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Adrienne Raphel: “Confession”

I wrote “Confession” in the winter, recently after I had moved from Iowa City to Cambridge, MA. I’d moved from a rambling attic apartment with secret unfinished rooms to a partially furnished attic studio with a shared bathroom down the hall. My writing space was the floor. The convent of San Marco in Florence, Italy contains small, individual cells, like a beehive, that monks would use for devotion. Each cell is bare save for a simple fresco by the early Renaissance master Fra Angelico. My room in Cambridge hardly had a monastic aesthetic; books and clothes were piled in geological strata. Every so often, I would find a bee feebly circling around the lampshade, or a couple of dead bees in the windowsill. “Confession” came to me after receiving a phone call very early in the morning from a friend whom I hadn’t spoken with in months. I don’t know why she chose that morning. She was in a difficult relationship, unhappy, isolated, yet surrounded by a city; I was feeling adrift and lonely, uncertain …

Broc Rossell: “It becomes necessary to live”

This poem came out of a few different impulses…at the time I wrote it I was reading Levinas and Maurice Merleau-Ponty: thinking about the ways in which responsibility and love are inextricable and limitless, and how the only way the external world doesn’t completely overwhelm me is by virtue of the fact that I can ingest it with my eyes. There’s also a strong elegiac streak in here. I lost my best friend when I was twenty, and while that is literally half a lifetime ago today, I don’t think those losses ever leave… I wrote him a number of short poems describing the ways my life was now different than it was, like being able to pay rent (when I last saw him we lived in his car), and one of those short poems made it in here. Visually, the central image of the yellow dress is a portmanteau of a few lines from an album he and I used to listen to. In the end, however, I’m not sure if the poem is more weft …

Callie Siskel: “Mother-of-Pearl”

I wrote “Mother-of-Pearl” in a class in which the only assignments were elegies, persona poems, and lullabies. It was then that I began associating with one another the ideas of loss, façade, and night. Of course, the “lull” in lullaby means to make someone feel deceptively secure—to cover up the longing, grief, and fear that tends to surface just before we go to sleep. There are the lullabies we sing to ourselves and the ones we sing to others. For the speaker of “Mother-of-Pearl,” there is no distinction. Her lullaby is not a song, but a ritual of silence. She wordlessly lulls herself and others not only by concealing her grief, but also by turning her lies into pearls. I wanted her body to enact the lullaby, and so I gave her the power of mollusks. The nature of mollusks and pearls appealed to me for their concentric layers, which seemed apt as a metaphor for withholding. There are many poems in which mollusks and pearls feature prominently; two of my favorites include “Whelks,” by …

Kary Wayson: “In the dream you leave me”

  This poem tries to describe a recurring nightmare where I catch whoever I’m with — I mean with-with or partnered to — I catch that person in the act of physically betraying me — i.e. having sex with someone else. The worst part of this is that they don’t deny or try to hide it — whoever it is (and there have been many in this role) just looks at me with dead uncaring eyes while I wail or plead or otherwise exhibit grief. This poem holds pride of position as the last piece in my as-yet-unpublished second book.  

Winter & Spring 2015 (v.9/n.2) Now Available

Dear Readers: Our new issue is finally here. Though we have tested ourselves against the Keatsian principles of silence and slow time these past months, we think it’s worth the wait. The cover art alone (by Port Townsend artist Leslie Cox) is sublime. The issue also features beautiful new poetry-inspired illustrations by Seattle artist Jay Bryant (yes, that Jay Bryant–our former Art Director and still current contributing artist). He’s taken on the challenge of updating Edward Gorey, who appeared in our Spring 1964 issue. More about that on our blog in the weeks ahead. As for the poetry, look for new work by Elizabeth Austen (current Washington State Poet Laureate), Traci Brimhall, Rachel Kessler, Karen An-hwei Lee, Rose McLarney, Kary Wayson … and so many more. We took special care, with this issue, our first since founding editor Carolyn Kizer passed away, to find some of the most compelling women voices writing today. The issue honors Kizer’s vision and legacy in other ways, as well–with the aforementioned visual art and a substantial section of translation, featuring …