Archive for the ‘poetry month’ Category

Poetry Month: Patrick Donnelly and Ben Berman

Friday, April 30th, 2010

It’s April 30, the last day of Poetry Month. Or is it the first day in the rest of your POETRY LIFE? (Just agree it’s the second one; it’ll make me happy.)

We thought we’d cap our celebrations by sharing poems by two outstanding past Poetry Fellows: Patrick Donnelly’s Oxygen Catastrophe and Ben Berman’s Endings. Patrick is a Deerfield poet with one published collection, another to-be-, and a poetry manuscript review service to help poets prepare their work for publishers. Ben is a Boston-area poet/teacher, who, along with winning an MCC grant, has won an Artist Fellowship from the Somerville Arts Council and a Really Great Guy Award (from me). Enjoy.

OXYGEN CATASTROPHE by Patrick Donnelly

Mon vieux, you say cremation,
you can’t help feeling, is a gesture
ungrateful to the body
and the giver of the body.

But I (who have for years at a time
lived, reclined, frolicked, pranked, played the fool
in low, unworthy rooms, far too full
of gratefulness, of a kind, for my body) wonder:

do you mean the same dear giver
of the sweet sweet air
that is already burning
your body, mine, our memory, my memory of

a black and white collie in the spring,
the spring,
the seraphim,
these letters,


Originally published in The Laurel Review

ENDINGS by Ben Berman

Last night, I dreamt
of returning to Zimbabwe.
Busses were running,
women were selling
tomatoes and I kept telling
Mavhundutsie he couldn’t
be beating me in darts,
he was dead. And when
his wife brought me tea,
I refused because she, too,
was dead. Where was Dolly
Parton and the six-six mute?
Where were the overweight
ladies of the night? I remember
one monsoonish evening,
coming upon a shop that sold
soap and dried fish. The owner
offered me a blanket and corner
until the rains died down.
He brought out orange drink
and chunks of bread. The ground
is wet
, he said. And I agreed.
Too wet, he continued. I agreed
again but didn’t understand
what he meant until he dragged
a long, wooden box into the room.
My brother. And then again,
the ground is too wet.
And because I used to believe
it was the escalating hardships
that elevated us towards the sacred,
that the struggle, alone, validated
a voice, for a long time I thought
the story ended there – moving off
the blanket to lie on the cold floor,
wresting, rapturously, to sleep.
But the truth is I also woke up
the next morning and walked home.
And when I arrived, Maxwell
needed help with his homework
and Chikasha reminded me that
someone has to chop more wood.
And someone has to weed the field.

Originally published in Cream City Review

Patrick Donnelly (Poetry Fellow ’08) is the author of The Charge (Ausable Press, 2003, since 2009 part of Copper Canyon Press) and Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin, forthcoming from Four Way Books, and is an Associate Editor of Poetry International.

Ben Berman (Poetry Fellow ’08) has received a Somerville Arts Council Fellowship, among other honors, and teaches at Grub Street and at Brookline High School. Read a nano-interview with Ben on ArtSake.

Poetry Month: Pastoral by Kristin Bock

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

When we commemorate Poetry Month with poems by Massachusetts-honored artists, we’re really commemorating all art forms. By artists everywhere. With poems.

My proof? Well, I don’t really have proof – can such a statement be proved? – but what I have, as Exhibit A, is Kristin Bock (Poetry Fellow ’06), who said in an ArtSake interview that the origins of her poetry could be drawn to her father, a still-life painter:

His paintings made me aware of texture, the qualities of light, and the language between objects at a very early age. They facilitated my understanding of symbolism and metaphor and nurtured my love for dark imagery. In short, art taught me the vocabulary of poetry.

Here is Kristin’s poem Pastoral, from her collection Cloisters.


Fanned out in the night, I hear
the windmill give its life to the wind.

A satellite drifts by, recording
my inner dials.

I think I’m not alone.

All over the world, people lay down
in fields and wait for the sky to open.

Somewhere, our devotion
is being compared on an infinite chart.

Somewhere, we resemble spoons
laid across a table.

Kristin Bock is the author of Cloisters, winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award.

Poetry Month: a NaPoWriMo poem by Simeon Berry

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

As you may have noticed, we’ve been celebrating National Poetry Month by periodically sharing poems by some of our past honored artists. But some local poets are being much more literal about their Poetry Month. Take Simeon Berry (Poetry Fellow ’06): he’s undertaking the NaPoWriMo challenge – that is, to write at least one poem a day, all month.

You can follow his intriguing trajectory on his blog, where he’s been posting a series of poems about a character named “the doppelganger” and his adventures (of a kind) in a world seemingly shaped by poetic forces.

Here’s one posted April 19:

The doppelganger discusses his will with Miss Anaphora

You can’t

my hair.

a lock is

to regrow
me and I


many tax

as it is.
A jazz

right out.

I don’t
want to

come back
in a stride


just pained.
In fact

it would
be better

if you

me inside
a bullet

or a time

there’s no


the two
if you

think hard

And I
want you

to put on

never dress,
the one

you were

when I

The three

I believe
in are

me, my

and that

else is

just a

I wasn’t

Not very

Simeon Berry is an Associate Editor for Ploughshares and has won a Career Chapter Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters, the Dana Award for Poetry, and a Massachusetts Cultural Council Individual Artist Fellowship.

Poetry Month: Quaker Guns by Caroline Knox

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

There are a handful of ways you could celebrate National Poetry Month: cake… mouthfuls and mouthfuls of cake; become a poet’s wealthy (and infinitely generous) patron; write a poem a day for NaPoWriMo; or enjoy the poems of past MCC fellows and finalists here on ArtSake.

Our next poem is by the terrific Caroline Knox (Poetry Fellow ’96, ’06) – an oddly timely verse in these days of real-life, high seas piracy.


Your handsome workmanlike fourmaster,
out on a reach, no sight of land,
mirrors the adventure tales for children and grownups – oh, isn’t the brightwork
bright; oh, the cannon royal, the twenty-four pounders.
It’s safe to assume that you have eighty-six guns.

But these aren’t worth the powder
it takes to blow them to hell.
Shipmasters long ago thought up this protection:

they’re Quaker guns, a creative ruse, the kind you couldn’t and wouldn’t
shoot: they’re flotsam and jetsam, or any old trees, ships’ logs.
They’re broken masts. They’re the Friends of the Friends.
These logs are laid in the loading trays –
you have twelve cannon at most, but they look like an armada.
So privateers mistake the logs for guns, and they scarpa,
intimidated by driftwood posing as ordnance.
No pirate would go anywhere near you.

Caroline Knox, “Quaker Guns” from Quaker Guns. Copyright 2008 by Caroline Knox. Reprinted with permission of Wave Books.

Caroline Knox is the author of numerous books, including Quaker Guns and the upcoming limited-edition, hand-sewn volume of prose, Nine Worthies, which will be part of Wave Book’s 2010 subscription.

Poetry Month: I Abandoned My Plans. I Had No Plans. by Michael Teig

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

We could’ve celebrated National Poetry Month with a series of decorative, commemorative plates. But in the end, it seemed a tad more intuitive to celebrate with actual poetry (though we have nothing against plates, Plate Fans!).

Today’s poem is by Michael Teig (Poetry Fellow ’08), about a common phenomenon of Spring’s warmer temperatures: the lazy man.


Some men are so lazy
they should be revered as saints.

Not improved. Not working.
No lift or tilt.

Trying to put on one sock
in the morning they are one man.

A centipede of trouble.
He pretends

to be hit with a stick.
He looks at the world

as though it arrived in an airplane.
The new world’s new, quickening sun

taps the stadium whose retractable roof
pulls back till a single crow comes out,

sideways, slurring over the skyline and wires.
It lays out evidence and empty space:

A woman beside you sleeping. A little clerk
hurrying past like all the capitals of Europe.

Drowsy projectionist, the sun
does nothing but ticket the leaves.

Some men are so beautiful that their insides
are lined with the skin of lions,

with the narrow skin of birds.
With no help from me,

the names of ships, with
the teeth of mice, the overdue snow.

Michael Teig is the author Big Back Yard (BOA Editions, 2003) and is a co-founder and editor-at-large of jubilat.

Poetry Month: Enough to make the chickens roost at noon by Caroline Berry Klocksiem

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Our next poem commemorating National Poetry Month is by Caroline Berry Klocksiem (Poetry Fellow ’08), imagining the surreal meteorology of the American Plains, this very day, 75 years ago.

Enough to make the chickens roost at noon
April 14, 1935

Nervous bird chatter then flatlining hush
over miles the day grows dark as crow
The day so black the air was smoke
heavy like tarred black lungs, dark
enough to need a new name for black
The smoke built a wall just before
your face, the wall slashing light from our homes
and darkness broadcast its siren for acres

Blackness swooping and swallowing like dry-as-a-bone
throat, black as pork blood, black as the long gone prairie,
black as long gone and black as seeping back
like the monster come back rolling out
from your dreams, well, just ask Old Job
how black or Jonah for that matter bigger than
behemoth, the belly of the whale turned insight out,
when the blizzard hit it gutted the day wide open
like brim, black insides gushing and tumbling to death

when the blizzard hit we’d finished the last drop of honey
when the blizzard hit it was 3 am at noon
when the blizzard hit it was the first and last day that black
blizzard forever like time, like testimony,
like not going nowhere, and black as a matter
of fact, as can’t hardly breathe, as pulling
our breaths together, counting them like the trees.

Originally published in Blood Orange Review 4.3

Caroline Berry Klocksiem is poetry editor at 42opus and teaches literature and writing at the University of Alabama and Holyoke Community College.

Poetry Month: My Party by Elizabeth Hughey

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Here’s our next poem commemorating National Poetry Month, My Party by Elizabeth Hughey (Poetry Fellow ’08), a melody of Springtime memes: crystal decanters, party shoes, tea sandwiches.


A girl only gets so many parties.
Did you see my shoes? Did anyone

notice my shoes? I wish I were
drunk. When I shop for friends,

I shop drunk. Will someone get over
here and talk to me? I like sand dollars.

I like black pearls. I tried lipstick
but I could not determine

where the lip ends and the nose
begins. Where’s the cake?

This is not my party anymore.
It is the party’s party. This is

the partiest party in the party party.
Scotch squats in a crystal decanter

like a man in a dress. Even the perfume
eats with pinkies. I want to go home,

because the party has elected,
as a group, without words,

like a herd of moths, to celebrate
something else. Taste buds.

The end of all work. No. For one
moment, one thought bloomed

in each head: nobody wanted
to be someplace else. The men

forgot about the game. The slim
minnow of lust left the bellies of boys.

One woman faced the window
and fit a whole tea sandwich

into her mouth like a bedspread
into the dryer. Even the waiter

slicing the roast carved a thick
piece in the likeness of his father.

Elizabeth Hughey is the author of Sunday Houses the Sunday House. Read Liz’s ArtSake nano-interview.

Poetry Month: Keeping by Patrick Ryan Frank

Friday, April 9th, 2010

At ArtSake headquarters (two office cubicles bedecked in exhibition postcards), we’ve been receiving a number of poems-of-the-day emails from such fine citizens as Mr. Knopf Poetry and Ms., celebrating April as National Poetry Month. And it occurred to us: we’ve encountered so many great poets through our Artist Fellowships Program that it would be a shame not to do some of that Poetry Month-celebrating with poems by some of our past awardees.

Our inaugural poem is Keeping by Patrick Ryan Frank (Poetry Fellow ’06). As bees begin emerging from their winter clusters, this poem of interspecific interaction seemed like a perfect way to celebrate our poetic month.


20,000 Bees Infest Okla. Family’s Home

It wasn’t at all like everybody thought –
We’d lie in bed on Saturday mornings, watching
Their improbable bodies floating through the light,
As slow and strange as dreams. They didn’t sting;
They didn’t seem to notice us at all,
As each year the house became more fully a hive:
We thought we smelled their honey; we felt the walls
Warmed by the constant pulse of wings deep
In the plaster. It wasn’t difficult to live
In a house that at night would hum us all to sleep.

Patrick Ryan Frank has been awarded the Academy of American Poets College Prize and two Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowships. He is currently seeking an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin.