31 August 2014

If there is no fire, it isn't a poem

                          By Sandra Simonds

August in South Georgia

Why do I drink so much gin? Has something to do
with the way the burn the trees down here on either
side of the highway. Man selling boiled peanuts,
man selling handmade canoes. If you know the south,
you know a good woman can only really get the blues
in the winter. Summer is meant for losing weight. No white
people are going to talk about race. The Goodwood Plantation
I drive by every day has no memory – all those baby
alligators and volunteer tour guides with their quaint anecdotes
that lodge in your throat like the demented sun.

21st Century Ars Poetica

If you touch this poem, it will turn to fire.
If you tough the fire, it will burn your finger.
If you burn your finger, you'll cry to your mama.
If you cry to your mama, your mama will die.
If your mama dies, you'll be an orphan.
If you're an orphan, God will give you a cupcake.
If God gives you a cupcake, you should probably eat it.
If you eat the cupcake, you'll want another.
If you eat another, you might get fat.
If you get fat, you can go on a diet.
If you diet too much, you'll become anorexic.
If you become anorexic, you'll get depressed.
If you get depressed, you can't fight oppression.
If you can't fight oppression, your poems have no meaning.
If your poems have no meaning, they can't burn your finger.
If they can't burn your finger, there is no fire.
If there is no fire, it isn't a poem.

From The American Poetry Review, September-October 2014.

17 August 2014

Meanwhile in Ein Karem the doves are coloured white

Typogram and translation by Ornan Rotem.  


by Rachel Shihor

                        I have spent my entire life at the Scottish Convent and I
have been musing over the convent in Ein Karem. Here we
heat water by shoving mouldy logs into an overhead stove
that takes up most of the space of the bathroom, and the
taps are narrow and they heat up in such a way that you
cannot touch them without slightly scalding yourself,
and the cloisters and narrow, and the cells are rectangular,
and in the dining room the carpet is frazzled and stained,
and the flowers are slightly withered, since they are not
drowned by the rays of sunlight that penetrate the room
obliquely as the day nears its end, and days turn to night
so quickly that the loss of light is barely noticeable, and the
dogs dribble, and the grape harvest is never satisfying, and
all the tools are rusty, and the main water valve has been
in want of repair for ages.
      Meanwhile in Ein Karem the doves are coloured white
and they are weightless, and the storks sojourn on the
pavilion roofs as they make their way south, and the smoke
coming out of the heating chimneys is bluish, with grey
only on the rum. And the pancakes are wafer thin, and
the prayer books are not stained, and Mother Superior
and her assistant wear fresh collars every morning, and
unhurriedly the evenings descend, and come to a close
when Sister Wanda, after putting her dolls to sleep, plays
short piano sonatas that extend over the whole valley and
then beyond, over the lowly hills finally reaching us.

This cloister-shaped typogram is balanced on the same letter,
the terminal n [the long red and black L-shapes] but given
the direction of the text, they end up being presented horizontally
and as a mirror image of one another.  The first n appears in Ein Karem,
the name of an ancient village near Jerusalem that is now a
neighborhood in the city.  Ein Karem means 'Spring of the Vineyard'. 
The other n is in lavan (white).

10 August 2014

The book we both will write forever

Father, Insect

                      by Nick Flynn

After her
bath, as a way to apologize for all

my imperfections, I remind my
daughter, You know, before you were

born, I was not

a father. She takes this in
silently, moving a tiny blue elephant across

the carpet. If you weren't a father, she
eventually asks, then what were you --

a bug? We'd been looking at picture
of cavemen, talking

about evolution, about where we
came from, about all those

who came before -- Are they us?
she asks. I

told her about the carbon in her
pencil, about hydrogen bonding

with oxygen, about bacteria with
only one thought in their tiny

heads -- she

used her finger to write it all out
in the air, creating each

word as I spoke it. When
did want become more

than hunger, when

did need become more
than shadow? Ecclesiastes warns

about the making

of books, of which there is no end,
this chain of meaning, this

offering -- the book we both will write
today into forever.  

From American Poetry Review, May/June 2014.