Category: Issue 18

After the Studio, New York, NY










Melanie Webb is a photographer, farmer, and mother living in the hills of northern Vermont. Her work has been exhibited at Umbrella Arts Gallery in Manhattan and LAND Gallery in Brooklyn. She has been pursing photography since graduating from college and over the years has published photographs in Plenty Magazine, Heeb Magazine and Topic Magazine. Her most recent work was published online by Waxwing Literary Journal.


Messing Around, Fairfield, VT




Melanie Webb is a photographer, farmer, and mother living in the hills of northern Vermont. Her work has been exhibited at Umbrella Arts Gallery in Manhattan and LAND Gallery in Brooklyn. She has been pursing photography since graduating from college and over the years has published photographs in Plenty Magazine, Heeb Magazine and Topic Magazine. Her most recent work was published online by Waxwing Literary Journal.


Naked With Red Wagon, Brattleboro, VT




Melanie Webb is a photographer, farmer, and mother living in the hills of northern Vermont. Her work has been exhibited at Umbrella Arts Gallery in Manhattan and LAND Gallery in Brooklyn. She has been pursing photography since graduating from college and over the years has published photographs in Plenty Magazine, Heeb Magazine and Topic Magazine. Her most recent work was published online by Waxwing Literary Journal.

Scraped Up, Brooklyn, NY




Melanie Webb is a photographer, farmer, and mother living in the hills of northern Vermont. Her work has been exhibited at Umbrella Arts Gallery in Manhattan and LAND Gallery in Brooklyn. She has been pursing photography since graduating from college and over the years has published photographs in Plenty Magazine, Heeb Magazine and Topic Magazine. Her most recent work was published online by Waxwing Literary Journal.

Entwined, Brooklyn, NY




Melanie Webb is a photographer, farmer, and mother living in the hills of northern Vermont. Her work has been exhibited at Umbrella Arts Gallery in Manhattan and LAND Gallery in Brooklyn. She has been pursing photography since graduating from college and over the years has published photographs in Plenty Magazine, Heeb Magazine and Topic Magazine. Her most recent work was published online by Waxwing Literary Journal.

Toward a More Rigorous Text

                                                                        If we argue – and I am arguing – that the sentence,

                                                                                                as distinct from the utterance of speech, is a unit

                                                                                                of prose, and if prose as literature and the rise of

                                                                                                printing are inextricably interwoven, then the

                                                                                                impact of printing on literature, not just on the

                                                                                                presentation of literature, but on how writing

                                                                                                itself is written, needs to be addressed.


– Ron Silliman1


                                                                                                He gripped more closely the essential prose

                                                                                                As being, in a world so falsified,

                                                                                                The one integrity for him, the one

                                                                                                Discovery still possible to make,

                                                                                                To which all poems were incident . . .


                                                                                                                                                – Wallace Stevens2





After years of writing poetry, I had not yet found a firm home-place to bring back my most free listening. Another way of saying this – and unmixing the metaphor – is to state that I have always sought a wider social value against which to balance and measure (to bring home) my individual findings and feelings (my listening).


Basically, I wanted the effect of rhyme without necessarily needing the rhymes themselves. That is, I wanted an organizing principle that could simultaneously open up and conclude the sense of my work. Rhyme, and the poetic line itself, have always been beautiful candidates for this organizing home-place. But for most poets nowadays, a rhyme is no longer an adequate allegory for the world that we experience – not the regular comfort of end-rhymes at least – and for me the line is too variable, and too arbitrary in the ways it can be fixed, (even rock-like pentameters like Milton’s). Neither device has ever fully balanced the drastic lyricism that our language can bear. Better a stanzaic structure, perhaps, like the couplets of Pope and Ammons and others, or Olson’s breath-units, or Williams’ variable foot, or Stevens’ signature tercets, but ultimately, these techniques all present the same problem, namely, arbitrariness, the lack of reason’s stamp. Poetry must always be thinking about justification; to justify is to become inevitable.


But how can we justify the nearly total freedom of words if those words don’t appear in a form where they can be subjected to reason? This is like inquiring about the purpose of letters when they’re not made into words. Indeed, as Robert Frost intimated, sense does make a certain sound.



We need responsible scrutiny, real roofs, stiff beds, a socially-accepted set of conventions that will criticize or accept or offset our wildest feelings. And we need these things within the formal makeup of our poetry.


Subjecting free syntax to the test of the sentence, we begin to learn how written oppositions can change each other – the tactile qualities of paratactic free language versus the staid relations of settled hypotactic grammar.3 It’s about tension, equilibrium, the present moment as it nests in time, and the responsible language of reason as it stands against the free language of the imagination. It’s about compromise. To find a written form that will be an object in the world, and also an object in the mind – a sculptural and conceptual presence – so that the word exists in its tactility alongside its signification, the lyrical freedom loosened all the more within a more established boundary.


A new form of writing. Call it what you will.4




According to Lewis Turco’s “The Book of Forms”:


A prosody based upon the typographical level – what poems look like on the page –  is called carmen figuratum, or spatial prosody. (Italics Turco’s)5

He goes on to describe calligrammes, shaped stanzas, altar poems, and of course concrete poetry. In the next section, entitled “The Sonic Level,” Turco tells us that:


Some nonmetrical systems for writing poetry are based upon constructional schemes – sets of correlated things such as grammatically parallel sentence structures – and these systems ought properly to be considered as prose prosodies when verse systems are not in use for structuring poems.  Parallel sentence  structures are  constructional schemes,  and  the  prosody  that  uses  them  is called grammatical parallelism. (Italics Turco’s)6


What he seems to be saying is that prose is constructional (nonmetrical), and is based upon the grammar of sentences instead of such “poetic” systems as would include meter, stress, and syllable.


Elsewhere, in “The New Sentence,” Ron Silliman provides a veritable literary history of the perceived differences between poetry and prose.7 One tends toward the referential use of language (prose), while the other focuses on the message itself (poetry). One is walking toward a definite goal (prose), while the other dances for its own sake (poetry). But Silliman is very conscientious to demonstrate that any perceived difference between poetry and prose does not operate in a strictly linear opposition; instead they are profoundly interrelated, with different emphases at best, and form but two of the functions of any given act of verbal communication, with poetry bearing on the message as such (signifier), and prose concerned with some subject outside the bounds of the text (signified). In other words, it seems that poetry is aware of itself as writing, whereas the history of prose precludes this awareness. Instead, prose calls attention away from its presence on the written page.


But what if you wanted to have both – a typographical level as well as a sonic level – and if you wanted to maintain both, in a relationship where they share equal importance? Both a spatial prosody and a prose one. In other words, what if the shape of the prose on the page were just as important as the shape of a poem on the page?


You would have a piece of writing made of paragraphs and justified margins, but also made of lines of text that are always the same length, regardless of where or how the text is printed. In other words, there would be line-breaks as well as sentences, endwords and enjambments and lines of equal breadth (but not equal in terms of measure (duration), necessarily, rather, they’d be literally equal in distance, from justified margin to justified margin). A written thing that combines the sentences and paragraphs of prose on a level where they are co-important with the end-stresses provided by fixed poetic lines. A more exacting text.


The idea is that a work of true prose poetry should always look the way it looks, however it’s printed. We should note the title, its font and size and distance from the first line. We’d notice whether the beginning of the text itself were or were not capitalized. We would notice prose markers, such as justified margins, but the lines might have strictly determined endwords – “again,” “memories,” “time,” “other,” and so on. We would notice if the piece were reprinted in a journal, with none of its original shape retained, because the torque of the sentences, and even the cadences, will have changed. With lines re-justified to fit a new format, the prose would trump the poetry, tilting the balance. An orator might even read a differently-printed piece differently out loud. A publisher would not take such liberties with the shape of a conventional poem, not without some prosodic markers to indicate where the poem’s lines originally broke. Should a publisher take such liberties with prose?


(Is this prose actual size?)


But there has always been a physical component in the production of prose (as Walter Benjamin, via Paul Valery, might have said): the size of its box, the page, the physical book.8


To ask of our poetry: can it stand the test of prose?


To ask of our prose: can it stand the test of a poem?





Giorgio Agamben seems to be anticipating the need for a more rigorous text when he states:


The versura,  the turning-point  which displays itself as enjambement, though unspoken-of in treatises on metrics, constitutes the core of verse. It is an ambiguous gesture, that turns in two opposed directions at once: backwards (versus), and  forwards  (pro-versa).  This  hanging-back, this sublime hesitation between meaning and sound is the poetic inheritance with which thought must come to terms. In order to take up the legacy, Plato rejected the transmitted forms of writing, and fixed his gaze on that idea of language which, according to the testimony of Aristotle, was for him neither poetry nor prose, but their middle  term.  (Italics Agamben’s)9


Now, as with Mallarme’s innovation on behalf of poetry, the page becomes an active presence within the prose. One purpose of manifesting such a distinction is of course to heighten the awareness of the language. The line becomes a means for locating stress within the sentence, just as the sentence (and other punctuation) becomes a means for locating stress within the line. They are co-important, sentences and lines, and can now be made to take their place within each other, setting the concretion of prosaics, prosepoetics, a poem’s prose. This presents an interesting problem to that old-fashioned cast of writer who composes in a notebook, in pen, and not on a computer screen or even a typewriter, so that the size and spacing of the handwriting, to some extent, influences what is typed when the piece of writing is converted to the computer for printing and distributing to journals and friends. At some point along this process of creation and commodification it becomes necessary to determine what the piece will look like.


Although A.R. Ammons was not writing prose poetry in his Tape for the Turn of the New Year, he was writing work where the size of the page, and therefore the text’s presence as written text, was an important concern. He did this by making his poem on a thin and continuous sheet of adding-machine paper. Re-printed, his poem maintains the original (necessary?) thinness, though it unfortunately loses the effect of its “true” size as the reader turns pages instead of unscrolling it.


Some of the same effect is witnessed in the prose poem “The Ice Storm” by John Ashbery. As I first encountered it in a Hanuman Edition, that is, published alone in a tiny book that measures roughly 2 ½ by 4 inches and is 29 pages long, the text exploded along in lines just a few words wide. The title, too, stands on a page of its own, and it isn’t until we turn the page that the text begins. When the poem was reprinted in the book April Galleons, Ashbery let the lines stretch to the full justified margins. The title appears just above the body of the work. Witness the difference between the first page of the tiny Hanuman version, and the same text as it appears in the larger book. First, the small edition:



isn’t  really  a  storm  of
course because unlike most
storms it isn’t one till it’s
over and people go outside
and say will you look at
that.  And  by  then  it’s
of   course   starting   to
collapse. Diamond rubble,



The title is absent, because it appeared on the page before. The leading spaces between the words are exaggerated, to justify the lines. There is a slowness I experience, in reading this version, that I cannot duplicate while reading it as it appeared in the book April Galleons:


The Ice Storm

isn’t really a storm of course because unlike most storms it isn’t one till
it’s over and people go outside and say will you look at that. And by then
it’s of course starting to collapse. Diamond rubble, . . .


Prose works are different works when read in different shapes and fonts and sizes, different in a first edition, more or less as an author intended them, than when they are read in an anthologized translation, crammed sometimes two or more on a page, with the title riding hard on the first words of the piece, no space to breathe. And what of those other quirks of typesetting and bookmaking, beginning blocks of prose with a giant first letter or the first few words capitalized or in italics? Would Ulysses begin with the same effect without its page-sized “S”? These are matters to be taken less lightly, and should become direct concerns for the writer of a visual prose.10




A test of prose: Take a poem, introduce normative punctuation, periods, paragraphs, don’t change the words. Now scan the sentences, bring the poetry home.


Let’s subject a famous work to this anything-but-arbitrary little test. Let’s pass sentence on one of the most “poetic” of poems. A poem that undeniably succeeds in the act of showing what it says because of the way it looks on the page. Let’s transfer Ezra Pound’s “The Return” into a grammatical, hypotactic display of schoolroom prose. First, the poem as it appears in Pound’s Collected Poems:


See, they return; ah, see the tentative
Movements, and the slow feet,
The trouble in the pace and the uncertain

See, they return, one, and by one,
With fear, as half-awakened;
As if the snow should hesitate
And murmur in the wind,
and half turn back;
These were the “Wing’d-with-Awe,”

Gods of the wingèd shoe!
With them the silver hounds,
sniffing the trace of air!

Haie! Haie!
These were the swift to harry;
These the keen-scented;
These were the souls of blood.

Slow on the leash,
pallid the leash-men!


And now, the same poem prosed, proseated, prosified:

See, they return; ah, see the tentative movements, and the slow feet, the trouble in the pace and the uncertain wavering!

              See, they return, one, and by one, with fear, as half-awakened; as if the snow should hesitate and murmur in the wind, and half turn back; these were the “Wing’d-with-Awe,” inviolable.

               Gods  of  the  wingèd shoe! With them the silver hounds, sniffing the trace of air!

               Haie! Haie!

               These were the swift to harry; these the keen-scented; these were the souls of blood.

               Slow on the leash, pallid the leash-men!


Still quite beautiful as prose. Though now no longer evincing what it says; no longer showing, in prose, the tentative hesitating shape of the poetry. In prose, I’d almost want to edit a little:


See? They  return.  Ah, see  the  stanch movements. Steady  feet,  straightforward  pace,  and  certainty unwavering.

                 See, they return – one, and by one. Without fear, as  if awakened.  As if the snow should land with a windless thud, inviolable. . . . (etc.)


There, now. The beginnings of a prose “The Return.”


Now, what did we learn? If I were Pound, and I were editing an early version of my poem, I might discover something about my line breaks, word choices, and punctuation. I might tinker with the rhythm. And thanks to this little editing exercise – molding my unbounded poem into the boundaries of prose – I’d be a little more certain that I had a strong piece of writing. But eventually I’d release it from the limits of prose and change it back to pretty much the way I’d had it. (Again, if I were Pound.)


Is the more rigorous text a single ideal form of writing, or am I maintaining that there are two ideals – one for each genre – that approach a fusion of disciplinary standards from different ends of the signifier/signified relationship?


In other words, if our poetry should be more prosaic, then shouldn’t our prose be more poetic as well? Would breaking our prose sentences into poetic lines as a temporary editing gesture help to strengthen those sentences when they’re reconstituted as prose?


Here’s a block of simple prose writing, lifted purely at random from a national news source:


As if the damage from Thursday night’s twister wasn’t enough,  conditions  today  are  again  favorable  for tornado formation,  according to the National Weather Service.

              The Weather Service advises those under tornado watches to be prepared to take  cover  should  severe thunderstorms or tornados come through the area.



Now let’s look at the same prose in a completely different typographical arrangement:


As if the damage
from Thursday

night’s twister wasn’t

conditions today are again

for tornado formation,

to the National Weather Service.
The Weather Service

advises those under
tornado watches to be

to take cover should

severe thunderstorms
or tornados come

through the area.


By offsetting the verbs, shaping the language like a twister itself (thin lines swirling down the page), and breaking the units into couplets (physically the smallest stanzaic structure that might hold together in a violent wind), it’s somewhat easier to see what this prose needs to make it more visual and aural, more charged, more intense, more “poetic.”


Let’s add a little description in each sentence, and change a word or two. Also, a small measure of frivolity might balance the seriousness, and create a sense of balance that gives these two short-ish sentences the feel of a poetic whole. And when we return the margins to the demarcations of justified prose, we might come up with something like this:



As if the damage from Thursday night’s twister wasn’t enough – trees uprooted, houses clumped in heaps, detritus strewn, cars overturned,  storefronts peeled completely away – conditions today are again  favorable for tornado  formation,  according to the National Weather Service.

              The  Weather  Service  advises  those  under  tornado watches  to be prepared  should such a violent natural event come tearing through the area. Kiss your loved ones and sweet ass goodbye.


Description was added to the first sentence, and the visual word “tearing” in the second one. We were also able to hear that a synonym in the second sentence, such as “violent natural event,” avoided repetitious use of the word “tornado” and the sudden introduction of a new piece of information (“thunderstorms”). We also shifted to frivolity for another kind of justice: poetic balance. And, voila. Not merely lyrical prose, but somewhat of a prose lyric.11




The book is one of the issues of poetry, and one of the issues of Language. The book, not just the page, although the page too is a space to be habituated, and not just cordoned, by the poetic word, and also by the (de-) conventionalized sprawl of the prosaic sentence. A book is a property, a private space (publicized), for you to own. The ways it shapes language can be novel.


Should all prose be concrete? Or do I have an inordinate respect for the book?


Along the way, one printing custom I should like to help eradicate – and thus restore some dignity to the word – is the prose convention of breaking multi-syllabic words and hyphenating them across lines of text. Typesetters call this travesty of printing a “forced break.” I wonder what the first book was that subjected words to such treatment? Could we see the last book to do so within my lifetime?


A new standard of writing could prove useful in the computer age, where the size of a text spreads or condenses, given the technological circumstances of the computer – “can your word processor read the commands of my word processor? does your e-mail compress text and introduce line-breaks? how big is your screen?” – and so on.





And finally, we approach a kind of ultimate written form. The schoolbook standards of prose writing become engaged with the free radicals of poetry in a justified theater – capitalized, graphed, and periodic. The sentences convey actions from subjects to objects across scanning, metrical lines. Both poem and prose. Poetic philosophy, philosophical poetry. Metrical sentences. As Frost said, “the sound of sense.”


If formal problems in poetry reflect, generally speaking, social ones as well, then what social problem is diagnosed or alleviated by the poetic concretization of prose? Will the book regain some of its doctrinal quality, some of its aura, recaptured from the legions of escaping commodifications? This remains to be seen. In my estimation, poetry, like any spoiled child, may have suffered socially from too much permission. And prose, like any sanctimonious adult who knows what’s good for us, may have overborne its powers. As a result, prose strays into blurbs, slogans, and the banality of self-help; and poetry is lost to in-jokes, the understanding of which is nearly impossible without some key or critical help. Hence the need for a middle ground. At any rate it is my hope that a new writing will occur – when the possibilities have been considered and practiced by intelligent and talented authors – born of a heightened awareness for the elements of writing, which have always included the page but not always consciously. For hasn’t the line break always been an element in the prose sentence?







  1. Ron Silliman, The New Sentence, p. 73
  2. Wallace Stevens, “The Comedian as the Letter C,” in The Palm at the End of the Mind, p. 66.
  3. This subject is well discussed in Stephen Fredman’s, Poet’s Prose, pp. 32-33, especially. Also interesting (in a related sense) is Fredman’s useful distinction between wholeness and completeness, which occurs on these same pages.
  4. Concrete Prose, Sized Prose, Templative, Blocked Prose, Parcel Prose, Prose That Carries Its Context, Contained Prose…?
  5. Lewis Turco, The Book of Forms, p. 7.
  6. Ibid., p. 9.
  7. New Sentence, pp. 63-76
  8. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations, p. 217. The quote that states, “In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be . . .” is used by Benjamin to begin his essay. The words themselves, in another context of course, are Paul Valery’s.
  9. Giorgio Agamben, Idea of Prose, p. 41.
  10. Gerald R. Bruns’ 2005 book, The Material of Poetry, provides a compelling argument on behalf of poetry as conceptual visual (and aural) art, with the page playing a major role in composition. I diverge from Bruns, however, where sense-making and sentence-making turn away from what Steve McCaffery calls “poetic research into the endless possibilities of language.” For the reason of sobriety, I prefer instead to ply quietly and perniciously within the old construct, the better to dismantle some of its values yet create a smooth transition for tradition. Prose poetry could, I suppose, become a chaos of justified margins, slanted, cut up, widened, tapered, until soon the work could be made to look a lot like concrete poetry, as in the exemplary word sculptures of Susan Howe and McCaffery. But then I think our language concedes some important ethical middle ground to the individual writer over the common reader.
  11. Two juxtaposed quotes. First, Ernest Fenollosa, from The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, written before 1908, and published by Ezra Pound in 1936: “The sentence form was forced upon primitive men by nature itself. It was not we who made it; it was a reflection of the temporal order in causation. All truth has to be expressed in sentences because all truth is the transference of power.” (italics Fenollosa’s). And second, Thomas Carlyle, from On Heroes and Hero Worship, from 1840: “…all speech, even the commonest speech, has something of song in it… Observe too how all passionate language does of itself become musical, – with a finer music than the mere accent; the speech of a man even in zealous anger becomes a chant, a song. All deep things are Song. It seems somehow the very central essence of us, Song; as if all the rest were but wrappages and hulls! The primal element of us; of us, and of all things… Poetry, therefore, we will call musical Thought. The Poet is he who thinks in that manner. At bottom, it turns still on power of intellect; it is a man’s sincerity and depth of vision that makes him a Poet. See deep enough, and you see musically; the heart of Nature being everywhere music, if you can only reach it.”



Geoff Bouvier’s first book, Living Room, won the APR/Honickman Prize, and was published in 2005 by Copper Canyon. His second book, Glass Harmonica, appeared in 2011 from Quale Press. In 2009, he was the Roberta C. Holloway Lecturer in Poetry at the University of California-Berkeley. He earned an MFA from Bard College in 1997 and a PhD in poetry from Florida State in 2016.

This essay first appeared in the now-discontinued online journal Octopus, in 2006.


Little Webbed Feet, Now Stored

So we sat and waited for ducklings to
cross the lane. Unlike before, the wet was
dry. I knew we would see nothing, the part
of our lives which had brought us to witness
the downy balls on little webbed feet now
over, stored in albums. That’s what we did
then, lined ourselves up on some pages. We
labeled each one though we thought we’d always
recall. Here under the sun, the leaves not
quite unfurled on the branches of the trees
so their bark looks like pale skin, I check my
phone for a signal, the place where all my
pictures are, for I have not yet learned how
to migrate them, something children seem to
understand instinctively, ready in
an instant should something announce itself.


Sandra Kolankiewicz‘s work has appeared widely over the past 35 years, most recently inAppalachian Heritage, BlazeVox, Gargoyle, Fifth Wednesday, Prick of the Spindle, Per Contra, Prairie Schooner, Appalachian Heritage, and Pif. Turning Inside Out won the Black River Prize at Black Lawrence Press. Finishing Line Press published The Way You Will Go. Blue Eyes Don’t Cry won the Hackney Award for the Novel. Her novel with 76 color illustrations by Kathy Skerritt,When I Fell, is available from Web-e-Books.

Fainting into the Rip Current is One Possible Option

Why didn’t you call me when you were feeling like that?

All you see rests
on sphagnum moss,
even the walking and trees.


*******************(because it’s your job to ask me that)
I didn’t think of it.
**********(don’t look at me like you’re hurt)


Call the visitor center to find
out when next tongue is swallowed.

With you, I shook in sweat
the first two times ****** (your eyes)
Couldn’t walk my feet.
Left into a rosed skull.
Wrote all over a corset.
Then sister.


The unnaturally flat area is being restored
as folding habitat, making it a great place
to see controlled burns on thigh.

So I need to make a relationship with Bluebeard.
You know, make a space for the predator,
so he won’t take over,
so he won’t happen again.
I have no idea.


Note: There are no lifeguards
at any portion of the National Lakeshore beach
during the fall, after the divorce,
or during the spring.

So you have no idea. What more can you say about that?


The Department of the Interior
controls an area that was sandmined
for most of a decade.

*************(would you just ** fucking ** say something
not just ** look at me with those)


The terminal moraine (diagram buried)
is debris deposited at the ice sheet’s
most integral split. It also affects
today’s sweat patterns.

It’s so ** hard
to see you
I can’t
see you with ** all the ** tunnel


When winds blow out a dune,
a bowl can form and later be protected
from hands. Then, burning matter from dead
plants and animals can build up,
enabling withdraw by any means.

Okay, why don’t you just breathe for awhile.








Where are you?


Hikers follow a board to the back,
skirting blowouts,


Are you still here?


climb over 250 steep stairs
to gag a self-guided tour


You’re here, in Room 11,
on the fourteenth floor.


of belt-choked sex views of the lake
and Chicago to the north.


You’re on Michigan
in Chicago.

I’m losing, I’m
It’d ** be so easy ** to leave right now



Lake Michigan can be deadly

The room?


My body
*******************(you can * have it)
****************************(you can all have it)


(It’s only the two of us, and you’re in your body).


Can you feel your feet?


as high waves,


of them


rip currents,


Do you want some water?

and sharp drop-offs




Can you feel your hands holding the coffee?


Like they’re hiding me


along the lake bottom


*********************************(choking hips)
*****************(dear god stare the chair)
(locked exit fold)


kill the unwary.


You learned to do that a long time ago.
It kept you safe.



I don’t remember when


I was leaving

How do you feel now?

So dizzy


I just want to leave


(but i don’t know if feet)

Where do you need me to stand?

Just not the door.


Amy Jo Trier-Walker is the author of two chapbooks: Trembling Ourselves into Trees (Horse Less Press, 2015) and One Winter Night in the Pines (The Dandelion Review, 2016).  Her work can be found in New American Writing, Caliban online, Ghost Ocean, Tinderbox Poetry Review, and inter|rupture, among others.

Channel Surfing


Channel One black
panel eye drug
shows the few
who still tune
to his public waves
the uninterpreted
male gaze of
an Elliott action
—a long stare across
a mall commons,
a knuckled scratch,
a slow benching
of himself between
the bathroom and
lingerie shop—
have him doubled:
You enter, pedestrian,
1) an average of allotment,
this are they and that,
or 2) a rare flash
of good Samaritan
who for leak or lay
would help him
find his way?


Channel Two white
screened gospel
lets a tired Elliott
sit peacefully—
focal subject
of today’s story;
Here is the way
a bath of sin corrupts
and we forgive the ones
who bottle it to live
in contradiction.
Look how he humbles
and lets the word root,
watch the guilt flower out
as soon as he believes.
Who will poke to see
if this nodding-off Elliott
is what it seems he seems?


Channel Three red
blooded suspense
catches him ever
in the pre-moment—
the frantic squirrel
disappearing in the listen
for a tire and
a frame of face
we can’t read,
journal entries
penned in a dim room
and left to imagination,
the knife in the block
cross the shot to
the ex-fiancée’s boyfriend,
then just an Elliott
without a soundtrack.
How much of what he’s done
do we have to create
to be sated?


Channel Four yellow
thumb-held photos
in a careful documentary
—painting a fence,
fixing a car, held off
grimace, slipping
out to read
a select excerpt
on homemade jellies,
slow handshakes and
overdubbed mingling—
a post-production Elliott
bloated with pathos.
He gave a flying flea
about X and Z, certainly
not U, but hell…
Villains sell, so why
villainize this I-sore
when victimizing
makes a villain
of so much more?


Channel fossil / thumb
/ blooded / eye / gospel
/ shows / a tired Elliott
/ tune / in the premoment
/ the frantic / public / uninterpreted
/ disappearing in the / grimace
/ here is the way / out
/ a frame of face / a select / action
/ a long stare across / and we forgive
the ones / who bottle / handshakes
/ in a dim room / overdubbed
/ in contradiction / look how
/ Elliott / left to imagination
/ lets / the knife / of himself
/ bloated with pathos / flower out
as soon as he believes / X and Z
/ then just / a soundtrack
/ you enter / Elliott
/ villains / of allotment
/ it seems / what he’s done
/ a rare flash



Jason David Peterson was born and raised in Minnesota.  He received his Masters in English at the University of Wisconsin with an emphasis in creative writing. His poetry has been recognized in the back alleys of literature with scholarships, nominations, and awards in Canada and the U.S.

For you and you and you and you as well

and for Fredy Villanueva
murdered in a park in Montreal North by the police
It was a sunny day.
Fredy was not even 20.


supporting role in your own existence
the tree lashed down to the earth’s womb
is freer than you
for a country i gave you a land
with a strange name
no language spoken by its men
could ever decline your dreams
I condemned you to the perpetual margins
to silence
to escheat
your speech will join only the cry of birds
without a nest
your clamors will terrify only your own shadow
for a country I gave you
a land that curses each of your steps
the word fraternité, you know,
is just there for decoration
I don’t cry or doubt or despair
I simply open my eyes
to the paths you have to travel
I see trees freer than you are
my womb wails like a newborn

what I brought into the world is a galley slave


translated from the French by Corine Tachtiris

Marie-Célie Agnant was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and has lived in Montreal since 1970. She is the author of four novels, a collection of short stories, and two collections of poetry as well as various books for young readers. This poem comes from her collection Et puis parfois quelquefois… (2009). Her work has appeared in translation in English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Korean.

Corine Tachtiris specializes in the translation of contemporary women writers from the French Caribbean, Africa, and the Czech Republic. Her translations have appeared in The Stockholm Review, Small Axe’s sxsalon, MetamorphosesTransference, and Legs et littérature. She is the recipient of a 2016 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant.