by Tim Kahl
Tomorrow I will mourn your product,
its useless legacy a memory to befriend.
No one made it cheaper, nor more worthy
of deep reflection on its beginning.
Of its hurried trade I would have to say
Amend your ways or quickly some will
venture to extend the death of utility
overall. Nothing’s more futile than what
is made. What slowly falls apart is
better for digestion later like the afterlife
of an afterthought or this
little verse cutlet I can eat and eat and eat
and then be on my way.
Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books 2009) and The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center.
photo by juliejordanscott
by Mather Schneider
Like female basketball players
the young not only want to write what they want
but they want to be admired for it
and paid for it
you don’t have to be old to hate teenagers
or to want to send them to an island with starving crocodiles
where they can make all the Youtube videos they want
and shove them into each other’s faces
and find their audience among their dear peers
god, why did you give us
such a long pubescence
why did you give us skinny kids in dorm rooms
talking into desk cameras
why did you give us girls who say like and fuck and shit
and rub their stinky crotches
and say muthafucka
and look at us with eyes that don’t think
but only want what they have not earned
we are not offended, midgets
we are bored, we have seen you, like all men have seen
their stupid kids preen and comb
like the red painters of pre-Australia must have seen
like the petroglyph carvers of the Sonoran desert must have seen
and these days children are children
until the age 40 or more
which just adds sadness onto madness
and still does nothing
to sharpen that cutting edge they love to speak of
in a world that worships brats
in a world that worships mucousy hipsters
in a world that worships anarchists of daddy’s Audi
listen to them read their crap, heckle their zit faces off
tie them up like calves for the slaughter
like the perfect offering to an Aztec god
praise them and praise them while slitting their throats
and hope their blood comes out red not green
like a pheromone warning trail from the ant who never comes home
before they become
grant recipients and tenure track faculty
teaching and preaching and being smug
before they become wine-sippers and pinky-typers
writing 2 hours each morning before yoga
and before they become
graybeards sitting in chairs in perfectly ordered rooms
writing poems about their saint-scented grandmothers
or talking about Buddhism with great chasmic
pauses between lines
or shouting their poems to hearing-aid crowds
or talking about breath going in
and breath going out
or the sparrows in their back yard
or the stupidity of youth
just end it now
I beg you I beg you.
Mather Scheider is a poet living in Tuscon, Arizona.
photo by juliejordanscott
by Christopher Soto
the baby brushed paintings
on the walls of his mother’s womb
he tried to finish a portrait of his mother
before he was even birthed, thinking-
the muffled descriptions of her were enough
café skin, olive eyes, almond hair
his mother would feel the strokes
against her belly and mistake them for kicks,
trying to rub away the aches where art was being created
Christopher Soto is a queer latino poet from Southern California who published his first chapbook “How to Eat Glass” with Still Life Press in 2012. He is currently an MFA: Poetry candidate at NYU.
photo by juliejordanscott
Born in Subic Bay, Philippines, Mg Roberts is the author of not so, sea. She is a Kundiman Fellow, Kelsey Street Press member, and her work has appeared in the Stanford Journal of Asian American Studies, Bombay Gin, Web Conjunctions, and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland where she anxiously awaits the birth of her third child with two moxy daughters, 4 hens, puppy, and husband.
Q: What inspired you to write the poems in not so, sea?
Mg-I suppose you could say that not so, sea was inspired from a site of deep failure. I’d just finished a two year MFA program and the manuscript produced over those two years read like a giant self lament rather than a cohesive work of art I was proud of writing—folks that know me well they can attest I’m very hard on myself. To address the failed aspects of my MFA thesis I decided to embark upon an exercise to bring me closer to the source/trace/origin/root of desire. The what is the what of what I wanted to say in that failed thesis. In the summer of 2007 I began writing a series of letters addressed to the characters, events, and themes of that failed project, a project that later became a hand-stitched chapbook entitled Missives of Appropriation and Error (2008, The Adjunct).
Q: When did you realize the poems here would work well together in a collection?
Mg-At some point I began narrowing the scope of the themes that this project wanted to touch: the immigrant body, diaspora, relocation, the mother daughter dyad, syntax, and the ways in which memory serves as a sort of fragmented alphabet. Perhaps as my writing became more image focused and the narrative more incongruous the poems were forced to trace/record/document/evidence/chronicle the surfaces of a flat plane, a disc of pulsing external information on a repeating loop.
Q: Can you talk a little about the way you’ve organized your work in this book, including the section breaks? It feels like we’re undertaking a very personal odyssey, a mixture of memory and tropes of immigrant stories.
Mg–not so, sea utilizes a series of missives to work as a scaffold for the larger narrative structure of the collection and the section breaks serve to guide/ground readers in event. The first section of not so, sea is entitled UNEARTH literally sets the tone for analysis or further examination, while the last section entitled BRIGHTLY is a direct address as to how the immigrant—specially a woman’s brown body—physically and metaphorically arrives, speaking to Bhanu Kapil’s Working Note on Humanimal:
What does the shape of her [nomads, immigrants, cyborgs, wolf girls] mind look like as she moves through the world? (A woman who, in the narrative, precedes and follows her own birth. The whole body has the same tone, thus no ellipsis, no separate commentaries or asterisks.) That is my experiment: to make the line travel towards a confused origin—hyper-organic, splitting the skin, still livid
(HOW(ever) v. 1, 5, 2001).
Q: A lot of your work also evokes visceral landscapes. How important is scene and setting in your work?
Mg- I’m acutely interested in imagery. The way in which the concrete has the ability to warp abstraction or bring clarity to a moment is something I find tremendously powerful and tangible. Because so much of my work is seen as “inaccessible” or “nonlinear” the landscapes serve as visual markers or signposts, the promise of something to ground.
Q: Has becoming a parent changed or informed your line, form, or meter?
Mg- With two small children and a third on the way my time is extremely compressed. Parenting has added depth, empathy, and a certain urgency to my writing: I feel as if have permission to be truly honest with myself. When things fail to move forward, I feel good about abandoning projects and making art with my kids, cooking dinner, plucking eyebrows, trimming nails. I suppose all these kids allow the psychic space to divine revision: Everybody/thing wants to connect. Everybody/thing wants to belong. How to stroke this line?
Q: Can you talk about some of your writing influences?
Mg-I’m a member of Kelsey Street Press and so naturally I’m a huge fan of experimental women’s writing. Bhanu Kapil, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Etel Adnan, Amber DiPietra, Helene Cixous, Ariana Reines are my go-tos for Bibliomancy and inspiration. I’m also taken with Brian Teare, Fred Moten, Truong Tran, and CA Conrad.
Q: How do you know when you’re done writing a poem?
Mg-Because I’m a poet I live in a constant state of revision. A poem published years ago in Web Conjunctions, which appears in my book and several anthologies lives in several different iterations. You can check it out one of the earliest versions here.
I’m not sure if anything is ever finished.
Q: How important is your Philippine ancestry to your work?
Mg- I suppose what I find most interesting about culture, nationality, class, being an immigrant, being a woman is the ways in which one is/can be negated via intra and inter racism. The desire to belong seems like a more apropos a longing for me and not so, sea, “ We know that even those that look like us can also hurt us,” (from the manifesto of Fight The Tower). But of course my personal ancestry or narrative is further complicated by the legacies of imperialism, the history of the Philippines and militarization. Years ago I was told I was Amerasian by a very prominent Fil-Am writer. It’s insulting to be called or labeled anything than what you are or feel you are. Which again loops back to being a parent: Everybody/thing wants to connect. Everybody/thing wants to belong.
Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Q: What are you working on now?
Mg-Currently, I’m in the final stages of producing an anthology of critical essays forthcoming from Kelsey Street Press, Nests and Strangers: Asian American Women Poets. This fall I’m set to begin production on another anthology of critical essays on avant-garde writing for/by writers of color. I’m super excited about this work!
My second collection, tentatively titled Anemal Uter Meck is slowly underway (it took me 7 years to write not so, sea). It is a collection that frames the body through memory, defect, cells, geology and family constellations. The poems chronicle birth, therapies, perceptions of beauty, the environment in relation to what gestates, is born, created, planted. Is.
Here’s a link to this new work.