Dance,  b/w
Chris Maynard

Dance, b/w
Chris Maynard

Editor’s Note



Welcome to Issue # 34 of Plume.


April: National Poetry Month – for which we turn to two April-born masters, the Canadian poet Margaret Avison (23 April 1923), and the equally marvelous and quite different Chilean Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral (Lucilla Godoy Alcayaga – 7 April 1889) ) for our “13th poems”:


The World Still Needs

~ Margaret Avison

Frivolity is out of season.
Yet, in this poetry, let it be admitted
The world still needs piano-tuners
And has fewer, and more of these
Grey fellows prone to liquor
On an unlikely Tuesday, gritty with wind,
When somewhere behind windows,
A housewife stays for him until the
Hour of the uneasy bridge-club cocktails
And the office rush at the groceteria
And the vesper-bell and lit-up buses passing
And the supper trays along the hospital corridor,
Suffering from
Sore throat and dusty curtains.

Not all alone on the deserted boathouse
Or even on the prairie freight
(The engineer leaned out, watchful and blank
And had no Christmas worries
Mainly because it was the eve of April),
Is like the moment
When the piano in the concert-hall
Finds texture absolute, a single solitude
For those hundreds in rows, half out of overcoats,
Their eyes swimming with sleep.

From this communal cramp of understanding
Springs up suburbia, where every man would build
A clapboard in a well of Russian forest
With yard enough for a high clothesline strung
To a small balcony …
A woman whose eyes shine like evening’s star
Takes in the freshblown linen
While sky a lonely wash of pink is still
reflected in brown mud
Where lettuces will grow, another spring.

(from the first volume of Always Now, the collected poems of Margaret Avison. Originally published in ‘Winter Sun’ (Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1960 )


Song of Death

~ Gabriela Mistral


Old Woman Census-taker,

Death the Trickster,

when you’re going along,

don’t you meet my baby.

Sniffing at newborns,

smelling for the milk,

find salt, find cornmeal,

don’t find my milk.

Anti-Mother of the world,

People-Collector —

on the beaches and byways,

don’t meet that child.

The name he was baptized,

that flower he grows with,

forget it, Rememberer.

Lose it, Death.

Let wind and salt and sand

drive you crazy, mix you up

so you can’t tell

East from West,

or mother from child,

like fish in the sea.

And on the day, at the hour,

find only me.

(from Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, translated by Ursala K. Le Guin, University of New Mexico Press, 20003)


Ah: one wishes these poets were read more often.

But: business calls…

As I write, the Plume Readings are underway – two will have taken place, with another on the agenda.

So, with a (trepidatious and uncharacteristic – not to mention wholly imaginary) optimism, I report from the ever-conditional future that the readings in New York and in Cambridge went well – that the weather was fine, the readers on time and in good spirits, the audience transfixed, the books sales impressive. Many thanks to Alex Cigale and his host of readers at Housing Works in New York: Tom Sleigh, Grace Schulman, D. Nurkse, Rachel Hadas, Nicole Cooley, and Sophie Cabot Black; much gratitude as well to Josh Cook at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, who so ably emceed (and read in) the program of Ciaran Berry, Martha Collins, David Rivard, Clare Rosinni, and Daniel Tobin.

A remaining reading, in the unlikely event you are in the neighborhood:  the Palladium, in Saint Petersburg, Florida – featuring Tess Gallagher with Lawrence Matsuda, on 21 April, headlining the second annual Plume Poetry Series Readings.

Others yet to be finalized: New Orleans, and perhaps Los Angeles, Asheville, Chicago, and Berlin. Watch this space.

(On the off chance that you, poets, are interested in reading at one of the above sites, or might want to organize a reading in your own neighborhood, please, again, email me at – we’ll make every effort to accommodate you, I promise.)

And finally, bear with me if you can while I  repeat last Newsletter’s rather obnoxious  trumpeting of our work – and how tiring it must be to see my name so often! Yet: for that unexpected eventuality I am grateful, I assure you. And utterly abashed.

Still, I am told books must be sold…so…


The Plume Anthology of Poetry 2013 is out! Should you be so moved, you can purchase a copy at our STORE on the PLUME Website or through our publishers at MadHat and at Amazon and the usual other sites.



What The Poets Are Saying

Plume continues to publish amazing poets in beautiful formats—both online and in-print. The magazine has an exciting vision, embracing a broad gamut of poetries, including collaborations. The work has a consistently intriguing quality about the joys and unsettling aspects of being alive.”

~ Denise Duhamel


“I’ve never seen a literary magazine become so important so quickly. I have no idea how Daniel Lawless does it, but I dare anyone to find another journal that contains 1) the high quality of the individual poems, 2) the wide range of voices and styles, and 3) the large number of leading voices in contemporary American poetry. I would love to see all these poets in the same room, but I’ll take them here, all in the same book.”

~ Jim Daniels


Plume’s apparent lack of a narrow editorial policy (except a fondness for interesting poems) makes for lots of strange bedfellows, but when was the last time that was a bad idea?”

~ Billy Collins


“The list of contributors to this second Plume anthology is testimony to editor Danny Lawless’s open secret: He’s highly selective and thrillingly inclusive. His brilliance lies in assembling a community of poets and celebrating the glorious literary freedom of their work. Plume keeps giving us back what we always wanted from poetry—the voice of the human heart speaking to us with passion, intelligence, wit, ferocity,and imaginative aplomb.

~ David Huddle


Plume is one of the most exciting, eclectic gatherings of writers on the web. Editor Daniel Lawless has a knack for putting together voices that create surprising neighborhoods of words, related in complex ways that only gradually reveal themselves. It’s one of very few webzines that I always read.”

~ Chase Twichell


“Plume is rapidly becoming one of the best places in America to read poetry, on-line and in print, thanks to the untiring efforts of Danny Lawless. It’s where to find dazzling work by new and established writers, and, thanks to the new technology, it is available instantly to readers by the millions. Plume proves once more that poetry is essential to our lives, and that ‘Men die every day for want of what is found in it.’”

~ Grace Schulman


Plume magazine, and now the second volume of its Plume Anthology of Poetry, is a beautifully edited and stylishly presented cross-section of what is alive and well in contemporary poetry. I always feel honored and a part of a distinguished family when Daniel Lawless selects one of my poems.”

~ Diane Wakoski


“I usually hate to read poems on the computer but Plume has changed my mind. It is attractive, well-edited, and possesses the compelling virtue of being concise—not too many poems, not too few. Since I always end up wanting to print out one or two, I’m grateful for Danny Lawless’s equally exciting, good-looking, and well-chosen, Plume anthologies.”

~ Lawrence Raab


Plume is a gem—in the rare-and-wondrous-find sense. Each issue is a hand-plucked, precisely curated composition, tended with great care, full of mystery, and delivering batches of the freshest, most provocative, and necessary writing around. Danny Lawless’s vision is exquisite.”

~ Lia Purpura


“Blurbing a book you’re in is like telling people where to find the baby in the King cake. It’s not fair, but if the cake is good, the baby’s lagniappe. The main thing is the cake.”

~ Andrei Codrescu


Plume is a new force in the poetry world, bringing together, in its online zine and in this anthology, a unique, eclectic and impressive group of poets.”

~ Rae Armantrout


“Of all the things that might claim one’s attention, and they are in the multitudes! Plume is well worth making time for since it isn’t just another magazine. Its difference? Wonderful work, on the edge, room for play and dash, new forms, a great discerning editor in Danny Lawless!”

~ Tess Gallagher


“It’s a fantastic poetry magazine. A selection of work from American and International poets, emerging and established.”

~ Anzhelina Polonskaya


“Like all the poets who appear in the Plume Anthology of Poetry 2013, I’m delighted to be included in this dazzling collection of U.S. and International poetry. The range of poems is stunning in its breadth, depth, and variety; running from Catullus to Jorie Graham, from New Orleans to Taipei. Editor Daniel Lawless has an unerring eye for selecting and publishing complex poetry filled with aesthetic surprises.”

~ Mary Mackey


Plume, the most exciting online magazine of the decade, has consistently surprised and delighted readers, attracting the best contemporary writers of the day. With every issue I am reminded of the early Muslim tale that Allah’s first invention was the pen, or as the French might say, un stylo a plume. With offerings from acclaimed American writers as diverse as Denise Duhamel, Lydia Davis, Sharon Olds and Billy Collins as well as from International heavy-hitters Yves Bonnefoy, Cees Nooteboom, and Karl Krolow, the second anthology of Plume is nothing short of a must-read.”

~ Nin Andrews


“The first word I remember using to describe Danny Lawless’s online Plume was the word elegant. And now I discover that the word derives from a Latin verb for to select. Plume endeavors to select and showcase—yes, elegantly—the best poems of the twenty-first century. Plume not only encourages, it honors poetry.”

~ Ron Smith


“Though I’ve been known to shy away from on-line publications, I’m an avid reader of Plume, a beautifully designed monthly periodical featuring an international selection of works by some of today’s best poets. Hard to beat that.”

~ William Trowbridge


“Plume (Noun): An anthology or journal of fine writing edited with passion and immaculate attention to detail.

“Plume (Verb): To erupt with energy, enthusiasm and poetic spirit. To dazzle.

“Derivative of Plume: Plumelike (Adjective): As fine as down and as lively as peacock feathers.

“Origins of Plume: American, but with an internationalist bent, some time during the 2000s.”

~ John Kinsella


Plume magazine is an anomaly of taste: any literary dwelling that can shelter under one roof a family of poets as distantly related as Rae Armantrout, James Richardson, Kim Addonizio, Jorie Graham, Linda Pastan, G.C. Waldrep, Grace Schulman, Carl Phillips, Sharon Olds, Billy Collins, and more, must be both capacious and odd. What in the world unites these writers, one thinks? And then one reads an issue of Plume with the dawning recognition what they have in common is Danny Lawless, the founder and editor of this superb new journal. Lawless has the audacity to choose the poets he loves, and believes are writing good poetry, no matter on what wildly disparate branch of the family tree he finds them. And then he gets these poets to send him poems. Plume establishes its place on the literary scene somewhere above fashion, apart from all questions of Hipster vs. . . . Whatever. The work within its pages has the unpredictable, idiosyncratic strength of things that haunt, and may endure.”

~ Jeffrey Skinner


“Always astonishing and diverse in content, Plume is one of our most elite and essential online journals and a roving museum of contemporary poetry curated by Daniel Lawless. ‘Glancing blow’ after glancing blow, it makes me hungry, ad infinitum, for the strange and beautiful—and the annual anthology is a sumptuous feast of enduring American poetry.”

~ Mark Irwin


“In less than three years, Daniel Lawless has created, in the online journal Plume, an exciting outlet for contemporary poetry, including translations. In this second annual Plume Anthology, he continues his practice of gathering a wide-ranging group of aesthetically diverse poets, almost all of them represented by previously unpublished poems.”

~ Martha Collins


“Like Antaeus and Ironwood, two of the greatest American poetry magazines of the past fifty years, Plume is eclectic in the most purposeful and pleasurable of ways. In a very short amount of time, Danny Lawless has made it a ‘must-read’ like no other. Plume is one of my favorite sources for new poetry—online or in print. Thoughtful, entertaining, capacious, with no use for aesthetic axe-grinding, its highly-enriched oxygen will add energy to your life!”

~ David Rivard


Will you now drive a ten-penny nail into your head if your read the name “Daniel Lawless” one more time? I don’t blame you.

Again this reminder: Nota Bene: Unfortunately, PLUME is not getting through to many of our Facebook followers. There is a reason for this. Facebook has changed the way you receive updates from the Pages you have Liked. If you want to receive daily updates from Plume you will need to simply go to our page, hover your cursor over the word “Liked” up at the top and then click “Get Notifications” once the Get Notifications option pops up.


Our cover art this month is from Chris Maynard once again – his work appeared in PLUME Issue # 21. Chris worked for many years for the New York Times, and as a freelance photographer specializing in editorial photography for clients as diverse as IBM, Massachusetts General Hospital and Old Stone Bank. He exhibited widely, but is perhaps best known for his New York gallery shows. He died in November of 2102.

Next up, after this issue’s piece from Hank Lazer, a Featured Selection from Amit Majmudar.  New in the pipeline are Andre du Buchet, translated by Hoyt Rogers and Paul Auster, and Linda Pastan. Others on tap have been mentioned previously, but look for Brian Swann, James Richardson, Chris Kennedy, Linda Pasten, and Nin Andrews soon. (Here, too, again, let me add as always: those with projects that might be suitable for the Featured Selection, please do contact us with your proposal at ).

Finally, new work received this month includes pieces from Kazim Ali, Daniel Bourne, Stuart Friebert, Jeffrey Greene, Michael Burkhard, Karl Kirchwey, Gail Mazur, Tadeusz Dziewanowski (translated by Daniel Bourne), Katie Ford, Ron Smith, Andre du Bouchet (translated by Hoyt Rogers and Paul Auster), Dorianne Laux, Chris Shipman, Emmanuel Moses (translated by Marilyn Hacker), William Trowbridge, Stephen Gibson, Joseph Millar,  Linda Bierds,  Arthur Vogelsang, and Mary Ruefle.

As always, I do hope you enjoy the issue!


Daniel Lawless

Editor, PLUME

Reality Check

Nin Andrews

after David Lehman


The orgasm likes the dusk best, the time of day

when the visible becomes the invisible,

and the physical world, a fantasy or dream.

That’s when the man and woman remember him again

even if it’s true, they’ve been married so long,

the wife has become cheerless and drab

in her navy blue pantsuits—her Barbara Bushes

as she calls them, and the husband

has lost his shirt, as the saying goes,

and never found it again.  Sad

how failure becomes the story of a life,

a reality his wife says he should check.

(She’s always trying to cheer him up.)


But in truth the man squandered his estate

ages ago and now sells real estate during the day.

He says it doesn’t feel very real because he rarely

sells any. Define real, the woman argues,

as she slowly peels off her nylons

and massages her calves.  In the almost

dark she still looks like the braless girl

the man fell madly in love with on Election Day

on November 4th, 1980.  Never mind

that Ronald Reagan had just been elected,

that they’d voted for Jimmy Carter,

the woman still called it Elation Day

as she unzipped his pants.

What are you doing?  he asked.

Just waiting for you to grow up, she said.

And he did.  Again and again,

he grew up, replaying this scene

in his mind. She was so sexy back then.


Nin Andrews is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum? She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her bookSouthern Comfort  was published by CavanKerry Press in 2010.

Notes Toward a Treatise on the Atlantic Periwinkle

Jennifer Atkinson

None knows the song devoted to winkles.

None knows which is named for which—the flower for the littoral snail or the snail for the literal flower.

All periwinkles are drawn toward the sea by its in-sucking music and drawn to the shore by its salt taffy and sulfur perfume.  Trapped between desire and desire, they live on the edge, unable to crawl into happiness or happiness.


The script they leave in the sand—indecipherable mystery!—surely will reward its translator with a Rosetta Stone key to the ocean’s secrets.


The periwinkle has authored a number of words in its nine and a half centuries of relationship with humans. Its first verb, coined despite its eyeless body, wink, once described the glance of sun on choppy seas.  Later it was taken up by humans, personified, and attributed more widely.


The winkle’s second verb went further, beyond not just its body but its intertidal imaginings, beyond its life, beyond life itself, to its afterlife: winkle, to extricate from a twisty tight spot, as with an unbent paperclip.   You have to admire the unflappable calm that lets the periwinkle imagine itself unspooled from its shell on a dull pin.


The oldest of periwinkles, a female Methuselah, is ten.  She breeds year-round when the climate allows, producing broods of more than ten thousand.


The tiny, tireless periwinkle, most likely comes to New England shores as a stowaway in a merchant ship’s stone ballast, grazes the cord grass and combs the slick lowtide mud for algae.  Entirely without malicious intent, entirely without greed (what winkle sets itself above another winkle?),  the species is nonetheless accused of destroying the native American balance. 


How to punish the poor periwinkle for living where it lives?  Who will round up the bluish littorinoidea and sort the natives from the alien snails?


Blessed is the hermit who takes refuge in a periwinkle shell!



Jennifer Atkinson is the author of three collections of poetry, The Dogwood Tree, which won the University of Alabama Poetry Prize, and The Drowned City, which won the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize and, most recently, Drift Ice from Etruscan Press. Her individual poems and her nonfiction have appeared in Poetry, Field, The Yale Review, The New England Review, Threepenny Review, Shenandoah, The Iowa Review, Image, Witness, and elsewhere. Both her poetry and her nonfiction have been awarded the Pushcart Prize.

The Beginner

Sigman Byrd

Doesn’t have a clue, sips whiskey in a train

station on the other side of thought, imagining


the space between the days, the votive cells

and atoms of each moment rising. Says yes


to everything that happens, fails egregiously

and says yes again. Believes in no birth, no death,


in the engine full of apples fermenting

among garlands of sunshine and farewell kisses,


believes the engine as greater vehicle of transcendence

has been corrupted. What is it? he asks.


But he forgets how answers are stitched together.

Feels the self-same swing of speech and silence


and fashions his own answer, the rookie inside

each of us, the newcomer squeezing a lemon wedge


into a glass of autumnal sighs. Regrets and

wrong turns, the body exposed to the golden wind.


How can this human life be anything other than

astonishing? The tick-tick-tick of pleasure’s ignition


quietly catching—after all these years, the one who

has just arrived knows exactly what to do.

Sigman Byrd is the author of two books of poetry, Under the Wanderer’s Star and Wake Up, Sleepwalker (forthcoming from Conundrum Press), and a chapbook, Who We Were (Finishing Line Press, 2010). His work can be found in American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, Crazyhorse, Georgia Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and Southwest Review. He teaches writing at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Two Poems

Lorenzo Calogero translated by John Taylor

What We Work At


What we work at

never falls

nor splinters,

is forever.

Joyful or sad,

enthused, manifold,

it remains immutable

to the strokes of time,


to immortal time.


Its naked brow

stays hard and firm

under the sunlight gilding it

between the unmoving thumbs of the universe.


Now and then sparks fall

and gild the brown hair

of little children going to school,

awakening from drowsiness

to their first excitement.






non cade mai,

non si frantuma,

rimane eterna.

Gioiosa o mesta,

entusiasta e molteplice,

rimanendo immutata

ai colpi del tempo,

è testimone

di un tempo immortale.


La sua nuda fronte

rimane ferma, soda

sotto i raggi del sole che l’indora

fra i pollici fissi dell’universo.


Da essa a volte cadono scintille

che indorano la bruna chioma

dei fanciulli che vanno a scuola

svegliandoli dal letargo

nel primo entusiasmo.


from Parole del tempo [Words of Time], 1933-1935.



Look to the Side


Look to the side. The yellow plinth

resounds no more. No longer young

the noise gets bitter. In the grass

the painted crystal gravestone, mindful,

stands useless.


From here the origin no longer

slowly sonorously flows

with a loud voice or the summit

and the hyacinths lose their leaves.


You’re coming! The fleeting hour,

the starry scent, these little

ideas like talismans

on the islands and the bare essentials

are all dropping down.

A flute rots

at the weak end of a year,

the breast’s laughter in the voracious wing

at the sharp sudden thud of time

of the lowered air.


Yesterday like today were drowsy

and panting while in their dry,

scattered, confused faces

was the firm ethereal end of another day.



Guarda a lato


Guarda a lato. Non più risuona

il plinto giallo. S’inacerba

il rumore non più giovane.

Non giova più sull’erba la memore

dipinta lapide di cristallo.


A partire da qui non più lenta

sonora scorre l’origine

ad alta voce o la cima

e si sfogliano i giacinti.


Tu giungi! L’ora veloce,

l’odore a stella, queste piccole

idee come un talismano

nelle isole e lo stretto necessario


Marcisce un flauto

alla fine debole di un anno,

il riso del seno nell’ala vorace

al brusco secco tonfo del tempo

dell’aria abbassata.


Ieri come oggi sonnolente

anella erano e, nel viso sparso

secco confuso, la fine aerea

ferma di un’altra giornata.


from Ma questo [But This], Opere Poetiche, volume 2, 1966.



Although he was admired by leading poets of the Italian “hermetic” movement, Lorenzo Calogero (1910-1961) has long remained a major overlooked figure in Italian poetry. His collected poems were first gathered in a two-volume Opere Poetiche (Lerici Editori, 1962 / 1966) and in a representative selection, Poesie (Rubbettino Editore, 1986). Recently, new editions of his work have appeared, notably Poco Suono (Nuove Edizioni Barbaro, 2011) and especially Parole del tempo (Donzelli, 2010), and a major revival of interest in his work is underway. He sporadically worked as a medical doctor, spent time confined to mental asylums, and seems to have committed suicide in his house in the Calabria region, but the circumstances of his death were never entirely clarified.

John Taylor usually translates contemporary French poetry (Jaccottet, Dupin, Calaferte, Tappy, Jourdan, Chappuis), but, ever since winning the 2013 Raiziss-de Palchi Translation Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, he has been translating a major representative selection of the work of the Italian poet Lorenzo Calogero. He also writes the “Poetry Today” column in the Antioch Review. His most recent personal books are The Apocalypse Tapestries (Xenos, 2004) and If Night is Falling (Bitter Oleander Press, 2012). He lives in France.

I’m a Witch!

Christopher Crawford

It is standard for women

to say this


kind of blithe nonsense

flirtatiously nowadays.


Or maybe it was

always so.


Trying to get off

with the blacksmith’s son in 1648,


peeking through her lashes, potato-sack

dress just so.


She ended seated

in the village pond.


Yet I always believe in her, whichever

woman is witching


or believe, at least, in the chance

that she may be the one


true witch I’ve met in my life

and ask her really… you are?


‘Cause I’m careful of these

curses, infatuation spells and so on


but then there’s the other

side of it,


the Bed side of it, because there’s that too

to consider with a witch…


Or maybe

I am the one seated this time, watching her


quiet movements around a room,

the late afternoon submerges us


in pond-like gloom, she is older,

I am too and she looks for her spectacles,


straightens a pile of books, takes one,

begins to read.  And I think


who are you,

where did you come from


and which kind of magic woman are you?

Close your book now,


cross the empty space between us

and answer me.


Which kind?




Christopher Crawford was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His poetry, essays and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in The Rumpus, Rattle, The Collagist, Puerto del Sol, The Cortland Review, Weave and elsewhere.  He edits B O D Y (


Barbara Hamby

Marina is trying to describe Raskolnikov’s interior state

and uses the word toshno, which she says comes

from the same word as “to vomit,” which makes me think

of Sartre’s La Nausee and the German Weltschmertz,

but Marina says, it also has an element of nostalgia or longing,

thinking about how at one time you felt happy

but can no longer feel that way, though from my perch

it’s difficult not to see Raskolnikov’s malady

as a combination of poor nutrition and too much philosophy,

or at least that’s how I think of myself in my twenties,

thin from vegetarianism and grinding anxiety, maddened

by my parents’ fundamentalism, shucked off

but lurking in the corners of my brain, though in the ensuing days

I begin to think of other emotions that English has

no word to express: to take something bad, for example,

such as a firing, broken heart, insult, and turn it

into something so luminous that you are grateful

to the ex-wife, nasty co-worker, unfaithful lover

for the sneer, slag, the stab in the back. Or the feeling

of sadness after finishing a book you adore

because the thrill of first reading those glorious words

is gone forever. Or the feeling when you realize

someone hates you, so that a person, who was once nothing

to you, is now the focus of your attention. Walking

down the avenues of St. Petersburg or lying in an Italian bed,

you think about the river you have just seen

or the painting that until now has been a two-inch square in a book,

but that afternoon you saw the wall covered

with a luminous fresco, colors so vivid that the crazy

painter could walk in from the next room covered

with splatters of red and green and you wouldn’t be surprised,

but soon you will be sitting in your garden at home,

watching the wrens make a nest in a paint can hooked to a tree,

and then in thirty or so years, if you’re lucky,

you will be so old your body will be giving up, shoulders bent,

with no taste for food, and what is the word for that,

and will you know it when it’s whispered in your ear?



Barbara Hamby’s newest book is On the Street of Divine Love: New And Selected Poems, from the Pitt Poetry Series.

Genital Epistemology

David Huddle


don’t it make you snicker how desire goes

everywhere incognito undiscussed

but witnessed by every man woman and child

in a blink the mind carries out the sex

calculation to what extent do I

yearn for intimacy with this person I’m

seeing/talking to/playing cribbage with no

matter how far-fetched wrongful damaging

comic or impossible the results zap

through our brains level of attraction low

or high odds of it happening zero

or maybe or likely but all too often

a little secret erupts yes damn right

I’d do that and we take it to our graves



that we had the hots for our flirty aunt

here in our town a much admired Spanish

teacher forty-two years old, mother of two,

caught having sex in the back seat of her car

with her seventeen year old student must

have gone crazy with love lust for that boy

then there was the writer who met her

biological father when she was

in her thirties and he in his fifties

their decision to become lovers she

says came out of rational discussion

not one of us can claim we have nothing

in common with people like that between

our legs lives knowledge we can’t speak aloud.



David Huddle is working on his twentieth book, having published poetry, story collections, novellas, novels and essays both in book form and for periodicals including Harper’s, The New Yorker and Esquire

Two Poems

Fady Joudah

Survival Rate

When at customs I don’t declare

what I brought into my country

from that other minor country


when in legacy mode

my teeth have grown too yellow

the surprise-hug of a carnivorous flower


I exploit the marasmic like photons

seen from a city under a full moon

Congo red


and get away with our

decolonized gut flora miasmatic

melismatic tempura time


A joke for a body moored to dislocation

when all the mouth can do is say



Your eyes grabbed mine by the elbows

our fourth and sixth cranial nerves intact

after you’d pitched your face


in my shoulder for me to wander

your cheek and chin

and rose cemetery


This is variance in clinical features

of bombs strapped to the waist

We all have them


Red blood cells ants

released to circulate the body

until they die



1st Love


When God began you she

said to me one spring afternoon

God began


with your hands a woman’s hands

then reached your wrists

& made the rest of you man



Fady Joudah’s second collection of poetry, Alight, was published by Copper Canyon Press in winter 2013 and Textu is available as an ebook. His translations of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry have earned him a PEN prize and a TLS/Banipal prize. He is the 2007 winner of the Yale Series Younger Poets Competition for his collection The Earth in the Attic. He is also the winner of  the 2013 Griffin International Poetry Prize. His translation of Ghassan Zaqtan’s poetry is available from Yale University Press.


Erika Meitner

A host of angels or a compass of cherubim

or maybe a resolution of sprites has absconded

with me or my common sense or possibly just

my best self and godknowswhatelse.


Which is to say I’m sorry.


I didn’t mean to go to iHop and spend the entire time

trying not to stare at the man in a reclining wheelchair

covered with a coverlet, sucking on oxygen

near the ladies’ room.


I didn’t mean to write you a letter that falls into

the oversharing category or scare you with Horace

or otherwise compromise what might have been

a perfectly fine correspondence (if not for my mention


of my copious tattoos or other youthful indiscretions).

I didn’t mean to get a fever on this vacation, or yell at my son

in the bathroom of the BP station because he was touching

everything including the toilet seat. He always touches


the toilet seat in every bathroom. This is not new.

I did mean to go (which is to say I purposefully went)

to the aquarium and wondered how or why everyone else

seemed perfectly content with battling the crowds to see


otters or anemones. In the tank in The Pacific Reef exhibit

there was someone in an anonymous black scuba suit

standing and waving under the water; he/she was attached

to the window with a suction cup and gesticulated constantly,


mugged for pictures, fed the fish from a squirt bottle.

I learned Beluga is a Russian word. The Belugas were mating.

or at least one named Beethoven was mating with another

whose name I don’t remember because it wasn’t a composer.


I started playing the violin when I was four—the same age

as my son. My teacher, Mrs. Eley, often cut my nails

with clippers she fished out from inside her piano.

My friend H. had the lesson after mine. He was


actually talented and some Fridays Mrs. Eley would ask him

to play whatever piece I struggled through so I could hear

how it was meant to sound, which was like the Long Island Sound

out her window at dusk—the beach being lapped by deep darkness;


the way the horsehair of a rosined bow, when pulled over strings,

smokes with small curls of dust. Years later, H. was killed

by a Metro-North train at the Riverdale station; the train’s

engineer saw him jump from the platform.


I can hear the train here though it doesn’t matter where here is.

Everywhere is home for someone. This place has goats

and a rooster. When the bird went cockadoodledoo this afternoon

my son told him he could stop now since everyone was already up.


It is still night. Everyone is not already up.

The family is asleep and I’m typing this in the dark.

I once lived in a cottage with lemons in the front yard.

I once lived in a two-flat with a huge crape myrtle in the front yard.


I lived in many places that had no front yards at all.

The place I live in now has a dwarf cherry tree

that never recovered from one winter’s frost.

I am telling you this because I have no common sense.



Erika Meitner is the author of three books of poems—most recently, Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls (Anhinga Press, 2011) and Ideal Cities (HarperCollins, 2010), which was a 2009 National Poetry Series winner. Her poems have been published in Best American Poetry 2011, Ploughshares, The New Republic, Virginia Quarterly Review, APR, Tin House, and elsewhere. Her fourth book of poems, Copia, is forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2014. She is currently an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, where she teaches in the MFA program.


Hoa Nguyen

from A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure


Sweetness of fish sauce and tonal voice

My mother with slippers     I crawl

singing towards the floor



the tones later

my boy hugs shoulders

asks    Are you OK?


The vocals from bending

the voice is another

comes from the bending


Rice & fish are like

mother & child


A river road under a big moon

crawling and singing

I did this need    hold me being

in exile   no milk warm


Another said     By the grace

go I     (could have been

a Nestlé casualty

or creamed corn dysentery


Musical references all over the place


Lotus women gather flowers

in their low boats


In the passport picture

me amoebic with a shaved head

thin shoulders


Which is the fish?

The child?


a bamboo tube resonator

a wooden rod

halved coconut shell half

a silk string


Hoa Nguyen  is the author of three full-length collections of poetry including As Long As Trees LastHecate Lochia (Hot Whiskey Press, 2009) and Your Ancient See Through (Subpress, 2002). Red Juice, Poems 1998-2008 is forthcoming from Wave Books in the fall of 2014. She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, where she curates a reading series and teaches poetics privately and at Ryerson University.

“No use”

Kathleen Ossip

On October 21, 1962, Sylvia Plath wrote one poem that became two. The original two-section poem, which she called “Amnesiac,” separated when The New Yorker accepted one of the sections and not the other.

She was left with the first, rejected section, which she then titled “Lyonnesse,” and the second, New-Yorker-published section, “Amnesiac.”

Both poems begin with the same phrase: “No use.”

“No use whistling for Lyonnesse!” “No use, no use, now, begging Recognize!”

“Amnesiac” is a rant at Ted Hughes, not at all disguised by her use of the third person. She accuses him of forgetting their life together and abandoning her and their children.

In “Lyonnesse,” she accuses God, “the big God,” of forgetting the ancient country that bordered Cornwall, which, according to legend, sank into the sea.

“Lyonnesse” continues: “Sea-cold, sea-cold, it certainly is” – a reply to Walter de la Mare’s “Sunk Lyonesse” which begins “In sea-cold Lyonesse…”

Thanks to her habit of journal-keeping and her resolve to memorialize her experience in writing, Sylvia forgot nothing.

On March 4, 1963, three weeks after her daughter’s suicide, Aurelia Plath wrote an open letter to The Observer in London, to “thank the many kind people…who helped and befriended” Sylvia.

The letter continues: “Those who systematically and deliberately destroyed her know who they are.” Next to this sentence, Aurelia wrote in pencil “A & T” – Assia, the woman for whom Ted Hughes left Sylvia, and Ted.

At the top of the page, Aurelia wrote “Not Sent! No use now!”

This is the difference between being forgotten and trying to forget. The survivor tries to forget. She can no longer act in the interest of the one who’s gone

and my writing this is no use (“No use!” screams the corpse) and not in the interest of you.



Kathleen Ossip is the author of two books of poems, The Search Engine and The Cold War, and one chapbook, Cinephrastics. Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, the Washington Post, Fence, The Believer, and Poetry Review (London). She teaches at The New School in New York, where she was a founding editor of LIT, and she’s the poetry editor of Women’s Studies Quarterly.

Two Poems

Chase Twichell

Two Dogs Passing Through the Yard


One’s a male Aussie mix,

either young or small, the other

a rangy lab-something, female,

the junior dog, both headed north

through the yard.


Our Border/Aussie

watches from beneath the truck,

paws crossed.


That’s it.





A teacher asked a student if she could

accept practice without realization.

It’s a very direct question,

but hard to apprehend.


It’s maddening that language can’t catch

the fish in its own rivers, but it can’t.

Even poetry’s nothing

but word-nets full of rips and holes.


Yet here I am again, writing with white

on white or washing dirty carrots with the hose.

Either I forgot the question,

or the question no longer makes sense.



CHASE TWICHELL has published seven books of poetry, most recently Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), which won the 2011 Kingsley Tufts Award from Claremont Graduate University. After teaching for many years, she resigned in 1999 to start Ausable Press, a nonprofit publisher of poetry. The press was acquired by Copper Canyon in 2009. She divides her time between the Adirondacks and Miami.


Hank Lazer

By way of introduction to this month’s Featured Selection, again something of a departure: a multimedia piece from Hank Lazer, including a conversation with Glenn Mott, several poems/pages from Lazer’s Notebooks project, a painting by Susan Bee, and a jazz-poetry improvisation with soprano saxophonist Andrew Raffo Dewar, followed by some biographical material.

The poet with Andrew Raffo Dewar on soprano saxophone, rehearsing at Maxwell Hall, University of Alabama, November 2013



In concert at the University of Georgia, November 2013

“TALK SHOW: A Conversation between Glenn Mott and Hank Lazer


GM:  For most writers handwriting is a matter of composition, a choice not to use a keyboard. Seeing a writer’s script, one who you’ve read only in type can be a revelation, a new discovery of their work, as in published diaries or journals, or a surprise at the power of print versus the intimacy of the hand. I felt this when I first saw Emily Dickinson’s poems in pencil on envelope backs and scraps of paper. What is it about handwriting a poem, and publishing it without setting it to type that feels special, and what does that do to the reading experience?

I’m at a digital journalism conference as I ask this, so I can’t help but wonder how this all fits in with technology. I’ve seen depressing demonstrations of algorithms that write the sporting news, and print referred to as legacy media. But we have yet to master an instrument robotically sensitive or as neurally complicated as the human hand.

HL:  Please know that whatever answer I provide, it’s taken me several years to develop this sense: Among other things, the handwritten turns out to be a way to defamiliarize, slow down, and make more intimate that reading experience of the page, pages, or book.  For some (many?) of these handwritten pages, it is not at all clear where to begin the reading.  Indeed, there are multiple options.  Even when the beginning seems clear, usually the reader will need to rotate the page/screen several times to follow the contour of the poem.  (I’ve had reports from poet-friends who were reading N18 (complete) in a public space and had people stare at this odd action of rotating the page in order to read.)  And, as you suggest, the work of the hand, the specificity of a particular hand (and person) doing the writing is totally different than the effects of type.


(Click the player later in the interview, above Susan Bee’s painting, to hear a jazz-and-poetry improvisation based on this notebook page).

Oddly, and rather surprisingly to me, with the notebook pages I very quickly become the reader of the pages and experience my writing activity (now in the past) as that of a portal or doorway through which the poems occur.  As the substantial amount of quotation indicates, these pages are not all “my” voice.  They are a site for what I’ve called vectored thinking—different contending thoughts, phrases, perspectives that, as in a mobile, have a weight and force suspended on the page.

By virtue of the shape of the writing—what I’ve been calling shape-writing—there is a pronounced visual element that, at times, seems to supplant the location of the traditionally “poetic” (i.e. the elegance or craft of the words and phrasing).  It may be that the shape-writing actually occludes or occults the “poetry.”  Perhaps a reasonable question would be, “and why would you, why would anyone, want to do that now,” particularly at a time when poetry itself is (allegedly) so marginalized and barely has a commodity-pulse.

GM: There’s a stray association I make when you when you say shape-writing. I immediately think of sacred heart singers and shape-note hymns. Something homemade and accessible. This folk art also has its origins in the American South, where you live and work, and there are times when I really think a lot of these tendencies originated not in “poetry” (as you prefer to quote it) but reflects your development as a poet, seeing things like hand painted sign boards and the outsider constructions of hell-fire road-siders, self-proclaimed prophets of the Christian apocalypse knocking stuff together in their front yards along the kudzu byways.

Your intellectual arc is within a tradition of modern Western discovery, one that retraces a path to the primitive in search of the sacred—and reminds me of what John Cage does with early American anthems and congregational music in “Thirteen Harmonies.”

I see today that the composer John Taverner has died. He spoke of having a crisis of composition in the insight that the liturgical music he was composing had lost touch with the tradition of sacred tonal music, realizing the sacred had been pushed out gradually by the domination of the ego. So he turned to music of Persia, India, and Native Americans.

HL:  Well, you know me too well, and you know the South well.  You’re exactly right about the homemade or outsider or folk nature of the handwritten and its links to Southern vernacular art forms.  You had typed “sacred heart singing,” which, at first, I corrected to “sacred harp singing,” but, as usual, we can often learn more from a so-called error.

GM: Ah, it’s true . . . there’s still some Catholicism of the Sacred Heart catechism knocking around in me as a boy . . .

HL: Of course such singing and vernacular art forms generally are close to the heart, and, in my opinion, sacred as well. I actually once did take part in a sacred harp meeting.  (I’m a god-awful singer…)  My instructor was one of the janitors from the aquatic center, and he was rumored to be a neo-Nazi.  We got along well, and he taught me a good bit about shape-note-singing.  From the very beginning of my life in Alabama (1977), I have been drawn to the world of folk art / outsider art, much of which is Christian visionary in nature.  And from the very beginning of my days here in Alabama, I have had a strong sense of a close linkage between innovative poetry (which is usually branded as elitist or esoteric or out of touch with “the people”) and self-taught outsider art.  So, yes, and proudly, my handwritten notebooks are participatory in a Southern cultural domain.

GM: I’ll just disagree that what you’re doing occludes or occults the poetry, except that you are avoiding the “P” term as meaning something left-justified on a typeset page that doesn’t obstruct the dinkiness of clever word play. But yes, to embrace innovative practices to defamiliarize, as you say.


What shape-writing does most effectively is manage the element of time in composition. We see your choices, sometimes turn-for-turn on the page, “the light arrives by faith / in turning round,” this is both faith in a sunrise and the physical reversal of the direction of the line. The turn, or arc of a word, affects your outcome and I see pauses, pivots, and hesitation before your willingness to go on, like Beckett, streaming, then shaping. There used to be a coffee shop in Beijing when I lived there called Sculpting In Time. I think I’ll throw that in here as an apt description of this process. Shape-writing, like concrete poetry, is also a formal practice, replacing representational images with slithering interconnected lines. These lines give you new forms for composition, while slowing down the reading to a liminal state of being in-between. Transitions, choices, unintentional missteps are being made by the reader, and they affect the outcome. It’s playful, but can be a slog without the right mindfulness (that word of the moment). I suppose it’s the reason some editors have a hard time accepting these for publication. It’s not a matter of being unable to print handwritten poems. They will want a transcription of the “correct” reading, to narrow the attention span. Is that a fair appraisal of what you’ve told me? And what’s been the reception?

HL: I love your remarks on the element of time in the composition of the notebook pages/poems.  After all, the initial big name for this project was The Notebooks (of Being & Time), linked to my reading of Heidegger’s Being and Time.  Sculpting In Time is a perfect name for this activity.  The notebook pages deliberately make manifest the time of composition, and the imperfection and performance of that momentary engagement with language.

The reception has been pretty good.  A number of magazines—in print and online—have featured work from the notebooks. There have also been a number of very thoughtful reviews, particularly by Nathan Hauke (Drunken Boat) and Jake Marmer (Jewish Daily Forward)—naming N18 one of its five “favorite poetry books of 2012”).

On the occluding or occulting of the poetry in the shape-written pages, I don’t mean to suggest that the writing is not poetic.  It is, and I’ve not really retreated from the lyricism that I love.  All I mean to say is that the foregrounding of shape itself perhaps constitutes an initial (momentary) shading or re-direction of attention from the more customary engagement with the sound of words.


GM: Want to know something strange? I just looked at Susan Bee’s painting for the cover of this suite for the first time, and there’s that harp.

(Click the player below to hear Hank Lazer  and Andrew Raffo Dewar perform a jazz-poetry improvisation related to Susan Bee’s painting and the Notebook page 12/16/11 “angel sings”.)


Tell me about the collaborative readings involved here.

HL: Collaborative readings is one way to put it.  One might alternatively say collage or vectored thinking or ventriloquism or other voices (as in the end of George Oppen’s superb late poem “Till Other Voices  Wake Us” where he rewrites the ending of Eliot’s “Prufrock,” changing it from: “Till human voices wake us, and we drown” to “till other voices wake/ us or we drown”).  The readings I do in philosophy while writing the notebooks occupy an adjacent space.  I’m not trying to analyze or interpret or even clarify these writings.  In one sense, I’m hunting for interesting sentences – which might influence, or push back upon my writing, or serve as a stimulus.  Of course, I’ve been picking books and writers who have been thinking deeply about the fundamental terms that are of importance to the notebooks: spirit, being, time, perception, consciousness, language.  One might think of each notebook page as a kind of Calder-like mobile, where the various phrases, quotations, and new writing all have a force or weight that creates a somewhat stable (though moveable) existence for the duration of that one page.  The absolute otherness of the quoted material—in the Plume series of pages, from Emanuel Levinas’ Of God Who Comes to Mind—makes me more immediately a portal or doorway or medium (or scribe) for the pages, and I also more immediately become their reader (rather than their writer).  It also helps me to understand the passages better by the careful act of writing them longhand and by finding out their shape in the time of writing.


I realized recently that I’ve been doing what you’ve referred to as “collaborative reading” ever since the “Law-Poems” series written in the mid-1980s; these poems incorporated verbatim sections of the Alabama Legal Code.  Subsequently, H’s Journal quotes from Thoreau’s Journal. My book Days includes quotations and marginalia.  In some fundamental way, collaborative reading must stem from my strong sense that reading and writing are so closely related as to have no meaningful boundary, and the same holds true for “critical writing” and “creative writing,” terms that have institutional boundaries, but in practice, are meaningless segregations.

And as I re-read my responses, Glenn, I realize that actually the beginning of my collaborative reading/writing goes back much earlier, to “The Cricket’s Chant,” my 1973 M.A. thesis at Virginia, that consisted entirely of lineated poems constructed from passages in Thoreau’s Journal.

GM: I notice many instances of recurring words and themes in the Notebooks. The words: spirit, faith, song, consciousness, knowledge, mentions of Torah, and a concern for the brevity of time, the uncertainty of firmament. This reminds me of the break that your book The New Spirit made with a certain fundamentalist strain of innovators in poetry. What’s going on?

HL:  As for “spirit,” as you know, it’s a term that I’ve been writing in, through, about, on, and around for the past twenty years, including the essays in Lyric & Spirit.  The poems (and essays) say what I know or have experienced of spirit.  It’s an admittedly vague term, but one that I find productive and generative and provocative in its exact vagueness.  Perhaps “spirit” is another word for the (tangible) invisible, as in Merleau-Ponty’s wonderful book The Visible and the Invisible.  Just as I make a distinction between religious and religion, “spirit,” as I think of it, has nothing to do with institutional affiliation nor fixed doctrine or definition.  It is a term that opens up to considerations of the nature of consciousness, of language and its relationship to being (and to a possible telos of language), to thinking, to music, to a beyond, to worlds beyond our five senses.  Mostly, though, I’ve been concerned (in my essays, and in my poetry, most especially the notebooks) with what I think of as a phenomenology of spiritual experience (i.e., a recording of an ongoing relationship to the invisible), with an insistence on noting as well its radical inconstancy, its intermittent and often momentary nature.

GM: So we’re gonna die. And that cat’s eye of October 29, 2011 in this suite of notebook pages provides a kind of answer? “ . . . that knowledge of the world is a satisfaction, as though this knowledge filled a need?” If you were to state it simply, where does the writing and reading of poetry come into the equation?

HL:  Not an answer, but a moment of conversation, of engagement in and through and of this world.  (Reminds me of one of my favorite Jewish jokes: Q: Why does a Jew always answer a question with another question?  A: I don’t know; why?)  And of the two Levinas quotes, the left-hand arc is, of course, a question.  Perhaps for me, knowledge of the world is questionable, or filled with questioning, or questioning is at the heart of that questing?  Your question and emphasis on the right-hand arc of the page make me think of Rilke, particular in the Duino Elegies, where the act of poetry and of naming itself is suggested as a needed means of completing the very nature of the world (and of being).  In other words, one of poetry’s most sacred functions is to provide a space for consciousness of the world, a place for what I’ve called “thinking singing.”  The poem represents a kind of fulfillment of being by singing its praise and by naming it in all its complexity or by singing its ungraspable though lovely nature.  Or, perhaps in answer to Heidegger’s question, What calls for thinking? poetry makes manifest a way of responding and reflecting, or putting into play and shape in language an engagement with that question.

Of course, the arc of this so-called knowledge goes outward—toward the world and an expressing or kindred being—but also inward as well.  The need and satisfaction (always temporary, I think, or at least such has been my experience of it) are also absolutely essential to our human existence.  To use the language of Arakawa and Gins, this knowledge is part and parcel of our nature as enigma beings—as creatures whose nature, telos, and possibilities are always in question.  Ours is a being that provokes questions, right?

GM: Reminds me of the Irish joke where Pat says to Mike, “Why are you digging a hole?” and Mike says, “I’m not digging a hole. I’m digging the dirt. And leaving a hole.”

Or, by doing what Oppen did to “Prufrock,” the revision this implies to me, in the first arc of your Levinas quote is: all that occurs in the human psyche, and all that takes place there, ends by being known.

Is that falsehood the necessary fiction of your poetry?

HL:  Fiction?  How could poetry not be a place where all is (possibly) known, providing that what we mean by known is perpetually incomplete and subject to additional writing (and con-versing)?

GM: Yes, a fiction revealed in the tortured logic of poetry. It’s all in there, Hank, and it’s a conundrum taking us back to your example of the Duino Elegies: Rilke’s terror at being annihilated by existence, unless what is known is also what is meant by being. Questioning, misreading, unfolding, or to essay, the root of which, coup d’essai, means to try. And this goes back to the inquiry of Lucretius “On the Nature of the Universe.” This is the nature of an ongoing conversation in poetry.

Poetry never completes. It opens.

And so, maybe it would be appropriate to end with Levinas, from his Entre Nous: “Thought at its beginning finds itself before the miracle of fact.”

Any closing thoughts?

HL:  Your concluding riff puts me in mind of Robert Frost’s line, “The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.”  I hope that the notebook pages/poems till that field, bringing up from the ground words and phrases and music that have the enigmatic obdurate nature of fact.  May the pages be a simple, clear appearance that invites one to dwell there a while, to experience the shape, music, and multi-directional thinking that counts for a factual pointing toward.

GM: Arrowing, then, we will go.



Hank Lazer has published seventeen books of poetry, including Portions (Lavender Ink, 2009), The New Spirit(Singing Horse, 2005), Elegies & Vacations (Salt, 2004), and Days (Lavender Ink, 2002). Lazer’s seventeenth book of poetry N18 (complete), a handwritten book, is available from Singing Horse Press: . Pages from the notebooks have been performed with soprano saxophonist Andrew Raffo Dewar. In 2008, Lyric & Spirit: Selected Essays, 1996-2008 was published by Omnidawn. Audio and video recordings of Lazer’s poetry and an interview for Art International Radio can be found at Lazer’s PennSound website:

Glenn Mott is managing editor of the Hearst newspaper syndicate, he has been a Fulbright Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and is author of the book Analects on a Chinese Screen. His reporting, poetry and translations have appeared in newspapers and periodicals in the United States and abroad, including Poetiche, The Miami Herald, The Atlantic, The Missouri Review, and Nieman Reports.