SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KATIE WOODZICK

Flirting_with_Danger


YEARNING
By Katie Woodzick

She delivers my sloe gin fizz
and her slim hips testify
to an ecstasy that has
not yet been experienced.

I want to trace
the subtle protuberances
of her hip bones
(ghost-like, merely a suggestion
of bone pressing against her tender skin)

I sip my gin
instead of
tracing her hips.

Because she is forbidden.
Because my jaw locks.
Because I don’t know how.


“Yearning” originally appeared in woodzickwrites, and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Katie Woodzick is a writer, actress, director, feminist and External Relations Manager for Hedgebrook. She considers herself a smattering of Rogue from X-Men, Mae West and Tina Fey, among others. She holds a strong belief that leopard print is a neutral. Publications include Floating Bridge Press (Fall 2014 Issue) and Writer’s Digest Short Short Story contest (7th place, 2012 competition.)

Editor’s Note: Ahhhh… alliteration. The “sloe gin fizz,” the “slim hips,” the “ecstasy… not yet… experienced.” And the joyous interplay of alliteration and content! That we, the reader, are treated to gratification and pleasure with this sensual alliteration, and yet the words themselves insist that ecstasy has not been experienced. While the playful nature of the poem’s acoustics arouses our senses, the poem’s narrative unfolds, equally alluring. And in the end we are treated to a glimmer of honesty an introspection, even defeat. Despite all the attraction, all the fantasy, in the end, “I sip my gin / instead of / tracing her hips.” Why? “Because I don’t know how.”

Want to read more by Katie Woodzick?
Katie Woodzick – Theatrical Mustang
woodzickwrites – At the intersection of theatre and poetry
Floating Bridge
Whidbey Life Magazine

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ALFRED CORN: Two Poems and a Micro-Interview

unions

 

Unions is Alfred Corn’s eleventh book of poems. He has also published a novel, Part of His Story; two collections of essays; and The Poem’s Heartbeat (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), a study of prosody. For his poetry, he has received a Guggenheim fellowship, the NEA, an Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and one from the Academy of American Poets. In 2012, he was a Visiting Fellow of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, preparing a translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies, and returned as a Life Fellow for a second residency in 2013. He has taught at Yale, Columbia, and UCLA.

[The following poems are reprinted from Unions by permission of the author.]

***

Poe Lucifer

The daylong dive of that aggrieved archangel:
Only those who’ve known defeat can fathom
Him, when he drops headlong from the ramparts—
Slippery rim of the abyss, engulfing
Wings of a vast nocturnal bird of prey,
The Morning Star’s dismemberment of mind.
Anarchy’s ruins, its fading trumpet calls,
Somehow evoke, when they become reflective,
A city’s darkened towers beside the water.

A city’s darkened towers beside the water
Somehow evoke, when they become reflective,
Anarchy’s ruins, its fading trumpet calls.
The Morning Star’s dismemberment of mind?
Wings of a vast nocturnal bird of prey,
Slippery rim of the abyss, engulfing
Him when he drops headlong from the ramparts.
Only those who’ve known defeat can fathom
The daylong dive of that aggrieved archangel.

***

Bob

for Mimi Khalvati

Why go? Partly because we had no reason
To, though, granted, Hastings’s on the Channel—
Which meant salt air and, that day, winter sun.
A zigzag swing from station down to shingle

To take in the cold light and arrowy
Jeers shrilled by veering scavengers overhead,
Who flirted, razzed, then flapped and rowed away,
Our tentative footsteps fumbling pebbles, dead

Shellfish, kelp, plastic bits…. A backtrack trek
To lunch should keep mild melancholy at
Bay, even if the random, Fifties-flick
Ambiance was what we’d come for. Or part of what.

Later, our huff-puff climb uphill for the ruins’
Majestic overviews, in guidebook blather.
One silver path across the waves to France,
And the long, incoming roar of faith from farther

East. (Or west: fanaticism’s viral.
Numbing to think about the human cost.)
Sunset. Time to unwind a dawdling spiral
Down to the mall—where it dawns on us we’re lost.

Suppose we ask this sporty adolescent.
“The station? Oh, no problem. Bang a right
Up there, then left, and on along the Crescent
About two minutes, and Bob’s your uncle, mate.”

You smiled, interpreted—but then you would,
Having yourself once been an “alien.”
(The conditional of ironic likelihood
Is hackneyed. Stop me if I use it again.)

Transit to London as night falls. First star.
Abrupt flashes of interrupting light
Light up your eyes, your lips and shimmering hair…
Friend. Nothing more. And Bob’s your uncle, mate.

***

Okla Elliott: There is a lot of debate about the effects of the internet on literature. I notice that you often make use of social media to raise philosophical questions about our culture and literature more specifically. And, of course, this interview and the poem reprints will be online. Could you offer readers a few pros and a few cons you see vis-à-vis the internet’s effect on writing and publishing?

Alfred Corn: The effect is enormous. Begin with the online presence of magazines devoted to poetry, blogs, the Gutenberg project, the Academy of American Poets websites, and Wikipedia, which gives you bios of new poets that might not be found in standard reference works. We’ve seen a mixed reaction to books of poetry published in e-formats, but I think more and more poetry will be read that way, as soon as Kindle and Nook learn how to avoid scrambling the lineation. E-books are convenient. Someone mentions a new book and makes it sound interesting, You acquire your electronic copy and begin reading immediately. It’s hard to beat the convenience of that.

As for social media, I only participate in Facebook, no Instagram or Twitter. But that one channel has brought me several real (as opposed to virtual) friendships I would not otherwise have had. Most of the three-thousand-plus Friends I have are online only, but a few I got to know there have become very important to me. Yes, I do initiate discussions on topics I’ve been thinking about—in politics, culture, history, literature and the other arts. I find it helps me clarify my thinking, and when there’s disagreement, it gives me the chance to strengthen my arguments or else abandon a point of view that has been shown to be false. Of course it feels good to carry the day when you are debating a contrary point of view, but, if the other argument ends up seeming truer, you’ve actually learned something you didn’t know before. And I have learned loads of things in these discussions. I have quite a few brilliant friends and am happy to benefit from their expertise. I’m not sure that participation on Facebook does much for book sales. So many people are advertising their books on the site, it gets to be overwhelming. A book ad per se doesn’t catch my eye. But if the author has said interesting things apart from the ad, I’m likely to look for the book.

OE: Politics seems to be something you care deeply about. How do you manage to bridge the gap between the aesthetic and the political? Do have any advice for younger writers trying to navigate those two minefields?

AC: I don’t see the two as being in conflict. Works of art are made with our passions and I’m one of those whose passions are stirred by, among other things, injustice. When I hear about something terrible that is happening to a person or to people, the anger becomes action in one or more forms: research into the facts, intense consideration of them, discussion with others, privately or in public; and sometimes all this leads to writing poems. Adrienne Rich’s assertion that “the personal is political” certainly seems true to me. If a woman or a person of color or someone Jewish or someone LGBT writes honestly about what their experience is, the result can’t fail to have political implications. I’ll go further: it often seems to me that forces in our culture work against our feeling anything very deeply, including pleasure. So any work of art that manages to encourage the non-superficial exploration of feeling, including the feeling of pleasure, is helpful to the body politic. There is so much unhappiness out there, witness our vast dependency on prescribed medication, alcohol, and drugs. If more people could learn how to get to their feelings and how to enjoy things, really find pleasure in them, it would have a political effect. So a political poem need not be the same thing as a placard. It can be much more subtle than that.

OE: Name several younger poets whose work you admire. What trends do you like and dislike in newer work you see?

AC: If you will allow it, I’ll do something mischievous. But also something fair and just! There is so much emphasis in our culture on novelty, on youth, who the new kid on the block is. With the result that very little attention is paid toward the seasoned veteran in the art. There are dozens of first-book prizes, but no seventh-book or tenth- book prizes. Think about the logistics. If someone has been working seriously for thirty or forty years, are they not more likely to have produced work that is more worthwhile than someone who’s been at it for three or four years? And yet the excitement always converges on the youngster. If you’ve been on the scene as long as I have, you’ve seen so many new kids on the block flare like a firework into temporary fame and then in five year’s time vanish, never to be spoken of again. So instead I’d like to mention the work of older poets you might not be familiar with: Marie Ponsot, Edward Field, Grace Schulman, John Matthias, Marilyn Hacker, Sam Hamill, Gary Soto, Marilyn Nelson and Doug Anderson. In the UK, Anne Stevenson, Danny Abse, Mimi Khalvati, Bernard O’Donoghue, Sean O’Brien, Don Paterson, Penelope Shuttle, Maurice Riordan, Gregory Wood, and David Constantine.

Now I’m feeling guilty, so I will name two first-book poets in the two countries whose poetry I’m familiar with. In the US, Lauren K. Alleyne and Will Schutt. In the UK, James Byrne and Sandeep Parmar. Am I off the hook?

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A Review of Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked + The Divine

Wicked + Divine

A Review of Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked + The Divine

By Tini Howard

The Wicked + The Divine, written by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Jamie McKelvie, has a lofty title. Convinced the phrase originated from Dante or Milton or maybe even Shakespeare, I googled it. What came back instead were just two things: the comic itself and a highly metaphysical hip-hop group that seems like it’s been defunct since 2011. Which is actually pretty fitting.

The comics I enjoy writing about for At the Margins and elsewhere aren’t solely selected for being my favorites. I choose them because there’s something literary about them, something universal in appeal. In the same way that many of our favorite speculative novels cross the line between literature and spec fiction, the comics I recommend are every bit as honest and mind-blowing as the literature we can’t put down.

A current comic’s run is everything we love about reading and TV combined – both an intense story, with its effects unburdened by budget and heightened by professional art, and all of the breath-baiting wonder of waiting for next week’s episode. Like great TV, only better.

WicDiv, as fans are calling it, is produced by dreamteam Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie (Phonogram, Marvel’s Young Avengers). The concept itself is engaging, beautiful commentary – what if some of humanity’s gods incarnated every ninety years as pop culture stars, incandescent and inspiring and dressed to the sacred nines. (Ninety years prior, their past incarnation occured during the Jazz Age. Lurhmann’s Gatsby, anyone?)

With Kanye West declaring “I am a God” and Lady Gaga making appearances in a seashell bikini as Venus, it’s perfect speculative writing – the one more step feeling that takes a metaphor, makes it a literal reality, and forces everyone to handle the consequences. The book is beautiful, and prior to reading I was concerned the story would fall apart in lieu of high-concept visual references and music in-jokes. Totally eating that fear now.

At the center of the story we have Laura (whose name, word-of-God confirmed by open-book writer Gillen, is inspired by the Bat for Lashes song of the same name). Laura is a young girl from London who follows the fandom of the Gods, a collection of pop stars who each claim to be incarnations from various mythologies. The midpoint of the first issue is a scene that cleverly puts to bed any fears of the reader – the obvious callouts that these kids have just spent too much time taking Buzzfeed quizzes – isn’t playing dress up as a bunch of gods a bit problematic?

Everyone just wants to be special, Wicked + Divine asserts. And then maybe one day you find out you really are.

There is more to the story here, however. And not one that the gods control. Much like its suspected inspiration, Neil Gaiman’s classic graphic novel, Sandman, the narrative seems to be shaping up as one about the myriad ways being real can be ruined for otherwise immortal beings. With just two years of life for every ninety spent in waiting, it appears the Devil is being framed for one of the few crimes she didn’t commit. Now she faces spending it locked up, without so much as a place to press the creases back into her Thin White Duke suit.

Some of the most passionate and clever writers of our time are writing comic books, and The Wicked + The Divine is one I’d count among them. Gillen himself is a great writer for any process junkies to follow – he kindly recounts his inspirations for the curious in everything from writer’s notes on his Tumblr account to WicDiv-inspired playlists on Spotify.

While the book has a few flaws (Sakhmet is almost distractingly a Rihanna clone, for example, and Laura’s involvement seems a bit unclear as of yet), Issue One is nearly a perfect opener to a bright new world that Gillen and McKelvie have created. It seems God is a DJ after all.

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, The Wicked + The Divine, Issue One. Image Comics, 2014: Print: $3.50, digital, $2.99.

***

TINI HOWARD writes about comics when she’s not actually writing comics. A winner of the Top Cow Comics 2013 Talent Hunt, her work is forthcoming from Image/Top Cow this November. Talk comics with her all day on Twitter @tinihoward.

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Everyone is Guilty of Something

The Divide promo

Damon Gupton (Adam Page), Marin Ireland (Christine Rosa), Paul Schneider (Clark Rylance), and Nia Long (Billie Page) star in The Divide, premiering Wednesday, July 16, on WE tv.

Everyone is Guilty of Something

By John Unger Zussman

Stories are transformative. They have the power to change our minds and open our hearts, to help us experience the world through other eyes and walk a mile in other shoes. For example, I would argue that stories, as much as any political action, boosted popular support for LGBT equality and led to legalization of gay marriage in 19 states and counting. Living season after season with sympathetic gay characters in Will & Grace and Modern Family, or watching two men fall hopelessly in love in Brokeback Mountain, taught mainstream Americans what decades of argument and invective couldn’t—that gay people are just people.

That’s why I’m excited about a new TV drama that premieres this week as WE tv’s first scripted original series. It’s called The Divide and it stars Marin Ireland as Christine Rosa, a third-year Philadelphia law student and caseworker with the Innocence Initiative, which, like the real-life Innocence Project on which it is modeled, uses DNA testing to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners. Christine unearths new evidence in the case of Jared Bankowski (Chris Bauer), a white convict awaiting imminent execution for the brutal murder of the African-American Butler family twelve years earlier. Christine pushes for a stay of execution and a DNA retest of Bankowski, and encounters resistance from her boss Clark Rylance (Paul Schneider), prosecutor Adam Page (Damon Gupton), and surprisingly from the convicted man himself. But her own family history with the criminal justice system inflames her passion, and she’s willing to break the rules to press on. “I don’t like it when the law gets manipulated by people who think they matter more than other people,” she tells Bankowski. “I hate their arrogance. I hate that they feel safe. I hate that they feel entitled to feel safe. I want to make them sweat, even if they win. Don’t you?”

If the stars sound unfamiliar, don’t worry. The acting is excellent, led by Ireland’s understated intensity; she served an internship with the Innocence Project after she was cast. Production values are solid and the show’s pedigree is sterling. The Divide is the brainchild of actor/director/producer Tony Goldwyn (you might know him as President Fitzgerald Grant on ABC’s Scandal) and producer Andrew Sugerman, who collaborated in 2010 on the feature film Conviction. That movie starred Hillary Swank in the true story of Betty Anne Waters, a working-class mom who obtained her GED and put herself through college and law school to free her falsely convicted brother from prison. (Full disclosure: Sugerman is a friend and colleague.)

Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, served as an advisor to Conviction and was portrayed in it. When Scheck spoke at the movie’s Hollywood premiere, he introduced nine of the now 316 wrongfully convicted prisoners (18 of them on death row) who have been freed due to the organization’s work. Goldwyn became an active supporter of the Project and co-chairs its Artists’ Committee. “Every single story is inherently, extraordinarily dramatic,” he told Sugerman, and he agreed, “There’s got to be a TV series here.”

He was right—in spades. I have a few quibbles after viewing the first hour of The Divide, such as the inelegant way Adam, the prosecutor, reveals an important secret. But pilot episodes are notoriously difficult—trust me, I recently wrote one—because they have to introduce the characters and explain the essential backstory while simultaneously telling the show’s first story. The Divide is eminently successful in drawing us in and making us care. More importantly, it has great potential to take us inside a world we haven’t seen.

I’ve had my own encounter with the criminal justice system in the last few years, helping an incarcerated relative appeal a conviction based on misinterpreted scientific evidence, so I’ve seen a bit of how it works from the inside. Most of our stories about the justice system portray prosecutors, judges, and cops as the Good Guys. And many of them are—but they’re good in a complex way. Even in the stories where these characters are corrupt, it’s not the same as showing us the system’s inherent bias against defendants.

The Divide doesn’t shy away from portraying the system’s complexity or fragility. In the first hour, Adam gets almost as much screen time as Christine. He made his reputation by convicting Bankowski in the first place, and we see the pressures on him to win, to appease his African-American supporters, and to achieve “justice” for the murdered family’s one surviving member, no matter the cost. The show is perched on this gray area of moral ambiguity.

Most of us keep the criminal justice system at a distance, on the expectation that if we haven’t done anything wrong, we have nothing to fear. But when hundreds—or more likely thousands—of people can be accused, tried, convicted, and imprisoned for crimes they demonstrably did not commit, no one is safe. After all, as the show’s tag line says, everyone is guilty of something.

There’s a rich trove to mine here—of morality, ambition, ethics, politics, and race. I hope that, over its eight-episode season, The Divide will take us deep into this world. If it does, it will be not just a good TV show but a transformative story, changing the way we think and feel about the complex, inexact, and very human matter of crime and punishment. The criminal justice system affects us all, and we need to do more than just avoid jury duty and vote for the candidate who promises us law and order.

The Divide premieres Wednesday, July 17, with a two-hour episode on WE tv. (Check cable and satellite listings.) Until then, the first hour is available on demand as well as on Roku and wetv.com.

Cross-posted in my “Power of Story” series on LinkedIn.

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RACHEL MENNIES

alisonsteve02327c

By Rachel Mennies:


AMIDAH FOR TEENAGE GIRLS

We said it Friday nights in unison: blessed
is Abraham, Isaac, patriarchs whose weight
we felt against our chests, Jacob, whose brother

filled his mouth with the sand of hate,
who split sisters with his body
of patience. The God of History, reads

the Siddur, nothing more dangerous
than this sort of God. Any good girl
will tell you so: ask Leah, who watched

as her betrothed tilled fields in agony,
rutted at her nightly, his pious bride, as he dreamed
for seven years of younger Rachel’s face. God,

our brute teacher. God, whom we thank
and thank for these big men. You are mighty forever,
my Lord. You resurrect the dead. My Lord, open

my lips, that my mouth may declare
Your praise.
Imagine the shock, that first boy
or man inside us for mere seconds, the tremor

of realization — some smaller God at our clavicle
thrumming in awareness. The creator of all things. And so
when I lie with him, my body already knows what to do

while he shifts his weight, moves his hips. You cause
the wind to blow and the rain to fall.
The hard ram’s horn,
the arms thrust high, parting a sea of salt. The open mouth

of incantation. O King, helper, savior and shield. And what of our
pleasure, that quiet subtext, that patient search against
our partners’ sweaty brows, near to finished? We already

know the phrase: bestow, bestow.


BUMPER CROP

Wet pink shock of a sliced-open
peach, pit hard between our teeth,
reached in a liquid, honest hurry.
Peach in the fingers of a certain lover’s hand.
Peach juice sliding down the wrist of a man
with assertive hungers. Peach, bringer
of rapture: the climax, but not
the fall. Peach sky rising up and up, free
of consequence. Impossible, but for
our chase of it. Peach in the crisper drawer,
softening. We hear stories of the pastor
and his book, so certain of fire, his biblical
calculus. Peach hot, sugared in an oven.
The mouth of red around the brain-
shaped, dumbstruck stone. Peach the very taste
of sin. Peach that sends the crows circling,
rapture here and gone. Peach God, rapt for carrion,
turning above us in the heavens, waiting for
us, ripening, to satisfy ourselves;
come to him pitted, come to him
finished, made rotten by
your sweet time in his sun.


“Amidah for Teenage Girls” was originally published in Witness, and “Bumper” was originally published in Linebreak. These poems appear in the collection The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards (Texas Tech University Press 2014) and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Rachel Mennies is the author of The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards, winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry (Texas Tech University Press, 2014), and the chapbook No Silence in the Fields (Blue Hour Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poet Lore, The Journal, and elsewhere, and have been reprinted at Poetry Daily. She teaches in the First-Year Writing Program at Carnegie Mellon University.

Editor’s Note: I really love today’s poems. Discretely and in conjunction. For the ways they press against the same themes, and for the ways they diverge. “Amidah for Teenage Girls” had me at “patriarchs whose weight / we felt against our chests,” and held me there, exalting, with “Jacob, whose brother // filled his mouth with the sand of hate, / who split sisters with his body / of patience.” Yes. Yes and yes. I could write pages about the first two stanzas of this poem alone. Instead, I urge you to read and reread it, to savor what stews and what simmers.

When I think of peaches and poems, I think of Li-Young Lee. And while “Bumper Crops” and “From Blossoms” each make their own unique contribution to the poetic landscape, I think Li-Young Lee would meditate along with Rachel Mennies on God and humanity, and that he would relish the poem’s sweet sensuality. As, I believe, would Anya Silver and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, whose “French Toast” and “Sufganiyot” would, along with Mennies’ peaches, make up a picnic that would give Fifty Shades of Grey a good blush.

Want to read more by Rachel Mennies?
Rachel Mennies – Official Website
Buy The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards from Texas Tech University Press
Buy The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards from Amazon
Poetry Daily
Sixth Finch

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A Review of Leah Umansky’s Don Dreams and I Dream

Don Dreams and I Dream

A Review of Leah Umansky’s Don Dreams and I Dream 

by Sarah Marcus

As a binge watcher of the television show Mad Men and as a feminist reading through a feminist lens, I was interested to discover the manner in which Leah Umansky would address the main character of this AMC drama, Don Draper, a mysterious and not so mysterious cheating-hero. Umansky accomplishes the difficult task of both honoring this fictional man and exposing his distorted idealism and chauvinism in her compelling work, Don Dreams and I Dream. To begin with the end, in her final poem, “The Times,” Umansky admits, “I thought I’d hate Don, like everyone else, but I don’t. I long/ for him the way kids long for the turning of the Ice Cream Man.” Umansky’s pining for Don is matched by her insight and mastery of language as she navigates the boundaries between a public and private sense of past and present and of intimacy and distance.

While these poems absolutely can and do stand alone without knowledge of the show, the experience of this chapbook of 15 poems is much enhanced by understanding the intricacies of each character and relationship. As I entered the world of poet-advertising, I was most struck by how, at first glance, these poems seem to be concerned with the past but are in fact very much about the future. These poems not only look forward, they often exist in a landscape of fearing things to come. In the TV show and in our current lives, there is an ever-present anxiety that what we do will eventually be considered irrelevant, and that we are, perhaps, living too much in this moment. Much of this work touches the very core of our search for worldly permanence.

Love, although not necessarily romantic, is a strong narrative thread tying together each poem in this collection. In these pages, the reader finds love of work, love of self, love as “an advertisement,” and love as “sold and bought.” While considering the many ways in which love is made visible or tangible, Umansky makes sure to remind the reader that they are not in charge here. For example, in the very first poem, “Simple Enough For a Woman,” as if the title was not enough of an affront, the reader is uncomfortably directed to “be happy.” Here, we are also enabled to consider the notion of value. These poems give life to the decision of who and what is valuable and asks us to determine how value is measured. The model of worth and of knowing what we are worth, and to whom, is the cornerstone, the key, to entering this world of consumerism.

To be your “own engineer” is the goal, and to be able to accomplish this, as seen in the poem, “Days of Sterling/ Days of Yore,” one must “[live] the dream” like Don. In the poem, “In My Next Life, I Want to Be an Ad Man,” we receive another bold direction: “Make me look good; the world is dangerous.” Appearances are of the highest import and looking good is always preferable to safety.

The world is dangerous, but these poems inhabit a world of what feels like distant danger, as if there is an awareness of impending doom, but there is inherent fun to be had within this instability. The dangers include not only the extravagant lifestyles (of women, booze, and parties), but also the rise of physical and emotional manufacturing: the steel machinery and the coolness of selling an idea. Near the end of this manuscript, there is even a poem titled, “Beauty is in the Machinery,” where Umansky writes, “It is easy to get turned or turned on,” as if chaos is necessary to vulnerability and the threat of losing yourself is not only worth the risk but is sexy and desired, even mandatory.

Generous wordplay and insistent internal rhyme contribute to a feeling that these poems are flirtatious and lighthearted despite their focus on identity and personal significance. The reader is reminded in poems like “It’s the Selling,” that “[we] want to be told” what to think, what to do, and how to feel. We are essentially being asked to buy these poems and these ideas.  And again, in the poem “How Advertising Works,” we are told to be bold and confident (forceful, even), to “be a stallion.” One cannot walk away from this chapbook without considering what they are selling and what they are being sold.

These poems reveal a meticulous planning and careful stepping, where everything feels on purpose and orchestrated. Perfectly arranged in the poem, “Creation without Design,” Umansky writes, “I want the color/ to repeat itself/ down your neck;/ So you remember/ that lipstick/ wasn’t made for you,/ but for me;/ So that I can remember/ what a man does/ to his woman.” A stunning image, but moreover a statement that a system is already set-up and composed. Something already existed and was done for you and in spite of you.

The manuscript’s final line, “It’s a man’s world, but not for all of us,” references the act of a young woman, one of Don’s protégées, rising in the advertising ranks and accepting a job with a competitor company. She is leaving the nest, so to speak. For her, and for a moment in our solidarity with her (we can taste the us), the world feels wide open and possible—but, it is a man’s world, and Don Draper is the man, and Umansky, like the show’s writers, never lets us forget that we are very much at his patriarchal mercy. This last line of Don Dreams and I Dream reasserts ownership of our delusion in thinking that things could, in fact, ever be different from how they have been. We are dared to want this, but as Leah Umansky cautions us in “Don Discovered America,” “wanting and having/ are two different things.”

Leah Umansky, Don Dreams and I Dream. Kattywompus Press, 2014: $12

 ***

Sarah Marcus is the author of BACKCOUNTRY (2013, Finishing Line Press) and Every Bird, To You (2013, Crisis Chronicles Press). She is also a Count Coordinator for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and an editor of Gazing Grain Press. Read more at sarahannmarcus.com.

 

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LAURA E. DAVIS

LEDavis-2014

By Laura E. Davis:


ATTITUDES TOWARD SEX

attitudestowardsex.small


THE BOYS ARE ALWAYS TALKING

about their cocks, naming
names—Rebecca, Elizabeth,
Ashley—we see these girls
all lined up, waiting to admire

the boys’ cocks. And the boys
talk about size of their cocks,
seven inches becomes ten, then
thirteen. They tell us how

they measured their cocks
after their first wet dream: they
woke up sweaty, quick-covered,
got their cocks hard again, pulled

out the ruler. Boys and cocks
everywhere. A boy shows his
cock to a girl on the playground.
Another boy watches girls from

a parked car while he touches
his cock. On the subway, boys
unzip their pants, put cocks
on display. Baby boys discover

their tiny cocks during every
diaper change. I didn’t see
my own clit was until I was
twenty-three. I had to hold

a mirror just to see it rise
like slow-motion stalagmite.
Had to hold back my own skin
just to show it to myself.



WOMAN AS HUMAN BEING

woman as human being.smaller


“Attitudes Toward Sex” was originally published in iARTistas. “The Boys Are Always Talking” was originally published in Muzzle. “Woman as Human Being” was originally published in Toad Journal. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.


Laura E. Davis is the author of Braiding the Storm (Finishing Line, 2012), founding editor of Weave Magazine, and founder of Submission Bombers. Her poems are featured or forthcoming in Toad, Stirring, Corium Magazine, So to Speak, Muzzle, and others. Laura teaches for Poetry Inside Out, a K-12 a bilingual poetry program in San Francisco, where she lives with her partner, Sal.

Editor’s Note: This week I had the honor of working with an artist to create an artistic response to the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. I have already written an editorial response to the ruling, but I wanted to speak out against this injustice in many ways, through many voices.

Today’s poems speak for womankind. They speak for our bodies, for our vantage point within a man’s world. When read together today, they are meant to be a shout from the rooftops. That no one exercises control over our bodies but ourselves. That we are human beings whose rights are superior to the rights of corporations. Yes, that we are human beings. Beautiful, complex, powerful human beings who are as capable of a battle cry as we are of “a vigorous and radiant sigh.”

Want to read more by Laura E. Davis?
Dear Outer Space – Laura E. Davis’ Blog
“Quiet Lightning” on Youtube
Buy Braiding the Storm from Finishing Line Press
“Relics” in Sundress
“Vessels” and “Red Storm” in The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review

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