LOCUSPOINT: Maine, August 31, 2011

Of her region, editor Dawn Potter wrote, “Maine is an enormous state, and also a lonely one. Our largest city, Portland, is a blip on the cities-of-the-world map, last metropolitan outpost of the Northeast Corridor, an urbane seaside burg that is liable, among airport baggage handlers, to be confused with Oregon. Yet Portland lies in far southern Maine. Above it looms the bulk of our craggy, thin-soiled, brief-summered land mass, jutting awkwardly toward the seas of Greenland, toiling into the Canadian wilderness—few people and fewer roads and as cold as a rat’s ass for eight months of the year.”

In the weeks since her edition went live, Dawn noted, “The Maine edition hasn’t been out for very long yet, but already I’ve received many responses from other Maine readers and writers. Most seem to be excited about the edition, but I’ve also heard a few of them express reservations about the ‘darkness’ of my curated poems. This interests me, not only because I feel that the poems are far more ambiguously moody than the word ‘darkness’ implies but also because the image of an ideal Maine is so powerful, even in the minds of long-time Mainers. For writers, it can be hard, very hard, to balance deep love for a place with a simultaneous need to admit its flaws and travesties. But then again, isn’t that struggle exactly what we face with all of our long-time loves?”

She selected this poem by Leonore Hildebrandt, “Field Notes,” for this retrospective:

Field Notes

Wind soured with silage: on the hill
north of town, a farmer keeps Black Angus cows.
Wooden barn tilts on the right of the road,
New England farm house sprawls to the left—
and the black calves have a clear view
of green meadows, the hills, and the town’s distant glint
from the small pen
where they live in brown-black morass,
where they feed on limp roughage, patiently,
their ears poised for answers.

Sun! The meadow is dressed in light and moisture.
Old apple trees, three or four below the barn,
still hold on to yellow, shrunken fruit.
A Family Farm, the sign says.
Perhaps it is a matter of scope. Or voracity.
So that the middleman who wages price tags
and contracts can squeeze them
into the bite-sized lot.
The middleman never sleeps nearby.

The grass has been mowed, hauled off,
packed and sealed under plastic.
Now it rains in the hills,
black calves crowding at the rack.
Movement is habitual:
how to lie down on a muddy slope.

LOCUSPOINT: New York City, April 30, 2011

Of the Big Apple, editor Sean Singer wrote, “To a first-time visitor to New York, our city is enormous, complicated, overwhelming, and palpitating with light and noise. Poetry is a contemplative and solitary activity, yet it thrives in New York City. In a place of 8 million people (only one and half million of whom live in Manhattan) there is a big population of poetry readers and an even bigger population of poetry writers. What New York has over many other places that gives an advantage to poets is its freedom of the mind, by which I mean a person is confronted with the world every second of the day here; you are forced to make decisions about who you are in relation to language, as each block often contains its own tiny world: a Korean deli, a Malian mosque, a Gujarati sandwich shop.”

Sean selected this poem called “VA Hospital” by Herbert Englehardt for this retrospective:

VA Hospital

Patience she says
As she shows fingernails so long
She must punch her computer keys
With a rubber-tipped pen

Patience she says
Wagging her green lacquered fingers
As she continues rapid-fire talk
With her son on her cell phone

Interrupting herself
She announces patience
No appointments for three weeks
The doctors are very busy

Join the quiet vacant-eyed
Patient veterans of America’s wars
Men run over by our own trucks
Ignored by overworked aides

Men in wheelchairs
Some without arms or legs or eyes
Heroes cowards
Ordinary soldiers

While she chatters

LOCUSPOINT: Atlanta, August 31, 2009

Atlanta inspired editor Jim Elledge to muse, “Place is never simply itself. Place is always something additional, something we bring to it: the way a trumpeter brings breath to the horn or a harpist’s fingers bring vibration to the strings. Air and movement. Song.”

Here’s a poem from that edition by Collin Kelley called “Controlled Burn”:

Controlled Burn

It’s as if the apartment is on fire,
smoke clinging low to the ground,
a filthy sweet fog rolling in from
the southwest to dirty up the city.

In the barbecue restaurant, all tang
and wood scented, every eye
is fixed on the news, necks craned,
as anchors with serious voices
express concern, but no answers,
then cut to war in the Middle East
while tongues go back to licking ribs.

Later, it will be explained as a series
of human errors, 3,000 acres burning,
misunderstanding of wind patterns,
and inevitable oversight panels,
so someone can take the blame.

Driving home, sun filters through
the haze, sets every skyscraper on fire,
a preamble to coming night, and the air
smells like past and premonition.

LOCUSPOINT: Olympia, January 31, 2009

Of her newly adopted city, editor Sarah Vap wrote, “I can’t talk about Olympia without talking about all this landscape, these outlying little towns. I can’t talk about Olympia without talking about these two completely different worlds– very metro and very rural.

Olympia itself is pretty. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rainier. It’s got a port on Puget Sound. It has an artesian well where people gather, like in days of yore, to fill their jugs. It’s pretty liberal, it’s got a lot of students, it has a vibrant farmers market and a great little downtown. Olympia is the home of Evergreen State College, one of the most environmentally and educationally progressive public colleges in the country. It is the home of St. Martin’s University, and of several community colleges. It has a couple good independent bookstores. It has the capitol buildings and on the edges, the big box stores.

Olympia is in the rainforest. It has the rain.

And it has, undoubtedly, a million other things I haven’t yet discovered.”

Here’s a poem from that edition by Todd Fredson called “We Huddle Against the Wind”:

We Huddle Against the Wind

My mother holds up a canopy, a leaded sheet,
to deflect that sunlight
leaping from threshold to threshold.

The backside of each ripple bulges
like Savonarola’s
monastic white cell,
its corners bending at the limit
of candlelight. For a second, I am sympathetic—

lust is a sequence of parentheses
with no words between them. Because with white
comes red.

Greedy bloom, kept humble by self-cruelty.

The gray moves us in
and the salmon flash against it like barrels of mica.

LOCUSPOINT: New Haven, March 31, 2009

Of her city, editor Suzanne Frischkorn wrote, “That poetry would bring me to New Haven and how often poetry would provide cause to return was a surprise. A number of poets stop in New Haven for readings and conferences. Some I catch up with over dinner or brunch, and some we entertain in our – now habitable – home. The city also provides fertile ground for new friendships.”

For this retrospective, Suzanne chose Margot Schilpp’s poem “Manipulating Time”:

Manipulating Time

So the sun’s apogee and the shiny windows
meet: ants die, carpets fade. If you look
closely, the glass is etched with fingerprints.
Everything is. Well, not everything:
the heart is slick, the brain, a mushy pod
that resists touch. There’s nothing like lucid dreaming
or a trip to the zoo. Once, in another town years ago,
we cheated at Rock, Paper, Scissors, before the charts
showed more elements to add—RPS 25—yes, rocks,
but also knives and guns, swords, mace, the higher
pitch of violence. It was before e-Bay, before all souls
walked around with ear-pods in little worlds
of their own making. You could greet someone
and they might speak. My attic is full of things
I’m saving for my daughters: their grandma’s
silver coffee service, a handmade silk stole, 50s furniture
they may not even like. I take back the years
by holding them in limbo: there you are, 1964,
a reindeer jumper with a jingle-bell nose. Hi, 1969,
and your Scottish doll with her eyes glued shut. I see you,
1976, hiding in my brother’s garish high school
graduation program. The things we kept
could all be trash by the side of the road, a kind of spell
against progress. Abracadabra. Turn yourself
into something useful again. At Chicago’s LifeGem
you can have yourself turned into a “memorial diamond”
to leave to those you love. They won’t be
in the Greenbrier bunker, which would have been full
of Senators had the story not been exposed
in the Washington Post. Where Congress will go now
is a mystery, and joins the list of many other mysteries:
why hypnosis sometimes look so real, how long
things will keep in the fridge, why the fashion
of leggings persists, and why the psycho bells across the street
ring on no schedule, but at random, in fits, a grand,
sonorous garland of bells and, combined with the hum
of lawn mowers biting back suburbia
to manageable wilderness, there’s just enough green
to allow us to believe we connect in some way
with the earth we use up, the land where antelopes
and bison, chipmunks, squirrels, turkey buzzards,
the laughable flamingo, the dog with popcorn-scented pads,
all exist in harmony and create a kind of music
that we sometimes hear, but don’t understand.
Skip forward. Step back. Straddle the best of that time
and this. All the noises we make and hear don’t cancel
the truest message hiding in our cells: you may have found
a lot of fancy ways to get there, but you’re still going to die.

LOCUSPOINT: Washington, October 31, 2008

Of our nation’s capital, Sandra Beasley wrote, “The poet as nurse; the poet as waiter; the poet as bureaucrat (consider the dowdy roots of the “Poet Laureate” title, which was originally “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress”). The Washington poet is a working poet. The writers I know struggle and juggle artistic calling with the demands of parenting, lawyering, Department of Whatever-ing, bartending, and teaching. A friend often taxis from his work on the Hill to catch a Folger reading, knowing he’ll have to taxi straight back again as Congress marches steadily on towards midnight. On a good day, our insistence on making time for poetry demonstrates fierce, inspiring devotion. On a bad day we are an exhausted lot, cursing the delays of the Red Line and straggling in just as the reading ends.”

For the anniversary, Sandra adds, “When I think about the DC edition, one of the things that I’m proud of is that we showcased two poets–Derrick Weston Brown, Maureen Thorson–with poems that then went on to appear in each poet’s first full-length collection (Wisdom Teeth from Busboys & Poets, and Applies to Oranges from Ugly Duckling Presse). Only two years out, I’d feel a little strange about trying to reflect on what has changed in this town, especially as someone who has gotten to spend so little time in it as of late.”

Sandra chose Derrick Weston Brown’s poem “Remembering Bonita Applebum” for this retrospective.

Remembering Bonita Applebum

Bonita Applebum is a
onyx colored
Milky Way sprinkled
infinity loop of
a goddess’s laugh.

Bonita Applebum be
the pentatonic scale
squeezed into form fitting
denim overalls.

Bonita Applebum be
Coltrane’s “Naima” at 88 bpms
riding an Ali Shaheed Muhummad break beat
bare back.

Bonita Applebum be your daddy’s
woman before your mama came into the picture.

Bonita Applebum still leaves thugs
breathless, their eyes leaking water
from nostalgia.

Bonita Applebum’s eyes shiny like
new vinyl, fresh like a Rudy Huxtable

Bonita Applebum be your
first first. First back porch
summer sunset French kiss,
first pack of Nag champa incense,
first hip hop sample that makes you
seek out its source.

Bonita Applebum is
1989, baby dreads,
salt fish, ginger beer,
sweet iced tea, cassava,
kola champagne,
mud cloth, head wraps,

ashy knees, shea butter,
library cards, bottled water,
and rickety first time ancestor

Bonita Applebum be black folk
in Birkenstocks and that’s okay.

Bonita Applebum’s
bookshelf is bigger than yours.

What you gonna do about it?

Bonita Applebum is a worn
copy of Erotic Noir.

Bonita Applebum is light skinned
girl crushes on Lisa Bonet, Jasmine Guy,
Pebbles, and Tisha Campbell from House Party.

Bonita Applebum is dark skinned girl crushes on
Sheryl Lee Ralph, Eddie Murphy’s first wife
from Coming to America, and Karyn White.

Bonita Applebum still knows the
lyrics to every song on Eric B and Rakim’s
Paid In Full album.

Bonita Applebum be your
first on purpose poke on the
dance floor.

Bonita Applebum be
the reason you got a Sankofa tattoo
on your left shoulder blade.

Bonita Applebum is
the rasp of Q-tips voice
that puts goose bumps on
your girl’s neck even now.

Bonita Applebum
ain’t 38-24-37 no more.

Bonita Applebum is
33 with a mortgage
and two degrees under her belt.

Your mama still asks about

Bonita Applebum is your
Son’s second grade teacher,
Guidance counselor, tutor.

Bonita Applebum drives a
Toyota Forerunner hybrid model
with mud cloth seat covers.

Bonita Applebum is still slamming
like a hip hop song.