3.2 fragments from an excerpt | Chris Stroffolino — poetry and interview (poetics)
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3.2 fragments from an excerpt | Chris Stroffolino — poetry and interview (poetics)

selected poetry publications
chris stoffolino, photographer
650 pixels by 487 pixels
©2018

I think what I love most about Stroffolino’s poetry—is that every single poem seems directly engaged with its own “philosophy of composition,” its own construct-ion/poetics. It’s as if I’m experiencing the poem as the poet figures out a way to write it. — krysia jopek, founding editor of diaphanous micro

poetry

Gypsophilia
for Krysia Jopek

Forsythia is Syringa. Scabiosa the pincushion flower…
Echinacea the cornflower. Delphinium Larkspur
Helenium the sneeze weed. Nemophilia, baby blue eyes!
“I may forget your name, but not your face.” I may not read
music on the page, but I know that the white keys
only have one name, but F Sharp is also Gb,
as the Hummingbird Vine is also the Trumpet Vine,
the Yellow Bell the Golden Trumpet, & Watsonia is the Bugle Lily
& there’s more women named for flowers than men
(impatiens is the Busy Lizzie, and Erica is Heather!)
& there’s more flowers named for animals than vice versa
(The Flamingo Flower is Anthurium & Astilbe is the False
Goat’s Beard… is the goat false? or just it beard?)
Butterfly bush! Cardinal flower! Cuckoo Flower!
(who needs Oreo Ice Cream Flavored Cereal?)

Looking at a book of Anglo-Saxon words for flower names
evokes what a medieval (or renaissance faire) must’ve felt like.
Would you rather be known as a Cornflower, or a Bachelor’s Button?
&, of course, Sweet William is in the carnation family.
Would you rather be Johnny Jump Up, a Dicenta’s
Bleeding Heart, or Heartease? Does it not elevate the wild carrot
To call it Queen Anne’s Lace (no doubt worth more
Than the mere Amaranthus of a Prince’s Feather….)
Or does “Houstonia” sound more beautiful than “Quaker Ladies?”

Does it honor a Fuschia to call it Lady’s Eardrop,
The Alchemilla a Lady’s Mantle? (dogbane desert rose)
Or serve a lady to name her slipper a Greco-Roman Cypridium
as beautiful as the chance meeting of a Showy Speedwell (Hebe)
& the Wishbone Flower on a spread out Blanket flower in a field
of Lunaria some call Honesty & others call the Money Plant
& if the Narcissus is the Daffodil, am I but daffodilistic (duck)
to rescue the Ptecarya Fraxifolia from the Caucasian Wingnut
who names the Stargazer the Oriental Lily or the Agapanthus
the Star of Bethlehem, while Baby’s Breath loves “gypsies”
more than the people who named it Gypsophilia. Does
the sweetest parsley, sage, & rosemary (for rue)
become placeholder anguish for precision engendering vision
when heavenly gutterals in la-la land carry gorgeous evangelical
spine-tingling sounds? Yellow Archangel is the Aluminium Plant!

We begin to detect more commercial tie-ins, and 360 degree marketing
When the Heliotrope becomes the Cherry Pie plant,
Ibiris the Candy Tuft, & the Bouvardia the Firecracker Plant!
Loosestrife loosens strife, or could we rescue Granny’s Bonnet
from the Columbine Massacre? & the Bellflower from the toxic
masculinity implied in Black-Eyed Susan (also a drink like Bloody Mary):
no wonder the Mimosa’s named “Touch Me Not!”

Not too hard to imagine a think-tank… “second-cousin’s foot?”
“great aunt’s trouble?” “an extended matriarch’s coral,”
“President’s toothache,” “History’s chokehold.” “worker’s defiant pride.”
“Angela Davis’s censored wisdom…” “Talker’s Reprieve….”
In the meantime, Angelonia is the Summer Snapdragon, Clarkia
Farewell to Spring, Anemone the Windflower but it could also be
the Conjure Flower… Can we trade in the Aconitum of the Monk’s Hood
for the Nigella of Love in this Mist? The Evening Primrose is the sun cup,
or the sun drop, Zenobia the Honeycup near the Bee Balm Flower
(& maybe someday I can match these names with faces. . .)

©2019

* * *

excerpt from Healer’s Squeal
“you should write a sequel called Healer’s Squeal”—Michael Gizzi

3.
Surely the rigorous poem refers to no life outside itself, but we could note
that this body of water is called a sound. Seabirds carrying brushes paint themselves
into the sky, & unheard sounds are sweaters that would never be caught dead

oppressing a poodle! &, after being diagnosed with the crime of despair, we doggy paddle
into Poe’s parrot in raven’s clothes, and figured we’d game it. “Will I always be poor,
crippled, underused?” Nevermore! “Will human brutality continue?” Nevermore.

“Can I at least look in the mirror & say I’ve never been a burden to woman?”
& I guess a poet should entertain the notion that chanting certain words, or phrases,
every day has the power to heal, whether it’s “I’m set free to find a new illusion,”

“I chide no breather but myself,” “able-bodied liberty angles,” or even “one person’s
syncretic religion is another’s spiritual dilettantism.” But what of the high words
of humanism? Coleridge calls reason “the sword of the spirit!” Damn, the whole

Euro-idealist tradition is violence! But should we try to rescue reason if the irrational
proved just as irrational as the irrational that gets crowned as reason? & I doubt
the word G-d is strong enough to oppose what’s corrupt about money,

but soul could work with reason as an introvert musician & an extroverted socialist
can have as harmonious a relationship as any couple are wondering to be in
the same mansion (proletarian housing collective) to cut through layers of

complexities to find the soul’s simplicity, like we need it to communicate from,
like it’s already there, but only if we build it precisely so they don’t come, as data
analysts at least (or you just have to be ready for death to be ready for life….)

©2019

* * *

I’m Your Captcha

when we touch a locked door
but don’t see it as a locked door
until we find an open one
locking the others
(or giving us language
as curse & blessing)….

when existence is only form
to essence’s content
if beauty is only an extension
of comfort, the double
meaning of “boring”
cancelling each other out
for kindship…how something
we thought becomes did
than are….
we dissolved
into the solution that made us
problems precisely for that
purpose, and it’s too fluid
to be final….
impatience does
the (next time is the best) time
“whatever you do, don’t take
‘symphony of snakes’ the wrong way!
like when I went out
of my way for them. “
“what was this way again?”
(or was he
just being anti-social to create
an aura of mystery?) Certainly,
mystery has been used
to inflict misery, Mercy!

“Just let the thought
be a voice, we can
sort it out when we’re together.”

©2019

* * *

For Yvonne Henderson

Paint squirted
Eye drops tear from
A bottle made of ears

After the dancer’s injury, she tried
To feel more like a painter instead—
Or at least a couple (of) Brushes

On the black and white chessboard
Floor hung on the Eastern wall
That really faces South

Like civic dizziness chopped
Into the Appendages
That language wants me to other

Like a war on the Canvas
(the canvas started, the wet brush
just the Defense department…)

And I’m lost in a drip,
And when the tears dry,
They will have once been sweat

Was I just too busy seeing
My reflection in you, & then
Everything not you, to truly see?

Or is that like chiding the wet
Brush for not being seen
By the finished canvas?

©2019

* * *

Therapeutic Anti-Performance Bias
for Stuart Wood

“Though the doors will always remain open for the musical expression of personal feelings, what will more and more come through is the pleasures of conviviality. And beyond that a non-intentional expressivity, a being together of sound & people (where sounds are sound, and people are people). A walk, so to speak, in the woods of music, or in the world itself….”———John Cage, 1989

“Democracy…is going to come up in expected ways from the stuff we think are junk,”—Leonard Cohen (337)

Among “people (who) have had this illness or disability that isolates them socially”
Wood’s interested in furthering “(re)creation as social beings against the losses of their illness.”—

Conventional therapists will tell you “putting on a performance”–“acting out,” “being
inauthentic, or hiding behind a persona” is what they’re trying to treat, not encourage.”

Wood’s interested in furthering “(re)creation as social beings against the losses of their illness.”
Her neurological tremor…had ended….job, relationships. It felt like being on a scrap heap

“being inauthentic, or hiding behind a persona” is what they’re trying to treat, not encourage.
She felt useless, scrap…. we could….Make instruments out of scrap! Typewriter, three pails!

Her neurological tremor…had ended….job, relationships. It was like being on a scrap heap
“Failing performance on one level needs performance at another as its remedy.’”

She felt useless, scrap…. we could….Make instruments out of scrap! Typewriter, three pails!
They interrogated the junk they found until they found the music in it (156)

“Failing performance on one level needs performance at another as its remedy.’”
The performance, for instance, of our immune system or motor coordination

They interrogated the junk they found until they found the music in it (156)
“rehearsing, composing, dancing are all part of the performance

The performance, for instance, of our immune system or motor coordination
As an actor moves from “not me” to “not not me”…(irreducible to product)

“rehearsing, composing, dancing are all part of the performance
Among “people (who) have had this illness or disability that isolates them socially”

As an actor moves from “not me” to “not not me”…(irreducible to product)
Conventional therapists will tell you “putting on a performance”–“acting out”…

©2019

* * *

Matter Over Mind

Every bird has known their place in fools who cross the line
And you walk the streets singing “mind fast body slow mind loud body soft”
Or when I kissed a cop down at 34th & Vine he broke my little bottle of love potion #9
For the hosts have known their guests as ghosts until undressed.
So, when knowledge becomes a sea, will you reach for a life boat
Of revolution, a raft of love, a continent of wet-naps

To do away with excess moisture, like the sleep dreamed during naps
When the words that circle roofs in silence walk the line
Or swim the sea of whim until my body becomes a boat
And I cross the sweet muttering “loud and slow” under “fast and soft”
Because you feel you can only be real as a host when undressed,
A host who would never judge her guests, a host who would give me a 9

On a scale of 10, or 100. Does it matter? A meaningless 9
But kind of cute and vertical, even when it naps.
Maybe a little bloodless on the human side, but, undressed,
It leaves me speechless in key changing songs about the line
Where the moon is the ocean and the sky but a boat
Because you have to be lost to wonder, though hard is only loud if soft

Is soft, which is disproved by the roar of the cat and its soft, soft
Fur, or the fact that I rarely wake before 9
Which would mean we’re not all in the same boat
Until the sea of winking blinks rivers when we nap
Blind as the sign I read in the unemployment line
Or the one way street we’ve gone the wrong way on (until it’s undressed).

Ah, where will this lead the already naked nations (who’ve never been undressed)?
Do I have to amplify the quiet to harden the soft?
And why would I want to flatter or flatten, the same old line
Unless I was so doped up on love potion #9
I’d run free like the mouse while the cat of self-consciousness naps?
And this, at last, could mean we’re all in the same boat

Where the birds don’t sink or swim but float until a boat
Of wonder alienates the greed it wears when undressed
For the only reason she always walks in while he naps
Is because she always runs out when he’s awake, but soft,
“I hear the lonesome whip-poor-will.” It peaked at 9
On the country charts. So I’m grounded where once I was out of line

But now I know the line can be soft, the nine undressed
And the boat may win the vote while the rest of me naps.

from Drinking from What I Once Wore
Crisis Chronicles, 2018–John Burroughs, Founding Editor

* * *

Red Tape Sale

You may feel free
to distrust your happiness
with yourself
for choosing
what may very well be
an exemplary action
like, when finding
one of your cassette tapes
in the bag
of a friend
who is crashing
on your sofa
but who is out
roaming the town
at present,
you may get angry
at a violation of trust
& take it back
but soon you mellow
“honor among thieves”
& decide to copy it
and place the copy
in his bag without a word
so when he returns
he may not even know
that you have given him
what he thought he stole
and you may tell yourself
it was just his way
of asking for a gift
and run the risk
of feeling too proud
with yourself
as if it is actions like these
that most characterize you
& not quite see
that it was he
who gave
the greater gift
(and why were you
snooping around in his bag
to begin with?)

from Drinking What I Once Wore
Crisis Chronicles, 2018–John Burroughs, Founding Editor

chris stroffolino “talks poetics!” with krysia jopek –August, 2019

What is your process when you sit down to write a poem?

I never quite understand the poets on Facebook who post, “I wrote a poem today” on a regular basis. I generally need to “sleep on” something for at least a day to feel it might really be a poem. . . . I often start in/find a pre-genre (I think, though it could be merely post-genre) place. “I set out to write poems once, and it turned into a memoir. . . ” I’m a big believer in the brainstorm and revision. I mean, sure, there’s those rare moments when I know right away, “this is a poem!”—but more often not. . . often the “vision” doesn’t emerge until a few days after the “brainstorm” or the “first draft” that gets called the “vision.”

On a nuts & bolts level, one salience (for like 30 years now) is that I begin on paper at least 99% of the time, sometimes with “something on my mind,” & other times with an illusion of blankness with a book (not necessarily of poetry—could even be a student paper on “tech addiction”) as a jump-start, a backseat driver in the car of love, let the book set the terms or the tone, or argue with it, or try to connect it with something totally petty & personal, and seemingly unrelated. Then later, sometimes the next day, or sometimes not for a few months, I go through the tedious process of typing what I wrote by hand onto a computer file—almost everything—lines that seem great, lines that seem weak—still not worrying whether it’s a publishable poem yet. Then I type that up, and go through a protracted phase of “trying to read myself as I read another”– this “recollection in perfunctory which may or may not be tranquil” takes patience & discipline (I’ve definitely erred on the side—-especially when I’m wrapped up in student papers, etc—of posting things clearly not ready yet on FB or sending some half-baked MS…).

Perhaps because being largely a hermit (aside from the job), I went through a (too) long phase where my poems were occasioned by facebook quips (which, even if by poets, were often not poems; still, it influenced my sense of form & neo-personism)—but I tend to need more room to stretch out….(could I send a 5 page poem to Facebook?) so I began to find that thinking in terms of a book helps me revise the poem better.

So collecting poems into a manuscript, and getting excited by the flow and (diachronic) narrative elements that seem to magically appear by placement of (synchronic) lyric moments, but then realizing you have 130 pages and will have to make difficult decisions to get it down to under 100—and then the next day read it again with a more critically severe eye and dump some into the outtake file, shorten others, or discover ways to combine a few…but feeling strangely secure coz now you know you have “more than enough” and “the leaving out business” can begin….swimming in your own words so intensely can be a maddening experience if you don’t have some other activity going on….…I wouldn’t necessarily advise this method for anybody, but it seems to suit my attention deficit disorder well, if time permits….a funny thing about time…. The way a present will dress up like a past to talk to another present? & in the past year, I’ve been attempting to do more “(soma)tic rituals (CA Conrad’s term) and listen to my body more (though putting it that way probably is self-defeating insofar as it implies an “I” always already alienated from an othered body…).

When did you become a serious poem? A published poet?

I probably became a published poet, before I was a serious poet. Ah, am I serious yet? Perhaps that’s the most serious question I can ask. But, more prosaically, early 20s; 1990 was perhaps a watershed year when New American Writing and Sulfur (& soon O*Blek & APR) published me & suddenly others were open to taking me more “seriously”…..but that was long ago….& I guess I “unbecome” a serious poet for a decade, after my third full-length book and a life-changing disability in 2005.

How much has John Ashbery influenced your work? Can you talk about your personal and poetic relationship with him? I personally see him as THE American poet of the second half of the twentieth century.

Perhaps the most important poetic influence/affinity for me (I would’ve said that 30 years ago,–20 (but not 10) years ago, and now in 2018. Spending a year reading all his books after he died certainly helped temper—if not totally wean—my addiction to social media, and helped channel my temptations for strident evangelism. Even when I was a Creative Writing student, people like Mark Halliday and Sharon Olds (& even Tate, who I know loved Ashbery dearly) told me I was reading too much John Ashbery—and it’s hard to find a review of one of my books (90-2004) that doesn’t mention Ashbery’s influence, but John himself was gracious enough not to mind. He put things in poetry that most other poets didn’t call poetic—and that many of today’s poetic gate keepers still are trying to keep out. I still feel I have an unpaid debt to him. And a year later (August 2019), I find myself in a very different place than the pleasures & wonders of getting lost in Ashbery, where living writers are more important to me—and I can relate in many ways to the voice of moral fervor that emerges in Eileen Tabios’ beautiful intense post-mortem to Ashbery: Witness in A Convex Mirror.

Can you speak to your relationship with the New York School and Language School of poetry?

These days, there is none (unless you count reading their books & facebook), though I miss many of those folks. When I lived in New York, I used to joke “I was a New York School poet until I moved to New York.”……Anyway, Back when I was “starting out” as they say (late 80s/early 90s), there was much more antagonism towards the “New York School” from The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets (I should specify, more the east coast-based Language Poets, if not as much the West Coast ones who were more critical of the scene “around Duncan” or what was left of the Beats). And though I was in Philly first—and very associated with a spoken word scene with more of a Black Arts Movement aesthetic, and trying to avoid cultural co-optation— I was more identified as a New York School (with affinities to the what seemed very vital in the Chicago School—mostly women– it seemed New American Writing). Frank & Ashes were like the “twin towers” with a side dish of Kenneth & Berrigan (never quite got into Schuyler as devoutly as Moxley & Peter Gizzi, for instance, though that could change). It was John Yau who first turned me on to these writers. If he was second generation, would I have been third? fourth?

I think I’m a brief entry in that encyclopedia. Is Bernadette Mayer second generation? Ann Lauterbach? David Shapiro has been extremely important to me. I really liked Crase’s The Revisionist. Star Black? Do people consider Alice Notley New York School? I’ve been reading Disobedience again, and it doesn’t seem fair (& probably sexist) to reduce her to the New York School. Still the term has a human warmth I never found in terms like “Black Mountain” (I love Creeley!), & I certainly don’t mind being called that, but I don’t think I’ve earned it.

But I remember there was a time when Mark Wallace coined the term, “post-language poetry” and was including me in that, and indeed, I loved Harryman & Perelman in particular. Never Without One! Scalapino, Fanny Howe & Armantrout (are they language poets?). Andrews could get me to play despite myself. Bernstein and Watten’s critical prose inspired me to argue (despite some scorn that I liked James Tate & did a dissertation on Shakespeare instead of, say, Pound or Zukofsky) —that “intimidating” masculine authority thing. Sometimes I wonder if I’m nostalgic for those poetry wars from my Rip Van Winkle 20-year vantage point.

How much does visual art and music influence your work?

Didn’t Pound say a successful poem should excel at all three—phanopiea, melopiea, and logopiea? I’m generally guilty of too much logo-piea and not enough images and/or a tin ear (even though I’ve played music off the page). I was toying with titling my new MS From Phanophobia to Musicophilia– when I lived in NYC I loved making regular visits to artists’ studios to see them work (and playing piano while my girlfriend painted). Those experiences confirmed for me how painters can help poets remember what a poem isn’t! You know, perhaps poets writing about art (again, thinking New York School—Yau, Ashbery, O’Hara, Shapiro….) has influenced my writing more than the art itself. I feel I’d have to make a concerted effort to develop the word-eye coordination those writers have. I loved seeing John Yau, one of my multi-genre heroes, give slideshows; he regularly posts collaborative poems done with visual artists (at least as good as Clark Coolidge & Phillip Guston’s Baffling Means) & I’d love to collaborate with visual artists…(though not so much by being a model in a portrait!

As for music, how can we tell the feeling from the sound? And I disagree with Pound. I like the metronome. Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” should be taught in post-World War II late 20th-century poetry courses alongside of, say, “Howl,” the poem that “changed America.” But the question that has always fascinated and troubled me is how does one translate across those genres on a neurological, aesthetic and social level? (Is a mordantly recursive post-Ashberian sentence doing “something similar” to a Coltrane sheet of sound, though he would prefer classical?). Insofar as my new manuscript may be said to have a theme aside from trying to cope with, or reinvent myself after, a disability & trauma(s), my existential relationship between the genre of poetry and the genre of music is one of the big themes (: music as water).

I was unable to make music for 5 years (the longest stretch without it), but I’ve been able to slowly reawaken to it in the last 8 months (in private), and I don’t know if it’s making my poetry on the page more or less “musical”—but I feel it’s changing my writing (making it a little more porous, letting sun and fresh air in away from stuffy job mind & hermit tech addiction) even if it runs the risk of being more “vulgar quotidian” (“I do this, I do that” Frank O’Hara New York school) mode as if that’s needed to balance the “heady” stuff like evangelical homages to community music therapists in times of crisis.

I know I’d definitely like to be more involved in multi-media art spaces and at this juncture, I’d much rather lend whatever musical talents I have to record instrumental accompaniment (or even perform a one-off reading/show on occasion) if any of the great poets I love reading on the page would like it—than read my own poetry on stage (though maybe I’ll get over my shyness to read). I did a few recordings a decade ago—with Beme the Rapper, and Delia Tramontina (more on her in the next question—I could send an MP3 if interested).

Who are your primary influences or poets you read again and again?

I hate lists! I always miss a few obvious ones! Even if I sleep on it…. Well, aside from the names I already dropped, Dickinson has been fairly salient for over 30 years, Laura (Riding) Jackson, Gil-Scott Heron, even Leonard Cohen. After Baraka’s death in 2014, I went through a few years where I was so disgusted by the hypocrisies of the white literary establishment and feeling ignorant because of my training in the mono-culture, that I only read non-white authors like Ishmael Reed, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin Audre Lorde, jessica Care moore, John Keene, Craig Santos Perez, Tyehimba Jess, Langston Hughes, Paul Beatty, Judy Juanita, Danez Smith, d. Scott Miller, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Timothy Yu, Claudia Rankine, Tongo Eisen Martin; The Breakbeat Poets Anthology worked great in the college intro to lit course and many more), but in the last few years I’ve been trying to catch up with more contemporary poetry—and feel I’ve been especially helped by writing by women—Brenda Hillman’s Extra Hidden Life, Among The Days, Nikki Wallschlager’s Houses, Sandra Simonds’ last few books, Anne Boyers’ Garments Against Women, Jennifer Moxley’s Druthers, Lisa Robertson, Noelle Kocot, Jasmine Dreame Wagner, Nada Gordon, Virginia Konchon, Christine Howey, Maw Shein Win, Wendy Trevino, Ivy Johnson.

This year a few books of poetry are blowing me away in their brilliant, beautiful, fierce, and playful but deeply serious critiques of what could be called “toxic masculinity,” compelling me to confront how I’m implicated in it. The two books simultaneously released by Danielle Pafunda (The Book of Scab and Beshrew!), Eileen Tabios’ aforementioned Witness, as well as Delia Tramontina’s Constraint. These writers, and more I have neglected to mention here, have given me hope in the possibility of poetry outside of the very white-male dominated 20th-century scenes (not that I didn’t enjoy Anselm Berrigan’s new book, too). So, will I regret saying any of this?

I’m glad you like the poems you’ve selected for this issue of diaphanous micro, Kyrsia. One is dedicated to you.

biographical note

Chris Stroffolino is a renowned American poet, musician, performer (former NYC performance artist), scholar of literary and cultural theory, and college professor. He is the author of 12 books of poetry and theoretical criticism of poetry, poetics, and the American poetic literary tradition in the twentieth-century. Born in Reading, Pennsylvania (like American modernist Wallace Stevens) on March 20, 1963, Stroffolino attended Albright College, Temple University and Bard College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, before receiving a Ph.D. in Poetics at SUNY Albany–with a dissertation on William Shakespeare in 1998. His poems and scholarly work on poetry have been published in many literary journals. His latest book of poetry, Drinking from What I Once Wore, was published by Crisis Chronicles in 2018. Chris resides and teaches poetry and writing at Laney College in California.

Drinking from What I Once Wore–Selected and Recent Poems
Chris Stroffolino
Crisis Chronicles
©2018

“double-column” poem by Chris Stroffolino
Drinking from What I Once Wore
Crisis Chronicles 2018
photo credit–John Burroughs
©2019

link to Drinking from What I Once Wore–Crisis Chronicles 2018

The Death of a Selfish Altruist: Tales & Poems from a Minor League Culture Worker
memoir by Chris Stroffolino
Iniquity Press/Vendetta Books
©2017

link to purchase The Death of a Selfish Altruist on Amazon

“Imagism (with “spot of time”!) –Chris Stroffolino in Diaphanous Spring 2017

I Do This I Do That Poem (April 2016) — Chris Stroffolino in Diaphanous Spring 2017

Day in Night — Chris Stroffolino in Diaphanous Fall 2017

Two Poems by Chris Stroffolino
writers and wordsmiths
©2017

edited by Lisa Jarnot, Leonard Schwartz, and Chris Stroffolino
Talisman House
©1998

link to An Anthology of New (American) Poets–SPD

Hourglass Studies
Krysia Jopek
Crisis Chronicles Press (2017)
cover art by Dale Houstman

link to Chris Stroffolino’s review of Hourglass Studies by Krysia Jopek

link to Hourglass Studies – Krysia Jopek (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2017)

links to recent “literary”/scholarly reviews by Chris Stroffolino

May 13, 2019 Constraint By Delia Tramontina

March 1, 2019, Unfurling Futurity: Sandra Simonds’ Further Problems With Pleasure

January 10, 2019 UNKNOWING BEAUTY AMONG: BRENDA HILLMAN’S EXTRA HIDDEN LIFE, AMONG THE DAYS

January 2019 Beyond Complanation Anselm Berrigan Has Something for Everybody

September, 2017 A Few Things Judy Juanita’s De Facto Feminism Got Me Thinking About Konch,

September 1, 2015 THE RUMPUS REVIEW OF [INSERT] BOY BY DANEZ SMITH

August 7, 2015 GARMENTS AGAINST WOMEN BY ANNE BOYER

author photo

author photo by
Jaime Borschuk
©2011

bibliography

poetry & music

Drinking From What I Once Wore (Crisis Chronicles, 2018)—poetry book
“Slumming It” In White Culture (Iniquity Press, 2018)—poetry book
The Griffith Park Sessions (Broken Horse, 2013), music, produced by Jeff Feuerzeig
Predator Drone (self-released, 2012), music, available for free on bandcamp
Single Sided Doubles (Pop Snob, 2010), music LP/CD, produced by Greg Ashley
Speculative Primitive (Tougher Disguises, 2005) poetry book
Scratch Vocals (Potato Clock Editions, 2003) poetry chapbook
Stealer’s Wheel (Hard Press, 1999), poetry book
Light as a Fetter (Situations, 1997), poetry chapbook (republished 207 as ebook by….)
Cusps (1995, Aerial/Edge), poetry chapbook
Oops (1994, Pavement Saw), poetry book
Incidents (1990, Iniquity Press) poetry chapbook

prose books

Death of a Selfish Altruist (Iniquity Press, 2017)–memoir
Notes to a MFA in Non-Poetry (Spuyten Duyvil, 2015)–essays
Shakespeare’s 12th Night (with Dave Rosenthal) (IDG Books, 2001) prose
Spin Cycle (Spuyten Duyvil, 2000) selected reviews and essays

link to Chris Stroffolino – wikipedia

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3.1: the falsetto pitch | Sheikha A — poetry and interview

banner art:
Benediction
Paulette Claire Turcotte
mixed media print on archival paper 14 x 16.43 inches
©2017
[featured in Diaphanous Fall 2017]

* * *

FALSETTO PITCH | SIX POEMS — SHEIKHA A

Paper Skins on Onions

Spiders have the bulbs in a clean plastic
rack misrepresented, spinning cages.
The months of the moths are far yet
to come, but was the same chilly
coolness balancing off chain lamps
last year, causing us to abandon the light
for moths to find their last rites
(of passages) under stored vegetables
we keep by the wooden door
away from another wooden door
home to the moths, crawling beneath
the pre-supposed shelters – paper skins –
served to their bodies scuffing
across marble to their last breath.
We were quick to sweep them into a dustpan
knowing of other predators inhabiting crevices
to save their becoming first feast
of an opening summer, but spiders know
empty pans really mean anatomies,
sharpening their feet for better grip
on the new threads they loom, instincts
knowing onions are the toadstools
growing above tiny bodies.

* * *

Superstition

In my part of the world, ants are
associated with nahoos – jinx.
My house turned into a cautious
rimmed bowl of sweet water
the day an invisible woman cried
by the door of a room’s bathroom.
She dragged her manacles across
the floor: to what she was bound –
shar, evil is the nullification of good;
dutiful recitations overlook
in their devoutness the incline
of a spirit’s wish to follow a house,
wherever they move, finding
a body of ants to home. An hour
past midnight, ceilings begin to
rumble, the arm from the right
shoulder going numb – ishara
signs: ants in a single file
scaling the wall to where
the sounds meet the ceiling –

* * *

An-Nur Al-Ain: Ya Sayyedi

after An-Nur by Laura M. Kaminski (Halima Ayuba)

The mountains have eaten our towns
of grief; the night isn’t bathing. Give me
a little vial of sand from where salvation walks
in burnt shoes. I will collect that sand,
hold my hand out to the sun until the grains harden.
Do you know what it is to pray for a country’s death –
negating its bed soaked in blood? Mocking our
eyes savoured by a hawk. Tears that have
wet the domes of our shrines like rain
on our wooden doors with carved names.
Put us through the ambition – these mountains
have teeth behind their seals. Send us a draft
of wind to burrow behind our ears. We are home;
people are towns savaged as meals.

* * *

An-Nur Al-Ain

after An-Nur by Laura Kaminski (Halima Ayuba)

Remember this day as the aim you were;
drive out the words coming out from

the movie we promised each other
we would be; we have serenaded

our minds into love’s holocaust –
idealised the isolation like albino keys

in a mad song. I will offer my hand
to draw out water. Evenings are lit

with green incandescence. It looks
like a cove off a sole-glowing comet

that will promise us a crater. I am
telling you about what lies in the walking

between my steps: there are multiple beings
showing from detached lights.

I have memorised a code that will be
just for my calling. But, for the sure

knowing of the outcome of aging, I can
show you the spell-wound path

that will be free of fight.

* * *

The Love of a Djinn

In death, she molests my dream;
grabs my armpits and whispers the name
of my lover like a lost decree I must remember.
In life, I borrow from her house: her help
comes over a phone where I vent
my words like a(s)sailing biopic of people
I can no longer trace to the fulcrum of fault.
I tell her she helps me in backward motion,
begins at the end where I am farthest
from the start. She lowers her head side
ways, looks to her invisible lover who
has semblance of nothing but a shadow
of everything; he tells her he’s chosen
and her eyes lift to meet mine. He is a mass
of fire, too young for the aging wither
of her bluing blood; my skin’s his rage
of ripe splendour. She and I are a common
nature of difference. This is how it will be:
he shall burn like a forest higher than life,
I shall coax his embers into the mouth of
the sea. And she shall rest her ashen
loins unlatched from him.

* * *

How do I be?

That tanzanite light breaking through fissures
at the base of mountains before the sun drapes
over darkness, how do I be? The fleet of boats
cruising on waters of simple words, like a moonlight
so impalpable yet believable, steady paced
and offering ripples of hope to your shadows
in densely salty waters. I want to be the wall
surrounding your being, glittering like a cluster
of gems, eluding keen passersby approaching
the gates of your soul, so they can never know
your aloneness, so it stays mine to breach.
Tell me to be the eyes of your past lovers enriched
with memories of exotic sights locked in theirs.
I am tired of being without your favour,
a scribble on stones, a misdirected mirage.
Conjure me in hours of anxiousness
to ease your wandering mind that creases into
melancholic folds of anguish. Plough deep
rows of fear and plant fire. Make me the stem
from which a carnation blooms petals
of desire. How do I be, the carnal secrets
escaping your lips? Spoken like golden twilight,
engorging deflection over an indigo-flushed ocean,
spumes of entanglements locking with the shore.

* * *

INTERVIEW WITH SHEIKHA A

Describe your process in writing poetry.

My process is an odd one, at least what I think. I tend to have ideas erupting in my head like short bursts of sentences or a combination of words, sometimes coming in like an overflowing—or other times like bouts of suppressed air looking for release. And of all these ideas, there are very few that actually come to life in the form of a poem. The rest become shadows. Those that linger morph into new ideas; those that don’t probably leave me to find wanting space in someone else’s mind. I believe in out-of-the-body experiences, astral, “floating in a bubble from the real world” kind of processes that, I believe, are an enigmatic and predominant “culture” for writing poetry. Since I weigh heavily towards mystics, spiritualism, the fantastical and surreal, amongst my otherwise occasional breezy moments of lyrical and melodious,I write to balance moods.

Sometimes the exercise of writing a poem becomes so intense, I deliberately let it go, don’t finish it in one sitting (even though the thoughts are rolling), which results in a poem taking longer than a few days ranging into a week or maybe even a month to meet its last written line. I don’t have a disciplined process. It’s quite mad. Most times I don’t even know the direction I’d be taking with the poem I started. I rely on visual stimulation, grabbing an image or a motion picture scene, dwelling on it, and then finding direction. There was a time in my life when I started having strange dreams in my sleep, so vivid, I’d be able to recount it with perfection to its every detail. I began using those as material for my poetry—and since most of these dreams were obfuscating, I turned them into my own theories, giving me the liberty of molded creativity.

When did you start writing seriously?

I can’t remember the exact time. I know it began at some point in University. In high school we studied poetry as part of a Literature course quite extensively for three years (the O Level years). So, I wasn’t without background, though didn’t enjoy it as much, nor paid attention to the techniques or meters or purpose. I found it taxing, to be honest. It seemed like a thing to do as part of the syllabus in order to get a passable grade to be able to graduate to the next level. It was a robotic routine. Aside from poetry, we studied classic plays, novels, and a selection of short stories, which is why all of it seemed like a pile of work—filling up our ink pens and emptying pots of it to dish out pages and pages of summaries, essays, appreciations, etc. The real purpose came only a decade ago, when I was introduced to poetry in a completely new perspective after connecting with people on social sites and then started reading the writs and ramblings of emerging, struggling, established writers. The more I read, the more imaginative my mind became. I do recall writing and getting published in magazines for juniors in my growing up years in U.A.E. It was a pleasure to see my name in print at that young age, not out of some real emotional interest towards the dynamics of writing—but naturally, owing to age (years of pre-teen). So, I had been writing in generic form from a young age. But the seriousness came much, much after. Now, writing is me-space, me-time, me-zone—a much more serious and even possessive interest.

When were you first published?

Like I mentioned above, I was published a few times in my junior years in national magazines, but for poetry it was with Poetry Sans Frontier and eFiction India Magazine, the latter of which, I went on to serve as poetry editor for some three plus years.

Who are your favorite writers and artists?

I read so many on a daily basis, it’s hard to pick specifics. But, since I love the fantastical and spiritual, my current favorites are Clark Ashton Smith, Rumi, Khalil Gibran, Omar Khayyam as well as paintings by surrealists, abstract and landscape artists. I recently came upon work of Bosch and Bruegel and found them deeply fascinating. I even looked into some paintings of Rene Magritte. My current favorite in paintings is Tighe O’ Donoghue; his works are visually mesmerizing and mentally intellectual. I won’t say I am a connoisseur of art, but because my writing is prompted by visual stimulation, I enjoy looking at visual art a great deal. I find, for myself, that the best way to achieve innovative or interesting imagery in writing is through visual art. My list of favorites is otherwise everchanging; I don’t have fixed favorites—though Oscar Wilde is perennial.

What poets have influenced your poetry?

As mentioned, I read various writers and view works of many artists, I am under continuous influence. It can be a line or a couplet or even a fridge magnet quote that will move me in some way to inspire a poem or two; or even a casual conversation of nothing. Last year I joined with seven Nigerian poets in a response medley of metaphysical poetry on Facebook. It triggered with my reading of a response to a poem, piquing my curiosity to read the original, inducing my response to the response, that turned into a chain series as other poets kept joining the train with their responses. We managed to write about 30 poems in total in a matter of a week! I think it’s an inherent thing about artists; we are subconsciously receptive to the universe in general, so everything we read or see influences us in traces or swathes in some way or another. Sometimes, we aren’t even aware we’ve been influenced until we zone into our alone space. We like to call it inspiration, but maybe, inspiration and influence really are the same.


What advice would you give other writers?

Never kill the tiny voice in their ears arising from the pits of their being, telling them they can and are able. Flesh it into form through writing, art, speech, or do nothing about it in creative terms, but don’t kill it. With it, you will kill your intuition and your will. Every form of art began in some ordinary or bland or mundane or non-exquisite form. I know I cringe at my early writing when I go back to it, but, that’s because we are constantly evolving, and also because artists are generally excruciatingly self-critical by nature. But don’t turn that into a demotivating factor to stop. If you stop, you will never know how far you could’ve made it. Or lose all the opportunities of learning and developing from having decided you weren’t good and couldn’t get better. Read, read, read, read, read. As much as you can. Read with imagination. Read just one line if that is all you can manage for the day or read nothing but take the time to deliberate over what you read previously. It will increase curiosity and will coax you to read/search some more. Also, most importantly, be humble. Nobody is omniscient or omnipotent because there will always be something you don’t know or aren’t able to do that someone else has ability of over you.

Are you currently working on a collection of poetry?

Yes, I actually am. After the release of Nyctophiliac Confessions through Praxis Magazine, there is another collaborative venture with Suvojit Banerjee that I’m hoping to put together and see the light of its day soon (since being delayed by bounds and ends of either mundane, but cannot be neglected, chores/responsibilities or the fatal lethargy). Apart from that, I have an idea brewing in my head for a solo chapbook but haven’t assimilated the skeleton as yet–though I do have a fast-developing collection.

Sheikha A
©2016

AUTHOR BIO: Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Over 300 of her poems have been published in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. Recent and upcoming work are/will be with Polu Texni, Strange Horizons, SurVision, Pedestal Magazine, Mobius, Abyss and Apex, and elsewhere.

Sheikha A’s website
Nyctophiliac Confessions

0
2.9: adrift | Jonathan K. Rice — paintings and poetry

Adrift acrylic on canvas 15” x 45” ©2015

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2.9: adrift | Jonathan K. Rice — paintings and poetry

Introduction by Krysia Jopek

I fell in love with Jonathan K. Rice’s paintings on facebook several years ago. He is one of my favorite contemporary Abstract Expressionists, whose paintings seem to be a contemporization and furthering of the paintings of Klee, Kandinsky, and Pollock. I admire his ability to create exquisite compositions of color, texture, and depth. He is a sculptor with acrylics on canvas.

Because he is a poet, his titles are quite beautiful and deepen the viewer’s perception of his work. I came to know his poetry also, especially his collection Killing Time (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2015).

I am the proud owner of four of Jonathan’s paintings. It is with great pleasure that I present this virtual art show and selection of his poetry: Adrift.

How to Meditate
acrylic on canvas
10” x 10”
©2017


Querencia
acrylic on canvas
20” x 20”
©2016


Quantum Excursion
acrylic on canvas
20” x 20”
©2016

Xenophilia
acrylic on canvas
20” x 20”
©2016

Permission to Forget
acrylic on canvas
12” x 12”
©2015

Raven Liturgy
acrylic on canvas
14” x 14”
©2015

No Sacrifice to Offer
acrylic on canvas
14” x 14”
©2016

Saliences
acrylic on canvas
10” x 10”
©2015

Mending Time
acrylic on canvas
10” x 10”
©2016

Marginalia
acrylic on canvas
20” x 20”
©2018

I’ve Been Looking Everywhere For You
acrylic on canvas
10” x 10”
©2017

Plight
acrylic on canvas 11” x 14”
©2018

Nostomania
acrylic on canvas
20” x 20”
©2016

Sojourn
acrylic on canvas
20” x 24”
©2014

Broken Promises
acrylic on canvas
9” x 12”
©2018

Sovereign Waters
acrylic on canvas
10” x 10”
©2016

Adrift
acrylic on canvas
15” x 45”
©2015

Artist Statement

Image, color, composition, and texture are all informed by what I read, what I listen to, and that which surrounds me. I work with acrylics and mixed media, creating primarily abstract paintings and assemblage.
Through my art, I explore the relevance of the indescribable, and work toward the understanding of that which can’t always be understood. In this sense, creating art is a spiritual journey as I seek to connect the physical and nonphysical with the intention of drawing the viewer into a deeper understanding of him or herself in relation to the world and that which is physically beyond them.

When asked how I begin a new piece, I like to say that I let the canvas tell me what to do. I may start with a wash of one color and build layer upon layer of blended washes. I may take a palette knife or trowel and spread on a layer of thickly textured acrylic medium. I may begin by gluing various papers to canvas or wood panel. I like quiet time late in the evening. I often paint while I listen to music. On occasion I work on more than a few pieces at a time. In the end though, the canvas tells me when to stop as if crying out, “No more!” That’s when I step back and say, “It is finished.”

Jonathan K. Rice

* * * * *

Finding

There we were
in a bamboo
labyrinth
near a river
bending time
and desire,
holding hands,

finding our way
as the afternoon
leaned into dusk,
an undercurrent
of uncertainty
yet nothing abides
like nightfall
and how earth
embraces it,

how the sun rises
each morning,
how we find
ourselves

©2018

* * * * *

Anchored

You’re anchored
lightly to the earth

it slowly turns
as you dance

upon its meadows
through forests and valleys

as dervishes in deserts
and mosques

as dolphins and whales
leap, breach, do figure eights

through cresting waves,
dive gracefully to depths

where ancient anchors
lie and rust amid coral,

barnacles, crustaceans,
otherworldly creatures

that gently move
in rhythm with currents,

the moon and tides,
salt and sand,

the sun that warms your face,
your hands that reach for mine

©2018

* * * * *

Letters

I write
letters
I never
mail,
explaining
myself,

sometimes
apologizing,
sometimes
defining
words
like soul
and never,
avoiding
love
and infinity,

although
I always
liked
the idea
of infinity
and how
it exists
between
0 and 1,
how
there are
larger
infinities
between
0 and 2,
0 and 3,
and on and on
ad infinitum

and how love
can be
unrequited,
unconditional,
undeserved,
undisciplined

so many
possibilities,
so many
letters
left
un-composed

©2018
* * * * *

Saliva

We take it
for granted

the stuff of taste,
spit, life

double helixes
in every kiss

venom of snakes
silk of caterpillars

glue of nests
for certain swifts

Jesus’ spittle
to heal the blind

Pavlov’s anticipated
conditioning

the mouth’s
protector

our natural lubricant.

©2018

* * * * *

Loose Thread

She teaches me the importance
of knowing where to cut the loose thread,

where it’s from, where it may lead.
She knows the secrets of fabric,

what cloth teaches us about ourselves,
how it hangs from our bodies,

learns from how we walk
from how children roll and tumble.

There behind a button or a zipper
underneath a hem or seam

like the meaning of a parable
it is there to understand.

from Killing Time (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2015)

* * * * *
Rearranging

You bashfully disrobe
by the settee
and coffee table
laden with flowers.

There is comfort
in the dim studio lighting,
a decorative pillow,
a knitted throw.

I direct your pose
but you rearrange yourself
as I explore the curve
of your being,
your half-closed eyes,
your mysterious smile.

At the easel I adjust
the small light to my side
not knowing
where to begin.
Your horizon unknown,
your landscape unexplored.

from Killing Time (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2015) (

* * * * *
Biographical Notes:

Jonathan K. Rice edited Iodine Poetry Journal for seventeen years and served as a co-editor for Kakalak in 2016. He most recently co-edited Of Burgers & Barrooms, an anthology published by Main Street Rag Publishing in 2017.

He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Killing Time (2015), Ukulele and Other Poems (2006) and a chapbook, Shooting Pool with a Cellist (2003), all published by Main Street Rag Publishing. His poetry and art have appeared in numerous publications, including The Aurorean, Cold Mountain Review, Comstock Review, Empty Mirror, Gargoyle, Levure Litteraire, The Main Street Rag, Wild Goose Poetry Review and the anthologies, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race and The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina.

His art has appeared in a number of group and solo exhibits in the Carolinas. Most recently his show Excursions: Paintings by Jonathan K. Rice ran through June 2018 at the North Charleston City Gallery.

He is the recipient of the 2012 Irene Blair Honeycutt Legacy Award for outstanding service in support of local and regional writers, awarded by Central Piedmont Community College. Jonathan lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

author photo by Yajaira Vazquez
©2015

Jonathan K. Rice’s paintings, including the seventeen here in this virtual art show, are available to purchase. Please contact Jonathan via facebook, if interested!

Jonathan’s website
Killing Time (book of poetry)
Jonathan on facebook

0
2.8: photographic memory | Alexis Rhone Fancher — poetry, photography, and flash

Apprehension In The Back Seat May 8, 2018 2048 x 1546 pixels

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2.8: photographic memory | Alexis Rhone Fancher — poetry, photography, and flash

My Dead Boy – A Ghazal

Eleven years after, my boy’s still dead.
(I hold him in the rafters of my head.)

His photo’s propped at the side of my bed.
(I kiss it on the nightstand near my head.)

A letterman jacket hangs in his stead.
(I shelter him, deep inside my head.)

Are you over it? my heartless friend said.
(I nail her to a grim place in my head.)

Each night I tell myself that dead is dead.
(But there he is, the gallows of my head.)

Awake, I relive the terrible dread.
(I shut myself to sleep inside my head.)

I still can’t bear to hear his name said.
(It echoes in the chambers of my head.)

Sweet mama! Stop turning everything red.
(I want to shoot myself in the head.)

©2018

* * * * *

Caged

“Birds born in cages think that flying is an illness.” Alejandro Jodorowsky

He loves me because I look like his mother at 30.
I discover her photo in a secret drawer,
the same rounded hips,

and dark, wavy hair,
her pale, off-the-shoulder blouse an exact
duplicate of one he’s given me.

She has bigger breasts, deeper cleavage.
You eat like a bird! her son chastises,
passing me the cheesecake.

Suddenly it all makes sense.
Like when he cries Mama! in his dreams.
Awakens empty-armed. Abandoned.

He does not cry out for me.

Shoved under our door, a flyer:
“If you find a dead bird, call 1-877-WNV-BIRD.”
Lost between the bed and the mirror, I look and look.

He hides his obsession in a stack of magazines
in the bathroom. A blur of a girl, naked,
disappearing in a doorway. It could be his mother.

He locks the door.

Plump bird. Feathered nest.
Force-fed. Fois gras.
Fattened up for slaughter.

Someone’s dinner. Someone’s daughter.

When he hits me because I look like his mother,
he pulls back his fist, takes aim at her caged facsimile.
I hold perfectly still.

We both know he could never hit his mother. 

©2018

* * * * *

Eat

Your open ‘fridge is the floodlight
at a Hollywood premiere,
a beacon for gourmands,
a newly-minted saint.
It lights up Sunset Blvd. from Olivera Street
to the beach.

Your smile is the blancmange of my sugar crave.
It bowls me over,
makes me gluttonous, ravenous,
makes me eat gelato, and pomme frites,
lick pasta with prosciutto in red sauce
from the hollow of your throat,
makes me want to eat pussy,
and cheesecake, and macaroons,
wash it all down with a robust Amorone,
tamp it down with unfiltered, brown, Sherman cigarettes,
makes me want to eat my way
down your menu.

So I went to Whole Foods to get a chicken,
cooked it just the way you like it,
with mushrooms and onions and truffle oil,
stuffed it with wild rice
and naked photos of Ursula Andress,
served it in the kitchen of my high-rise on Spring Street,
watched you eat it,
wolf it down, the same way
I’d like to eat you.

©2018

* * * * *

Gold Star Lesbian

Once, in a moment of recklessness, I fell in love with Phoebe, an older, yet still delicious lipstick lesbian, who swore she would spoil me for any man. My first ex-husband was shacked up with my ex-best friend; husband #2 was lurking, just around the corner. It was a window. Phoebe, a buyer for Bullocks Wilshire, that art deco building gleaming on Miracle Mile, used her employee discount to clothe me in style, bought me silk blouses, linen trousers, tailored suits. She liked her women sleek. Understated. Wild hair tamed into a lacquered updo, secured with antique Japanese combs. I was a whole new me. Squelched. Ladylike, but for the four-inch stilettos and the fuchsia corset sequestered inside my high-buttoned faux-modesty. I reveled in how it arched my back, my breasts thrust forward, an offering. Phoebe liked it, too. She’d trace the corset stays encircling my ribs with her index finger, her eyes glued to mine like Mesmer. Underneath all that polish and restraint beat a frenzied heart. You would not believe how fast that tailored suit hit the floor, stilettos kicked off like a pesky persona. She was a Gold Star lesbian, untouched by men, although plenty must have pursued her, her golden hair and haughty beauty an irresistible lure. I was all in, worshipful; I followed Phoebe around like a dog. She swore she’d been alone for years, that I was her re-awakening, that no one had ever made her come so good. But that night, at her favorite club, the fresh graffiti on the toilet stall wall told a different story:

Phoebe
has the
most pleasurable
vagina this side
of Saturn except
4 your mom

©2018

* * * * *


For The Russian Waitress at the Yorkshire Grill Who Reads Akhmatova on Her Break

She’s a sloe-eyed Madonna in a black uniform, refilling napkin holders, topping off salt shakers, funneling ketchup from one half-full bottle to another. I, among the faithful, come to worship at her station, always sitting in her section. I’m convinced she’s secretly the Virgin of Feodorovskaya, venerated icon of the upper Volga, the way she must have looked first thing in the morning, brewing coffee, sans Byzantine jewels and heavy crown.

She’s the patron saint of diners, the dispenser of special orders shimmering behind the counter, a saint tethered to the linoleum by tired booths and chipped Formica. When she takes my order, I bow my head, genuflect; her tangled, familiar accent a benediction. When she sees me eye her worn paperback, peeking out of her pocket, The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, she fingers the author’s cover photo with reverence.

I want to remove the pins from her hair, loosen the tight bun, let the blunt wisps fall to her chin, narrowing her high-cheekboned visage. I want to worship at the pout of her lips, nuzzle at her neck’s altar. I want to slip her uniform off her shoulders, bury myself in her Russian-ness, pull her down next to me in the booth, feed her bits of brisket, dill pickle, baklava, give her sips of my tea.

You’re beautiful! I’ll tell her, but she’ll shake her head. She has no faith in platitudes. I’ll take her photo when she’s not looking. Print it as proof of faith, an 8×10 glossy, then bring it to her, an offering. I, too, am Russian (on my father’s side) I’ll say. I, too, carry Akhmatova in my pocket.

It will be the first time I’ve seen her smile.

©2018

* * * * *

Amsterdam, Red Light District
September 9, 2004
1600 x 1200 pixels

Head Over Heels
July 1, 2008
1804 x 2256 pixels

Stella
Hand Tinted March 29, 2012
2350 x 3415 pixels

Apprehension In The Back Seat
May 8, 2018
2048 x 1546 pixels

Screamer, Redondo Beach, CA
December 18, 2017
977 x 1179 pixels

Movie Star Dreams, Venice, CA
June 9, 2018
1321 x 1758 pixels

We Are Open… Emotionally, San Rafael, CA
April 29, 2018
4032 x 3024 pixels

* * * * *

Three Poems from JUNKIE WIFE

why i prefer injectable narcotics

(the truth that impales me each time i get straight.)

it’s all cake once i’ve found a good vein.
i surrender to the dazzling foreplay
loosen the belt, ease back the plunger
watch my blood flood the syringe.
the gasp, the breath-catch just before i jam
the plunger down, just like
you plunge into me (my cheeks flush)
and the rush? the ride? the afterglow?
better than sex. correction: better than sex with you (i mean).

first published in Public Pool, 2016

* * * * *

Divorce Court Barbie™ (Ken™ Drives Away With All of My Things)

I was no Fairytale Bride™ but
I came with a Barbie Daybed,™ A Bath Fun Playset,™
and a large, pink Desire Barbie Dildo Vibrator™
for when Ken™ forgot to come home.

But he couldn’t keep it in his Ken Fashionistas Trousers.™
He parked his Glam Convertible w/ Silver Rims™
in Skipper’s™ driveway,
stashed his GPS in her Long & Short of It Pants.™

Then he drove out of her Dinner Date Playset™ and back to
our Barbie Dream House,™ packed a few things in my
Store-It-All Carrying Case™
and dropped me at the Barbie Grand Hotel™ like I was
so much Euro-trash.

Look, Your Honor, nobody came with a warranty,
but unlike Ken,™ my intentions were pure; I lived up to my
Good Housekeeping Seal.

The Ken & Barbie Have Sex Before Marriage Playset™
made sure Ken knew what he was getting into.
Then he got into Skipper.™

I know what you must think, Your Honor.
There are names for dolls like me:

Bad Luck Barbie™
Throwaway Barbie™
– the one Ken™ swears he wouldn’t love if I were the
Last Girl On Earth Barbie.™

The one who’s rendered worthless once you trash the box.

first published in Vox Populi, 2018

* * * * *

Quiet Candy

After you kicked me out,
and moved Vicki in,
I spilled my guts to the Armenian drug dealer
at the Glendale Galleria.

He told me he’d fix
my Porsche, pay off my credit cards, keep me
in cashmere and coke,
if I’d let him.
He’d dress me in silk that grazed my ass,
said he liked the whiteness
of my thighs, said if I were his, he’d keep me
out of the sun.

There I was, strung out on dope,
all lanky, pale-skinned
need.

The Armenian drug dealer bought me
4-inch Louboutins and a leash,
bought me
a Stetson to shade my face.
I let him move me
into his condo in Glendale.

The Armenian drug dealer liked to drive
the freeways, had business
in San Diego and Oceanside
and San Juan Capistrano, liked the top down
on the Beamer, liked the way my hair whipped
in the wind. He liked fucking me
in his 3-car garage, pinned
against the hood. He could do it for hours
when I’d let him.

The Armenian drug dealer liked candy on his arm,
quiet candy
that was loud in the bedroom. He liked my ass
raised on a pillow, legs spread
like a Gullwing Mercedes.

I let him do anything he wanted.
He wanted me to tell him about you.

I told the Armenian drug dealer
how you wrapped Vicki in my mother’s embroidered shawl,
how you gave her my grandmother’s amethyst ring.
How you used a rifle to make your point.
How you could only come if you tied me up.
How you papered our bedroom with lies.

The Armenian drug dealer wanted to storm your house
wanted to tie you up with the same ropes you used on me
wanted to rip my mother’s shawl from Vicki’s shoulders
wanted to take the rifle out of your hands
wanted to bring back my grandmother’s amethyst ring.

So I let him.

first published in Plume, 2017

* * * * *

Statement of Poetics
My writing is predominantly confessional. I look at my life as material. Time as ammunition. I write daily, always at a computer or keyboard. Minimum 4 hours. I edit mercilessly. I think of my poems as product – as flash – as communication. As permission. As life raft.

Writing Influences: Dorianne Laux, Sharon Olds, Louise Gluck, Frank O’Hara, Michelle Bitting, H.D., Jack Grapes, Ellen Bass, Joseph Millar, Catullus, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Jack Gilbert, Rita Dove, Richard Jones, Anna Akhmatova.

Artist Statement
I shot my first photos at age ten. My father thought I had talent and bought me a Nikon. I’ve always had a camera in my hand. Another way to interact with the world while keeping myself at len’s distance. I shoot “street” photos with my iPhone 10. In the studio I shoot formal portraits with my Nikon D810, using an 85mm lens. In both worlds, my focus is on revealing my subject, sourcing the humanity that connects us all.

Photographic Influences: Dorothea Lange, Mark Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus, Irving Penn, Lisette Model, WeeGee, Walker Evans, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Nan Golden, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, Jan Saudek, Cindy Sherman, Sebastian Salgado, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Arthur Tress.

Biographical Notes
Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Rattle, Hobart, Verse Daily,
Plume, Tinderbox, Diode, Nashville Review, Duende, Wide Awake, Poets of Los Angeles
, and
elsewhere. Her books include: How I Lost My Virginity to Michael Cohen & other heart stab
poems
(Sybaritic Press, 2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies (KYSO FLASH Press, 2015),
Enter Here (KYSO FLASH Press, 2017), and Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), the story of
her first, disastrous marriage. Her photographs have been published worldwide, including the
covers of Witness, Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, Heyday, and Pithead Chapel. A multiple
Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. She lives
with her husband on the cliffs of San Pedro, California, a sleepy beach community, 20 miles
from her former digs in downtown L.A.

Self-portrait
March 2018

JUNKIE WIFE
ENTER HERE: POEMS
STATE OF GRACE: THE JOSHUA ELEGIES
HOW I LOST MY VIRGINITY TO MICHAEL COHEN
Interview with Alexis in Gyroscope Review
Alexis’ website
Alexis on facebook

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2.7: higher clouds | Anatoly Kudryavitsky — poetry

Leeway

Now that you’re swimming the light, tell us
what you ink.
Are you fired up by the radiant mouth
of yesterday’s ashes? By the handheld thunder
amid ejected objects?
Oh, how we like your ubiquitous unpredictability!

In the court of awe, a gem losing its case.
The burnt umber of the day.
Magnets operate compasses.
“Don’t mind my stultitia,” says the purpose.
“Don’t mind course edits,” say the eddies.
Long time, no ask.

Now our “else” wants to be something else. Perhaps,
a thermal mystery. Or strawberry stars.
There’s more confusion underwater
than above the clouds, more history
in the mirrors than in the eyes.
Deviate, reflect.

* * * * *

Once in a Brazen Moon

Shadow of an arrogant ship…
How can I hear them speak? Not the dead
but the raucous pines.

Medusa would have been amused
by our hairy seaweeds. There would have been
many more hot air balloons
if it hadn’t been for this war.
What’s left in celestial clefts?

Collective mind is a giant grouper
that follows near-bottom flows;
individual mind, a suckerfish.
The draught of confusion, the warmth
of embarrassment. Give us all
or give us none. Who’s writing history
in spent ink?

I’d do it for the light in which a loss blossoms.
I’d do it for eww.
Only the rusted are trusted, why?
I pluck at loose dulse. The flooded bed,
the torn casing of time.
Then we all fall
through a rainbow of layers.

* * * * *

Scraping over a Sandbank

A boneless helicopter is always there
to pick you up. Hold on to your inner
Baron Munchausen.

It is summer. Some hairy souls smooch
pseudoaluminium saxophones.
At every crossroad,
the dust of the concrete Isle of Crete
relapses into a silent poem of adversity.

Criteria of crumbling are a labyrinth.
The Minotaur is a cloud, rigid
as a mammoth skeleton.
The kill bull bill has just sifted
through “as if”.

Shoreline is a shrine. The century
has been left dark side up;
doubts wing their way over it.
Pullulating fish mouths have all the answers.

* * * * *

Higher Clouds

An earthquake? It can be squeezed
out of your mind tremors.
Exaggerate your egg bubbles, agglutinate
a glowing necklet of spherules and satellites.
I tell you fear is blood,
we drank it all.

In your line of killing, life
already is a skeleton.
We’ve sudetenlanded
in ten lands. We’ve
1939ed our 2014.
Such fun!

As the garden shrinks
into a kernel, complacency
rocks itself in a chair.
Your day drowns trust
in lunar dust. Where the sky
plays possum, your hands blossom.

Soft-spoken biro.
Madness machine.
You are the exiled graphite
of trees.
The world will rotate
around your rusty axis.

* * * * *

Branching Knowledge

Having seen the fruits, we replant the roots,
a pretty scientist chants
into self-infused obscurity.
She’s a cleft squirrel, and there are
speech bubbles in her glass.

Other squirrels have shadows for tails; they’ve
cut themselves loose from the vine of cognition
aeons ago. Ideals surrender to necessity
(expect trumpets at every itchy moment.)
It’s a story of growth told by an axe.

Dr. Frankenstein, Head of Research,
scoops walnut brains with his silver spoon.
Trust them usefully in a narration.
Pale writing. Petals of a misty blue flower.
Mystery can never be amiss.

Ink-blot monsters are in no hurry to sink
into the ink-pot of oblivion. Background volcanoes
have spoken in the language of flame;
the sulfury breeze is infested with sugary voices.
So this is how it is going to be . . .

And yet again, somebody grabs the axe handle
covered with notes of praise and admiration.

all poems ©2018
* * * * *

Interview with Anatoly

Do you agree with Adam Zagajewski who once said the following: “While writing a poem I am a poet, whereas at other times I am an ordinary man”?
Is a poet an ordinary person? I would say, yes and no. When I write, I try to create an alternative reality, which sometimes results in me finding myself in some kind of “poetic space.” These periods of complete disconnection with real life leave an imprint on you, noticeable rather to others than to yourself. Sometimes you see astonishment in their eyes!

What triggers your writing process?
Sometimes a particular phrase gets me going, sometimes I mishear something, and the metamorphosed sentence, or a combination of words, sounds marvellously fresh and appealing. If I can’t come up with a good opening line, there’s no point in continuing. But if I do, I just try to develop it. Sometimes I have a feeling that the poem writes itself, I just need to jot it down on paper, or type it.

Your poetics?
Surrealism, mainly. As Octavio Paz once put it, Surrealism is not a kind of poetry; it is a poetics and a world vision. In the 21st century, we know the meanings of words and things only too well. A surrealist cuts the ties between things and their meanings, and then rearranges such ties, or draws new ones. A Surrealist is always a creator, because for him there’s no given reality.

How do you frame a poem as in, what is the framework?
I am a former musician, and I know very well that a poem shapes itself; you just have to cut off the surplus. Then I put the first draft aside for a while—and come back to it later to look at it with fresh eyes. If it is the right moment, the poem shows me its flaws, and I begin to think how to improve it. Then I put aside the second draft – and so on. Finally, the moment comes when I realise that I am happy with this particular piece and don’t want to change anything in it. Like in music, the framework is the audible. I sometimes read my poem to myself, just to check if it sounds right.

Who are your influences / poets whose work you admire.
My influences? Almost everything you read affects your writing. I can go as far back as Shakespeare, William Blake, Saint-John Pearse, André Breton, Paul Celan, Gabriel Garcia Lorca, Samuel Beckett, Dylan Thomas, Zbigniew Herbert, Thomas Tranströmer, and the Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun; and on the other side of the Atlantic—Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Stephen Crane, Carl Sandberg, William Carlos Williams, Jack Spicer, Mark Strand, Philip Lamantia, James Tate. I would say, their works were examples for me rather than sources of stylistic borrowings. The poets I admire? All the aforementioned, and many more, including our contemporaries, such as Charles Simic, Stephen Dobins, and Dean Young.

How did you find out about Diaphanous?
I was trying to google Jennifer Juneau in search of her latest poems – and, as it happened, I found them in Diaphanous Review.

Biographical notes

Anatoly Kudryavitsky is living in Dublin, Ireland. He has published a collection of his poetry titled Shadow of Time (Goldsmith Press, 2005) and three collections of his haiku, the latest being Horizon (Red Moon Press, USA, 2016). His poems have also appeared in Oxford Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, The Prague Revue, Plume, The American Journal of Poetry, The Honest Ulsterman, Cyphers, The SHOp, Stride, Otoliths, etc. His new (second) novel titled The Flying Dutchman has been published by Glagoslav Publications (UK) in July 2018. He was the recipient of the Maria Edgeworth Poetry Prize (Ireland, 2003), the Mihai Eminescu Academy Award for Poetry (Romania, 2017), and multiple international haiku awards. In 2016 and in 2017, his poems were nominated for the Pushcart Prize by The American Journal of Poetry and Shot Glass Journal. He is the editor of SurVision poetry magazine.

Anatoly’s website
recent poems
SurVision magazine
Anatoly on facebook

©1999

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