To Feel More Powerfully the Rhythm of Beauty and Power and Life, and of Suffering and Death: Shaiya Rothberg Discusses Redemption

[Over the coming times, notice the WOLF exploring several questions of the spirit, and the place of the poet within the spirit.

Here, teacher and mystic, Shaiya Rothberg, responds to a few prompts. Those who want to study with Shaiya will find him at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Several of his courses are now being offered online.]

Is the cosmos in need of a type of redemption?

Is the cosmos in need of redemption?! yes! the world as i see it is alive, pulsating with power and love and beauty and meaning, these things are woven into the very fabric of the cosmos, but so much is broken and twisted and covered over with anger and narcissism, alienation and emptiness. the world is in desperate need of redemption. redemption would remove that twisted cover and heal the wounds. the world redeemed would strain our imagination: everywhere would flow color and passion and energy, the beauty of all things revealed. the face of God would be visible from right here and Her touch would be felt like the hands of a lover.

(If the answer to #1 was in any form "yes," then...) What can be the role of a poet in the process of cosmic redemption?

What is the role of the poet? i guess i think of the poet as the storyteller, the revealer of myth; she is the prophet and the mystic. her role in redemption is to clarify and to amplify the inner meanings of things, because rationality, with all its power and glory, can't get at the roots. the roots are too deeply embedded in the dynamic organic stuff of consciousness; rationality can erect immense structures but it can't touch the bottom. to reach the foundation we need to learn to think like a plant, to follow the inner rhythm and pattern of the mind. in language, i think that's poetry, like the Zohar.

You have said that, in the end, you made Aliyah (immigration to Israel) in order to "live in the Lord of the Rings." Can you explain that?

Moving to israel to live in the lord of the rings. in middle earth the meanings are bare. there is no thick covering by the mundane and the utilitarian. there, unlike life in our western disenchanted world, the pshat, the simple meaning, is the never-ending story. good and evil, ecstasy and alienation, light, darkness, power, glory, the ancient and the mysterious and the arcane, they all walk the earth in broad daylight in the lord of the rings. and in the bible. imagine that you live in Gondor, you speak the language of Gandalf and learn his ancient tomes revealing secrets of deep magic through which you keep the evil forces in check. "You (the Balrog, the Baal, the Roman army) shall not pass!!" (but they do). you shop in the market of the great city, where the final battle was (and will be) fought, and walk streets named after its great and tragic heroes. and at night, you make love to an elf!

i think i returned both to Torah and to Israel to feel more powerfully the rhythm of beauty and power and life, and of suffering and death, which flows too deep beneath the surface in our disenchanted and unredeemed world. it may be that the holy promised Land (like middle earth!) is also a hell of hatred and of blood, but at least here redemption is at stake.

What book do you have on your bedside table?

books on the night table. the table in my study is the closest to my bed (not great for productivity). its a total disaster, but i'll list the books that are here none the less (since i put nothing away, i'll get to appear more studious than i am…): 3 siddurs (prayer books), 3 gemaras (tractates of Talmud), 4 volumes of Zohar, 2 volumes of Hasidut, 3 or 4 academic things on Zohar, a volume on Jewish holidays (sefer ha-todaah), a few bibles, and a guide to jewish meditation which translates roughly to "living in divine space".

Hush Now, Feelings, We Say. We're in Charge Here: Questionnaire for Mike Young

[Mike Young, intrepid editor of Noo Jounral, generously agreed to answer a few questions about the art.]

As an editor, you must be a reader. Maybe a great reader. What it is like within the structure of your mind when reading?

I don't know if I'm a great reader. I'm somewhat of a fast reader. Being inside my reader mind is not like watching America's Funniest Home Videos or looking up peanut butter on Wikipedia. What I try to do when I read is let what I'm reading teach me how to read it.

My brain is tuned to make a lot of extravagant hip swings. It wants to make itself dance those "common household movement imitation" dances and somehow have them be a little sexy. As I read, I will often put a finger or two in my mouth. Contort my body at weird angles. Sometimes after I've been writing or reading too long I have to go look at a mirror to make sure I still exist.

It's funny what I don't think about while reading: people I miss or lies that might catch up with me.

This brain digs verbal bounce and scenery. Often I'll rev up in reading slowly, doing a sound-watch in my head, maybe moving my teeth a little in ghosts of mouth sound, following the word sounds along, and in doing this I start to pick up the tones and backbeats of a piece, and I plant these in my head. As I go I do less active work and sort of submerge.

Often dialogue is very vivid to me. But only when it's done well. Often a visual analogy of a feeling is more vivid than scenery. I don't know why. Often when someone mentions a kitchen, my brain will boorishly imagine one of the kitchens I've lived in or around instead of bothering to come up with a new kitchen. Often when I hit a line I like, I'll read ahead one or two lines, then go back and re-savor that liked line.

Hmm. I just realized none of this mentions editorial reading. This is really a very interesting assignment, and I'm afraid I simply haven't done it justice here. I think it's very interesting to read honest and straightforward accounts of what happens in people's heads as they read a specific piece. Such accounts are hard to write, I think, because of one's urge to go back and analyze everything we once thought or felt, even if we only thought or felt it a second ago. Hush now, feelings, we say. We're in charge here.

In retrospect, have moments in your life been bound to particular musics, poets, art? Who were you listening to/reading, and what happened?

When I was very young, I stayed up all night one night reading a Star Trek book.

In high school, I wrote a song for Douglas Adams when he died.

The Crying of Lot 49 made me think everyone was giving me weird looks.

Beautiful Losers made me want to have a threesome and write. So far so good on one of these.

Eminem made me want to talk back to everyone.

Kenneth Koch made me want to give myself to love.

Levinas made me want to give myself to love.

Martin Buber made me want to love the distance between myself and others.

Suttree I read in the grip of fever and realized I have to work harder than I thought I had to work.

Clark Coolidge I read a lot of once while walking around eating an apricot scone.

Thom Jones' "I Want To Live!" made me realize that it's possible for a short story to make one weep uncontrollably, even in one's dorm bed.

Neutral Milk Hotel made me realize that you're allowed to feel everything you want, and I often listened to it obsessively while doing dishes and letting the hot water expire.

Don Delillo's The Body Artist made me realize that there's a fine line between wowzer and bullshit.

Again, I feel as if I have failed the question because this appears, on retrospect, a pretty errant list, and certainly not a description of one time or even a list of the things that have been most important to me. I hope it becomes in itself something a little interesting, at least.

Do you have a favorite verse from a holy scripture?

Isaiah 6:8: "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

What are you up to with your own writing?

I am working on finishing a collection of stories called LOOK! LOOK! FEATHERS. These stories are interrelated the same way the games you play as a child are interrelated because you have to use the same toys, even if what's a horse in one game might become a prince in another. Some toys in LOOK! LOOK! FEATHERS include rivers, feathers, community radio stations, the word "gussied," olives, delusion, and violence.

Other things I'm working on include two novel length projects. One is a letter from an employee at YouTube informing a user of his account's termination but immediately unraveling into all sorts of strange and verbose side-prattling. It features, among other things, some adverbs. The other novel project is tentatively titled "The weird country music video game novel with lady wrestling."

Also I am very excited to be putting out a book of poems this summer, We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough, with Publishing Genius Press, who is also releasing Rachel B. Glaser's book of short stories, Pee On Water and Other Stories. We are going to tour the heartland with these books in the summer. By which I mean the land of your heart. We're gentle and we come with biological trivia.

If One Thing Must Be Forgotten: A Poem of Taransky and Pettit

[Over today, yesterday, and yesterday yesterday the WOLF has featured the complicated and campy collaborators behind the Whenever We Feel Like It reading series, Emily Pettit and Michelle Taransky. Yesterday yesterday, began with Emily. Yesterday, Michelle. Today, Michellily/Emichelle.

grand thanks and bravos to they the poets, and you, the reader.]


In the interest of the historian
we are collecting small
interactions in the same
shape as that tornado that
knocked you down.
You may call it like you
see it, dear,

you may call it

a mess.


We insist on this
being the way we see
this having no
window, this having
a window
(we have a window)(now).


A little later...
(we have no window)
(like)(when we had to scream
later). The days were piled
in alphabetical order

(now) there is no order.


Now, we are ordered
to define what we mean
by "business"

we say

"We are not taking orders."


We would like to now
mention that we are
interested in doors.

As we are interested
in windows when the wind
will break them.


If one thing must be

it is that there is no
way that only one
thing will be forgotten.


This might mean landing

this land may mean
arrival or a painting
you locked in the wall.

This does not necessarily
mean landing.


Where are you now?
Is anyone calling?

What do you make of
the door nearest you?

Airplane and you.


Using the door to leave

the last sentence

in the frame
as the frame

the airplane was
built from it

and so was our business.


Build a place
from this business.

We like to say,


Wolvewhales and Sheepwhales: Two Poems from the Hand of Michelle Taransky

[Over yesterday, today and tomorrow the WOLF will feature the terrific and tantamount collaborators behind the Whenever We Feel Like It reading series, Emily Pettit and Michelle Taransky. Yesterday, beginning with Emily. Today, Michelle. Tomorrow, Michellily/Emichelle.]


The goat is used as an insult with
A wide range of meanings
You said the best reason
An answer with a reference
When you mark breaths
As if loss and land use may escape
Calculation or revenge
Like naming the woods after the pond
I wanted to begin differently


This is a novel
Reciting disease
After disease after
Spending the season
At a stranger’s place
Wood-evil halting— I

Take it broken
Teach cruelty to the house
To say hello to the loser like
It doesn’t matter who knows
Who forgave who for taking

The house from shipwreck
Reason why you are the whale
Here not in the road but
The road to another
Picture where we are

Wolvewhales and sheepwhales
You could be the woodcut
Cut into the wood
That sounds like worship
Stops like

Stop saying beautiful things
I’m worried about losing
The house the whole
Fall when
Starts from scratch
The scratch

Who Needs a Map of the Friction When the Lightning Looks Like a Plan?: Three poems by Emily Pettit

[Over the next few days WOLF will feature the fastidious and fascinating collaborators behind the Whenever We Feel Like It reading series, Emily Pettit and Michelle Taransky. Today, beginning with Emily. Tomorrow, Michelle. Tomorrow tomorrow, Michellily/Emichelle.]


This time there is an entire dead bird

body to remove. Give me your documents,

I want to know a whole lot of things

about things I know nothing about.

Somewhere there are monkeys

who speak with their hands. Mostly

they discuss food. Sometimes birds.

The monkeys say (sign), The swans

displease us. A love affair ending poorly

between a submarine and a satellite

displeases me. That the monkeys may fight

shouldn’t displease anyone. Shouldn’t surprise

anyone. Who needs a map of the friction

when the lightning looks like a plan?

Who needs to know why the airplanes go

or the trees sway? I want to know why

the weather changed when the door killed

the cricket. I want to know why it’s peeping

that floods the air when we are waiting.

I want to know why I’m not whispering this

in your ear. Why it is that you can’t hear me.


I say, I am trying to know your elephant.
I offer blinks. What stays

in your head long eternal?
Again with over the cliff.

Someone made off with the lake.
Think important. Think somebody.

The future. Abruptly. You a dialog
in me. An issue of control.

Think a disappearing act.
Something counting for something.

Arresting recognition.
This is what I want.

I say, This is all of what I have, this hand
shadow of a stethoscope taking a pulse.

I say, Information crash.
And, Thank you.


A room full of many silent people breathing

loudly looks like either a dove or a worm.

I was watching this rabbit not watch me

when the whale was dropped. It was dripping

and had became too difficult to hold. Like the sky,

I know little about the anatomy of a whale.

Unlike the sky, I will research the anatomy

of a whale. I will confirm, as the sky cannot,

that the fluke is a term for the tail-end

of a whale. Then, like a fool, I will likely determine

that the whale looks like a room full of many

silent people breathing loudly. A dove or a worm.

Apocalypse Means Everyone Dies and We are Left: Two Poems and a Painting from Rachel Glaser and her Grandmother

Some tremendous art from the renowned poet, storyist, digital art guru, and filmmaker, Rachel Glaser. We're also touched to publish this painting of her grandmother's, Roslyn Hoffer Liberman. Some interesting Jewish "stuff" going on here.

your soul, barely

your soul was hidden with hair

had on it, a few proud moles

the witchdoctor believed to be normal

we were outside on a towel

my soul was lit up and obvious

yours, we determined, was obscured

unusual and unwilling

you were the pet falcon of an old woman

you were a child’s best trousers

do you like the drums?

you were a drunken songbird put in with owls

do you smell the odor of a garden?

did you tell your mother you felt ill?

you got tired of talking

and left the tavern

an arrow, you sped from the bow

and pierced the eyes of villagers

it was morning

the children cried

you called it an illusion

you called this world a phantom world

you were still sharp

no one could hug you without bleeding

you were friends with angels

and the angels got injured

you were not concerned

your eyes were hot

you would not relax

the Blinded cursed you

and the sound of your name

moved your body like a song

you stabbed eyes and crops and the bedding of your neighbors

you fell on the rooftop

and leaked

you were dead, but glumly went and got ready to die

the man at the cemetery pointed the way

but you didn't go

you couldn’t give up wanting to be famous

you worried about what you were going to eat

you wanted to buy an engraved belt

we grew tired of you

so you turned into a rare bird to awe us

you were trying to make money

you pranced and looked sick

you were wearing an engraved belt

My electric guitar got soft over time

here’s some romance (!)

go stuff your face

apocalypse means everyone dies and we are left

like when the football game stopped so we could 69

then the game resumed and your team had lost not so gracefully

football is cocky badasses in costume

basketball is the soul game of the body

you screwed my girlfriend

all my loose-leaf paper

my parents flipped out

my dog was disappointed

my rabbi bewitched a teenager

the teenager was hospitalized

the hospital was graffitied

my graffiti was scrubbed by city workers

my graffiti you can still see to this day

my girlfriend did you

and she does it really good

I’d be a badass if I didn’t feel so bad about my body

my family wasn’t dysfunctional

I was the only one

my guitar was blue and then it bled

Feline Nightgowns: A Conversation with Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson

[WIAF: Lesley Yalen, earnest author of This Elizabeth, presents a sparkling interview.]

Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson are the authors of the choose-your-own-adventure chapbook I take back the spongecake., a small edition of which is out from Invisible Seeing Machine, and a larger edition of which will soon be printed by Q Ave Press.

Meanwhile, the spongecake’s website is being built by the capable and previously-mentioned Sara Blaylock. Loren’s art will punch and then hug you here. Sierra’s poems will reveal the thinking in your gaps here and here.

LY: First of all, let me just say that “I take back the spongecake.” is beautiful to behold.

Loren: thank you!

Sierra: thank you!

LY: Tell me what it was that drew you to each other or each others work – what sparked this collaboration?

Loren: well, sierra is amazing. we were paired to live together while working at the Vermont Studio Center and i fell in love with a poem of hers - The Forgiveness Tour - I think it’s called. I can’t remember who first asked the other to do a collaboration, but once the idea formed, it took root, and i really wanted it to happen. I remember it was taking a long time to get started, then I suggested that instead of making it just a regular book, we should make it a choose-your-own-adventure. and somehow that provided the spark we needed.

Sierra: For me, Loren’s drawings were really appealing from the very beginning - funny and sad, playful and sometimes scary, not afraid to be cute and not afraid to be gross as needed. I really liked the dichotomies at work in all of her work—and it seemed like some of my poems might be able to exist in a similar world—that it would be fun to see how the poems and the drawings might be able to have an interesting conversation with each other.

Loren: plus I think sierra is the cat’s pajamas.

Sierra: For a collaboration to work, it seems like there has to be a mutual attraction to start - an affinity felt in each other’s work, and also with that person and how the creative/communication process might be. I really lucked out working with Loren -loren is the cat’s pajamas!

Loren: we are both the cat’s pajamas.

Sierra: pajamas of cats.

LY: I’m rereading parts of the book during the pauses of this chat, and it strikes me that both the poems and the images are so the sense of a bruise being tender, and also in the sense of caring for someone.

Sierra: That’s a nice way of describing it. tender like a bruise seems right.

Loren: yes, i love that. you know i love bruises.

Sierra: to care for and be careful of. but also pressing on it a little bit, to see how it’s healing. blue to yellow.

LY: on a different note, what do you think is so pleasing about homonyms?

Sierra: we knew we wanted to have the book be a choose-your-own-adventure...and somehow having the choice be between two things that sound the same but have a different meaning speaks to the difficulties (and pleasures) of decision making. Such subtle difference sometimes.

LY: yes, as i went through the book i felt the weight of the choices I was making. The wait, that is.

Loren: i think it has something to do with the fact that the power of interpretation lies with the receiver. it is up to the reader/viewer to create their own story. this is true not only in our book, but in my drawings, and in life over all. i know as little about my drawings as the viewers sometimes, in terms of what something is, or why it is there. i think that is also true with sierra’s poems.

Sierra: yes, it’s the same with poems too. the viewer or listener has to make their own way through, making their own connections and meanings and associations - what stands out to them at that particular moment - how they’ll choose to remember and carry that work later.

LY: Loren, I know you co-wrote some of the poems in the book—how was that process of co-writing for both of you?

Loren: it was fantastic and fun. it was like doing something with someone that you admire and look up to who somehow makes you feel like you are on the same level as them. i guess that’s what the best collaboration is.

LY: that’s so great. it sort of sounds like being in a band-you really trust the other person- their skill and their intentions. also, i’ve never been in a band. have you guys?

Loren: NO! but i’ve always secretly wanted to be. if i could die and come back as something it would be a singer in a band.

Sierra: i think writing together did help us collaborate better in the whole project - a way for us both to be able to enter and create the place where the project would exist, imaginatively.

Loren: oh wait. i forgot i was in a band in 5th grade. It was called The City Girls and all our instruments were cardboard. Each person had to write a song to be a member.

Sierra: The Typing Explosion and the Vis-à-Vis Society are the only bands I’ve been in. And occasionally I play guest glockenspiel for other bands.

LY: Sierra, you were Harpo Marx for Halloween. Has he been an influence on you?

Sierra: Harpo Marx is a huge hero of mine! The first time The Typing Explosion went beyond typing on-demand and speaking in bells horns & whistles, we made a theater piece (we took the 1000s of poems we’d written and made them into a play) – and at one point our director told me he was thinking of my character as being like Harpo. And that gave me a lot of courage!

LY: He was a genius.

Sierra: he was able to convey so much without speaking! If I could just write poems and only honk my horn to speak (and maybe play some music) - that would suit me fine!

Sierra: Can I ask about superhero qualities you would each like to have?

Loren: I would like to be able to live underwater and see distant galaxies.

LY: umm... the ability to speak every language.

Loren: oooh lesley that is good.

Sierra: I was thinking invisibility and bioluminescence.

Loren: bioluminescence! of course! (FYI ladies I only have a little bit longer – I’m sorry)

LY: No problem—just quickly before we go, can I ask where you guys have been hanging out on the internet these days? Anything we should all know about?


LY: wow! starfish!

Sierra: and (Sierra Leone elephants were just wiped out!) - and, for a little more uplifting scientific wonder:

LY: carl sagan electronica. i love it.

Loren: i’m also digging:

LY: Quiet Dog Bite Hard. Good place to end…

Mastiffs, Owned by the King: Tomaž Šalamun, Three Poems

By popular, inner-demand, Tomaž Šalamun. He received a Golden Wreath from Struga Poetry Evenings in Macedonia in 2009.

Translator: Michael Thomas Taren is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. His book Puberty is a finalist for The Fence Poetry Series.

The Twentieth of January

The twentieth of January, almond trees.
Here I stopped.
Here I stand.
The root gives a scent, groves
deeper and lacerates.
Here I void myself.

The twentieth of January.
I was taken on the voyage.
It hurts.

The sun is rough-hewn.
The silk tears my threads.
I'm grown with myself
because I'm wounded.


Why is it only the boat that moves on,
why doesn't sand move on too?

Fish, which are cardboard,
mastiffs, owned by the king.

I told you a long fairytale,
fell asleep before it ended.

Bčka is a little kitty that falls into milk.

Živžav walks along the street and takes a bar of soap with him.
He comes to a fence and forgets the bar of soap at the fence.

Translated from the Slovenian by Ana Jelnikar and Michael Thomas Taren


Rakes swam.
There was a spring water.
I didn’t change the baby’s nappy for ages.
I succumbed.

Cabs were yellow.
They rushed.
They ran shadow.
I’m the ridge.

The watered ridge.
I flow off into the cave.
Into the cave at the top.
They have redone this temple.

They licked its floor.
Strollers waver.
They react.
I stole Sabrina.

Looked at the roof.
Sulfur watered the gutter by itself.
The inward dwarves drive the row.
There’re many of them.

Translated from the Slovenian by Michael Thomas Taren and the author

Yes, This Must Be Ginger: Eric Baus and Liz Ahl as Responders to a Questionnaire

Different poets. Definitely. But lingering together here.

Eric Baus' newish book, Tuned Droves, can be procured from Octopus Books. May he live a long, and sturdy life.

Liz Ahl won the 2008 Slapering Hol annual chapbook competition with her A Thirst That's Partly Mine. An oft recalled mentor from the UVA Young Writer's Workshop.

Eric Baus: Poetry Lives

Describe your typical breakfast:
Gorilla Munch cereal and rice milk. Coconut milk yogurt or coconut milk kefir. Chamomile tea and/or horrible tasting tea made from herbs my acupuncturist has prepared. I just found this cereal that is like a gluten-free version of Apple Jacks that I like a lot. Sometimes I eat a grapefruit or an apple.

What book is on your bedside table?
Andrea Rexilius, To Be Human Is To Be A Conversation
Juliana Spahr, Live (Duration Press)
Jean Daive, Under the Dome: Walks with Paul Celan (Burning Deck)

Favorite place in the world.
My public garden plot in Denver. Even though it's covered in snow now I still like to visit it. I share the plot with Andrea Rexilius, who just got a book about plant ESP. I think this will help when things start to grow again.

Did/Do you have a “mentor?”
My undergraduate poetry teacher George Kalamaras. He turned me onto a lot of good things early on and was very patient and very encouraging.

Most important skill you acquired pursuing your MFA?
Recording, listening to, and digitally archiving poetry readings.

Do you have a favorite verse from a “holy” scripture?
I have a favorite line: "Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me." from Psalm 23. I like thinking about "staff" here as a group of personal assistants ensuring my comfort.

This probably belongs to a separate category than holy scripture, but I really like Yoko Ono's "Snow Piece":

Think that snow is falling. Think that snow is falling everywhere all the time. When you talk with a person, think that snow is falling between you and on the person. Stop conversing when you think the person is covered by snow.

Preferred drink:
Lately it's been Reeds extra strong ginger beer.

I've been listening to an unabridged recording of Moby Dick on librivox and I just heard this part:

"Ginger ? Do I smell ginger ? " suspiciously asked Stubb, coming near. " Yes, this must be ginger," peering into the as yet untasted cup. Then standing as if incredulous for a while, he calmly walked towards the astonished steward slowly saying, " Ginger ? ginger ? and will you have the goodness to tell me, Mr. Dough-Boy, where lies the virtue of ginger?"

To me, giving someone a ginger brew after a life-threatening ordeal makes perfect sense. It's delicious and very good for your stomach.

Liz Ahl: Poetry Lives

Describe your dinner last night:
Scrambled eggs with green pepper and sharp cheddar, slice & a half of the last of the delicious bacon we bought from Gitch's Funny Farm up here in NH, toast, banana bread.

What book is on your bedside table?
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten (I just finished it, but it's still there -- I'm thinking of diving next into the pile of chapbooks I picked up at Grolier's last month)

Favorite place in the world:
We moved every couple of years when I grew up. I find this a difficult question -- been to a lot of places. I guess, this morning, I'll say it's Lubec Maine, on the channel, where the crazy Fundy tides creep up and down every day, and there's usually not another soul to be found on the cobble beach.

Did/Do you have a “mentor?” Who is s/he?
I'm not sure I did/do. I've had a lot of terrific teachers who meant a lot to me and were profoundly generous with their time and attentions. Standout among them is the poet Grace Bauer. It feels funny to call her my mentor, though. I'm not sure why. Grace, were you my mentor? I think mentor implies an intensity of one-on-one-ness that I'm not sure I've experienced over an extended period with any of my teachers, but Grace comes closest. Thanks, Grace!

Are you the caretaker of an animal? What is his/her name?
Not only am I not the caretaker of an animal, I am in charge of keeping the basement mouse-free. I've got my eye on the chipmunks, whose network of tunnels in our yard may turn all 2.4 of our acres to swiss cheese -- but, to be fair, they are just outside doing their chipmunky business, not in the basement, chewing on our stuff. I think that they just realized this year that the dog who used to live here (before we bought the house) isn't coming back. They are psyched. They are busy.

Do you have a favorite verse from a “holy” scripture?
I do not. But now I think I should. I'll work on that.

Preferred drink.
Now that we're getting into winter: the Manhattan returns as the staple cocktail. I realize you didn't specify cocktail, but, well, there it is.

My Tits Break a Cuke: Anna Vitale, Poem Excerpt

Following a generous tip by Marie Buck, we ended up discovering poet Anna Vitale. Find another poem of Anna's here. Anna has poems forthcoming in West Wind Review and Vanitas. And check out Textsound: An Online Audio Publication, which she edits along with a handful of others.

First off, she answered these questions:

The purpose of the oceans, lakes and streams is: to set sail.

When you wish to transform a small vessel into a large vessel, you: blow it up.

Breaststa [an excerpt]

My breasts in my pillowcase
My breasts in my jewelry box
My breasts in the litter box
My breasts on the bed.

My breasts in my slippers
My breasts in my laundry
My breasts in the window
My breasts on the rug.

My breasts in the lotion
My breasts in the mirror
My breasts in my sweater
My breasts in my belt.

My breasts in my underwear
My breasts in the rubberband
My breasts in the mattress
My breasts in my scarf.

My breasts in the blinds
My breasts in my coat
My breasts on the hook
My breasts in my hat.

One pair of breasts fits in each
drawer and there are two
drawers in the night stand.

Three pairs of breasts fit in each
drawer and there are two
drawers in the desk.

Five pairs of breasts fit in each
drawer and there are two
drawers in the cabinet.

Three pairs of breasts fit in each
drawer and there are two
drawers in the piece in the kitchen.

Two pairs of breasts fit in the drawer
in the kitchen. Ten pairs of breasts fit
in the kitchen sink.

My tits turn
the knob.
My tits turn
the lock.

My tits slide
the dimmer.
My tits slide
the light.

My tits drop
the table.
My tits drop
the radio.

My tits break
a dish.
My tits break
a cuke.

My tits do the hustle
and tag my tits
that do the roger rabbit
that tag my tits
that do the cabbage patch
that tag my tits
that do the MC Hammer
that tag my tits
that do the perculator
that tag my tits
that do the tootsie roll
that step.

Along the Hawk: Two Poems by Hailey Higdon (and One Poem by Hailey Higdon & Ryan Eckes)

Hailey Higdon sends her regards from the city of Philadelphia. Or is it from the city of free love and cosmic inspiration, which is the city of poetry?

Many of us are still rattled deep down by the reading she gave in Seth Landman and Lewis Freedman's apartment in October 2008. (Can I get a testimony on that fact?)

Bonus: A poem from a series Hailey and Ryan Eckes are working on together. General pleasure.


cars think robust like business as usual is full of resistance un-oiled salmon upstream upstream freshwater that’s glad that’s glad don’t struggle to finish off the last leg of the walk forward part or the walk slow part and don’t people seem so distracted by the ain’t that somethin’ of it and when the Russian lady in her car tells me, I say, tell me slow, she says, “in my next life I’m gonna be a toy poodle—spoiled.”

wheels in a row like go go go so much so many unfaithful fans walking on cars dropping televisions going into a grocery store then out of a grocery store waiting in line anywhere ordering waiting receiving ordering waiting receiving I happen to arrive have already eaten and we got tough times here tough times here and fart in your handbag, hold it next to you in your car, this is the economy series, no extra for groceries.

I have two lives, they run beside each other and near me, like to smell like outside, outback, get out wholesome gruesome got ideas for an 18-wheeler oh this street the grease is interpreting your 18 hand gestures but what the hell do you see, say hey man nice haircut, say hey oh sorry I thought you were someone else and when the snow comes the road says, how soon can you go?


your husband is an animal

and not in any “good” sort of way

I can’t do you not here

I bait today

just keep losing money

the mind collaborates this time

nod, nod

offers others

what ideals are the most imperative for a woman to have as she lives?

we see this bowl, our bowl, emptier than another’s

these people bed funny

don’t want to talk too much to me too much

what do you know that I don’t know about the relationship?

do they think I’m one of the bad examples of people?

why do I have to TRUST MORE stuff?

dead reckoning! what does that mean?

just give up already! or get in or get out!

easier said than done!

this is an every /other or either/ should situation

it’s for the pussyfoots

I’m not one, don’t trust nearly nothin’

and say a friendly go away to the houseplants who make breathing easy.

MadLIBs 1: The Longwinded City

By Hailey Higdon and Ryan Eckes

Mom crossed the dog’s bird and baked till the end of time. Out of the frying pan sheep flew above the street. They counted our statues. The war with the newspapers was still happening and you screwed your ashtray to indicate it. I was talking to the pumpkin to get a paper. The weather thinks like a sad jacket. Your prayers do not matter, they ruminate the idea to keep on killing. You carved your friends and gave them a chair. We played tennis for the rotten pieces of paper and leapt afterwards.

Later, the flags of the city were folded into lilies. They marched along the hawk. After the smoke detector stopped laughing, we took a pillow and made a mask out of it. “Thanks,” she said. We drank the soft people walking on bottles and drove again. We refer to the beer to explain the longwinded city. We swallow for the bears, who say, “who have you been chasing?”

Before Dinner Cocktail: K. Silem Mohammad & Heather Christle Respond to a Questionnaire

K. Silem Mohammad and Heather Christle generously sent these revelations vis-a-vis the Poetry Lives Questionnaire.

Ms. Christle's (1st!) book, The Difficult Farm, is on Octopus Books.
Mr. Mohammad's (latest) book, The Front, is out by Roof Books.

K. Silem Mohammad:

Describe your typical breakfast.
Cinnamon scone and coffee.

What book is on your bedside table?
Douglas Oliver, Poetry and Narrative in Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 1989).

Favorite place in the world.
San Francisco.

Did/Do you have a “mentor?” Who is s/he?
My junior college poetry teacher, Lee Nicholson, gave me all kinds of "permission" to write in whatever ways I found interesting.

Are you the caretaker of an animal? What is his/her name?
No pet of my own, but my neighbor's cat Valentino likes to come over a lot, especially when I have company.

Do you have a favorite verse from a “holy” scripture?
I like Mary Sidney's translations of the Psalms (that's not a single verse, I realize).

Preferred drink.
Dry gin martini, up, with an olive.

Heather Christle:

Describe your typical breakfast.
There are several. One is scrambled eggs on buttered toast with lots of salt and pepper. Another is toast with strawberry jam. Another is to just drink coffee until it is eleven and move straight to lunch.

What book is on your bedside table?
Julio Cortazar's HOPSCOTCH and the complete stories of Kafka and Ana Božičević's STARS OF THE NIGHT COMMUTE.

Favorite place in the world.
Lake Winnipesaukee. You have been there!

Did/Do you have a “mentor?” Who is s/he?

Are you the caretaker of an animal? What is his/her name?
Yes! Hastings!

Do you have a favorite verse from a “holy” scripture?
Not especially, no. Proverbs can be fun, and I do like it when Enoch walks with god and is not, but I cannot say those are truly favorites.

Preferred drink.
Coffee with lots of soymilk is what I prefer right now. Later I will prefer tea. Later even than that some friends are bringing over a before dinner cocktail and I do not know what it will be but I imagine I will prefer it as well.

The Sun Eats the Double Inverse of the Morning: Amy McDaniel, Two Poems

Our friend Amy McDaniel checks in from the tremendous city of Atlanta. Look for her chapbook, Selected Adult Lessons, soon-to-come on Agnes Fox Press. And, of course, there is the Solar Anus.

Firstly, she responded to this significant fill-in-the-blank:

The sun is a burning red in the morning because...white is milk, milk is morning, and as everybody knows the sun eats the double inverse of the morning, and the double inverse of white is red, not black.

The sun is a fiery red in the evening has removed its contact lenses before bedtime and has forgotten to buy Visine.

Dead Horse Rhymes

There's more of dead horses to say.

There are eligible plastic horses and dream

horses. Ghost horses and frozen horses,

warmish horses' corpses. Drowned horses,

fake horses. Smiling gore horses.

Brothers of horses, dappled lore horses

or skin horses. Horses are never martyrs.

Horses are dead calories. Gray horses

turn white when they die. Shattered

horses are not closer to God. 

Ghost horse meat tastes like

ghost oatmeal but less gamy.

First Morning Urine

I gave the first morning urine to the jellyfish stung.

I gave the first morning urine to the cold between my thighs.

I gave the first morning urine to the juvenile prank.

First morning urine sounds fresh like dew. But it is eager and old, the better to collect all the baby traces.

I gave the first morning urine to the pervert who lives down the hall.

I gave the first morning urine to the stoned job applicant.

The first morning urine is not required.

I gave the first morning urine to the ammonia-deprived.

I gave the first morning urine to the timid Labrador.

The first morning urine is not required but is highly recommended, like PG-13 and mammograms and an herb garnish and love your enemy.

All I have for you is the Sunday afternoon urine.

All I have for you is the incidental Gatorade urine.

All I have for you is the urine from swallowing my own saliva.

For I gave the first morning urine to the lap pool.

I gave the first morning urine to the snow.

I Eat Tons of Baguettes! Ari Feld in Catalunya

[Poet and man of northern climes, Ari Feld, is in the ancient city of Barcelona. He delivers a report. Obviously, the powerful presence lurking in the background: Sara Blaylock.]

WIAF: What's a favorite restaurant in the Barecolna region? How should one dress if they were to attend?

Ari Feld: I think I can do it from memory with a glass of chardonnay and a porro.

"La Frieduria" which means something like The Fryery. It specializes in mariscos, or seafood, for which Catalunya possesses some fame. Order a platter of seafood. This includes, clams and mussels, calamari and navaja, which means knife and looks like a thumb length piece of deliciousness, which it is. Also order the fried artichoke hearts and pan con tomate, another hallmark of Catalan cuisine. Have pretty much whatever kind of wine you deem wonderful. Dine late by some standards. And dress well by any standard. Iron your garment. Do not expect the service to work with you, though our waitress was quite friendly that night.

WIAF: What are some of the central motifs and ingredients of Catalunyian cuisine?

Ari Feld: There are terrific mushrooms here. The vendors expose them on the street, gills up and mottled like scales. There is a thing called "tender garlic." Bacalao, or cod, can represent Catalunya. I enjoyed rabbit in an alioli sauce about a week ago. And all regions of the Iberian peninsula have a great investment in jamon, jamon iberico, the meat of the dark hog. It has aromatic qualities based on the wild grasses, herbs, and most of all, the acorns of the fields and hills through which the beasts roam from the morning of their last suckling. I imagine they must also consume frogs.

WIAF: What's your breakfast? Time, components, etc.?

Ari Feld: For breakfast, I'll have a heel of baguette with jam and the ever-coveted peanut butter, or a slosh of the bargain box rice-flake cereal. Breakfast is served promptly at 7 in the morning. Excellent coffee, even the bargain-bricks. I eat tons of baguettes! At least one a day. Bakeries have a definite street presence.

WIAF: An awe inspiring moment thus far?

Ari Feld: This morning I felt an ill-understood peace direct me down the crosswalk and toward the school gate. Also, another wonder spasm took me while walking back from a Catalan class. I felt like saying "I just wanna' dance", to describe the feeling of faltering at the first foothold of language. I believe I will never comprehend the orthography.

WIAF: Also, have any passages from the sacred literature been speaking to you of late?

Ari Feld: "The scent of these armpits is aroma finer than prayer," quoth Walt.

Wawawewa: Seth Landman, Natalie Lylain, Seth Parker think about Friendship, Mentors, Gruyere

WIAF: So, I thank you all for joining me. This is a conversation. Let's start off by telling the audience why you all are friends.

Seth Parker: uh

natalie: This got serious real quick.

Seth Parker: we're friends because we share a kindred umph

Seth Landman: that's a good way of putting it. I just knew I wanted to be friends with these people.

natalie: you just new it?

Seth Parker: nu

WIAF: Are you poetry friends?

Seth Parker: deep poetry friends--before having read the poetry of these deep friends, I already knew I resonated with it

natalie: our poems are friends. no, they are sibling.

Seth Parker: resonating umph

Seth Landman: OH yes. Seth Parker and Natalie Lyalin are perhaps the two most important poets to my poems.

Seth Parker: sibling sublimingnesses

Seth Landman: also, yes, resonating umph had something to do with it.

natalie: Seth Parker has read my poems since they were little poemletts in UGA

Seth Landman: that's cute.

Seth Parker: all the people now speaking are equal chambers in my writerly and living heart

WIAF: And what exactly is a Poetry Friend. A definition, please

Seth Parker: friend in another's project

natalie: someone who knows you and your writing and can separate the two

Seth Parker: hmmmm

natalie: but wait, Seth Landman and my poems go way back as well

Seth Landman: interestingly, for me it might be about an inability to separate.

Seth Parker: hmmmmm

natalie: i feel like reading anything written by a good friend is a little glimpse into their 2nd set of lungs

Seth Landman: like, I can't deny that part of what I love about your (plural) poems is the fact of your personhood.
yeah, yeah.

WIAF: Alright, everyone, relax a bit.

Seth Parker: sometimes it's hard to read friends

Seth Landman: i'm relaxed.

WIAF: Seth Landman, what is a recent youtube video that has caught your attention

Seth Landman: oh my god i have an immediate response. one sec.

Seth Parker: this is one of my favorites ever

Seth Landman: in my opinion, this is the most profound press conference in sports history. i just wrote a 12 page paper about this, actually.

Seth Parker: that's hysterical

Seth Landman: this is the complete transcript, if you ever want to read it. he says some beautiful things.

natalie: i want to repeat things like this
not the game, not the game, we're talking about practice!
what are we talking about? practice?

Seth Landman: he's so right to be angry. he has to put up with shit no one else does.

natalie: i love that you know what that means?
no, no question mark

Seth Parker: he's a bitch for quitting

Seth Landman: i'll send y'all the paper i wrote.

Seth Parker: please

Seth Landman: i agree that he shouldn't quit, sethy, but i also think he's simply incapable of fitting in anymore.

natalie: fitting what?

Seth Landman: he just retired because he's unwilling to come off the bench.

Seth Parker:

natalie: he did?
what does that mean?

Seth Landman: he can't accept any role in which he's not a superstar.

natalie: i wish i could be like that

Seth Landman: this video is great.

Seth Parker: hilarious

natalie: it's amazing

WIAF: Hey, when you get back from the videos. Let me ask you something
Chelsey Minnis in the first big poem of Bad Bad has a lot to say about the “mentor.” She says something like, “I like my mentor… / I tried to grab onto his sweaters but it was nothing…”

Seth Parker: I'm back

WIAF: Let's think about the MFA world for a moment.

Seth Parker: okee

WIAF: What's the significance of "mentor"

Seth Parker: no significance

WIAF: Is it a screwed up significance?

Seth Landman: none?

natalie: i don't know if there are really mentors
it's better for mentors to be fake. let the facade be your mentor, is say.

Seth Landman: i think maybe it's a certain sort of person who feels a need to use the word "mentor" and perhaps that's what minnis is poking fun at. if she's poking fun.

Seth Parker: might be poking fun

Seth Landman: i don't consider dara and peter, for example, to be "mentors" exactly. i'm not sure what they are.

Seth Parker: docents

WIAF: I think there's some fun being used too...but I think she's bringing up some of the deeper screwy elements of that MFA world

Seth Landman: oh no doubt.

WIAF: for instance. Sexual tension and the mentor relationship

Seth Parker: aural

Seth Landman: docents might be a good word actually. i can't recall having sexual tension with a "mentor" type.
though i'm sure it exists.

WIAF: Folks learning to write like the mentor
dress like the mentor

natalie: i think we strive for real relationships. but it's hard to find that realness. it's a lot of fakeness, and as long as you are okay with that, you can have a mentor. I don't want that. I want the real thing.

WIAF: You got it?

Seth Landman: got what?

Seth Parker: there can be a certain idolatry

WIAF: the real thing...from mentor

natalie: yes, i think i got some realness with some brilliant docents

Seth Parker: I've had all kinds of docents

WIAF: You all have a combined 11 years of MFA time between you all

Seth Parker: hmm

natalie: wawaweewa

Seth Landman: to speak to our experience, i think we all have to deal with the fact that there is a UMass-thing, for lack of a better term. There is a wide sphere of influence. Is that mentor-ish?

Seth Parker: maybe

natalie: the real deal.

Seth Parker: well, there's always a high degree of incest in this poetry world

Seth Landman: that incest does have something to do with our own styles though. that might be unavoidable.

Seth Parker: protects us against some things
also has the ability to destroy

Seth Landman: absolutely. yes.
it's something I keep wanting to react against. it's confusing.

Seth Parker: mmm, eatin' cave aged gruyere, bitches!

Seth Landman: haha

Seth Parker: let's go into our own literary caves
network of caves

natalie: it can wear down the senses

Seth Parker: like the Descent

Seth Landman: descenses.

Seth Parker: whoa

natalie: that's a good metaphor for poetry

Seth Parker: wow

WIAF: (That's all I have) Please continue

Seth Parker: yeahonyay

Seth Landman: no further questions??

WIAF: Ask your own, man

Seth Landman: what is the biggest obstacle to your ability to make a poem?

natalie: sitting down to do it

Seth Parker: lack of input/inspiration

WIAF: Great self doubt

Seth Landman: yup, those are the three, i think.