Animal Rescue

My position as liaison between the open-admissions city animal shelter and almost four hundred rescue partners skews mostly toward crisis management. An injured gannet arrives, stunned and unable to fly. A shedding python someone tried to mail to California, a neonate squirrel drinking Pedialyte from a syringe, a red dog with matted fur and a mammary tumor—my department rushes them to rehabbers or twenty-four-hour vet hospitals.

I do not think about poetry during my day job, unless coaxing moms away from their two-day-old kittens long enough to gently place the whole family in a crate counts as building a poem. I only write on my days off, in slices between laundry and the long walks I take to process the worst of what I’ve seen during the week. I struggled last year when it became impossible for writing to be my whole world, or even a large part of it. I thought in terms of survival and the next therapy session, the minutes when my ideation quieted as I led a dainty pit mix through the rain.

But reconnecting with animals, my first love, has driven me back to poetry. Caring about the survival of others helps me (most days) to see the value of my own.  

I wanted to share a few drafts from #NaPoWriMo that touch on those feelings:

Draft 1:

I watched a vet tech caress a swan down their neck, down the wing pulled tightly against his body. I watched a man caress a swan with a beak too cracked for panic. I tell him you make me that swan, cut my panic with tenderness. My co-worker sends an email titled “11 Rats, can you help?” with a photo of white rodents arranged in a loose braid of a nausea. Imagine they climb my shoulders, pepper my movements with their lozenge eyes. I’m so unlike the Black Swan I saw last Halloween, cloaked in enough tulle to choke a bigot politely. My rats will make me that polite, crown my body with their tails in the air.

Draft 2 (Radical Revision):

I watch a vet tech caress a swan down their neck, down the wing pulled tightly against his body.

I watch my friend hold a python   as close as she can to her chest, his shed flaking on her gloves.

The only children I love  stray far from what I could make: pinkie squirrels with dark nails,

small lizards in a cricket frenzy. I watch the accolades pile up  when a straight friend posts 

ultrasound pictures. Her fetus somersaults away from the camera.  My own uterus contracts,

the pain elegant and ribbed,  like the ribbon crack in that swan’s beak that made eating impossible.

Draft 3:

The further I get I am a gulper eel, I hope, a mouth like the black box in Are You Afraid of the Dark? I open this mouth and you fall inside. The further I get I am the Black Lodge, a row of tiles that kiss muddy feet, a thick curtain grazing your neck. I speak rewinding cassette, I speak marine snow as my eel body ribbons between water zones. It is effortless to be such a horror, and your clues dissolve like shrimp in my stomach acid, like a face blurred by a net of ink.

The Rise of Genderqueer is available for purchase directly from Brain Mill Press and from print and ebook vendors everywhere.
The Rise of Genderqueer is available for purchase directly from Brain Mill Press and from print and ebook vendors everywhere.

Tender and brutal, luminous and dark, raucous and gutting, Hanks’s poems are so alive that you can almost hear their heartbeat.—Foglifter

A truly incomparable collection, The Rise of Genderqueer constructs a voice with unmitigated and authentic yearning. Its poems soak ink into page from margin to margin, pressing into the reader’s assumptions about gender unmercifully. These poems demand, carry authentic wisdom, deliver keen argument, and disarm with sly wit. Wren Hanks challenges the status quo as neatly as a flower slid into the barrel of a rifle. These are utterly convincing prose forms studded with rhetoric he’s deftly remastered and sampled from our culture and conversations right now.

I’ll never be denatured, // I am nature,” Hanks’s poems insist, as the reader bears witness to a bigger world, light flooding into every corner, revealing what has always been true, vigorous, and expansive.

“We are witnessing the birth of an extraordinary voice in these poems.”
—Roy G. Guzmán

The Ghost Incites a Genderqueer Pledge of Allegiance

Wren Hanks

Deny girl and the blood galaxies trailing it; there is a ghost in me who loves each egg, who won’t let me throw up when I’m seasick from my period.

There is a ghost in me riffing on fertility & chocolate almonds. We grow organs in pig ribs, ghost. Surely swelling and blossoming are not the same.

Swelling’s for an injured brain, a uterus drunk on the repetition of cells. I place my hand on my bound chest, pledge allegiance to the rashes and the scales, the fold and petal.

It’s a mess inside me, ghost.

Wren Hanks is the author of The Rise of Genderqueer, a 2018 selection for Brain Mill Press’s Mineral Point Poetry Series and a finalist for Gold Line Press’s chapbook contest. A 2016 Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Fellow, his poetry has been a finalist for Indiana Review‘s 1/2 K Prize and anthologized in Best New Poets. His recent work appears or is forthcoming in Indiana Review, Waxwing, Foglifter, and elsewhere. He is also the author of Prophet Fever (Hyacinth Girl Press), an Elgin Award finalist. He lives in Brooklyn, where he works as a liaison for Animal Care Center of NY’s New Hope program, a proactive community initiative that finds homes for pets (and wildlife) in need. He lives in Brooklyn and tweets @suitofscales.

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like… the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.

What’s Currently Shaping My Writing

1.    The Slumber Party Massacre (1982, directed by Amy Holden Jones)

2.    “lofi hip hop beats to relax/study to” playlist

3.    Barbara Creed’s film theory on “The Monstrous-Feminine,” what it is about woman “that is shocking, terrifying, horrific, abject.” Creed explores the way the female body is coded in the horror film as victim and as monster, as sexual and virginal, as spectacle and agent. And that’s what I am trying to do as well.

4.    Oculus by Sally Wen Mao (Graywolf, 2019)

5.    Shiny Insect Sex by Stephanie Lane Sutton (Bully City Press, 2019)

6.    The Criterion Channel

7.    Glitter, specifically glitter paste

8.    I’ve become nocturnal lately. My partner works at night and I’ve been adopting his schedule a bit. Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I got in my car and headed west. I was aimless, just kept driving until I felt moved to stop. There’s this cemetery on the other side of town, and I found myself driving past its gate. My headlights passed over the red tulips sprouting at the low stone wall. I felt drawn to them—the tulips—and decided to park. There was moonlight, and I wandered down the gravel path, my eyes passing over the headstones and shadow.

9.    Agnès Varda, French New Wave and documentary filmmaker who passed at the end of last month.

10.  Taking the bus every day for work. It demands that I observe and take stock of my surroundings, inside and outside the bus. Looking at my phone makes me motion-sick, so I just look up instead. I get to see what people are wearing, what the traffic and weather is like; I get to say good-bye to this town.

11.  Daughter-Seed by Arielle Tipa (Empty Set Press, 2019)

12.  Ingmar Bergman’s spooky Swedish films

13.  The flowering trees at night—the redbud and dogwood. I went for a night-walk recently. The air was warm as bath water, and I just had to slip out the door and try it on. I walked two miles toward the empty cornfield, intending to visit my favorite tree. But I heard this loud, reverberating noise coming from the nearby neighborhood. So I veered left and followed the sound. It was birds—hundreds of them—in this little copse at the end of the drive. The noise was overpowering and ethereal.

14.  Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens (the 22 pack is very good)

15.  This color-wheel tote bag

My Tall Handsome is available for purchase directly from Brain Mill Press and from print and ebook vendors everywhere.
My Tall Handsome is available for purchase directly from Brain Mill Press and from print and ebook vendors everywhere.

“The twenty-first-century witchery that sprinkles glitter everywhere in My Tall Handsome allows for us to cheer on the speaker in her quest for finding love, seeking revenge—or even raising the dead.”—Ploughshares

The fanged fairy of Emily Corwin’s forest-mud-stained collection asserts and sings with short rhymes and glitter-spells, and just as you’ve followed her into the deepest and darkest part of the woods, terrified, you’re asked to run away together / and promise to never / do this heart-skipping thing / with anyone else.

Don’t be surprised when you find yourself answering yes, yes, yes.

Confronting and darling, every word a perfect warm circlet of pink blood, My Tall Handsome raids every crystal jar on the lace-topped vanity for truth, poison, and song until you can’t remember why you ever thought pretty was better than powerful, sugar was better than bitter medicine, or dancing needed more music than your own voice.

I sip the goblet down, tip it upside down / wear it as / a hat / I am a new shiny thing / and I steal you away from the hoopla hullabaloo rumpus

You won’t resist this kidnapping into the orchard, into the crabapple abracadabra—it is too crystalline a taking, and there are too many delicious chants to chant along the way.

“When the cutie-pie was opened, the birds began to sing, and what they sang was glittery and savage and fearless and dangerous—be careful with this book.”—Catherine Wagner, author of Nervous Device

A Selection from My Tall Handsome

Emily Corwin

my tall handsome, you are always

hydrangea in my rib, popped open

always dazzle of salt on my punched lip

love of life

the he & me I will devour

we beneath black cherry tree

all fruits and crystals on your chest

you were my first body—now and always

forever and ever, in the pink bed rippling

amen.

Emily Corwin is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Indiana University-Bloomington and the former Poetry Editor for Indiana Review. Her writing has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, Gigantic Sequins, New South, Yemassee, THRUSH, and elsewhere. She has two chapbooks, My Tall Handsome (Brain Mill Press) and darkling (Platypus Press), which were published in 2016. Her first full-length collection, tenderling, was released from Stalking Horse Press in 2018, and she was a finalist for the 2018 Pleiades Press Editors Prize. Her manuscript Sensorium was chosen as an Editor’s Choice selection for the 2018 Akron Poetry Prize and is forthcoming with the University of Akron Press.

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like… the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.

I Wore My Blackest Hair

When I think of National Poetry Month, I think of high school me, trying to write thirty poems in thirty days with my slam poetry team and writing in slim but full notebooks and yelling verses into graffitied alleys in downtown Ann Arbor. When I think of National Poetry Month, I think of longtime friend and poem writer Carlina Duan, who wrote in the corners of that high school with me. Who, as we both have grown and continued writing and studying and publishing, has been adding her vital voice to the poetry world.

Duan’s first book, I Wore My Blackest Hair, published by Little A in 2017, is a love letter to Chinese American girlhood. Her careful, musical, and visually rich poetry navigates the complexities of identity, family, love, and self-definition. In the book, Duan wrestles with her origins, her relationships with her parents and sister, and pieces of herself that she has lost and found. Duan’s images are bright, fresh, and comfortingly uncomfortable in their vividness; each poem is a bright and shimmering painting that bounces off the page.

In her work published since I Wore My Blackest Hair was released, Duan’s poetry sings with similar, necessary music. In two poems published by Peach Mag in 2018, Duan’s carefully woven words kaleidoscope with sound, specifically in the poem “Can You Speak English Yes or No”: “roman / alphabet digging at the space between my gums. Consonants / dropped like bricks, I chew their weight. always some man / telling me what I am, what we already know. say it right / say / it / say— can you read / can you speak / English / English / yes, /no.” Duan’s realization of the self is brave, unafraid, and real; it physically descends upon its readers and invites them to hold these worlds in their mouths.

Recently, Duan has also written poems about basketball, myth, language, and love. Every time I read a poem by Carlina Duan, my heart jumps in my chest. I read the poems aloud over and over, and we are in our high school creative writing workshop again, trading small scraps of paper scribbled with notes and our favorite lines of poetry. Reading a poem by Carlina Duan is like that—it feels like she is sharing something with you: handing you a neatly peeled orange, a photograph speckled with age, a music box, a memory that you have the privilege of seeing in spectacular color. This National Poetry Month, I encourage you to seek out Duan’s work and relish in the joyful, fiery, mythic beatings of her heart on the page.

Links to work/interviews:

“‘The Situation Is Gratifying,’” Winter Tangerine.

“I Wore My Blackest Hair: Two Poems (Excerpts),” The Margins.

“Rein,“ Narrative Magazine, First-Place Winner of the Narrative 30 Below Contest.

“Alien Miss,“ Tupelo Quarterly, Finalist in the Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Contest (TQ14).

“Mary,“ Black Warrior Review, Finalist in the BWR 2017 Poetry Contest.

“I Promise I Won’t Cry,“ wildness, Pushcart Prize nomination.

“Can You Speak English Yes Or No” and “In The Modern Encyclopedia For Basketball,“ Peach Mag.

“You Can Find Familiarity in Any Space You Go: A Conversation With Carlina Duan,” VIDA.

About the Author

Sara Ryan is the author of the chapbooks Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned (Porkbelly Press) and Excellent Evidence of Human Activity (The Cupboard Pamphlet). She was the winner of the 2018 Grist Pro Forma Contest, and her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Pleiades, DIAGRAM, Booth, Prairie Schooner, Hunger Mountainand others. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Texas Tech University.

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like… the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.

“Demons Are Not Fearless Black Boys with Imagination,” “Lake Girl,” and “Baby Island”

We are delighted to present this week’s selections from the Brain Mill Press Poetry Month Contest, Break Poetry Open, by talented poets Jeremiah Davis, Meg Eden, and Riley Welch.

We hope you’ll enjoy these editors’ picks as much as we did.

Demons Are Not Fearless Black Boys with Imagination

Jeremiah Davis

Shape a universe into a butterfly then release it. Bribe the dark spaces in your heart to let you create an estuary of flowers. Pray like an off key piano and celebrate the fifth grade memory when it was so simple it was a blessing to dream and live it again. Tell your broken maestro he is worthy of the song he’s been practicing. Talk with the instrument in his passion. Let go. Let go. Let’s go. Let it go. I never understood why crows were not called ‘black doves.’ They are just as beautiful. I never understood why the black boy was never allowed to know he had the liberty of dreaming off topic. They are just as beautiful.

About the Author

Jeremiah Davis is poet as well as an author. He has been writing poetry since grade school. Jeremiah started writing to better battle mental illness and overcome bullying. He has been published in The Perch Magazine, Phemme Zine, Junto Magazine, and more. He is twenty-two with aspirations higher than his age. More of his work can be found here.

Lake Girl

Meg Eden

About the Author

Meg Eden’s work is published or forthcoming in magazines including Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO and CV2. She teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College. She has five poetry chapbooks, and her novel “Post-High School Reality Quest” is published with California Coldblood, an imprint of Rare Bird Books. Find her online at www.megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.

Baby Island

Riley Welch

About the Author

Riley Welch

Riley Welch is a poet from Texas living in Denver. Her work has previously appeared in The Write Launch and Authentic Texas Magazine, among others. More of her poetry can be found at her blog, arhymeaday.com.

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like… the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.

If It Weren’t for Daphne Gottlieb

If it weren’t for Daphne Gottlieb, I wouldn’t be a poet.

That sounds hyperbolic, but it’s true. Okay, I might have been a poet even if I’d never read her work but my poems wouldn’t be as brave. Since the summer of 2001, when I bought Why Things Burn at Quimby’s in Chicago, her poems have given me a map for writing about the hard things—rape, addiction, mental illness—right alongside poems in praise of love, desire, rebellion. (But hard love, desire like a car crash, rebellion because you’d die otherwise; which is the way I’ve always experienced those things.) For eighteen years her poems have taught me ways to write the truths of how women, queer folks, and other non-normative bodies move through the world. How we armor ourselves, adorn ourselves. How we survive and find joy.

from “Anti-Nowhere League” [Why Things Burn, 2001]
from “Anti-Nowhere League” [Why Things Burn, 2001]

Daphne’s poems often involve an insertion of herself/the speaker into pop culture, history, or the literary canon. Much like Kathy Acker did in her prose (Daphne was a recipient of the Acker Award for Excellence in the Avant-Garde), taking source texts from the canon and making her hero(ine)s pirates and knights, Gottlieb’s poems ask: why can’t a girl be an outlaw, an adventurer, the author of her own story? Why can’t a girl be a Sal Paradise or Dean Moriarty, rather than just a Camille or Marylou?

from “Manifest Destiny (Great American Novel Remix)” [Final Girl, 2003]
from “Manifest Destiny (Great American Novel Remix)” [Final Girl, 2003]

Daphne’s poems aren’t easily categorized. Her work blends elements of performance poetry and “academic” poetry (as her official website bio states: “[Gottlieb] stitches together the ivory tower and the gutter just using her tongue”). Form-wise, her poems run the gamut from a more traditionally structured lyrical style to prose poems and other experimental forms. (I once nearly got into a bar fight with a dude who dismissed her entire oeuvre because she writes prose poems, and he said, “prose poems aren’t really poetry.”) So this is another thing Daphne has taught me—how to use my words as a bridge between school and street, stage and page. How to be both glitter and gutter, simultaneously.

Here’s a hard truth—sometimes people like us and those we love don’t survive. But maybe more than anything else, Daphne’s poems have shown me that I can use words to give my ghosts breath. Poems can be houses for the dead to inhabit, and every time someone reads those poems, they are again briefly, gloriously, alive.

from “Calliope” [Kissing Dead Girls, 2008]
from “Calliope” [Kissing Dead Girls, 2008]

About the Author

Jessie Lynn McMains is a poet, writer, and publisher. They are the author of multiple chapbooks, most recently The Girl With The Most Cake and forget the fuck away from me. You can find their personal website at recklesschants.net, or follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like… the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.

Where Stillness and Resistance Have a Form

Ex-patriot Cheyenne writer Lance Henson’s new work in Dead Zone et autres textes has the same powerful slight lines, imagistic suggestiveness, and resistance vision of his earlier work.

The poem “secret” claims the kind of revelation I have always discovered in Henson’s work: “the half blindness that allowed you to see further / words forged in motions” (24). The back cover text “places” Henson and his stance with this description:

somewhere between rage and freedomI am sitting in the ashes of a dreamsinging. . .

Finally, one of unnamed poems in the collection offers the kind of straight-forward societal indictment that also characterizes his work:

americaamericano longer a theme parknow a killing fieldif you are          the other. . . . (54)

A member of the Cheyenne Dog Soldier Warrior Society, veteran, Native American activist, AIM member, and member of the Native American Church, Henson also holds an MFA from University of Tulsa and has worked as poet-in-residence in over 800 schools in the United States and Europe. Since his first volume of poetry, Keeper of Arms, was released in 1971, he has published twenty-eight chapbooks or volumes of poetry which have been translated into twenty-five languages.

Throughout his oeuvre, Henson presents his sparse uninflected poems in lower case, without capitalization, and with ellipses as his main form of punctuation. His poems often weave together images of the external landscapes with spiritual terrain reflecting on their porous interconnections. They also offer commentary on historical and contemporary failings of the U.S. government and on the broader capitalistic colonizing forces at work in the world. Henson’s comments in “The Whirlwind is a Mirror” shed light on his aesthetic when he claims, “All poems are prayers when they work,” and “Poetry is revolutionary. It must be to survive.” About his preference for the short poem, he notes: “I think brevity is one way to acknowledge strength and one way to acknowledge and pay homage to the Great Silence we came out of.” Indeed, Henson’s poetry may be crafted to a large extent of prayer, revolution, and great silences.

A poem like “strong heart song” that gives title to his 1997 collection Strong Heart Song: Lines From a Revolutionary Text seems to contain all of these elements:

nadors do mi uts e mghon bach ni tseheskotseoehmin

i will walk on the ashes of the earthsinging (iii)

By opening the poem first in Cheyenne, the bilingual Henson enacts a revolutionary response to the colonization of language. Then, with the phrase “the ashes of earth” he implies something about the fleetingness of physical reality and perhaps offers a warning about the inevitable destructive effects of contemporary human actions. Still the poet will proceed “singing,” which in the larger context of Native ceremonial tradition is often the equivalent of prayer. Both verbally and visually the poem is small — much is left unspoken; much is contained in the implied silence.

Perhaps the finest gesture in Henson to silence comes in the poem “celebration” which opens with “cold light / at the edge / of words” and closes with this word picture:

in a portraita woman isholding herapron

catching thesnow (Selected Poems, 10).

The poem accumulates meaning from the idea of an artist’s creating a picture/portrait, the vision of the woman “catching” snow (or perhaps manna), and the idea of her making of herself a vessel — attempting to gather or hold that which will only melt as snow or dissipate as fleeting knowledge. Such, of course, is always the poets’ futile quest, particularly in the light of injustice.

It is as well Henson’s quest in Dead Zone. In the poem “Kofi,” he recognizes that Sisyphus-like task of poets to build with language even as we already acknowledge its inadequacy:

now your words have entereda frontier known only to poetsin our collectivebookof the wind. . . . (70)

In this new book, as in all that came before, the success of Henson’s poetry stems partly from its eloquent portrait of its own fleeting reality.

About the Author

Kimberly Blaeser, writer, photographer, and scholar, is the author of three poetry collections—most recently Apprenticed to Justice; and editor of Traces in Blood, Bone, and Stone: Contemporary Ojibwe Poetry. She served as Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2015-16. Blaeser is Anishinaabe and grew up on White Earth Reservation. A Professor of English and Indigenous Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Blaeser is also on faculty for the Institute of American Indian Arts low residency MFA program in Santa Fe. Her photographs, picto-poems, and ekphrastic poetry have been featured in various venues including the exhibits “Ancient Light” and “Visualizing Sovereignty.” Her fourth collection of poetry, Copper Yearning, will be published by Holy Cow! Press in fall 2019.

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like… the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.