Recent Work By TNB Poetry

We won’t necessarily be better off

and I’ve made my peace with that.

But the oceans will be semi-gorgeous

and compromising, a laissez-faire approach

and we have to be hands-off now, don’t we?

Take the stem through your teeth from one end and

keep the distances long, but briefly hold

eyes in contact. Our irises something like

swimming pools, innumerable pools,

pools of liquid memory — how effortless

I dip myself in.

I suppose it began when
I opened doors to morning
and my head burst into leaves

there are stranger waters

out there and I can see them.

Sitting five stories tall above this stacked city

I now know that I am a strange bird.

My mother used to split grapefruit in the morning

with fingers delicate and precise, I am not

my mother but I am

breaking the pulp for the better, I believe

in jazz and the accent of an off-beat

feather that splits the wind above distant street.

I am counting the price tags in my medicine cabinet

taking inventory of trauma and truth requires

a steady hand.

Know the Ledge

By TNB Poetry

Poem

One of the social functions of art is to document and respond to the human condition. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, The Nervous Breakdown presents three poems by three contemporary American poets.  This poem by Adam Tedesco is the third of three daily installments.


Know the Ledge

The clay here is afraid
of our shovels
our hard heels
of bread and ends of meat

The wind didn’t get here
by trying, says the neighbor
of laughter, the sting
of too much data

I am afraid
of my nostalgia
for all of their faces
spread across the sun

I work against my pettiness
so I can call it not myself
these strings
of too much knowledge
that blind materiality
of what fits in my pocket

They had to show me
the wounds for me
to remember
your human breathing
the elastic ring
of heartedness

There was too much want
to carry, where I was
what they flew away from
a clear plastic echo, blued
ether through which they moved

One of the social functions of art is to document and respond to the human condition. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, The Nervous Breakdown presents three poems by three contemporary American poets.  This poem by Aimee Clow is the second of three daily installments.


Chapel Hill Meets at Nightlight

Trudge the swampy divot of your city yard
to conjure the possibility of fruit.
Or vegetables. Roots.

No one is to talk these weeks but touch
only ground and locked air.

Cats will be contented
by constant companionship.

A network of signal threads
pretends political deviation,
what amounts to baskets of food
gifted on door steps.
We really wanted
better communication.
We get what we get,
signal around it.

Who does not hoard becomes a list
of empty shelves and bargains.

Dumpsters dry up as demand stays home.
We become wishes for the rotting.

Pretend four walls are open sky.
Press your tongue in the acid-washed mud.

I’ll believe what I believe.
We will take what we take.

Economics of a virus, the radio whispers,
deviate because of fear, the locked in here,
this indefinite.

You need to pretend you are really, really, really alone.
Now you need to tell me we are not alone.

One of the social functions of art is to document and respond to the human condition. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, The Nervous Breakdown presents three poems by three contemporary American poets.  This poem by Shira Dentz is the first of three daily installments.


The Singing, Ringing Tree

somersaulting through tunnels,
hollow spools—

threading anonymously,
pins, plows, spikes:
                                     tag
hide & seek, you’re it

mustard seed in my stomach
is a yellow corona

tongue, fire, smoke
like paper, scissors, rock:
                                              shoot

a green specter cauterized
in my mind’s film, blessed

tethered to supernaturals
are we ruined?
we are mined for our lives

On “Learning” by Andrew Choate, a review by Rebecca Ramirez

Andrew Choate’s Learning is unconventional by default. Indeed, by the third page, the author has invoked Henri Michaux, “The Tin Drum” (Günter Grass), and “The Last Novel” (David Markson) – each a vanguard in their own right of definitively genre-blurring, “anti-literary” works. For the entirety of “Learning,” Choate continues this referential gesture, both buoying and defending his own work, which he generates by attaching a wide variety of topics to the book’s only refrain: “Something I learned from…,” for example:

Something I learned from Living with Moths

Don’t clap a moth over your head between your palms
It could fall into your upturned shirt sleeve
and ride down your arm
possibly across your chest
and then tickling will never feel the same” (39)

IMG_6143

I don’t know how to do a self-interview so instead I asked my girlfriend, the poet Jeannette Gomes to interview me as a stand-in for myself.

JEANNETTE: Hi Russ, could you describe for me how your book came about and the emotional landscape it encompasses in your heart?

RUSS: Sure. So this book started from a little tour chapbook I was making for a weeklong tour I was going to do in 2012. I made a PDF version and posted the cover art on Facebook and got a message from James Tadd Adcox, who was at the time editor of Artifice Magazine, and a friend of mine. He asked if he could see the PDF version of the chap, and I said “sure” and sent it over, not thinking much about it. He emailed me later and told me he really loved it, and that Artifice was starting a book arm of their operation and he said, if I was interested, that he wanted to publish the chapbook along with some of my other poems as a book. The cover the book has now is actually the same cover I made for the original chap. Anyway, the book went through many, many edits and many rewrites since then. I think only a handful of the original poems are still in there, actually.

Interesting commentary on the minimalist poetry of TNB contributor Aram Saroyan:

Picture 1You call yourself a “woman-poet entrepreneur.” What do you mean by that?

I run the West Chester University Poetry Center and the West Chester University Poetry Conference, I edit Mezzo Cammin,, and I direct Story Line Press, I teach. I also do my own writing—poetry, articles, and reviews. I wear a lot of literary hats.

At the same time, when I speak about entrepreneurship, I mean following through on an idea: creating something where there was nothing. Like most entrepreneurs, I believe in the big dream. When I launched The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project in 2010, I wanted to do it in Washington because of the symbolic resonance of the location. Then I created the event from scratch: the fund raising, the evening, the project itself. That evening at the National Museum of Women in the Arts remains one of the best of my life.

jessybeach

Why are you having such a hard time with this self-interview?

I guess because there’s too much freedom. It’s easy to answer someone else’s questions, but not so easy to answer my own, or even to articulate what they are.

 

Well, what if you just think of questions that you think would be fun to answer?

Isn’t that cheating?

601595_303967846364060_898773954_nHi, Evan, I think I follow you on Twitter.

Yes, I follow you, too. You’re hilarious. I love Twitter, but it’s also part of my job. I gather stories constantly for a daily news aggregate centered on creative writing and the publishing world, so I’m always reading, and Twitter is an amazing resource. I’m paid to use Twitter, but I’ve given myself over to it—not sure I can stop. It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning. I smoked for twenty years—I recognize the impulse.

TNB Photo 2012
 

Tell us a little bit about your new book of poetry, THE MORROW PLOTS. What’s the significance of the title, and what was your inspiration for writing the book?

When I lived in Upstate New York—way up on the Canadian border—during the awful winter, I became obsessed with The Morrow Plots, an experimental cornfield on the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign campus. The local and campus agronomists conduct important crop experiments there, and then disseminate the findings among the U.S.’s farming industry. So, it’s an important square of land, and hallowed ground in downstate Illinois. You do not trespass on the Morrow Plots. The legal and social consequences for such things are dire. The Plots are regionally revered. Illinoisans lend the Plots this crazy holiness. I was born in Illinois, and I think I was oddly homesick for the Midwest all the way up there near Canada among the defunct Go-Kart tracks and Shining-esque hedge maze that my wife and I lived behind (the area was a bedroom community for Manhattanite boaters in the summer time, and so had all of these kitschy tourist traps that would go skeletal come winter). Yes: we lived behind MazeLand.

headshots 003This is your second interview at The Nervous Breakdown. Does it feel awkward to be interviewing yourself again?

A bit, but I talk to myself quite a bit already.

 

Oh, really?

Yes, but I try to normalize it by telling people I’m just talking to my dog. Sometimes I read poetry to her, too.

 

Does your dog like poetry?

God, I hope so. Otherwise I should be expecting a visit from PETA. No matter how bad the poetry is, though, peanut butter always seems to cheer her up afterwards. I should make a note of that for my next reading: Bring large jar peanut butter.

 

What’s with the political poetry? Are you trying to piss people off?

I actually try not to offend people with my political pieces. For me poetry is about communication and I don’t want to shut people’s ears/minds to what I am trying to get across. Also, I don’t think one can write successful political poetry by screaming at people, so I try to be subtle, which is sometimes hard for me in real life. It sounds cliche, but I am interested in dialogue and hope to bring that about with my work. And, if people hate my stuff, I want to know and I especially want to know why.

 

Do you think there’s a difference in personal and political art?

For some people, yes. For me, no. Besides poetry, I also practice Butoh which is an avant-garde Japanese modern dance form which was conceived as a style of dance protest to the Westernization of Japan after WWII. I have a 25-year dance performance background and dropped all other dance forms when I found Butoh. Since Butoh is not about making pretty forms in space or having specific technical skills it is pretty much opposite of all other dance forms which makes it automatically political.