Video Poem in Drunken Boat

A video poem of mine appears in the new issue of Drunken Boat. Formally, this poem is what I’d call a Tennessee crown. Unlike a proper, contemporary crown of sonnets, such as Patricia Smith’s stunning “Motown Crown”, my Tennessee crown turns with the spirit of the jester, moving through the gallows humor of healthcare workers.

Thank you, editors of Drunken Boat, for including me in this issue of one of my favorite online journals.

For more of my video work that originally appeared in Drunken Boat, see “Lettie from the Ocean,” an interactive piece designed for the iPhone.

Reading for Washington Square Review

This week I had the opportunity to read with my fellow contributors to the wonderful recent issue of Washington Square Review. Organized by editor Melissa Ford Lucken and Dave Wasinger, the reading was a true pleasure to experience as a reader and listener.

You can find the recording of the event here. My own contribution is around the 1:28:14 mark.

Many thanks to Melissa and Dave and all the editors at Washington Square Review.

Poems in Washington Square Review

Please join me on Monday, October 23 at 7:00 PM EST, for a reading of work from the most recent issue of Washington Square Review. I have three poems in this issue, available for purchase here, edited by Melissa Ford Lucken. I will be reading with many of my wonderful co-contributors.

You can register here for the Zoom link.

Below is one of my poems published in the issue, “We Call This River ‘Church'”:

Juliet Patterson’s Threnody

Juliet Patterson’s book of poems, Threnody, imparts an intimate sense of annihilation. Its thematic exploration of dying bees ultimately reveals a violence that pushes up against oceans, rivers, and skin. In “Dark Scaffolding,” a “We” draws us inside the poem’s enjambed lines where both words and heat press against the flesh:

                                                        The drift
and slip of body along shoreline’s seam
unlocked to day’s heat retracks the ringing
tide. We press our face to its changing ink; cluster
and drone, a blindsight to listening.

In a book in which images from distant wars appear on shorelines, this “drone” written in “changing ink” suggests not only a bee but also a military aircraft or ship. With a “blindsight to listening,” Patterson moves beyond the well-known idea that we cannot grasp destruction as large as global warming or endless war. In Threnody, Patterson offers a more neglected truth: that we sense this violence even when we cannot consciously perceive it.

With its balance between the intimate and the vast, Patterson’s threnody — a poetic form in which the dead are lamented — renders ecological destruction with unexpected, emotional power. The changing oceans suffer a sickness understood by the human body, being “raw, sick and hot.” A grove of pines endures the unfavorable conditions of the era with a sickly promise that pains in its detail:

as if each turgid node
might blossom

and bring, would bring
us as offering,

barter, the armament
and image

of the spray
and spore.

Through clear images that simultaneously evoke the individual existence and our shared earth, Threnody brings global destruction close without reducing the scale of the loss.

I have admired Patterson’s poems for many years, having first read her work in literary journals prior to the publication of her brilliant, debut book, The Truant Lover. In DIAGRAM, I reviewed her chapbook, Dirge, published in the same volume with Elementary Rituals by Rachel Moritz whose haunting book, Night-Sea, I also wrote about on this website. Threnody is available from Nightboat Books, which also published Patterson’s The Truant Lover as the winner of the press’s book contest judged by Jean Valentine.

Poem in descant

The wonderful new issue of descant is here. In it is a poem I first wrote in a workshop with Art Smith, who recently passed away. I revised the poem with renewed faith after hearing Nikki Giovanni mention redlining as a possible subject of poetry.

This poem, “Roller-Skating in a Redlined Neighborhood,” opens:

Eva whizzed down a church
handicap ramp and slapped

side-view mirrors of parked
cars. I leaned forward, going

backwards, onto red rubber
knobs bolted to my toes.

Like erasers, they rubbed off
in bits. Eva’s home was close.

Mine was behind a tongue
of tires—commuter traffic—

stuttering S where the avenue
bent. It stared, open-shuttered,

at the end of Eva’s street.
She said when her father

came back from Vietnam,
she looked into his coffin

and told him to get up.
I said, “That’s so sad”—

but she told me, “No. I didn’t
understand then.” My empty

house stared at no one
in particular. Eva’s step-dad,

a parole-officer, had prison
one step back in his voice…”

Thank you, editors at descant, for giving this poem a home. Thank you too Art Smith in memory and Nikki Giovanni.