Poetry

A Poetry Reading by fahima ife

We invite you to watch fahima ife reading from their new book Maroon Choreography. In these musical poems, ife offers an enthralling examination of black fugitivity, and troubles what we think we know of history. Maroon Choreography is available now for 30% with discount code E21IFE.

Poem of the Week

Our Poem of the Week is by Alexis Pauline Gumbs and is excerpted from the “Archive of Fire” section of M Archive. It reminds us of the importance of community and ceremony, and of being meaningfully, intentionally together. Thanks for tuning in to our final National Poetry Month feature! All our in-stock poetry titles are 50% off through May 7 with coupon SPRING21.

 

Gumbs_cover_front

they looked each other in the eyes every time and did not leave each

other without singing a prayer: the name or the wish. they learned to

add touching hands into the ritual, a tradition newly sacred after the

memory of the epidemic.

and of course none of that would have been possible if they didn’t

remember to look themselves in the eye every morning. or to chant

the name of the prayer. or to track their dreams for keeping and

sharing.

there is a sacredness to every day. every time.

it means again and again. it means all of us. it means this moment.

this time. you and me. we’re here.

which was something they would never again take for granted.*

* disciplined freedom capable of renovating the collective terms of our
engagement
. M. Jacqui Alexander, “Pedagogies of the Sacred,” Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), 329.

 
Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a poet, independent scholar, and activist. She is also the author of Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity, and Dub: Finding Ceremony, both also published by Duke University Press; coeditor of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines; and the founder and director of Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind, an educational program based in Durham, North Carolina.

Poem of the Week

Our Poem of the Week is by Fahima Ife. It is an excerpt from “porous aftermath,” the center poem in their forthcoming book Maroon Choreography, which is out in August.

|Maroon Choreography

 

insofar as sound is air they are
______ blue-black moaning using
_____________gut as flute

 

{ city tongue } mother tongue { movement tree }
_______first imagined in as
_____________belly of

 

a ship in as :: cello :: of a tree
_______or human marketplace
_____________as fusain

 

grapheme fades { quiet crescendo }
_______it’s the touch of the out-
_____________side that hails

 

them { insofar as frequency is
_______oracle } they are mu
______________or fuchsia

 

fusarium apparatus
_______fertile fermentation
______________feral dream

Fahima Ife is Assistant Professor of English at Louisiana State University. Check back here next Tuesday for our final poetry month feature.

Poem of the Week

As we continue our celebration of National Poetry Month, we are pleased to share a poem published in the minnesota review: a journal of creative and critical writing, issue 95. Check back next Tuesday for another featured poem.

boilerplate
Justin Lacour

Smoking cigarettes in my one clean undershirt. This summer feels
like a sermon on pride and speed and neon. We’re indistinct as stars
or skateboarders blurry under streetlights. There’s a savant that can
mimic creation, from birds in a sack to bullets the size of a boy’s hand.
Truckers have jokes about the Department of Transportation we’ll
never understand. Our ideals of authenticity and progress stalemate
over the sushi place turned Waffle House. Some say it’s all about
culture with a lowercase c, while others insist it’s what I do when
no one’s looking that matters (e.g., bondage lit, lots of Sheryl Crow).
The truck stop up ahead glitters like a mirage. We may never be in
the same time zone long enough to compromise our feelings of this
place. Its moments of familiarity as fleeting as an oldies station from
a passing car, before it becomes another thing altogether. Girls’ night
resurfaces, but only as some antinomian treat. The murals conceal
their hobo aesthetics beneath layers of persimmon and mauve. It’s
not enough to say we valued risk, that we were beautiful as hunters—
the ones who said tombstones arch like lovers in a field, their spines
thrust in the air, their backs black with crows.

Poem of the Week

Since April is National Poetry Month in the US, it is our tradition to offer a poem each week of the month to celebrate our poetry collection. Today’s poem is from Rafael Campo’s 2018 collection Comfort Measures Only. As more and more people get vaccinated and the deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 decline, we celebrate the beauty and power of science. Check back here each Tuesday in April to read a featured poem.

cover of Comfort Measures OnlyOn the Beauty of Science

A colleague at my hospital has won
a major prize, for seminal research
into the role of lipid bodies in
the eosinophil. How I once loved
the eosinophil, its nucleus
contorted, cytoplasm flecked with red.
Of course, I wondered at its function, why
it self-destructed
on encountering
some allergen or parasitic egg, how
it killed by dying. Now we know so much
that joy in the mysterious seems quaint.
Its valentine to us undone by thought,
the blushing eosinophil explained:
embarrassed by its smallness, or enraged
that all its selflessness should be betrayed.

 

Rafael Campo teaches and practices medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and is author of several books, including Alternative MedicineThe Enemy, and Landscape with Human Figure, all also published by Duke University Press, and The Desire to Heal: A Doctor’s Education in Empathy, Identity, and Poetry.

Watch our Virtual Poetry Reading

On Sunday, March 3, our book designer Aimee Harrison hosted an online poetry reading via Zoom. Poets David Grubbs, author of The Voice in the Headphones; Margaret Randall, author of the memoir I Never Left Home and editor of the poetry collection On the Road/ Solo el camino; and Renato Rosaldo, author of The Chasers. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, author, most recently, of Dub: Finding Ceremony, pre-taped a contribution.

We invite you to watch a recording of this great event!

If you enjoy the poems, don’t forget that the authors’ books are all 50% off during our Spring Sale with coupon SPRING50!

Poem of the Week

Welcome back to our weekly poetry feature. For our final April posting, please enjoy the poem “Lost in the Hospital” from What the Body Told  (1996) by physician Rafael Campo. Much of Campo’s early poetry was in response to the AIDS epidemic and readers may find resonance during today’s COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s not that I don’t like the hospital.
Those small bouquets of flowers, pert and brave.
The smell of antiseptic cleaners.
The ill, so wistful in their rooms, so true.
My friend, the one who’s dying, took me out
To where the patients go to smoke, IV’s
And oxygen tanks attached to them–
A tiny patio for skeletons. We shared
A cigarette, which was delicious but
Too brief. I held his hand; it felt
Like someone’s keys. How beautiful it was,
The sunlight pointing down at us, as if
We were important, full of life, unbound.
I wandered for a moment where his ribs
Had made a space for me, and there, beside
The thundering waterfall of his heart,
I rubbed my eyes and thought, “I’m lost.”

Rafael Campo is Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of several books, including Comfort Measures Only, Alternative MedicineThe Enemy, and Landscape with Human Figure, all also published by Duke University Press. Campo’s most recent poem, “The Doctor’s Song,” featured in Harvard Magazine, attempts to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic from the physician’s perspective. His books (and all in-stock titles) are currently available for 50% off with coupon SPRING50 during our sale.

Poem of the Week

Welcome back to our weekly poetry feature. We’re posting a poem every Tuesday in April to celebrate National Poetry Month. Today’s poem, reprinted with permission of the author, was published in our journal Labor: Studies in Working-Class History.

After My Sunday Double at the Café
Peyton Clark

I washed away all of my troubles
while I lay in a tub of perfumy bubbles
and in the background I played
the quiet keys of Debussy

When the suds all popped
I topped
off my workday
with another splash of crisp Chardonnay

My hair now liquid curls
floating around in the silken swirls
of leftover soap and stress from the day
was all but combed away

The water still steamed
as I stepped out and grabbed the cream
towel that I also used yesterday
and jammed my cigarette into the ashtray

I walk across the hall to get in bed
and when my head
hits the pillow I say
to myself: I never took ranch to table 48.

Poem of the Week

978-1-4780-0813-2Welcome back to our weekly poetry feature. We’re posting a poem every Tuesday in April. This week we are featuring a four-page excerpt from The Voice in the Headphones by David Grubbs. The book is an experiment in music writing in the form of a long poem centered on the culture of the recording studio. It describes in intricate, prismatic detail one marathon day in a recording studio during which an unnamed musician struggles to complete a film soundtrack.

music like walking.
A music as peculiar as walking.
Walking out the sliding door and up the hill
.
A music like a walk in the snow.
A music like the sound of a walk in the snow.
A music regulated by breath during a walk in the snow

 

A music like walking atop the snow.
A music like snowshoes, for scampering across.
A music for hiding and haring across
.
A music to take with you over the mountain.
A music that takes you over the mountain.
Denuded succession and air

 

congeals to rime. Defines blurred cold friction.

Take a drag through the snow. The fog freezes and a stream
sounds beneath the faint outline of a bridge. Two hundred
shades of white. When you’re confident that the time has
come, the decision is yours to reverse course. A music obscured
by scrim, a music that ceases to reÃect readiness. Before
you’re completely frozen

turn this ship around, one foot after another. With a nagging
sense of detour, with continued detour and perpetual listing
aim for the studio.

Find the precise spot at which it ceases to be

 

a journey outward, the point where the tether most powerfully
strains. A sudden perimeter, an echoed antipode. Attune
yourself to that location your body knows to be the
most distant and most demanding, and plot your return
from the furthest farthest. How deeply can you sleep when
you know you must be leaving soon?

The streetlights extinguished, the sun not up.

David Grubbs is Professor of Music at Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York, and author of Now that the audience is assembled and Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording. His books (and all in-stock titles) are currently available for 50% off with coupon SPRING50 during our sale. Check back next Tuesday for another poem.

Poem of the Week

978-1-4780-0645-9April is National Poetry Month, so we are offering a poem each Tuesday for the next four weeks. Today’s poem is from the recent book Dub: Finding Ceremony by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. The final volume of a poetic trilogy, Dub explores the potential for the poetic and narrative to expose and challenge the dominant modes of being human, reminding us that it is possible to make ourselves and our planet anew.

 

another set of instructions

we are asking you to trust your hands. put them on your heart. trust
your heart. hear what we are saying. trust what you hear. we are
asking you to build a circle. always a circle. not almost a circle. face
each other. we are asking you to trust the faces. face the truth. it’s
round. we are asking you to make a sound. make the sound you need
by breathing. make the sound that calls us in. we are asking you. not
telling you. listen. we will not yell. well. not yet.

if you can use both hands, use both hands. knowing is not given; it
is made. you can make it out of cornmeal or flour, preferably. out
of dirt or fertilizer if you have to. let your fingers shape it until they
remember the making of the world. then step on it. and see how eas-
ily it flattens, how gracefully it changes its shape in the presence of
pressure. and remember that there are billions of feet. there is always
pressure.

let the muscles in your hands grow more swift more sure from re-
making it every day. a curved place to live on indented by teeth,
crumbled by dryness. moisten it with what you have. spit and tears.
smooth it out with what you have. repetition and patience. soon you
will not have to look at what you are doing. you will feel every im-
perfection. you will accept some of them. you will even love some
difficult edges. you can watch the river go by. you can look at the TV
while you do it. maybe even have a conversation (though it will im-
pact the consistency of your shape). but if you can. use both hands.

take your hand off your forehead and remember you can already fil-
ter sunlight. take consistent deep breaths and surrender for you are
moon. let the rage held in any of the muscles in your shoulders, re-
lease. give love room.

drink enough water to remember how long water’s been waiting. eat
enough plants to remember what water can do. let the fear in your
hands go back where it came from. clean the room.

call the people you’ve been thinking about calling. do the things your
pummeling heart says do. let the lessons forming lesions be less real
to you than children. make room.

ultimately your children will forget. the names, the places, even the
tastes, the flavors, the smells, the feeling of being there. the lightness
or thickness of air is changing. ultimately they will too. their skin,
their way of moving, their ways of knowing of feeding of mourning,
rejoicing. their ways of growing might look like nothing to you.

ultimately your children will remember. the sounds, the setting, the
faces, even the waste, the saving grace, the hells, the peeling of breath
from air. the rightness or wrongness, the glare is wide ranging. ul-
timately they will do. their kin, their ways of smoothing, their ways
of sowing, of feeling, of morning choices. their ways of glowing you
might recognize.

dig down star until you find the water. mine the water. mind the
water. mine. the water waiting in you. dig down dream until you
find the river. find the salted brackish liver, find the giver, find the
gifts. find the guilt. find the rifts. running rivulets, the spit. the snot,
the not willing to get. don’t forget. dig down star, until you find the
ocean. mind the notion that it’s calm. find the potion, find the balm.
my star dig down until tears come up. don’t get stuck inside your
charm. these are my arms, your shaking lungs. this is the way. these
broken rungs. stretch out your bones, starfish. become.


Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a poet, independent scholar, and activist. She is also the author of Spill and M Archive, both also published by Duke University Press. Her books (and all in-stock titles) are currently available for 50% off with coupon SPRING50 during our sale. Check back next Tuesday for a poem by David Grubbs.