Bakken, Kallet, Weaver, et. al.

Bakken, Kallet, Weaver, et. al.
December 23, 2019 Plume
Christopher Bakken on “Goat Theology”

In the past few years, I’ve divided my summers between the islands of Crete and Thasos, places where the goat has always ruled. Whenever I encounter goats in those wild places, I am charmed by their mysterious and fearless behavior. What, this poem asks, is sacred to the goat? To the goat who answers here, all of the appetites are holy. The goat’s theology is Whitmanian. The goat says “yes.” It’s not a surprise, then, that we have often projected our ideas of sin on to the goat: as in the “Azazel goat”—or ‘scapegoat’—of Leviticus. By contrast, this little hymn celebrates an open-throated goat poetics, one that takes all that is given, then reaches for more, crossing boundaries of its own accord. 


Marilyn Kallet on “Soft Song”:

Some of the outstanding poets I have worked with at the University of Tennessee over the decades have been veterans or active-duty military. I’m grateful now to call these men and women my colleagues and friends.

Will they still be my friends after they have read this poem? I suspect that sometimes even the bravest must tire of the easy cheer, “Thank you for your service!” So I decided to create a riff on the cliché.

The form wants to be lean, like those who recertify routinely with physical fitness exams, sometimes by running miles in frigid temps.

“Soft Song” surprised me with its visceral ending. In her book-jacket comment on How Our Bodies Learned, Joy Harjo wrote, “All of Marilyn Kallet’s poems are falling-in-love poems.” “Soft Song” falls hard. The oral pleasure of poetry turns on itself with the inevitable swallowing of rejection. Rather than choking, the poet signs off by crushing her crush with the blues.

True, I keep falling in love––with poetry. Poetry is my loyal ally in the war against self-censorship and cultural taboos. “Soft song” breaks silences––tosses a small stone against a plate-glass window. But is this statement an ars poetica, or an alibi?

When I asked my husband if I should show this poem to my active-duty friends, he said, “No. Send them the one you wrote for the 225th anniversary of UT.” In this case, I’ll defy Lou’s good judgment. We’ll see who’s still speaking to me after the January edition of Plume!


Afaa Weaver on “Night Rising”:

When the machines were shut down for the night, the 3rd shift crews came out to clean and prepare them for the next day. This is the Procter & Gamble plant in the Locust Point area of Baltimore, where I worked from 1970 to 1985, nearly fifty years ago. The plant sits on the harbor’s edge, facing Fells Point. The idea is of night rising as opposed to falling, in the manner of an ironic greatness of industrial cities, looking now at the crisis in the ecosystem. This is part of my Baltimore project, or B’more to those of us who were born there and lived there long enough to feel Baltimore is Everywhere.


Jennifer Franklin on “Antigone Considers Her Family”:

I wrote “Antigone Considers Her Family” for my third full-length manuscript which braids lyric persona poems (from the POV of a contemporary Antigone), political prose poems (that each focus on events from a different month of Trump’s Presidency), and un-rhymed sonnets (that meditate on my take on Memento Mori). The three forms, I hope, speak to each other overtly and subtly creating a nuanced tapestry of feminist resistance. I have wanted to write about Antigone for decades. Her conviction, courage, and loyalty in the face of assumed futility has been a source of strength and inspiration for me. I have dedicated a substantial part of the past two decades as the sole primary caregiver for my severely disabled daughter. Many people around me, including her biological father, criticized me for my choice to devote so much effort to “someone who cannot be fixed” in the same way that those around Antigone cannot understand her need to properly bury her dead brother. These poems grapple with the complexities and contradictions of fierce devotion and the price one often pays when her moral and ethical code conflicts with those in power.


Jessica Greenbaum on “4 a.m. and 40 Years Later…”:

In 1979 I moved from NYC to Houston, TX without knowing a soul there to became part of the inaugural ten-person class at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, and given that its administrators and founding faculty had absolutely no intention of helping me find housing or, well, helping in any way, and being as that attitude basically continued throughout my matriculation, and given that Houston’s character at that time was not nearly as public-centric as (wonderfully) it is today, and given that I didn’t know how much the rest of the world struggled for basic shelter, food, education and security, and seeing my low-ceilinged one-story past from the high-rise present, and seeing, from that height how luxuriously middle-class my own struggles had been in relation to what we know now–but still wanting to honor my own experience though worried about the virtue signaling of the impulse–I wrote that poem when I couldn’t sleep.


David Keplinger on “The Age of the Onion”:

“The Age of the Onion” arrived first with that image of Revelations diced down to the proverb-sized fragments. Naturally, how difficult it is to contextualize the brief era of Information, when it is compared to the long histories we read about from antiquity, Golden Ages, Bronze Ages, Iron Ages, and ages that denote the reign of dynasties, great cities and Houses. Our measurement of historical periods has now (as perhaps it always is, in the present moment) been clipped to briefest increments, say, down to the time required to sauté onions in a saucepan. Meanwhile, no matter how brief the age, the onion inspires tears with no less ferocity, while the oil, like sparks from the alchemist’s crucible, spits back.


Julie Hanson on “The Clacklet”: 

October 1994, a few loose lines on lined paper: the recollection of my own anger 12 years earlier over an irreversible but, let’s face it, trivial, loss. Naturally, I paid little heed to that draft. Still, a typed page was produced by year’s end, after which all activity on it ceased.   For a time.   January of 1996: a number of drafts in quick succession, and to my surprise I had something I liked. A long period of premature satisfaction set in then, and stayed for 18 years. Who knows what initiated the flurry of revisionary activity in March and April of 2014, after which the poem lay dormant again for ten more months? And then, intermittently, between February 2015 and the end of 2018, revision of a different sort—more elaborative and jovial—began.  Somewhere along the way—probably once I started having fun—I came to think of this poem, or perhaps its process, as my Boléro. The poem, and the process of writing it, seemed unending, mesmerizing, and the poem had no reluctance about turning back again and again to its tiny yet insistent themes, to less forgiving states of mind just when forgiveness had seemed to be achieved, then spiraling forward once again into acceptance. Was it forgiving, or some kind of equilibrium we were after here? My attitude toward new details begging for inclusion became unusually permissive, and the poem was granted a lot of allowance to be playful until the day it was satisfied, exhausted, just plain done.


Arthur Vogelsang on “My Girl”:

The ghosts, the corpse, and the police are not real, otherwise everything else is.  Like, the castles and the acquaintances who know what’s for sale, those are real.  Oh, the girl, “my girl,” is not real.