Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lo Kwa Mei-en, "Pinnochia, we loved you enough"

"Floating Away," by Andrew Hem

Pinnochia, we loved you enough
by Lo Kwa Mei-en

to dream up a simple boat that could, with confidence,
slice through a continent’s wet shelf for new gold and
other precious curio, and then we put you in it, dear
thing, but not before a real hand came down to carve

the map of worldly want into your brow, so you may
but look overboard, once lost, to know your place.
We will imagine you, unsinkable girl, stirring the seas
from Tsae to Tsew, and the sea sniffing at the cherry

notes of your bones, of the fresh wound of your head,
a daydream of something like blood as you row and
row for days. Pinnochia, you have been loved. Hard,
unsaying hips and tongue, you are indelible, we love

you that much. We dreamed a shark’s awl of a face
and mechanical thrust, dreamed the dream of you, half
-in, half-out his throat. So the hand came down kind
and sanded your breasts away for speed, for seconds

you, half-in, half-out of a devil, must cast your
-self away. Pinnochia, we could not bear to see you
destructed even in our sleep. Pinnochia, you will never
die. We bless you, living ghost of treasure, imagined

back into coffers wide enough for you to sleep in,
the half-sweet smell of you radiating from the walls.
There you will intuit all things done for a reason, so
you will do great things, we knew, as the hand came

down into your legs, making of two things one, brief
tableaus of hind light, spine, and blue, green, blue run
through the mind of the hand as he gave you the body
that could outrun the tides, and so we deliver you

into the oceanic womb, half-girl, new beast, and you will
go forth, reborn in the image of how we loved you: like
a bride, Pinnochia, like a thousand golden fish in the sea,
alive in the mouth of the coffer, the realest thing for days.

From Yearling (Alice James Books, 2015) / Originally published in Gulf Coast

Lo Kwa Mei-en is a Kundiman fellow and the author of two books of poetry, Yearling (Alice James Books, 2015) and The Bees Make Money in the Lion (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2016). She is from Singapore and Ohio, where she now lives and works in Cincinnati. You can also find her at

Monday, December 7, 2015

Becca J.R. Lachman, "Latest Letter"

"Barn Series: Pink Sky," Brenda Cirioni

Latest Letter
by Becca J.R. Lachman

p.s.—Corn’s shorter than usual this late into August.

p.s.—They’ve cut down the cedars along Nussbaum Rd.
Don’t know how many locals have missed that turn!

p.s.—We’re still refusing to get a stoplight.

p.s.—Your neighbor’s draft horses nearly drowned in quicksand.
Took six men and two tractors, but they’re fine.

p.s.—Your sister’s little ones sure are growing! How long
have you been married now?

p.s.—If only you could see the sun at dusk
turn the white barns pink. The best silent movie.

p.s.—Your parents got caught at the recycling center
(It was night, there were wine bottles.)

p.s.—Six couples at church celebrating their 50th’s. Now,
how long have you been married again?

p.s.—Remember how tar bubbles up on gravel roads? Well, we’re in the thick of it.

p.s.—That dead G.H owl in your daddy’s plum orchard?
 It’s next in line at the taxidermist.

p.s.—What meats are you making for your company
at dinner? We just can’t get enough
of your Grandma Ruth’s ham balls!

p.s.— Thanks for the note last week. What do you mean
by “tofu” and “kefir”?

p.s.—They’ve changed 606 to 118 in the blue Mennonite hymnal.
There have been letters to the editor.

p.s.—The Gazette’s weekly headline: “Pig Causes Traffic Accident.”

p.s.—Your parents said ‘no’ to buying the farm. 
(How long have you been married?)

p.s.—Hoods burned down the railway bridge 
and your Grandma butchered chickens
on the clothesline this morning.

p.s.—We’ve got lots of starts for you: coneflowers,
daffodils, creeping phlox. So you can
plant something there and it keeps coming back—
even if it’s in strange ground.

Becca J.R. Lachman grew up listening to U2 in Ohio's Amish country. A recovering creative writing degree collector, she's a grateful grad of the Otterbein, Ohio University, and Bennington College writing programs. Becca's published two poetry collections--Other Acreage (Gold Wake, 2015) and The Apple Speaks (Cascadia, 2012)--and won the 2004 Florence Kahn Memorial Award for her chapbook "Songs from the Springhouse." A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford (featuring Ted Kooser, Toi Derricotte, Robert Bly, Maxine Hong Kingston, and others) was her first major adventure in editing anthologies (Woodley:Washburn U, 2014). Becca’s recent work has received support from the Ohio Arts Council, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Art Gish Peacemaking Fund from the Appalachian Peace and Justice Network. She lives with her husband Michael in Athens, Ohio, where for over a decade she taught, tutored, and served as a writer/editor at Ohio U. She currently works for the Athens County public library system as its communications officer.

 [Image above by Brenda Cirioni]

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sleep Deprivation and Happiness

It's a little quiet around the site right now, because our home is in a glorious, sleep-deprived hubbub. Our son, Henson (named after one of my heroes, Jim Henson--my husband thought of his name!), was born on November 21.

Apart from fragments, images, and weepy little moments, there's been no time for poetry writing. (Duh.) I'm completely ok with this. Henson has been poetry enough for us!

I did want to share the poems of two poets who were kind enough to write a poem in honor of his arrival. I was so touched to read their lovely words. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!


by Darren C. Demaree
written to honor and welcome Henson Stephenson

A child becomes everywhere soon enough,

but now, with the connective tissue
still disappearing

& reappearing with each promise
& dedication,

the land pivots to quiet the folktales for one hour only.

So many plays & rehearsals have come to place

their faces against the
wooden grain
of our common stage

& like the light that is still caught
in shut eyelids,

Ohio swivels
for you, delicate boy

& that is an invitation to grow, to become wild with your beauty.


by Albert B. Casuga
(For the New-Born Son of Marcus and Hannah Stephenson)

However fearful or fearsome
You will find this hoary place
Wreaked by temblors, fiery blazes,
Cloying floods, endless disasters,
Wars, deceits, wounding betrayals,
This is still the right place for love.
Truly a unique place, the only place
For Love. Welcome to the planet, Son.

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Project Faultless," by Jason Gray

To close out the week, a fantastic video poem by Jason Gray. Jason's poems are wonderful (here's a great one, "Your Art History"), and he's also a talented photographer.


Hope your weekend is wonderful, friends. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tsk, Task

"Haywire," by David Asch

I’ve written before on this blog about the dangers of being overly task-oriented (a mindset I have often fallen prey to), especially when it comes to creativity and writing.

Parenthood is very imminent for us…our little guy will be arriving any day now. It’s amazing how much I’ve been forced, already, to let go of the need for control (which maybe is an illusion, anyway). I know that this is one of the great lessons that I’ll be learning, for which I’m greatly appreciative.

I no longer feel the compulsion to write and post every weekday. I still feel compelled to write, and definitely view the world from the perspective of an artist and writer. But my writing practice has indeed undergone some changes coinciding with pregnancy. I don’t sit down with the express purpose to write poems every day—for many years, I did do this. I remember just wanting to generate work all the time, to create space in my day to validate feeling like an artist.

Now, it feels like the urge to write has deepened and taken an inward turn. I already make plenty of space in my life for art and writing—now I want to think more deliberately about what I’m saying with my art. The time and repetition elements of my practice have receded in importance, for me…it’s been thoroughly absorbed into my psyche that I look at things and naturally have a response, that I want to create words where before there was silence or nebulous thought.

A daily, chosen, once-cherished practice can easily become a task. Tasks feel externally-imposed; after all, the word shares linguistic roots with “tax” (as in a duty that must be performed).

Creating a task list can feel really good. Write the actions you are ordering yourself to complete, and when you do them, you get a little thrill from having controlled the future.

Creativity needn’t be so neat, so full of (false) mastery. Little by little, I’m forced to confront the tasks I give myself, as both a creative person and a human, and question their value. While I know that making space for writing will remain important in my life once our son is here, I also know that he is a wonderfully enigmatic variable. Will he sleep? Will he eat? Will he poop at inopportune moments? Yes, all of the above. And my husband and I don’t really get a say in this.

I guess what it comes down to is this: I don’t want daily life to become full of “tasks” to check off. Rather, I welcome the incoming chaos and unpredictability and frustration and joy and even boredom. And I hope my art can reflect this.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

"Books," by Jeff Robinson

Currently reading and enjoying:

-Cup, by Jeredith Merrin. I was fortunate to have Jeredith as my advisor in graduate school--she was (and is) so reassuring, kind, and wise! She's a wonderful poet and person. Although she doesn't live in Ohio anymore, she came back to read last week, and I got to hear some of her beautiful poems from this book live. I've been loving these poems...

-This lovely, glimmering poem by Tasha Cotter up at Verse Daily, "Arrowhead."

-This absolutely necessary article in the Los Angeles Review of Books, "Diversity is Magic: A Roundtable on Children's Literature and Speculative Fiction" (a panel led by Rochelle Spencer). The panelists discuss speculative fiction and race, and the (untapped) potential of the genre to bring about social change. Discussions like this are so important to the future of literature (and what our children get to read and imagine!).

How about you, friends? Whatcha reading?

Thursday, November 12, 2015


from "Folding Chairs," 2015, by Ashley Mistriel


Oh ye of the reaching tentacle
Do not despair

I know it feels like you are flailing
but all your appendages are attached
to your body

and under you there is a chair
or floor or dirt

and under all of that a fairly solid place
to which we both belong

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ina Steinhusen's Sweeping Views

Ahhhh....serene landscapes (and seascapes, and spacescapes) by painter and photographer Ina Steinhusen. These are places in which to gaze and bask in the beauty.


"Just another moon..."

"o.T. (fog 1)"

See more of her work here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Recent Earworm: "Lost Verses," Sun Kil Moon

A perfect autumn song, courtesy of Sun Kil Moon.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Everything Wooden Remembers

"Kind Man,"

Everything Wooden Remembers

Everything wooden remembers its life as a tree
Even a little Even a vague memory of bright light
tingling in the body and water meeting leaves
over and over A wet handshake In my life as a
human I can choose to be sad about this or
I can honor what was forced into transforming
and see that the force we exert over our surroundings
is another form of erosion Even a soft touch can
cull surviving material from history around it
I wish to honor every stump and splinter To see
the bright sun that the branches of my house
once held

[Image above by ]

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying:

"Ballerina," by Morton Bartlett

-This article by Priscilla Frank (at Huffington Post) about Morton Bartlett. Bartlett was a graphic designer/photographer who also devoted years to an odd passion: creating and photographing dolls.

-This piece in The Wall Street Journal by Maira Kalman, about how she spends a typical week. I just adore her…

-“Who Will Greet You at Home,” a bizarre but lovely short story in The New Yorker, by Lesley Nneka Arimah. A brief snippet: “[E]verybody knew how risky it was to make a child out of hair, infused with the identity of the person who had shed it. But a child of many hairs? Forbidden.”

-The trailer for Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman’s new movie (it’s stop motion animation!). Can’t wait for this…

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Claudia Cortese, "The Red Essay" and "Twine Essay"

by Daniel Egnéus

The Red Essay

1)   Setting: The barn. Sometimes, I can’t remember if there were stars, fall air clear or smoky,        
      the shape of the moon’s face.

2)   I read Perrault’s moral to my students: Attractive, well-bred young ladies should never talk to
      strangers, for if they should, they may well provide dinner for the wolf.

4)   Afterward, Bill died, and I was glad. Afterward, he sang Meatloaf to me and I held him and  

1.5) Other times, I can see the barn door wide open, grass below soaked in starlight. I could have

        screamed or clawed. I dreamt saltwater
        taffy, sister’s sticky kiss, how we kicked
        pigeons with our skirts over our heads.

        I worried that he’d feel rejected.

3)   I said, Let’s go back to the house. I’m cold. Please. Bill whispered, It won’t take long. I won’t go   
      in all the way. We negotiated. What do you name that?

6)   Angela Carter writes, The wolf is carnivore incarnate, and he’s as cunning as he is ferocious . . .  
      If a wolf’s eyes reflect only moonlight, then they gleam a cold and unnatural green, a mineral,
      piercing color. If the benighted traveler spots those luminous, terrible sequins stitched         
      suddenly on the black thickets, then he knows he must run.

2.5) After I read the Perrault quote, a female student says, When a slut at a party gets drunk, it’s
       different than being attacked in a park. The class murmurs in agreement.

5)   I didn’t compare myself to women choked and beaten,
      cut from the night and left to pavement.

                                                                 To compare, one must have a basis for comparison—
                                                                 to know the common denominator.

7)   I bought a stack of poetry books at AWP. A wolf stalks speaker after speaker. Sometimes he
      hunts her, his spittle gleams like a knife. Other times, he awakens her animal body they grow
      tufted and furred they sniff and paw and wild and oh it’s so good to be beastly be free.

8)   If we say he is evil dress him in fangs and lice tell our daughters don’t stray from the path carry  
      mace and listen beyond heel clicks hold your keys like a weapon don’t enter the empty lot if we   
      tell ourselves we can keep him out by staying at the hearthside lanterns burning like yellow eyes
      in each window if we blame beer and red laughter how she glittered his way the look that
      invited him in then we can say: it cannot happen to me, I can’t be a victim, and I am never the  

(Previously published in Mid-American Review)

Twine Essay

7)   In 1991, the world burst
      open—a bright umbrella    

      of mall dates and bike rides and
      I promised my sister Natalie, I’ll trampoline you

      if you swingset me and whee!
      swished through summer,

      left one girlhood and entered another—
      red lip-prints on mirrors, became

      girl heroes, wasp queens.
      We blushed ourselves clean, rose

      to our cool thrones.

8)    Setting: my sister’s basement bedroom.

1)   According to Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Snow White is an angel in the house of 
      myth—the heroine of a life with no story, while the Queen is a schemer . . .  an artist—

2)   a witch who declares,

      I’m the hand tearing the girl’s pinafore—
      glistering vowel, ruby in the tree: dusk’s red teeth.

      I’ll stick a needle through each eye, cut a square in my skull
      to let the daemon out. Like spider’s eggs, White’s specters

      will hatch on my tongue.

9)   We dolled our faces—
       wanted our pores to close like mouths.
       We loved any bridge over water,
       any wreath marking the highway median.

10) Nat and I would creak the door open after mom
      had fallen asleep, circle the street—in love with the dark

       that rasped us both. Like braided beanstalks, we’d watch
       Headbanger’s Ball, share a tub of cookie dough, eat our weight in Nestlé.

       A boy once pointed to Nat, said, Mommy, that girl has bee stings
       covering her face, and I wanted to build us a moat, wall away his stare.

3)   Before Snow is born, her mother spends her days
      at the open window, watching yellow eyes

      glow from the forest, the kingdom’s crash
      of color and venders. She wraps

      a shawl around her shoulders,
      breathes horse dung and honeysuckle,

      then motherhood replaces her bustling world
      with a mirror.

5)    The claim that amazes me most: Snow White is not the daughter. The Queen wants to kill
       the Snow White in herself.

4)   Narcissism: to close the window gaze in water broken sun the hung curtain shards of white skin.

11) Natalie showed me the Ouija
      she bought at Toys R’ Us.
      We palmed the pointer. Ghost girls
      told us they slept in snow castles,
      stuck to each other like cobwebs,
      and death is all gauze and orgasm.
      We planned our suicides,
      slept in Pop Tart comas.

6)   In other words, mother, Queen, and White are one—

      part glass girl and beauty
             queen, terror
                         show and kindly mother—

       when the witch offers White the poison apple, they eat it together.

13) Nat began to stair-master away, shrinking
      to a bone-shack, and I built my cellulite castle and prayed
      we’d come unbraided.

12) When Nat and I heard garlic pop in the pan, we knew mom had begun the daily feast. Our table       disappeared beneath basil-flecked mozzarella, spaghetti and pomodoro, three loaves of bread.   
      We watched dad demand mom bring the salt, pepper, the San Pellegrino as he told her,     
      you wouldn’t understand you never listen don’t interrupt me,
      which meant—you’re stupid you’re stupid you’re stupid
      and we angels didn’t say anything.

14) I didn’t know how to say—
      to be twined so tightly you know

      if one dies, you both will—the horror
      —my sister’s body.

15) What does it mean to be monstrous?

16) Mom insisted we teeth
      the skin from a butternut truffle,
      she watched its center dissolve

      on our tongues.
      She fluttered from dust mop to cleanser, 
      any task to keep

      hunger away, though at the time
      I thought she just liked 
      a clean kitchen.

(Previously published in Black Warrior Review)
(Image above by Daniel Egnéus

Claudia Cortese’s first full-length book, Wasp Queen, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2016. Cortese is also the author of two chapbooks: Blood Medals (Thrush Poetry Press, 2015), a collection of prose poems, and The Red Essay and Other Histories (Horse Less Press, 2015), a book of lyric essays. Her poems and essays have appeared in Best New Poets 2011, Blackbird, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Kenyon Review, and Sixth Finch, among others. The daughter of Neapolitan immigrants, Cortese grew up in Ohio and now lives in New Jersey, where she teaches at Montclair State University.