Denise R. Weuve

Ink Damage and Other Permanent Stains

Archive for the category “poet”

Day 22 ~ Jericho Brown

Have you read New Testament?  No?!?  Well today’s Poet Spotlight was going to feature Jericho Brown, I was going to explain how he was a student of Claudia Rankine, and she recommended I read him.  How I am grateful she did, and I was going to praise him.  Then this morning after I wrote the praise and  lead you to the poems “Elegy”  and “Heart Condition” this was in my newsfeed from poetry foundation.  Read this instead, The Contract so much better than anything I could have said and you will fall in love with Jericho because of his love for poetry that will make you jealous that you have never said any of this to poetry, when it has done so much for you.  You can also read the aforementioned poems, because you will need more.

Or watch him here.

Day 16 & 17 ~ John F Buckley and Martin Ott

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Writing poetry is a solitary job, unless you are one of the 3 pairs of writers I will be spotlighting this weekend. Somehow these writers have learned to collaborate and allow their work to be inspiring and inspired by each other. I admire that, as a person that locks herself all alone in the world to write anything at all.

Today I begin the pair spotlight with John F Buckley and Martin Ott. These two writers work so well together that they have written two books together. That’s correct two books in six years of collaboration. Their first Poets’ Guide to America (2012) and their latest, Yankee Broadcast Network (2014). What I love about their latest book is it takes a look at society (and the writers, individually) and television. If you were raised in the 70s or 80s TV informed your life, as it did mine. I remember rushing home from school to watch Dance Party USA and being glued to the tube for Saved by the Bell, even when they went to college. Life revolved around television while parents worked, and outside was a bit too dangerous. These poets get that.

I highly suggest you pick up their latest book (which I see as a bargain, after all you are getting two poets for the price of one.) until that book finds it’s way to your home, here is a poem from each, which I asked them to pick for this spotlight. Enjoy!


John F. Buckley recently graduated from the MFA program at University of Michigan. He was a west coast man, for nearly 20 years but for now, is staying in Ann Arbor. We miss him on the west coast, but know how amazing he is doing.


The War on Drugs

Let’s agree to disagree about my righteous father
chopping down the finally mature pot plants
hidden so well in our grandmother’s backyard.

He wore his old Boston College windbreaker
and a handkerchief tied across his mouth
like a stagecoach bandit afraid of contact highs.

He dumped the plants at the curb for the trash men
and scrubbed his hands carefully with soap and water
and pontificated about disrespect and illegality

to the aunts and uncles gathered in Foxborough,
the Vegas smiler who was alleged to be a mean
drunk, at least when his brother-in-law was around,

the gourmet cook who execrated Ted Kennedy,
and the pharmacist with the endless prescriptions,
who explained family realities I couldn’t grasp,

while cousins complained about Boy Scout rectitude
and recovered the last few Baggies of buds
tucked away on the wooden shelf above the dryer.

 “The War on Drugs” first appeared in Existere Journal Volume 33, Issue 1 (Fall 2013/Winter 2014).



Martin is a former military man, and a writer who has seen many different states, but has decided to call California (Los Angeles) home, and often writes about the quirky city he now resides in.


Fruits of Labors


My friend’s new heart rests in a crevice
that housed the pacemaker; the wires fried
his old thumper like a zapped alternator,
doctors unsure this loaner will ever beat.
Blackberries float in a bowl on the counter,
separating out the spiders and veiny leaves.
Later, he tells me that he has gone to some
other place, a bifurcation of living and dead,
subterranean with a zenith, invisible susurrus
of some river, with trout, with kids splashing.
Thorns in those Michigan woods taught patience,
fingers careful not to burst the berry’s juices.
There is one surgeon that goes in to save
his legs with a pinnate precision, arteries
flushed, and who stays at his bedside
after rounds, after the new heart reboots.
The taste of the jam boiled and jarred
from fly-filled afternoons fills us still.
He is unconscious for more than a week,
with dreams that make me wonder about
what will come after the jam disappears
from the pantry, when childhood is near.

Previously published in Nimrod and will appear in Underdays, Sandeen Prize Winner, University of Notre Dame Press, Fall 2015.


Day 14 ~ Shivani Mehta

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.37.41 PMAnyone who personally knows me will not be surprised by my next pick of a poet spotlight. Not surprised, because I talk about this woman all the time, and how everyone needs to buy, Useful Information for the Soon-to-be Beheaded.  Shivani Mehta is a great prose poet. I’m not stretching the truth when I say she is my favorite prose poet. I see glimmers of those who have taught her in her work, Rick Burksy and Richard Garcia, but she has capitalized on what they taught and created her own voice that often mixes whimsy with pathos quite perfectly. Below I have chosen one of her prose poems to show you just how she does this, but to call her just a prose poet would be unfair, as she is a poet, without adjective.

Shivani is a mother, a wife, a friend, a former Lawyer, and an award-winning poet. If you ask me she deserves many, many more awards. There is just something so special about the woman who writes lines like Did you hear the night/aching around us?/You say it doesn’t matter/but I have known you since/my body was full of mourning/since before the sky. (From North American Review)

If I have one complaint it is that Shivani does not read out in public enough and when she does it’s far too short. Until she rectifies that take a read of the poems before and head over to Press 53 and buy her book Useful Information for the Soon-to-be-Beheaded.


Here is one of her recent and simply sublime prose poems from Wherewithal magazine.

The Bicycle

One morning I wake to find I’ve turned into a bicycle. At work, people notice. They talk, the way people do. There is whispering in corridors as I wheel by, my pedals gleaming. I make out phrases like so much promise, and that’s what happens when. The upshot is, men find me irresistible, they cannot help riding me around the block, stroking my wheels, my derailleur, admiring the sleek line of my down shaft. How the other women envy me now, how I love to see myself reflected on the concave surface of their eyes. How they seek me out at office parties and ask for dating advice. And every Saturday morning a crowd of reporters gathers outside my apartment for a glimpse of my shiny titanium frame, my perfectly oiled chain.


And the poem that started my love of Shivani’s work, that I would have never found were it not for one Martin Ott‘s Writeliving site:

Useful Information for the Soon-to-be-Beheaded

The following is an excerpt from a pamphlet designed by the Commission on Public Severance, handed out to condemned individuals as they waited in line for their turn at the guillotine.  Reproduced here with permission:

1.  Close your eyes tightly so as not to get dizzy when your severed head falls off the executioner’s block and rolls across the wood platform, picking up splinters and human debris.

2.  When you cease to feel movement, it is safe to open your eyes.  Remain calm as you watch your body dragged off and stacked on a pile of headless bodies. Your head will be tossed or kicked into the basket of severed heads.[1]

3.  This is likely to be the last time you will see your body. Expect a period of adjustment to the separation. You may experience a lingering sensation of movement in limbs you no longer have. This will pass.

4.  This is where your head will remain for whatever period of sentience it has left.[2]  Your vocal chords will not work. You might begin to feel a sense of freedom, of lightness, buoyancy, like a balloon that is suddenly untethered.

5. Think back to the day you were born, remember what it felt like the first time light fell across your closed eyelids, the weight of air on your forehead. Remember the last time you were born human, the sensation of trailing your fingers in a lake, cupping water in your hands. Or, think of the time you were a bird, remember stretching your wings, pushing against the wind, taking flight. Remember that it always ends this way.

[1] If the basket contains other heads, they will ease your transition. If your’s is the first head in an empty basket, try not to think about the abrupt separation from your body.  Focus instead on the details of your new surroundings: the closely woven fibers of the basket in which your head lies, the checkered spaces between the weave where sunlight passes through, the intermingled scent of sweat, tears, blood that permeates the air.

[2] On average, severed heads retain approximately fourteen seconds of sentience. However, exceptions have been known to occur.  It has been reported that some severed heads remain sentient for several hours, and in a few cases, for more than a day.

Day 13 ~ Nick Flynn

From Nick Flynn's website

From Nick Flynn’s website

Why do I love Nick Flynn? Blame Cathy Smith Bowers. She read a poem of his in class, and well, it became my favorite poem for a good 3 months. I read it to strangers, to friends, and my own students. My poor students, who already question my state of mind, had a stronger reason when I taught “Bag of Mice”. This poem is heart wrenching and I have actually seen visual interpretations of this poem, in a graphic novel, that made it all the sadder. Recently I have included this poem in workshops that I teach outside of the high school environment.

Obviously there is more to like about Nick Flynn’s work than simply that one poem, and from his memoirs to his books of poems there is a stark realism that is refreshing. His poems mix a current political situation, his personal history, and the magic of our confused world, most obviously in “Haiku (failed)” which is anything but a haiku.

There are plenty of chances to see Nick Flynn, he travels quite a bit, and with his new book of poems My Feelings which should have premiered (unofficially) last weekend at AWP, he will be promoting. Earlier this month I spotlighted Brendan Constantine, who will be at Sarah Lawrence the weekend of April 25th for The Poetry Festival. So all you lucky readers in New York, quite a few of the poets I am spotlighting will be heading your way. I wish I were you . . . .


This poem appeared in the Boston Review

Forgetting Something

Try this—close / your eyes. No, wait, when—if—we see each other / again the first thing we should do is close our eyes—no, / first we should tie our hands to something / solid—bedpost, doorknob—otherwise they (wild birds) / might startle us / awake. Are we forgetting something? What about that / warehouse, the one beside the airport, that room / of black boxes, a man in each box? I hear / if you bring this one into the light he will not stop / crying, if you show this one a photo of his son / his eyes go dead. Turn up / the heat, turn up the song. First thing we should do / if we see each other again is to make / a cage of our bodies—inside we can place / whatever still shines.


And from Nick himself reading.

Day 12 ~ Saeed Jones

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I can’t imagine you do not know who Saeed Jones is. You probably do. I can’t imagine not wanting to be Saeed Jones’ friend. You probably are. I can’t imagine what happens in his mind that makes him so damn good. It has to be a beautiful place. I only recently read Prelude to Bruise. I was immediately turned into awe when I read the first poem in the book “Antracite”, the last sentence which rolls over 4 lines Beware/of how they want you;/in this town everything born black/also burns. Nevermind the fact that coverage of young black men being murders adds pathos to these lines, but the lines without that knowledge have such an attachement to not only the poet but the history that it transcends pathos, and brings ethos and logos along for the ride in a beautiful poem. Name a great poem that doesn’t do that? You can’t.

Very dear to my heart is the use of mythology in several of his poems. What if the myths took place in present time? What were the mythological characaters like before their myth? Or what happened to them after the myth was over? Jones wrote a piece called “Daedalus, After Icarus” that is just as moving and tragic as the story we all know of Icarus.

If for any reason you do not have Prelude to Bruise, please BUY it, you need this book in your life. (Cool Factor-He’s Buzzfeed Lit Ed)


The first poem is courtesy PBS, Weekly poem and the title of his book


Prelude to Bruise

In Birmingham, said the burly man—

Boy, be
a bootblack.

Your back, blue-black.
Your body,                     burning.

I like my black boys broke, or broken.
I like to break my black boys in.

See this burnished
brown leather belt?
You see it, boy?

Are you broke, or broken?
I’m gonna break your back in.

Good boy. Begin: bend
over my boot,

(or I’ll bend you over my lap–rap rap)

again, bend. Better,

butt out, tongue out,
lean in.

Now, spit-shine.

My boot, black.
Your back, blue-black.

Good boy.
Black boy, blue-black boy.
Bad boy–rap rap.

You’ve been broken in.
Begin again, bend.


And from Youtube, the poem I mention in the first paragraph. Antracite

Day 10 ~ Suzanne Lummis

This Sunday, LA is honoring two powerhouse forces in poetry. The first I am spotlighting is Suzanne Lummis. This woman is indeed a fabulous poet, but she is also a teacher, editor, performer, historian, and an inspiration. To inspire is to breathe life into and there is proof that she does this, not just through the many students she has taught via UCLA extension courses and her workshops but her very words.   What Ms. Lummis does for poetry in Los Angeles is far reaching and celebrates the city’s history. There is an interview on NPR with Suzanne conducted by Jacki Lyden that you must listen to, the interview covers Suzanne in the city of angels, from her mugging to her love of the L.A. River.  She loves this city, and she celebrates her with the poetry of the noir.


Suzanne has been a staple in the L.A. Poetry scene for over 30 years, recently releasing her book Open 24 Hours that won the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize (2103). The Wide Awake: Poetry of Los Angels and Beyond had the great fortune of having her as an editor. But I first saw her work in a very used copy of Stand Up Poetry that she co-edited with Charles Harper Webb. In this anthology she showed us all that humor is possible in poetry as is with and mastery of the word. I always sold my books back to the bookstore, always, I was poor. I didn’t give that book back, and I still have it in my bookshelf nearly 20 years later. (Side note, I reread the whole anthology before writing this, and confirmed it will go nowhere). The New Yorker featured poems from Suzanne about six months ago, and you can hear the poem here.


There is no wonder that this Sunday Suzanne is receiving Beyond Baroque’s

George Drury Smith Outstanding Achievement in Poetry Award and Distinguished Service Award. And she epitomized both outstanding achievement and distinguished Service. A wise choice by Beyond Baroque, and you can see her win this award by purchasing tickets.


If you haven’t the time to make it to the award ceremony, but find Saturday night open, Suzanne will be reading her work (with her co-recipient, Elena Karina Byrne) at Beyond Baroque and you can be there to hear it. Check out all the information here.  Hope to see you at one or both of these events as we celebrate Suzanne Lummis


The Perfect Man
         By Suzanne Lummis

     For the men who’ve asked me,
      “Why isn’t there a perfect man
      in any of your plays?” 

.                 He’s lonely.
There is only one of him.
He’s like the last-of-its-kind
someone captured
and shipped back to the zoo.
.                  Except he
has never been captured, only
by the mirror which captures
his image, speaks
the same reassurance:
you are the fairest…
He sighs and straightness his tie.
It’s terrible being a myth.
Why can’t he do goofy
ordinary things —
cruise down boulevards,
be in a play?
.                  He turns
and moves through his rooms,
their identical
fields of light, their curious
absence of shadow.

Why can we not find him?
.                  Late,
very late, when the women
of this earth lie asleep,
he sighs, then packs up his costumes:
the formal wear, leather jacket,
the ski gear of a down-hill racer…
You see?
He’s obliged to break into our dreams.
Now he will begin his long run,
through cities and provinces, from
sleek condominiums to the Highway’s
last chance hotels.
It’s a delicate task
getting in.
If we wake we might catch
the tapping of his small
silvery hammer, its ping
We might think we hear
for a moment,. just
as it vanishes, the sledge
of some convict, some far away
prisoner, crazy to get out.


From Caffeine Destiny



Suzanne Reading Femme Fatale (from


Day 9 ~ Brendan Constantine

Brendan ConstantineWell it had to happen, and so it has, today I spotlight the uber talented Brendan Constantine.  If you have not seen him perform/read his work and you had the chance to, you have cheated yourself out of an experience you will not forget. Outside of being an absolutely great feature if you have your own reading you host, Brendan is a teacher. He teaches children, he does workshops at CAFAM (Craft and Folk Art Museum) and he volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Project. My mother has Alzheimer and I often fear this will be my final outcome, and I certainly wish there was a Brendan in my mother’s life earlier. Someone who would help her get out all she had to get out through writing, and feel creative and powerful again. This is what I truly love about Brendan he does that for people. He makes them feel powerful through words whether they are a 10 year old or 80 year old. He brings joy with words. When Brendan submitted his work to Wherewithal, a magazine I co-founded I felt honored that he even knew we existed.

I have gushed over this man enough, just let me say Brendan tours (those of you in the Los Angeles area have about a million opportunities to see him this month, New Your you only have Sarah Lawrence Poetry Festival) and when he does catch him, please, it’s for your own good. Until that time, buy Letters to Guns, and then you can also pick up his other two books once you fall in love with his words.


First let me show you Brendan doing his thing so that you want to run out and see him.  This video is from youtube, where you can find many more.


And here is a poem that I was so grateful to him for allowing us to feature on Wherewithal Magazine.



Whatever gets between us and the sky
becomes the sky / It’s how we start to
wish on the flicker in a smoke alarm /
how sometimes the bed seems hidden
under moss / We sit long after the lamps
go down / The park so dark / the moths
dive at our phones / It makes sense to
laugh down the street / The street waits
its turn / then rolls out its black receipt
for things we don’t remember / We
can’t read the numbers / What we owe
is somewhere behind those trees in
the wallpaper / or way the other way

Day 8 ~ Mary Szybist

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 12.23.31 AMI read Mary Szybist‘s  Incarnadine, for a class in my MFA program. An assignment I do not recall, but the book I do. I was maddeningly in love with what Mary Szybist did with holy Mary and the crossing and the separating of herself and the holy mother in that book. I went to catholic school, was raised in the church so I found automatic familiarity with her work. But what I marvel about was how she did not forget the work behind the poetry. Her notes are extensive and I imagine her research was volumes of material that never even made it into the book.

For those of you going to AWP she will be part of the festivities. Get to her reading, and get to her panel. How do you miss the 2013 National Book Award Winner? Here’s a little information on those:

Saturday, April 11
AWP Conference Events in Minneapolis, MN
9:00 am: Panel on Charles Wright at 80: A Celebration of Poetry and Teaching:
Auditorium Room, Level 1
4:30 pm: Reading and Conversation with Linda Hogan and Eric Pankey:
Main Auditorium, Level 1

If you aren’t going, like my poor hiney here are a couple of poems to make you even sadder



Mary who mattered to me, gone or asleep
among fruits, spilled

in ash, in dust, I did not

leave you. Even now I can’t keep from
composing you, limbs & blue cloak

& soft hands. I sleep to the sound

of your name, I say there is no Mary
except the word Mary, no trace

on the dust of my pillowslip. I only

dream of your ankles brushed by dark violets,
of honeybees above you

murmuring into a crown. Antique queen,

the night dreams on: here are the pears
I have washed for you, here the heavy-winged doves,

asleep by the hyacinths. Here I am,

having bathed carefully in the syllables
of your name, in the air and the sea of them, the sharp scent

of their sea foam. What is the matter with me?

Mary, what word, what dust
can I look behind? I carried you a long way

into my mirror, believing you would carry me

back out. Mary, I am still
for you, I am still a numbness for you.

Source: Poetry (November 2008).




I didn’t mean to say so much to you.
I should have thought to let the evening end
by looking at the stars subdued

into their antique blue and alabaster hues.
Such looking would have fit with my intent.
I didn’t mean to speak that way to you.

If I could take it back, I’d take it, undo
it, and replace it with the things I meant
to give—not what I let slip (it’s true)

like any pristine star of ornamental hue.
I do not always do what I intend.
I didn’t mean to say so much to you.

It slipped before I saw, before I knew.
Or do we always do what we intend?
Perhaps it’s true and all along I knew

what I was saying—but how I wanted you.
I should have thought to let the evening end.
The placid stars seemed filled and then subdued
by what I did and did not want to do.

From the book Granted

Found on 

Day 7 ~ LeAnne Hunt

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.02.37 AMLeAnne Hunt is my friend, and like many of my friends she is also a poet. I met LeAnne at The Ugly Mug readings in Orange, CA. (where I have met a lot of people I really like). She is a scientist (and works in lab coat and everything), a mother, a friend, and a damn good writer. She can often be found at Long Beach’s Poetry Lab, and this week will be found in Minneapolis hanging out with all your lucky folks heading to AWP. Should you be lucky enough to see her there, make friends, she has a great laugh that will always make you feel better, and if you are lucky she will show you some of her poems, but until then here are a couple of poems by the lovely LeAnne.


***This first poem appeared on Cadence Collective in 2014:

“Children are vampires,” my friend said.
After the park… the fair… the festival… the zoo… the circus…
the pool party… the playdates…and the birthday parties,
we sprawl in our chairs, like wilted prom corsages
three days after the deflowering and no phone call.
Our daughters whip around us like kites in hurricanes.

I cannot agree.

Children suck the marrow from bones, leach the color from hair,
bleach the skin and drain the life force at its source.
Vampires take only your blood, drink it down and stop;
children take your life and carry it forth.
All of your sins, half of your traits and three-fourths of your gestures
passed on like a virus replicating beyond control.
Vampires are kinder; they provide an end stop to your line.
Children run on and on.


***Last year for National Poetry Writing Month, LeAnne let me use this Pantoum on my website for the daily prompts, and now it is here because anyone that can write a form poem well, has my awe.

Letting Go of Stones

I am an empty bag, full of wind and crinkle.
I rattled at each pull until you broke through thin skin.
I learned to twist in your words.
I flung myself off a cliff to float. I held blue.
I gave you two children as promised.

I rattled at each pull until you broke through thin skin.
I learned to twist in your words.
You could not catch my inhaled breath.
I gave you two children as promised.
Wind carries ash the same as it does hope.

You could not catch inhaled my breath.
I flung myself off a cliff to float. I held blue.
Wind carries ash the same as it does hope.
I am an empty bag, full of wind and crinkle.

Day 4~Nick Cave

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 3.24.29 PMToday’s poet of my choosing isn’t a traditional poet, as in academia may not instantly think of this man as a poet, but I do. I completely do! It is the Australian rocker, Nick Cave. I first heard him baritone voice singing about a “Red Right Hand” at a nightclub in Hollywood that catered to those who like wearing black clothes too much. I was one of those, but I would like to point out gothic, emo, poet, all pretty much have the same dress code. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the musicality of the piece, but it was the fact that I didn’t really find myself as fascinated with the musicality as I did the words. Perhaps that is a poets hazard, words take over tone, and actions because they do become all we care about. I went out and bought every album he had released up to that point. A healthy list that consist of everything from the 2001 No More Shall We Part to the 1984 From Her to Eternity. What I found was a man who loves words.  Here is the opening stanza from Red Right Hand, and just reading it you hear the attention to cadence:

Take a little walk to the edge of town
and go across the tracks
Where the viaduct looms,
like a bird of doom
As it shifts and cracks
Where secrets lie in the border fires,
in the humming wires

Should you not have ever heard of Nick Cave, May I suggest starting with Tender Prey, that features Mercy Seat, Up Jumped the Devil, and Deanna. The Murder Ballads are also pretty mind-blowing (plus there are fabulous duets with the likes of PJ Harvey on that album)

In case that is not enough, Nick Cave has scored soundtracks, written movies, books, and had a documentary about him and the band.  So I do implore you to look into this man’s work.  He has never seen the type of fame in the United States that many other countries have bestowed upon him, and I’m blaming that on the fact that poetry, even when in musical form, needs to be more wildly celebrated.

Today I give you two videos from YouTube, instead of poems.

First “Nobody’s Baby Now”, which I am convinced is an Elegy, but have no proof other than my gut.  It is from the album, Let Love In.


From Tender Prey the song, which is really a ballad, “Mercy Seat” about a death row inmate.

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