The truth is, I’ve never cared for the National
Anthem. If you think about it, it’s not a good
song. Too high for most of us with “the rockets’
red glare” and then there are the bombs.
(Always, always there is war and bombs.)
Once, I sang it at homecoming and threw
even the tenacious high school band off key.
But the song didn’t mean anything, just a call
to the field, something to get through before
the pummeling of youth. And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps
the truth is that every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing
the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands
hoping our team wins. Don’t get me wrong, I do
like the flag, how it undulates in the wind
like water, elemental, and best when it’s humbled,
brought to its knees, clung to by someone who
has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon,
when it flickers, when it folds up so perfectly
you can keep it until it’s needed, until you can
love it again, until the song in your mouth feels
like sustenance, a song where the notes are sung
by even the ageless woods, the shortgrass plains,
the Red River Gorge, the fistful of land left
unpoisoned, that song that’s our birthright,
that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on,
that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving
into another’s, that sounds like a match being lit
in an endless cave, the song that says my bones
are your bones, and your bones are my bones,
and isn’t that enough?
Tag Archives: POETRY foundation
Kristy is not only an accomplished writer and visual artist but also Editor/Designer of her own publishing enterprise, Dancing Girl Press and Studio which publishes pamphlets of contemporary poetry by women. If you read her interview on the Harriet blog of the Poetry Foundation you will see that she has ‘proclivities for strange and quirky books, …books that have some sort of darkness to them.’ I should admit here that Kristy has recently published my pamphlet, Lips That Did, and she also generously designed the cover which I adore, but I am not the only Australian she has published. I see that Ivy Alvarez and Alyson Miller are also in the mix.
Kristy’s poetry is visceral and jumping, and makes its business the mess between birth and death. Women will get it, like the titles of her books in the bird museum and girl show, books that ‘deal with feminist themes of danger and transgression, the female body…’ There is a retro sensibility and painterly quality to her collages and you can easily feel she’s tracked your life and written every aspect of it.
from The Care and Feeding of Mermaids
Don’t worry about the bathtub, the bits of scale and hair
caught in the drain, a little more each day. Only a fool
would weather the storm at the northernmost point. She’ll
still be good in bed. Adept at karaoke and drinking mai
tais from glasses shaped like cats and dragons. Can
probably name every crustacean by blind touch, her
fingers seeking out each grooved exoskeleton in the dark.
Warning: The vapor of her breath against the mirror will
make you anxious. The way she winces over the sashimi
and cries in the shower. At night, she’ll slip out to meet
men in hotel bars downtown, sneak into the pool after
hours, call you at 3am begging for a ride home. Do not
acquiesce. Especially on nights when the fog settles low
on the water. Especially when the stars above it line up
like a million tiny fish.
DUCK & COVER
At night, the fission loves us, lathers us over,
makes our teeth glow like low watt lanterns in the dark of our beds.
This town is all carhops and canapés these days, the women
narrow waisted and waspish. Oh nostalgia, we love it.
Write letters to it in the green light of television sets.
Meanwhile, the men set fire to the jukebox, the junior college,
the dead pigeons in the gutters of tract homes.
Oh hope, oh love, we’re filled with sugar and seething
into our silk pantyhose. Our bodies as pristine as our
mother’s whites, flapping on clotheslines across the low hills.
In an emergency, above all else, keep calm.
In an emergency, keep your tongue glued fast to the roof
of your mouth to avoid screaming.
In an emergency–
When his says father says boo, plutonium baby cries all night.
The milk gone bad, leaking and souring in the folds of his mother’s
nightgown. 3 am and the world glows with him, even now,
before the bombs, before the backyard barbecues and shiny
black sedans. Before the open mouth of his wanting grows
wider and wider and swallows everything not weighted down..
When he’s grown, he’ll take up with women named
Tina, or Charla, or Tiffany. Will tuck his shirts in and talk
about stock commodities. Everyone loves a plutonium baby,
all new and shiny as the chrome on a brand new bicycle.
As American as apple pie or insider trading.
He’ll twirl the scotch in his glass around and say things like
“Key West is a sauna this time of year..”
Those kind of manners could be lost or poisoned or dead
for all we know. His black shoes, shiny and sure of it.
MISS URANIUM 1954
It’s months before she can recite the alphabet backwards
again. Birth dates. The chemical equation for hydrogen peroxide.
All caught in the foggy nether than begins somewhere in the cerebellum.
On the patio, all the bodies in bikinis float in a thin soup of chemicals
and it’s all good, all gone, all going to hell in an alligator handbag, she thinks,
her fingernails flaking away like piecrust. These limbs loosening into ether.
In the hospital, the sheets were white and precise.
Her mind white and precise. She clenches her jaw and meditates
on milk cartons, lined up single file on the store shelf. The perfect slices
of bread dropping into the toaster. Scratches on her thighs and breasts
where the bees went in, and worse, where they demand to come out.
First published in Split Lip Magazine
A writer and visual artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of six books of poetry, including the recent (Black Lawrence Press, 2016) and (Sundress Publications, 2015), as well as a number of chapbook, zine, and artists book projects. Her work has appeared most recently in Paper Darts, Handsome and Midway Journal. She lives in Chicago, where she runs dancing girl press & studio and spends much of her time writing, making papery things, and editing a chapbook series devoted to women authors. Her most recent collection, little apocalypse, is forthcoming from Noctuary Press. http://www.kristybowen.net
A conversation with Black Lawrence Press Authors Kristy Bowen and Cynthia Manick
Text | Texture | Textile | Tech: A Book Art & Letterpress Interview Series w/ Kristy Bowen
Interview with Kristy bowen @ Les Femmes Folles
Interview with Kristy Bowen Editor of Dancing Girl Press
To coincide with the May issue of POETRY showcasing Australian poets, (hurrah), I invited the patient, compassionate, warm and super-efficient Holly Amos to give us a tour around her role as editorial assistant with the Poetry Foundation (Chicago) and her other life as poet with her first full collection imminent. She also tells us why she wouldn’t like Don Share’s job.
When I asked Holly what animal she was she said Arya Stark from Game of Thrones; two-legged, headstrong, independent, contemptuous of traditional feminine pursuits and trained in Braavosi style of swordfighting. I imagine this might be handy dealing with poets who don’t get their paperwork in on time.
Holly agreed to a Q&A and to sharing with us some of her sublime poems. I first read Holly’s poems a year ago and they are spare and beautiful heartbreaks. If you want to read more, you can find her first chapbook here: This Is A Flood
Q&A with Holly Amos
How long have you worked for POETRY, what are the joys and frustrations of the work and would you like Don Share’s job?
About 2.5 years, and before that I worked as the Poetry Foundation Library Assistant, so I’ve been with the Foundation for a bit. Joys: a beautiful building where nobody questions if you’re sitting on the floor to work or have taken your shoes off; emailing with contributors – poets are seriously wonderful people and it’s really fun to see what their email personalities are like; reading, copyediting and fact-checking all the poems that we publish – it’s such a different way to read poetry! Also, I have incredible coworkers. They’re weird, funny, brilliant, and kind. Frustrations: reading, copyediting, and fact-checking all the poems that we publish! Some of the most amazing poems are terrible to copyedit because they’re just loaded with so much information that needs to be verified – it can be really tedious, though a fantastic way to learn. I’m sure it’s no surprise but some poets are not great at returning paperwork and all the follow-up can be a bit frustrating, but it’s been a great lesson for me about how I can make the lives of admin folks a lot easier!
Would I like Don Share’s job? No. I’m pretty sure you’re only allowed to sleep 4 hours a night and receive emails intravenously.
How many poems do you receive each week, what are the chances of being selected and how many readers do you employ?
It ranges from about 500 to 800 submissions a week, so depending on how many poems are included in each submission … a lot! Christina Pugh is our consulting editor, and she and Don Share (the editor) read everything – there’s nobody else! A few things get passed around for feedback, but it’s really just them. Because we get so many submissions, the changes of being accepted are small, percentage-wise. But the good news is that even if you get a rejection you know one of the editors actually read your work, not just a reader.
What is the process of sorting poems and how are poems selected for an issue?
That’s honestly almost entirely Don. Basically I send him an email reminder to let him know when I need copy by and he just hands it over. Sometimes there’s input from the Assistant Editor, Lindsay Garbutt, or the Art Director, Fred Sasaki (who often brings visual work Don’s way), but it’s really mostly Don. Of course we’ve had a lot of themed issues and portfolios lately and that’s another story. Those issues have another set of hands really shaping the issue, though Don works really closely with them in doing so, from what I understand.
Tell us how you came to poetry yourself. What were your early influences?
Being a weirdo kid in a small town. I was just always observing. I used to walk the corn and bean fields around our house just looking for rocks, thinking. And I’ve always been a big reader and a big feeler, which are basically the poetry genes, right? I had a great English teacher in 7th grade, Mrs. Kendall, and that’s the first time I really remember reading and thinking about poetry. I was also the kid who would buy a CD and go home immediately and open the booklet to read the lyrics. I’ve just always been obsessed with expression. In terms of specific poetry influences I don’t remember really early ones. I was always more into fiction as a kid, but at some point in undergrad poetry got a hold of me. I was really into Jim Daniels’s Blue Jesus and Bob Hicok’s This Clumsy Living. Those are the first individual collections of poetry I really remember getting into, and then I just started going to Barnes and Noble and buying lit mags and reading them cover to cover.
What books do you have next to your bed or most recently on your bookshelves? Emilia Phillips’s Groundspeed, francine j. harris’s play dead, and Gabriel Gudding’s Literature for Nonhumans. They’re all so different, and I love them all. Apart from poetry, I’m always reading/thinking about/recommending John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce, which is nonfiction. That book changed me in very real, tangible ways.
Can you describe a day in the life of an editorial assistant at POETRY?
30% email, 30% copyediting, 20% paperwork, 10% typesetting, 5% Submittable, 3% devising checklists and ways to be more efficienct, 2% green tea
What advice would you give to poets who want to be published in magazines like POETRY?
SUBMIT! Seriously, #1 most common reason for not being published in Poetry is folks simply not submitting. Just. Sub. Mit.
Can you see any styles in poetry trending at the moment?
Work that’s political, social-justice focused. I wouldn’t say it’s trending so much as poets are just responding to the world at large, which is a world in flux. Big things are happening, are trying to happen, and poetry is right there.
What do you feel grateful for?
Earth Balance vegan mac and cheese, the 4 non-human people I live with, Bravo TV, and being able to connect with poets on a daily basis, either in person, via email, or over the internet. By-and-large, I just think poets are the best people. I feel very fortunate to be so connected to so many other folks who genuinely are trying to better themselves and better the world. And who really support one another.
If you were an animal, what would you be? Arya Stark?
What colour are you? Some gorgeous shade of gray.
What animal would Don Share be? I think we should ask him – I’d love to know what animal Don would WANT to be.
If you had superpowers, what would you do with them?
Use them! I’ve always wished I could know what other people were thinking, even though in reality that would probably be horrendously depressing.
Tell us about your new book.
It’s my first! It’s due out from H_NGM_N, this fantastic indie publisher here in the States, sometime this year (fingers crossed). I would say there are about three types of poems in the book: animal rights ones, relationship ones, and existential ones. There’s a lot of light, but not a lot of lightness!
I think you also asked me how much time I devote to my own practice: It really varies. Right now it’s a lot of copyediting and proofing the book before it goes to the printer. I moved into a house and anytime I change physical living locations I feel like I have to get into a new routine. I don’t have a lot of free time at home, at the moment, but I’m in the yard a lot with the dogs and on the train a lot, so I’ve started typing poems into the notepad in my phone. I just try to take advantage whenever I feel like writing. I don’t force it. If I ever feel like I really need to do some poetry-related work then I’ll revise or submit or just read.
Thank you, Holly
I am deep in tear right now
Deeply feel the middle open
but unable to feel wind.
Too many leaves stuck there?
Too many snouts not my own, still covered
in something thick. I find
The childless thing that happens
so that people can drink milk.
Tattoo artists interested in putting
animal rights on my body.
Tearing contributor checks along
a great perforation.
Every second a cell turns over
or dies or grows into a beautiful cancer
that enables a huge trunk of love
to move out of the ground.
First published in TYPO 22
Today is an argument against clouds
Nobody talks about happiness
how it turns hair to mercury shot
to the ground
& how eyelashes break a cheek.
I can be this woman
whose eyelids peel back
into flightless moths
burning for light.
First published in ‘Pinwheel’
This is a flood and we are turbulent with color.
We make good of this rain-punched scene
all color-drained & pallor
befriending dark patches of sky & culling sticks
Who has never seen a bruise
never tasted their own flaring skin?
I open the book of colors & read to you.
It seems light is all we need
to do things.
To believe there is a road where you hold your finger
to mine—where we are is so dark
of blown stars.
Luster is the color you choose
I choose fog
& we move.
You say you know how hard it is just to hold a book
in your hand the black spine the birds dying
every time a poem ends.
This poem appears in e-chapbook ‘This is a Flood’ (H_NGM_N Books) and Pinwheel.
We are all writing poems about you and your deep, wobbly voice.
This poem is not about you, Frank, but you can take a nap here.
This poem is about some other things
like music, and all that stuff we hear
all the time. The rolling over of the person in bed
next to you (or me). I like that sound coming toward me—
makes me want to lay down for quite a good long time
and rub fingers.
I am trying to make something.
I am trying to make the violins and the grass and the soft gray sidewalk.
Here, here is the rough spot. Here is the beginning. Here is the rug burn
and the rug burn and it feels a little good
in that way of a thing happening.
Does the poem know what is going to happen?
Poem I am quitting my job. Poem I am making a space for you
in this world. In Lakeview.
With an apartment to write your babies in.
(Fat little poem babies.)
Bring your friends, poem—tell them O’Hara is taking a nap
and there is music and cupcakes
and people looking so cool (and a little rusty)
all rubbing together it starts little fires everywhere.
We just want to stop
drop and roll on the cold concrete floor, looking up at all the stars stuck
in the sky.
First published in ‘Pinwheel’
Holly received a BFA from Bowling Green State University and an MFA from Columbia College Chicago. She is the author of the chapbook This Is A Flood (H_NGM_N BKS, 2012). She co-curates The Dollhouse Reading Series and is the Editorial Assistant for Poetry magazine and an Assistant Editor for the online journal Pinwheel. Her poems have appeared in The Bakery; Bateau; Forklift, Ohio; Ilk, LEVELER; Matter; Phantom Limb; RHINO; and elsewhere.
Cover design Afton Wilky
The Aussie Issue of POETRY here with poems from Gig Ryan, Sarah Holland-Batt, Samuel Wagan-Watson, Michael Farrell, Jaya Savige, Robbie Coburn and more!