Friday, July 29, 2011

Audio: Unsummoned

For Multimedia Friday, I have audio of my poem, "Unsummoned." The image that inspired this poem is a photo I took at WWE's Summer Slam 2010 (yes, really). Wrestling is fascinating to me in terms of performance and identity--and I find it interesting that people so quickly dismiss it by saying, "You know it's not real, right?" While the wrestlers are indeed portraying characters and enacting scripted story lines, the movements of the wrestlers are completely real (and undeniably athletic). It's a bit like dance---choreographed and scripted, and requiring training and skill.

The word "wrestling" made it through to this poem, but otherwise, you won't see any fireworks or spandex or signs held up by the crowd. Hope you enjoy it!

Unsummoned by The Storialist

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound

Homeward, the word for a direction
you invent. You will see it

change during your life, the place
you return to every night

or congregate toward for occasions
and holidays, non-vacations.

Home fluctuates because half of it
depends on a physical space

and half depends on what is behind
our faces, how our brains

and dreams handle home. Have you
trudged your way up from

the deep end of sleep, and not known
which bedroom in which

home extended its hand to pull you
back to consciousness.

Which pieces of home have followed
you obediently, a dresser,

a bed, an earthenware pot you use to hold
spatulas and wooden spoons,

the same brown and white pot your folks
used in their first apartment

together, before you got here, to the world.
When you book a flight

to some home, do you screw up the airport
codes as I do, departure

and arrival batting home around between
them. Why do we return to

what we know. Do we uncover any anchors
or nets. Homeward bound,

the song goes, which means heading for home
or tied up in looking.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Singing Along

Singing Along

Recognition begets sound,
some closed-mouthed noise
mmmm, as if in agreement.
A person we re-encounter,
and we speak their name
to them or those around us,
I know her, that’s so-and-so,
An object we know and see
again, we name it, Do you
know what this is, we ask
others, not because we want
to know but because we
do know already, and must
repeat the truth to make it
seem useful. Yesterday,
in the movie theater, a man
sang along to the Cole Porter
song filling one scene:
And that’s why birds do it.
bees do it, even educated
fleas do it. He greeted
the song there in the dark,
singing quietly from behind
all our heads, s’s reaching
toward the screen, the music
a rope he was pulling in, with
some big memory on the other
end rolling out to be looked at.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Video: A Good Feeling

For today's video poem, I worked on something more minimal, visually. I'd been itching to mess around with music, so I created a score for this poem. Many times, I link the music I write for video poems to the visuals---here, I wanted to connect it to what was happening in the poem.

If you listen carefully, you can hear me flipping through a book (it's this book, actually!). Reading makes for good percussion, apparently.

I hope you enjoy it, and thank you, again, for all the thoughtful messages and comments this week.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

After After

After After

After after, there is
always more, another
after and another
sewn together, leaving
like the train trailing
behind the bride’s
wedding gown and
dragging across carpet,
then tile, pavement,
and grass and eventually,
car upholstery.
Childhood trains us
to expect the great ocean
of time around us,
endless, and always more
of it rolling in and away.
A couple of decades
in, and we know scarcity,
know that birthdays
grow stronger and faster,
are tireless sprinters
who find us and lap us.
There will always be
another and a next
and an after, even if we
are unable to know about it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Not Least

Not Least

The last thing we list,
we don’t want to hurt
it, all alone back there,
aware of how it signals
an ending. Last but
not least, certainly not
least, implying that
this is a position of
significance. We gild
the caboose, set rubies
into exit signs. We love
you, extremities and
ends. Last can mean
best, the headliner,
a final effort flung up
to explode, that box
of yet-uncombusted
fireworks begging
for destruction at the
end of the show. Not
least, not in the least.
Specifically chosen
for the power they
bring to the succession
of what comes before
them. Where should
we stop building, or
talking, or thinking.
What will we find
to stop us. How do
we repay it when
we see it in action.

The Storialist Turns Three

Three years ago, I started The Storialist. Since then, I've been posting poems (and multimedia experiments!) every weekday. Here's The Storialist on July 20 in:

You probably know by now that I am rather sentimental. For today's Storialist-linked artist, I revisited an early muse.

I feel so lucky that you are reading this--more than ever, I'm so appreciative of my readers, the artists and writers I've met here (look at my updated blogroll to see some of their work!), my friends, my family. Thank you to everyone in my daily life who asks about my writing or reads my work or encourages me (especially you, oh husband o'mine!).

To anyone who is considering writing or making art: Yes. Start right now.
To anyone who is creative and shares what they make with the world: Yes. More, please!

Thank you. Yes, you. You inspire me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Good Feeling

A Good Feeling

I have a good feeling about it,
I say, or, I don’t have a good
feeling about it. Not a conscience,

or a charm. More like a faulty
pilot light, warmth or a sudden
draft, no good feeling there.

Who knows if my antilogic
knows anything, steering me
into one apartment over another,

pulling unwise honesty or silence
from me like a magician’s string
of handkerchiefs. Decisions

from such small reassurance,
a flame surfacing or hibernating,
a whole person consulting some

tiny, fiery impulse, a glimpse
of the satisfaction to follow
should we properly recognize

the feeling. Pleasure. Pride.
Inserting definite articles into
our plans for narration, the

right move, the perfect time,
the best option. I told me so,
we long to say to ourselves,

testing small mouthfuls of how
the future could look to see
if we should drink it down.

Monday, July 18, 2011



The wallpaper at the laundromat
is printed with the tropics: palms,
canoes, teal green sea. Farther

back, rickety bungalows where
the locals live, the ocean there
for them so generously it makes

us visitors stare and sigh. Tahiti
or Florida, again and again around
the room. Below, the white machines

groan and gargle. Peach walls,
peach and green linoleum creased
like skin when tight clothes are

taken off, the body marked where
it meets strap and snap and seam.
Flesh remembers. Clothes forget

when we wash them. The laundromat
lets us handle our underthings together
without shame. It’s a matter of context.

The clothes are not touching us
in the intimate way that they do
usually. On the back wall, a poster,

Telluride Gallery printed large
at the top, and under that, a mountain,
and under that, another mountain,

and then a pond. Under the water,
rocks, painted with specificity,
each perfectly visible if you look.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Audio: Cymbalism

Summer sounds different than winter--wouldn't you agree? I think about the sounds of my neighborhood all the time right now, so it seemed fitting to record this poem, "Cymbalism." Everyone has their windows open, so when I walk by, I catch little noises that give me clues about what they are doing.

The sounds in this poem are based on real life sounds. The white dog down the street is real, too--I used to see him when I was driving home from work, right when I turned onto my street...he looked/looks so overwhelmingly to run into the grass. In my mind, I imagined him cheering, "Hey, the lawn! It's still here! HURRAY! And the street!! Right here!"

You can hear "Cymbalism" here.

I've been thinking about sounds, music, and silence a lot lately. What sounds have worked their way into your daily life and rituals? How about into your creative work?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Momentary Memory

Momentary Memory

We possess momentary memory,
memory with an expiration date,
but we can’t always remember
how to activate it. We use it
when checking into hotels,
holding onto the number of
of our room for a week, ten days,
1341, written in black marker
on a white sleeve by the girl
behind the desk in the lobby,
shiny countertops and plants
in terracotta pots. 1341, coded
temporarily into the keycard.
When we return to the room
late in the evening of the first
or second night, we remember
which room is ours by picturing
the number in her handwriting,
the ones capped by little pennants,
sailboat for a four. Ten minutes
after we check out, the number
is gone. We give it up without
a fight. Names of interviewers
who have spoken to us about jobs
we were never hired for. License
plate numbers from states that
we used to reside in. Recipes
for cakes we baked twice in
five years. We let these trinkets
go, feel no loss within us
when they are gone. We never
go looking for them, as we do
those things we refuse to let
evaporate. We miss the thing,
and our clear memory of it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Search Engine

Search Engine

The water wheel of the internet turns
under the weight of the names we pour
into it. Google is a cauldron. We call
to those individuals and things we want
to locate, shouting their names with
our fingers. Search engines point out
to us the many spots in which the truth
hides and exists. All this looking makes
us a forgetful people, and we take it out
on how we talk. I try to carefully address
a whole mess of recipients, concealing
their names from each other, and screw
it up, a wall of atmarks and dot coms
weighing down the ceiling of the email.
I’ll be BCCing you next time, I reassure
them, copying who they are but keeping
them invisible. I’ll tighten the straps
on every attachment, grab onto each
wayward jaypeg and stray doc flapping
in the breeze of the internet. Wherefore
art the anchors in here, this placeless
place where a name is an address.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Diamonds Are

Diamonds Are

A diamond on one side
of an equals sign, infinity
on the other. Diamonds are
our fantasy of forever,
of the glittering permanence
that life seems to have
while we are submerged
in it. When we feel joy,
and pleasure, all we want
is to prolong it. Terrifying,
isn’t it, how susceptible
every piece of ourselves
is to annulment. The ends
of experiences flutter in
and out of our field of
vision, moths throwing
themselves toward
the blocked sky. We call
gemstones ageless because
they are very old, millions
of years stuffed into
their carbony veins.
If diamonds are forever,
or are not, we won’t
be around to know it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Video: Blogging Panel Part 2

A couple of months ago, I hosted a blogging panel here in Columbus as part of Paging Columbus (a literary arts event series). I'm happy to share with you the second part of this panel.

In this video, we discuss community and connection, strategies for making blogging seem less overwhelming, and branding. What are your ideas in these areas? How has blogging helped you connect with others? How do you fit blogging into your busy life? How have you approached branding?

Thanks again to the panelists: Melissa Starker, Bethia Woolf, Jim Ellison, Meghan Willis, Aaron Driggers, and Matt Kish.

Enjoy (and have a lovely weekend)!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Don’t put your money
where your mouth is,
on your lower face,
above the jaw and chin.
That’s gross. Money is
filthy, floppy bills
denatured by the oils
in our hands, grimy
coins jabbed into
pay phones and later
coughed out into our
pockets. Money is dirty
because we touch it
and exchange it.
We are warned, you
don’t know where
that’s been, in other
words, the unknown
is scary or could harm
us. People spend
money in horrible
places and ways.
Where there’s currency,
there is bacteria.
We fear that money
is exchanged in
disgusting circumstances,
and it is. When we
do not trust someone,
we will only accept
cash from them.
We can agree on
how much money
is worth, but when
we think of all the
people who have held
onto the bills and coins
now in our wallets
for an hour or a week
or for months, we squirm.
It won’t stay still.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011



We use the land to help us move,
to tell us how to return to a spot.
The mind bites down on pieces
of the world that appeal to it:
a bridge, steel cables holding
it in place like a hand made
of knitting needles, or one bench
in a park where there are dozens
of benches, remembered for
its proximity to the street
we need in order to walk home.
The elementary school that signals
we will be at the bus stop
in twelve minutes. The territory
belongs to us, we feel fondness
for its quirks. The yellow sign
with its black stick figure reeling
back in pain, warning of electric
shock. The upholstery shop,
a red and green striped wingback
in the window, facing the street
and extending its arms to all
who pass by. Choosing where
to turn and where to wait
is easier if we let the land help.
We can keep landmarks private,
or share them. Imagine how much
scribbling this planet would have
on it if we knew how everyone
steered themselves through it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tractor Beam

Tractor Beam

The bulb and the moth,
the window it flew through.

The evening sky outside
the house, wrapping its arms

around the shoulders of
our planet, the tall trees,

the skylines. Beyond this,
a place of darkness and fire,

unnavigable because we
cannot think of a way

to get there, an alternate
method of breath, survival.

We see lights, and insist
we are being called there,

the brightness is meant
for us. Some decisions

feel like tractor beams,
harnesses holding us

and dragging us toward
them, we are so small

and helpless. The dark
infinity out there, and

the small radiance in
here, what is beckoning

and just where do we
think we are going.

Friday, July 1, 2011

New Process Video: A Brain, a Heart, a Home, the Nerve

I have a new process video for you today! I received some very good feedback on my first process video (for the poem "Dissonance"), and thought I'd try again.

Just like the first time, I already knew I wanted to work with images by Tim Gough (I took a long time perusing his portfolio---there was one with a lion that I almost used, but went back to the first picture that had grabbed me). The image reminded me of a cave painting....a yeti and an aquaman warming their hands around a fire, perhaps.

I started thinking about fires, and that was my way into this poem. I changed the opening of this poem several times, as you'll see....I didn't know how far to go with the Oz stuff. An idea I keep circling back to is the concept of our needs being what we seek/bring to the world (not unlike in The Wizard of Oz...those characters are obsessed with attaining certain attributes from an external source, but because of their fixation, they are already armed with those strengths). And that warning that the Wizard shouts out: "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" I am always interested in how things work, so I would pay TONS of attention to the man behind the curtain.

Process Video 2: A Brain, a Heart, a Home, the Nerve (poem) from Hannah Stephenson on Vimeo.

Are there ideas you notice yourself circling around recently/always? Heard any inspiring music lately? This week I have been blissing out to Gayngs and Sigur Ros (an article about this to follow!). Hope you like this Being John Malkovich (well, Being Hannah Stephenson)-esque video. As always, thank you so much for reading, and for all the thought-provoking comments this week.
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