December: and a final notice: this newsletter now contains actual news, with my own thoughts reserved for the – yes, Editor’s Note. This time, in that forum, more impressions drawn from that a recent trip home to Louisville, Kentucky. News, then, to follow – but first, our “secret poem”: Linda Gregg’s beautiful “Whole and Without Blessing” most ably introduced by Plume’s Associate Editor for Special Projects (and co-editor of the soon to be released Plume — The Interviews, from Plume Editions), Nancy Mitchell.
WHOLE AND WITHOUT BLESSING
Seen through the glass panel of his front door, the back-lit silhouette, distinctly female, flickering across the dark foyer like the shadow I was certain it was until he, to whom I was betrothed, opened the door enough to literally stick his neck out, and say, as if I were a fucking Jehovah’s witness, I’m sorry but this isn’t a good time. I’d thought to surprise him, drive up mid-week, a break from our two-year routine of his weekends to the shore from DC, and by God I did. This was a long time ago, before cell phones, but not before answering machines, where after an auto-piloted drive home his Sorry you had to find out this way, I’ll be down this weekend to pick up my things awaited me. The next day I had the door locks and my phone number changed. For a summer’s worth of days I was willfully suspended in the limbo before the numbed grace, the “formal feeling” following Emily Dickinson’s “After a great pain.” Friends rallied like ants around a dropped crumb, swept me up and out for dinner. With each condolence- so sorry, you’ll find someone better, forget about him, I an unfamiliar rage rising, until one friend, her hand on mine, leaned in with at least you didn’t find him in flagrante delicto. The others tittered. I folded my napkin carefully, and into my friends faces mouthed Fuck You and with measured steps walked out of restaurant and the five miles home, not weeping, but seething. What did they know? This was no ordinary love, no ordinary pain. In the days that followed I didn’t answer my door or phone. My circle of friends shrunk to a noose. I turned to music and poetry, but not for consolation, but validation. I spurned the the spool of the narrative, its arc and resolution. I needed this pain, sustained on the five second memory of his face at the door, his words, over and over like a slo-mo Billabong Instagram, as a ballast against evaporating, the hard sharp edge to give my body shape, to walk me arrow straight hours down night streets, the darker the better; to forestall the inevitable gravitational pull into the stages of grief, beginning with the numbness of “the nerves sit ceremonious like tombs,” to the final letting go, the acceptance that it was over. I turned away from my beloved Dickinson’s wisdom, and all summer lay with pain. I opened, without hope, the black-ribboned copy of Linda Gregg’s Too Bright To See (Graywolf, 1981) left in my mailbox by I knew not whom. Here was imagery as precise as Euclid, as unequivocal as the classical Greek architecture on the book’s cover and as stark as a hunched peasant’s black dress against the blue Aegean. When I read “The nights are very clear in Greece. / When the moon is round we see it completely/and have no feeling,” I finally breathed—had not my gardenias bloomed hot white, sent their heady scent into the humid nights, and I remained unmoved? My mind entertained but one sensation, pain; my soul had selected her own society and shut the door. There are other parts to this little karmic story of how I was done unto what I had done to another, but for a brief chapter of it, I was blessedly “whole and without blessing.”
WHOLE AND WITHOUT
What is beautiful alters, has undertow.
Otherwise I have no tactics to begin.
Femininity is a sickness. I open my eyes
out of this fever and see the meaning
of my life clearly. A thing like a hill.
I proclaim myself whole and without blessing,
or need to be blessed. A fish of my own
spirit. I belong to no one. I do not move.
Am not required to move. I lie naked on a sheet
and the indifferent sun warms me.
I was bred for slaughter like the other
animals. To suffer exactly at the center,
where there are no clues except pleasure.
Born in New York, in 1942, poet Linda Gregg was raised in Marin County, California. She received both a BA and an MA from San Francisco State University. Gregg has published several collections of poetry, including Too Bright to See (1981); Alma (1985); Things and Flesh (1999), finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry; and All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems, a Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of 2008 and winner of the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award. Gregg has won a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Sara Teasdale Award, the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, the Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize, and numerous Pushcart Prizes. She has also been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lannan Literary Foundation.
A 2012 Pushcart Prize winner, Nancy Mitchell is the author of The Near Surround (Four Way Books, 2002) and Grief Hut (Cervena Barva Press, 2009). Her recent poems appear, or will soon appear, in Poetry Daily,Agni, Washington Square Review, Green Mountains Review, Tar River Poetry, Columbia College Literary Review, and Thrush, among others. Mitchell teaches at Salisbury University and serves as the Associate Editor of Special Features for Plume.
Now, to a few bits of business…
In this issue’s “Essays & Comment” (helmed by Associate Editor for Criticism and Essays Robert Archambeau) look for an interesting take on the addictive nature of poetry contests from Amish Trivedi — many of you will be nodding in assent, I’m sure.
Our Featured Selection this month focuses on the work of Linda Pastan – eight new poems preceded by a lovely interview conducted with the poet by Nancy Mitchell.
In this issue’s Book Reviews, AdamTavel offers five short reviews of new work fromHera Lindsay Bird, Michelle Bitting, Bruce Bond, Aracelis Girmay, and Connie Wanek – just in time for Xmas gift-buying!
Speaking of just in time for Xmas, please take a look at Plume Edition’s output this year – Nin Andrews’ Our Lady of the Orgasm and Tess Gallagher/Lawrence Matsuda’s Boogie Woogie Crisscross; and more forthcoming from W.S. Di Piero(The Man on the Water), Christopher Buckley (Chaos Theory), and Plume – The Interviews, edited by Nancy Mitchell and me. Others in the pipeline. You can find some of these now at MadHat Press’s website and on Amazon, etc., while others, including, of course, our newest print anthology Plume Poetry 5, will make their debuts at AWP in Washington, DC, in February.
Many thanks to all at Malaprops Bookstore and the Altamont/Stage Theater in Asheville, NC, for a splendid long weekend of reading in support of Plume Poetry 4. Marvelous work and shiver-inducing presentations from Joe Bathanti, Keith Flynn, Marilyn Kallet, and Katherine Soniat. And the after-reading hours weren’t too shabby, either.
Our next reading is coming up quickly – come, enjoy, if you’re in the neighborhood, at Jefferson Market Library – it’s quite a roster! Much gratitude to Sally Bliumis-Dunn for helping to organize this NYC reading – and Frank Collerius for graciously offering us – after a last-minute snafu with our previous venue – this gorgeous space.
Readers: Patricia Clark Sally Bliumis-Dunn Elaine Equi Rachel Hadas D. Nurkse Jerome Sala Larissa Shmailo
Then there are the goings on at AWP in February:
AWP, 8-11 February Washington, DC
There will be at least two readings. Venues, dates/times TBA – we’re working on it! Almost there. The roster(s) so far: Sally Bliumis-Dunn, Hélène Cardona, Peter Cooley, Lynn Emanuel, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Mark Irwin, D. Nurkse, Tom Lux, Elizabeth Metzger, Nancy Mitchell, Molly Peacock, Ira Sadoff, Tom Sleigh, Jean Valentine, Marc Vincenz.
(Come see us at AWP! Booth 321-T, opposite Copper Canyon and Grove/Atlantic. We are listed as MadHat Press / Plume Poetry.)
What else – ah, our cover art Cover Art comes from Radu Nita, a Graphic Designer and a project coordinator for Softwin, Romania. His photos have won several prizes and have been selected by Coca Cola to illustrate their soda cans as part of the I feel lazy campaign.
Work Received – once more, this month includes new poems from so many, I couldn’t begin to list them all. You’ll find them in the print anthology Plume Poetry 5and in forthcoming online issues of Plume. We’ll return to naming specific poets after the first of the year.