rent:
white bread that’s three days old, noodles,
peanut butter without the jelly,
lentil soups with rice, bags of popcorn.

No one mentions why we come here,
the way we slide into our chairs, batter
stealing home, without notice, without
admitting that we want to souffle
our bodies from landfills to temples.

old woman in the shoe - junyoung kimWe laugh at the staple of fairy tales:
apples poisoned by jealousy,
gingerbread houses, cooked goose,
blackbird pies, cooling porridge, stone
soup, beanstalks that lead to giant feasts.

Then someone mumbles a fable about
the seven sins but I am too far
away to hear it, a joke that
I don’t understand because I can’t
get past gluttony and avarice.

Finally, a discourse on Vegas:
the incandescent dramas, all night
slots and sex, currency exchange
and love, how breakfast is served
at these twenty-four hour buffets.

It’s about choice, I say. The use of buffet
is to speak selection; the hierarchy
of egg dishes, for example:
how Benedict is better than poached,
the sauce enhancing the runny yolk.

No, a voice calls out from the circle:
Buffet is all-you-can-eat,
it’s tasting a lot of everything,
eating it all. Freedom and acceptance.
It’s taking the whole world into your heart.

The hour is up and I am hungry.


photoselfieDevi S. Laskar was born and raised in Chapel Hill, N.C. She holds a BA in journalism and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MA in South Asian Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MFA in writing from Columbia University.

Ms. Laskar is a photographer and writer—and a former crime reporter in Florida, Georgia, Hawai’i, North Carolina, and Illinois. Her poems have been published in the Atlanta
Review
, the Squaw Valley ReviewPratichi, the Tule unnamedReviewand the North American Review, where her poems were finalists for the James Hearst Prize in 2009 and 2011.


Illustrations by Junyoung Kim. She is an illustrator, cartoonist, and printmaker based in New York. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in illustration. Her works are featured in various magazines including the Visual Opinion, GrowerTalk, and Green Profit magazine.

Thursday Throwback featuring Susan Terris with “Before Cortéz” from issue 295.2

Susan’s poem “Before Cortéz” was a finalist in the James Hearst Poetry Prize in 2010.

Thoughts from the author: “I’m always interested in the plight of women past and present and in women’s potential for power. I have an inordinate admiration for women who find a way to use this power to change their lives. Yes, I admire the  women who do not simply Ophelia-like cave in and choose servitude or death.”

jperkinsamaricangirlweb (1)

Before Cortéz

Bitch they call me. Whore. Yet in the blink of
a puma, I—Malintzin—was changed from
Aztec princess to Mayan slave. But still beautiful,
I think, as I scrub other women’s linens on
the bank of a slime-green river. Testing, I smile.
My reflection meets my eyes, smiles back.
With a chapped left hand, I rake
through my hair. My double uses her right.
I have no rights any more. Angry, I
spit in the face of the washerwoman who
looks like me. A feral cat, she bares her teeth.
But my lips are still pursed. Puta! she cries,
La Chinganda! Curds of water stir as the circle
of phlegm grows wider, thins and vanishes.
The other Malintzin, wet clothing molding
the arcs of her body, rises from the river,
moves slowly, sinuously. She makes no ripples.
Her dress sheds no water. Eyes dark with
menace, she advances until I see myself
reflected in her pupils. Run if you can, she
whispers hoarsely. But, rooted there, I breathe
out and in. When I exhale again, the other
Malintzin steps up close, grabs hold of me,
presses her mouth firmly against mine. Inhale,
she murmurs, shape-shifting into
a plumed conquistador. As bidden, I breathe in
and so begin to vanish….


Susan Terris’s most recent book is Ghost of Yesterday: New & Selected Poems (Marsh Hawk Press). She is the author of 6 books of poetry, 15 chapbooks, and 3 artist’s books.  Journal publications include The Southern Review, Denver Quarterly, The JournalNorth American Review, and Ploughshares. A poem of hers from Field appeared in Pushcart Prize XXXI. Susan’s piece, “Before Cortez,” appears in issue 295.2 of NAR. She’s editor of Spillway Magazine. Her book Memos will be published by Omnidawn in 2015.


Illustration by Justin PerkinsJustin graduated from College for Creative Studies. A freelance illustrator and designer, he teaches art in Detriot. Justin’s first illustration for North American Review appeared in issue 298.4, Fall 2013.

Flashback Friday featuring Michael Kriesel with “Mineral Kingdom” from issue 295.2

Michael Kriesel’s poem “Mineral Kingdom” was published in issue 295.2, Spring 2010. Michael was also just announced the 2015 James Hearst Poetry Prize winner.

Notes from the author:

“Mineral Kingdom” comes from an 18-month period during which I wrote 72 Abecedariums & Double Abecedariums, all with a metaphysical / occult theme. I was working 4 hours each evening as a janitor in a small rural elementary school, a job intentionally chosen for its low mental stress. The rest of my my day was writing / revising / reviewing / etc…all the bureaucracy that attends writing. After that year and a half period, I found myself surprised to be decompressing from the mental stress of the prolonged period of intense creative activity.

1.16

Mineral Kingdom

Angleworms as an abstract alphabet,
blacktop wet. Phone lines repeating blackbirds,
calling me. A corn stubble field grows crows.
Dreaming of flight, I glide new roads. Driveway.
Engine block ticks down…frog starts. Evening.
Frogs full blast. I light a firecracker.
Golden Lotus brand. Shoot my paper gun.
Hold off. Let them start again. This is how
I say my name tonight. Something else I’ll
just say. The world’s jammed with miracles. Just
kneel. Behold grass. Blue caves. A corn kernel’s
light sings from one, tiny life dropped lightly,
now as darkness rises like ground mist. Now
opalescent, gold gone, it oscillates.
Pale milk tooth, baby moon, it becomes pink
quartz and vibrates with all other quartzite.
Rib Mountain’s quartz monadnock resonates
subtly in pebbles and nervous systems,
twelve miles west, a crystal set transmitter
upthrust two billion years ago, urging
vowels on evolving brains. Vibrations,
whale songs tease fillings. My teeth are a white
xylophone of voices. Exorcisms,
yoga, dentists yield before this yawning
zoo of noises— the inner sphere’s Muzak.


Since 2010,  Michael Kriesel has become President of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, won the 2012 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Triad Award, and the 2011 Wisconsin People & Ideas Poetry Contest. He judged the 2014 Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring Poetry Competition. He was featured poet for the 2010 Great Lakes Writers Festival. His latest chapbook (2013) is Whale of Stars (letterpress / haiku) from SunnyoutsideHis book ms. Forgiving the Grass was a finalist in the 2014 ABZ 1st Book contest. Micheal will also be featured in issue 300.2 as the 2015 James Hearst Poetry Prize Winner.


Illustration titled Plight of the honeybee by Anthony Tremmaglia, an Ottawa-based illustrator, artist, and educator. His clients include WIRED, Scientific American, Smart Money, HOW, and San Francisco Weekly. Anthony is featured in issues 299.1, Winter 2014 & 299.4, Fall 2014. Find more of Anthony’s work at http://www.tremmaglia.ca/

Notes on “Prayer for my New Daughter” by Rebecca Foust from issue 300.1

Prayer for My New Daughter

After Yeats, and inspired by an attack on transgender students using a “bathroom with urinals” at a college in the northeastern US.

A soul in chrysalis, in first agonized molt,
must choose: LADIES, or MENS.
For some—for you—these rooms are fraught,
an open field where lines are drawn: think of
the White-Only signs. Or Serrano’s Piss Christ
and Duchamp’s Fountain, pitted with acid
and icepicks, de-faced. As for restrooms called
“Bathrooms with Urinals,” no, his words
will never deconstruct the master’s house.
For an hour I have walked and prayed,
considering icepicks, how they’re made
to fit a blind hand; how kept so well honed.
You are soft as sown grass and fierce as cut glass.
You pack your new purse with lipstick, and mace.

This poem presented me with several technical problems, most imposed by the limitations of sonnet structure. “Prayer for my New Daughter” is part of a manuscript called Paradise Drive that recently won the 2015 Press 53 Award for Poetry and will be released at AWP in April 2015. Because Paradise Drive is entirely comprised of sonnets—some faithful to form, and others exploded—I did feel compelled to say all I had to say in this poem in fourteen lines. I don’t necessarily love epigraphs (and have noticed many editors don’t, either) but I felt I had to give attribution to Yeats. Also, while still in the process of revising the poem, I noticed that it worked better at readings where I had a chance to give background on the events that inspired it.

claire Continue reading

Throwback Thursday featuring Chelsea Wagenaar with “Errata” from issue 295.2

Chelsea Henderson’s poem “Errata” won second place in the 2010 James Hearst Poetry Prize.

A note from the author: I wrote “Errata” the summer after my second year of college, a summer that was difficult and emotional in many ways.  I read Simic’s “Errata”—which inspired my somewhat shameless take on his poem—and something about the emotional compression, the barely-muted desperation and longing, in his poem really struck me.  In writing “Errata,” which I wrote in about 30 minutes, one of the fastest poems I’ve ever produced, I hoped to write a poem that was more of an emotional experience than a coherent narrative.  I’ve not written much like it since, but the poem remains an important turning point in my maturation as a writer, as well a great affirmation when it placed second in the James Hearst Prize that year.  My first book, Mercy Spurs the Bone (Anhinga, 2015), contains almost no poems written before 2012, but “Errata” is one of the few I never cut from the manuscript.  Something about the poem still seems an important articulation of my relationship to language, its possibilities, its rescuing power.

Hummingbird Continue reading