Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday poem #51 : Susan Elmslie : Icarus, in Therapy

“As long as you tried your best,”
he’d say, as though I was fair to middling
and down in the dumps.
But I’d always get the highest grades, and once
a perfect report card: formidable
as Alpine slopes after an avalanche.
A taste of rarefied air.
I tried harder. Gold medals. The important thing,
to try. My best.
I learned to test its heights
and depths. Was prairie sky,
nights before exams, popping Wake Ups,
forty milligrams of caffeine
in a pill smaller than a watch battery.
Laps on an empty stomach. I hungered
for the simplicity
of twenty bucks for each A, the motivation
of venture capitalists, a bottom line.
But I chained myself to trying my best
until the outcome was extraneous,
the effort so pure,
it defined my whole myth.

Susan Elmslie’s first trade collection of poetry, I, Nadja, and Other Poems (Brick) won the Quebec Writers’ Federation A.M. Klein Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the McAuslan First Book Prize, the League of Canadian Poets’ Pat Lowther Award and a ReLit Award.  Her poems have also appeared in several Canadian journals, anthologies, and in a prize-winning chapbook, When Your Body Takes to Trembling.  Her poetry has been supported by Canada Council for the Arts grants for Professional Writers.  She has been a poetry Fellow at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, and a winner of Arc’s Poem of the Year contest.  www.susanelmslie.org

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday poem #50 : Elizabeth Willis : WATERTOWN IS NINETY-NINE PERCENT LAND

When I point to the island, I mean a body on a map. Think about the heart: it doesn't have to form a sentence. If the story feels cold it's because the beginning is so far away. One thing leading to another. Every city has its battles. A brother's voice can carry out a mission like a hand. This is where the voice turns pale when I stop to eat my breakfast. Something gathered in a sack outside the kitchen is how I feel. Pray for us singers in the forest of our discontent. All those empty lawns are staring down the partly cloudy stars. The man in the boat is trying to plug a hole made of all he'll never have. Someday even this will disappear into another death, an absence you didn't know was holding up the future. Follow the line till it no longer asks for more. Desire is irreducible, particular, crystalline. Its name is Georgia. Syracuse. Cheyenne.

Elizabeth Willis's most recent book, Address (Wesleyan, 2011), won the PEN New England / L. L. Winship Prize for Poetry. Her other books of poetry are Meteoric Flowers (Wesleyan, 2006), Turneresque (Burning Deck, 2003), The Human Abstract (Penguin, 1995) and Second Law (Avenue B, 1993). She has also edited a volume of essays entitled Radical Vernacular: Lorine Niedecker and the Poetics of Place (University of Iowa Press, 2008). She teaches at Wesleyan University and was a 2012-13 Guggenheim fellow. A recent interview (with Sean Patrick Hill) appears here: http://www.gulfcoastmag.org/index.php?n=2&si=49&s=3051

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday poem #49 : Karen Mac Cormack : Various Turns


in place of

word for word


a comparison

to regular order


a detail with reasons

proportionate share

as far as

the plan of a forthcoming book



state of equality

for all

a memorial

writ commanding

letter for letter

also; an article

extemporaneous composition

in the first place

let it be printed

in the same place


a decree unpremeditated



erase or expunge

mark used in interlineation

an additional premium

in English



Karen Mac Cormack [photo credit: Clare Paniccia] is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, most recently AGAINST WHITE (Veer Books, London, 2013). Her poems have appeared in a number of anthologies including Moving Borders, Out of Everywhere, Another Language, and Prismatic Publics. Her texts have been translated into French, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian. Of dual Canadian/British citizenship she lived in Toronto for many years and in 2004 moved to the USA where she teaches at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Tuesday poem #48 : Monty Reid : from Host


All worlds
are small worlds.

There is no other thing that could be human.

Or no thing
that could be human.

Wisp of.
Yaw of.

In the ducts of.


Perhaps this is not the time to tell you about Toxoplasma.

That’s because you probably have Toxoplasma
machinery at work in your brain.

Most people do.

And Toxoplasma has no interest in hearing about itself.
It has no interest in the dead instruments of metaphor.

It hides within your cells and secretes a heat-sensitive factor
that dysregulates cell division.

It makes precisely 128 copies before it spills out of
whatever cell has been holding it and the phages can attack it.

But some always survive.

All of this activity can modify your behavior.
For instance, it can make you think you are something
other than what you are.

It could make you more affectionate towards your cat
which is Toxoplasma’s final host.

Cells always die.  And you have to get it there.

Instructions to the Phage

They are lost – show them the way.
They are mistaken. They have entered the shadow assuming it was something else.

They thought it was an object but it was only a thing.
Things are not objects, not the phantoms for the subject, just the think of it.

They have crept to a penetration site and transformed themselves.
They have released the serum that dissolves the tissue.
They have passed through the surface effect of the skin.

They have made a cloak of invisibility from the camouflage molecules snipped from your cells and distributed on the surfaces of the shadow.

And still, they are lost.  Show them the way.

Let them move deeper through the heat flux of the material
through the catenated tissues, let them be the space you have come to think of as yours.

Just because you hear the voices does not mean they are meant for you.
Just because they have entered doesn’t mean they have stopped looking for you.

You can partition the sensible all you want and they will not stop.
You are never enough.
Finding you is never enough.

Let them enter the phage that has been sent to kill you.
Let them breach the security of the skin.
Let them enter the wilderness and stay there.

Monty Reid [photo credit: Max Middle] is an Ottawa writer.  His most recent full-length collections are Disappointment Island (Chaudiere) and The Luskville Reductions (Brick).  Recently he has published chapbooks with various small presses, including above/ground, Apt. 9, Gaspereau, corrupt, red ceilings, and many others.  His new mistranslation of Nicolas Guillen's El Gran Zoo is forthcoming from BuschekBooks, and his poetry collection Garden is due this fall with Chaudiere Books. He currently works as Managing Editor of Arc Poetry Magazine and plays guitar and mandolin in the band Call Me Katie. 

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan