Bill Rasmovicz and Joanna Penn Cooper reading at Berl’s

11 Apr


Bill will be reading from his new collection, IDIOPATHS, “a dark, lustrous book of hardscabble living, & wandering meditations on living & dying.” Joanna Penn Cooper will also be reading from her debut collection of lyrical prose. The reading will be at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop, Thursday, April 24th at 7:00 pm.

For more information:

Poems of the Week – Alissa Valles

3 Apr



In the North (Westerbork)

Winter came and went, spreading its iron grain;
the earth the color of ash, trees the color of bone.

In an interval between wars, spring and summer
passed, color advertisements for another country.

At a place where trains departed every Tuesday
a stick probes the exhausted mouth of morning;

the North shaves and washes in its cold mirror,
a wakeful child in a house deserted by the elders.

In icy furrows a thin wind is rubbing its face raw.
On a branch an oriole is punishing its one vowel.



From a plush seat in this restaurant
I see it grinning at me like a dandy,
its smooth surface distracting nicely
from the low direction of its thoughts.

As I am talking blandly to my party
it lies between us, a great authority,
an officer in plain clothes, a loose
prosthesis, toy of a tyrannical child.

It has the cunning of a desperado.
Sister, put a chair against the door.
It has the style and charm of a spy.
Waiter, did you see that man arrive?

Hold it not like a gear shift, or a pen.
Hold it so that it doesn’t cast a shadow.
Before they carry out a steaming lamb
I’ve got a taste of metal in my mouth.


Relics of Cluny

Petrified cross;
a child points:
papa il est laid

indulgences sell;
an image stirs
in a letter’s walls

A white hand grows
in a field of rabbits,
Mantegna’s garden

But no agony here
No, there’s nothing
on sin’s menu for her

the weight of a beast’s
hoof in her lap
gold standard of virtue

The lion has nothing
to do – she holds
the banner herself

Outside French girls
sit under cumulus
clouds of irony

an old Algerian
polishes a pair
of doll’s shoes

an old woman
sits down nearby
asks for a cigarette

she smokes it
holding my hand
fondles the warning

a man in a suit
books a cremation
on a mobile phone

the head waiter
weighs evidence,
sits in judgment


* all poems from Orphan Fire, Four Way Books, 2008.

Allan Peterson to read at Germanna Community College

25 Mar

Allan will be reading at Germanna Community College on Wednesday, March 26th from 2:00 – 3:00 pm at the Sealy Auditorium at the Fredericksburg Area Campus.

For more information:

Poems of the Week – Christopher DeWeese

13 Mar



The Wizard

Where is my wand?
The snow is getting thick
and I want a dome to live in.
Tricillian, I mean it when I tell you
all of this is evidence.
I mean it when I forget to mention
the evidence is against you.
I am sitting in the bedroom,
trying to wipe the sky clean
while watching this movie.
The stars are easiest,
then the planes, the clouds.
Green-light the owl incursion now!



Tusk, don’t leave me withered.
Spring, butter my skin.
All night, I’m rented out:
the somnambulist blues again.
All of this is dangerous.
The blankets. The compass.
What it means to be a hero
shifts inside me like an extinct wind.
Like some false god
put a fume within me and lit.
Shannon, I am so sorry every night
for whatever I have done
and for the certainty
with which I can’t remember it.



The thing about being dead is
you keep dying forever
in the spangled bones
of those freaks who
must have believed in you.
The fields are blindfolded
and the shadows are contagious.
The pastures keep wilting
because the night is conducting
a whispering campaign
in league with all the feelings.
It’s a cheap place, this heart of mine,
and it’s covered in blood,
and it’s that way by design.


* all poems from The Black Forest, Octopus Books, 2012.

Poems of the Week – Frederick Seidel

6 Mar




I spend most of my time not dying.
That’s what living is for.
I climb on a motorcycle.
I climb on a cloud and rain.
I climb on a woman I love.
I repeat my themes.

Here I am in Bologna again.
Here I go again.
Here I go again, getting happier and happier.
I climb on a log
Torpedoing toward the falls.
Basically, it sticks out of me.

At the factory,
The racer being made for me
Is not ready, but is getting deadly.
I am here to see it being born.
It is snowing in Milan, the TV says.
They close one airport, then both.

The Lord is my shepherd and the Director of Superbike Racing.
He buzzes me through three layers of security
To the innermost secret sanctum of the racing department
Where I will breathe my last.
Trains are delayed.
The Florence sky is falling snow.

Tonight Bologna is fog.
This afternoon, there it was,
With all the mechanics who are making it around it.
It stood on a sort of altar.
I stood in a sort of fog,
Taking digital photographs of my death.


A Fresh Stick of Chewing Gum

A pink stick of gum unwrapped from the foil,
That you hold between your fingers on the way home from dance class,
And you look at its pink. But you know what.
I like your brain. Your pink. It’s sweet.

My brain is the wrinkles of the ocean on a ball of tar
Instead of being sweet pink like yours.
It could be the nicotine. It could be the Johnnie Walker Black.
Mine thought too many cigarettes for too many years.

My brain is the size of the largest living thing, mais ous, a blue wale,
Blue instead of pink like yours.
It’s what I’ve done
To make it huge that made it huge.

The violent sweetness in the air is the pink rain
Which continues achingly almost to fall.
This is the closest it has come.
This can’t go on.

Twenty-six years old is not childhood.
You are not trying to stop smoking.
You smoke and drink
And still it is pink.

The answer is you can drink and smoke
Too much at twenty-six,
And stink of cigarettes,
And stand outside on the sidewalk outside the bar to have a cigarette,

As the law now requires, and it is paradise,
And be the most beautiful girl in the world,
And be moral,
And vibrate into blank.


The Owl You Heard

The owl you heard hooting
In the middle of the night wasn’t me.
It was an owl.
Or maybe you were
So asleep you didn’t even here it.
The sprinklers on their timer, programmed to come on
At such a strangely late hour in life
For watering a garden,
Refreshed your sleep four thousand miles away by
Hissing sweetly,
Deepening the smell of green in Eden.
You heard the summer chirr of insects.
You heard a sky of stars.
You didn’t know it, fast asleep at dawn in Paris.
You didn’t hear a thing.
You heard me calling.
I am no longer human.


* all poems from Ooga-Booga, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006.

Poems of the Week – Kim Addonizio

27 Feb




When he takes off his clothes
I think of a stick of butter being unwrapped,
the milky, lubricious smoothness of it
when it’s taken from the fridge still hard
the way his body is hard, the high
tight pectorals, the new dimes of the nipples pressed
into the chest, the fanning of the muscles underneath.
I look at his arms, shaped as though a knife
has slid along the curves to carve them out,
deltoids, biceps, triceps, I almost can’t believe
that he is human—latissimus dorsi, hip flexors
gluteals, gastrocnemius—he is so perfectly made.
He stands naked in my bedroom and nothing
has harmed him yet, though he is going
to be harmed. He is going to have a gut one day,
and wiry gray hair where the soft dark filaments
flow out of him, the cream of his skin is going
to loosen and separate slowly, over a low steady flame
and he has no idea, as I had no idea,
and I am not going to speak of this to him ever,
I am going to let him stretch out on my bed
so I can take the heavy richness of him in
and in, I am going to have it back the way I can.


On Knocking Over My Glass While Reading Sharon Olds

The milk spread,
a translucent stain
covering the word milk,

snaking down toward come
and womb and penis, toward gashes
and swiveled, towards the graceful

grey flower and the infelicitous
errless digit, so that suddenly
the page seemed to be weeping,

the way a statue of the Virgin
in some poor but devout parish
might begin to weep, ichor streaming

from the eyes, the open palms,
so that when the girl keeling
in the rain of the convent yard

touches the mottled white
folds of the stone robe
her lupus disappears. And I felt

as that girl must have felt,
that the Holy Mother herself
had come to reveal

the true nature of the real,
goddess in the statue,
bread in each word’s

black flowering, and I rose
and went to the kitchen—
sacristy of the cupboards,

tabernacle of the fridge—
to refill my glass
with her wild and holy blood.



There are people who will tell you
that using the word fuck in a poem
indicates a serious lapse
of taste, or imagination,

or both. It’s vulgar,
indecorous, an obscenity
that crashes down like an anvil
falling through a skylight

to land on a restaurant table,
on the white linen, the cut-glass vase of lilacs.
But if you were sitting
over coffee when the metal

hit your saucer like a missile,
wouldn’t that be the first thing
you’d say? Wouldn’t you leap back
shouting, or at least thinking it,

over and over, bell-note riotously clanging
in the church of your brain
while the solicitous waiter
led you away, wouldn’t you prop

your shaking elbows on the bar
and order your first drink in months,
telling yourself you were lucky
to be alive? And if you wouldn’t

say anything but Mercy or Oh my
or Land sakes, well then
I don’t want to know you anyway
and I don’t give a fuck what you think

of my poem. The world is divided
into those whose opinions matter
and those who will never have
a clue, and if you knew

which one you were I could talk
to you, and tell you that sometimes
there’s only one word that means
what you need it to mean, the way

there’s only one person
when you first fall in love,
or one infant’s cry that calls forth
the burning milk, one name

that you pray to when prayer
is what’s left to you. I’m saying
in the beginning was the word
and it was good, it meant one human

entering another and it’s still
what I love, the word made
flesh. Fuck me, I say to the one
whose lovely body I want close,

and as we fuck I know it’s holy,
a psalm, a hymn, a hammer
ringing down on an anvil,
forging a whole new world.


* all poems from What Is This Thing Called Love, W.W. Norton & Company, 2005.

Poems of the Week – Stuart Dybek

20 Feb



Fish Camp

In the Coleman’s glassy glare
my brother’s switchblade
unriddles backlash. A bullhead,
the weight of a rat,
flops in the dirt, dropped
when its spine added a scar
to the lines of my palm.
Bullheads should utter some cry.
Someone should have warned
those city boys fishing at night
on the short of a dump,
how gills, drowning in air, gape
like wounds that won’t heal;
someone should have taught them
how to kill and properly gut
what they lured out of darkness.



Down on his hands and knees
outside the biker bar
as if searching the pavement
for his tooth; between the kick
that lacerated a kidney,
and the kick that cracked a rib,
my ex-pug uncle, Chino,
said he caught a look
he hadn’t seen for years
on the distorted face
that lovingly gazed back at him
from a blood-spattered hubcap.



Snow fell as it had all night,
and from the look of the drifts he waded
he was the first one out on Twenty-fourth Street.
Dragging a sack of newspapers
that erased his footprints, he became
aware of a sound barely audible
above the hiss of canvas. Strange birds,
too luminous for winter cities,
chirred from the maple along his route,
a tree he’d watched rust scarlet,
then fade to the shade of overripe pears.
Its matted leaves were now inscribed
with the hieroglyphics of bird tracks.
A synchronized wingbeat and the flock
gusted into a syllable and vanished,
a cry less to do with language
than the vocalization of snow,
its meaning a music hidden from words,
a farewell, perhaps, but he’ll remember
hearing—years before he heard
from his own mouth, smother by her hand—
the first wild gasp of her name.


* all poems from Streets in Their Own Ink, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.


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