Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

Jennifer K Dick// Cern 200

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013



American poet, Jennifer K Dick is the author of CIRCUITS (Corrupt Press, 2013), ENCLOSURES (BlazeVox eBook, 2007), FLUORESCENCE (UofGA Press, 2004), and 3 chapbooks including BETWIXT (Corrupt, 2012), TRACERY (Dusie, 2012) and RETINA/Rétine (Estepa Editions, France). CONVERSION, A new art-chapbook is forthcoming in Sept 2013 with Estepa.

She is also the author of an interesting manuscript in progress titled CERN 200 which we are happy to share some of here on Undertow. According to Jennifer this project on the CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, arose in part because of its proximity, but also because of what she feels is its humorous but also fascinating metaphorical-metaphysical existence as a house of mirrors reflecting mankind’s attempts to know. It embodies the risks (death, starting over on a global or even universal scale) that scientists are willing to take in their attempt to see, control, manipulate, and play with this universe which encapsulates them. Beyond the interesting motivation behind the project, CERN 200 is a beautiful mixture of lanuage and sciene that works well together. It’s also really hard to not like a series of poems that includes the line “the universe’s cock ring.”  Jennifer teaches at the Université of Haute Alsace in Mulhouse, France, co-curates the Ivy Writers reading series in Paris and the Ecrire Art mini-residency at La Kunsthalle Mulhouse. She is also a poetry editor for VERSAL out of Amsterdam. She keeps a blog here


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1   These poems owe their form to 16 Poems by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Laura Healy, published on theBOMB magazine website at

 2   This poem references details found in stronger-earlier-the-american-particle-accelerator-that-never-was/259512/ and,8599,1937370,00.html

3   This poem uses a combination of info from the TIME article,8599,1937370,00.htmland the Nobel Prize site on the 2012 winners, specifically:



Jen Bervin// “Nets”

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I’ve been really into erasures lately. Since reading Nets, Mary Ruefle’s A Little White Shadow and Matthea Harvey’s Of Lamb during the summer in New York I’ve been pretty transfixed by erasing- to the point where reading a newspaper has becoming an erasure.  Recently, I started erasing Walden which has ended up strangely slanted towards the primordial, thematically. If you are into erasures as much as I am you should check out the Wave Books website where you can read some and even create and save your own on their archives. (cool, yes?)

I’ve always been interested by Jen Bervin’s choice to erase the Shakespearean sonnets. There are certain things you just don’t fuck with; hospitals, churches, anything by Tom Waits. To some extent, erasing Shakespeare has a somewhat blasphemous feeling; regardless of your beliefs about his work. Bervin’s choice to strip the sonnets away to their bare bones is definitely bold; plus I love the title Nets. Fucking Jen Bervin! I almost hate her for thinking of it first.


via conjunctions



Tao Lin

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Poet and Novelist Tao Lin is the author of 7 books of fiction/poetry and makes me feel incredibly lazy. He has a BA in Journalism from NYU and lives in Manhattan NY. He is founder and editor of Muumuu House literary press, Vice publishes a column by him titled “Drug-Related Photoshop Art” and he has a badass awesome blog you should check out. His third novel TAIPEI will be published by Vintage June 2013. Check out some of his poetry below.


the night with the green sky


It was snowing and you were kind of beautiful
We were in the city and every time I looked up
Someone was leaning out a window, staring at me

I could tell you liked me a lot or maybe even loved me
But you kept walking at this strange speed
You kept going in angles and it was confusing me

I think maybe you were thinking that you’d make me disappear
By walking at strange speeds and in a strange, curvy way
But how would that cause me to vanish from the planet Earth?

And that hurts
Why did you want me gone?
That hurts
I don’t know
Some things can’t be explained, I guess
The sky, for example, was green that night



i will learn how to love a person and then i will teach you and then we will know

seen from a great enough distance i cannot be seen
i feel this as an extremely distinct sensation
of feeling like shit; the effect of small children
is that they use declarative sentences and then look at your face
with an expression that says, ‘you will never do enough
for the people you love’; i can feel the universe expanding
and it feels like no one is trying hard enough
the effect of this is an extremely shitty sensation
of being the only person alive; i have been alone for a very long time
it will take an extreme person to make me feel less alone
the effect of being alone for a very long time
is that i have been thinking very hard and learning
about mortality, loneliness, people, society, and love; i am afraid
that i am not learning fast enough; i can feel the universe expanding
and it feels like no one has ever tried hard enough; when i cried in your room
it was the effect of an extremely distinct sensation that ‘i am the only person
alive,’ ‘i have not learned enough,’ and ‘i can feel the universe expanding
and making things be further apart
and it feels like a declarative sentence
whose message is that we must try harder’

Timothy Donnelly

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Besides teaching at Columbia University, Boston Review editor, Timothy Donnelly, is busy being the shit. Donnelly is the author of two collections of poetry, The Cloud Corporation (Wave Books, 2011) and Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit(Grove Press, 2003).

By Night with Torch and Spear

That fire at the mouth of the flare stack rising
     more than three-hundred feet above the refinery
contorts as it feeds on the invisible current
      of methane produced by the oil's distillation

process like a monster, the nonstop spasm of it
     lumbering upwards into the dark Newark
night like a sack made of orange parachute fabric
     an awkward number of gorillas get it on in.

I would worship it. The motion, the heat, the unapologetic
     knack of the element to yank the appliance
plug from its outlet, filling the big blue business-
     suite of my head with nothing but its own

wordlessness and light. Not now, not knowing
     what I can't unknow, but back on the grasslands
before we ever came to harness it I would bow
     down among the seething life of that primitive

interior and worship the fire taking one bright
     liberty after another. Done listening to fellow
passengers tweaking the fine points. Done rubbing
     the dead end of thinking like a spent torch

against the cave's painted walls to make it burn
     better. As the train slows down as the track
curves around the body of water the fire reflects in,
     it is a form of worship. What is it in me that

hasn't yet been killed with reason, habit, through
     long atrophy or copied so beyond its master
it parses like the last will and testament of a moth-
     eaten cardigan? It dumps its nice adrenaline

into my system nights I hear the crisp steps of deer
     on fallen leaves and stop or when looking up
beneath baroque snow or when I lean over the
     banister along the border of a strong waterfall. 

All good and well. But the endless hyperactive
     plumage exploding from this toxic aviary, this sun
of industry descended from the lightning strike,
     obscures its diabolism with a Vegas brightness

so that what there is to fear in it instead excites
     me up a biochemical peak from the far side of which
my own voice, grizzled with a wisdom unknown
     to me in waking life, reminds me of the conjuror

who grew distraught because he sensed the forces
     he had stirred up with his art would not be
mastered by it. It rattles tomorrow's paperwork
     where it hangs from the branches of the ancient

timber trees. It messes with my reception, whereas
     I do not wish my reception to be messed with.      
It tells me to be careful with my worship—that if this,
     too, is a resource, then they have ways to tap it.


A Poem Interrupted by White Snake

That agreeable feeling we haven't yet been able
   to convert into words to our satisfaction

despite several conscious attempts to do so
   might prove in the end to be nothing

more than satisfaction itself, an advanced
   new formula just sitting there waiting to be

marketed as such: Let my logo be the couch
   I can feel it pulse as the inconstant moon

to which I've come to feel attached continues to pull
   away from earth at a rate of 1.6 inches

every solar year: Let my logo be the couch    where you merge into nights until you can't

up from the shadows of a factory warehouse
   in historic Secaucus built on top of old swamp-

land I can feel it: Let my logo be the couch    where you merge into nights until you can't even remember what you wanted to begin with.    Let my slogan be the scrapes of an infinite catalogue's pages turning over and over until you    find it again.

                     In the air above Secaucus

a goldfinch, state bird of New Jersey, stops dead
   midflight and falls to the asphalt of a final

parking lot. Where it lands is a sacred site
   and earth is covered in them. Each is like

the single seed from which an entire wheat field
   generates. This happens inside oneself

so one believes oneself to be the owner of it.
   From the perimeter of the field one watches

as its workers undertake their given tasks:
   some cut the wheat, some bundle it; others picnic

in the shade of a pear tree, itself a form of
   labor, too, when unfolding at the worksite.

A gentle pride engilds this last observation like
   sun in September. Because this happens

inside oneself one feels one must be its owner.
   But call out to the workers, even kindly,

and they won't call back, they won't even look up
   from their work.

                         There must be someplace

else where life takes place besides in front of
   merchandise, but at the moment I can't think of it.

In the clean white light of the market I am where
   I appertain, where everything exists

for me to purchase. If there's a place of not meaning
   what you feel but at the same time meaning

every word, or almost, I might have been taught
   better to avoid it, but

                                here I go again

on my own, going down the only road I've ever
   known, trusting Secaucus's first peoples

meant something specific and true when they fused
   the words seke, meaning black, and achgook, 

meaning snake, together to make a compound
   variously translated as "place where the snake

hides," "place of black snakes," or, more simply,
   "salt marsh."

                    Going moon over the gone marsh

Secaucus used to be, I keep making the same
   mistake over and over, and so do you, slowly

speeding up your orbital velocity, and thereby
   increasing your orbital radius, just like Kepler

said you would, and though I keep trying not
   to take it to heart, I can't see where else there is

to go with it. In German, a Kepler makes caps
   like those the workers wear who now bundle

twigs for kindling under the irregular gloom. One looks
   to be making repairs to a skeletal umbrella

or to the thoughts a windmill entertains by means
   of a silver fish. Off in the distance, ships tilt

and hazard up the choppy inlet. Often when I look
   at an object, I feel it looking back, evaluating

my capacity to afford it.

                               Maybe not wanting
   anything in particular means mildly wanting

whatever, constantly, spreading like a wheat
   field inside you as far as the edge of the pine

forest where the real owners hunt fox. They keep you
   believing what you see and feel are actually

yours or yours to choose. And maybe it's this
   belief that keeps you from burning it all down.

In this economy, I am like the fox, my paws no good
   for fire-starting yet, and so I scamper back

to my deep den to fatten on whatever I can find.
   Sated, safe, disremembering what it's like

up there, meaning everywhere, I tuck nose under tail
   after I exhaust the catalogues, the cheap stuff

and sad talk to the moon, including some yelping but
   never howling at it, which is what a wolf does.

Justin Boening

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Justin Boening is a Brooklyn based poet and editor of acquisitions at Yes Yes Books. I’m curious to see where he goes with his work. His poems remind me of scenes from everyday life; simple pleasures like choosing a fall coat and walking. His cinematographic style forms a unique vision, both with respect to content and typography. For more on what JB thinks about the poetics of performance, check out this interview with iO: A Journal of New American Poetry.


“Pig in Steer Country”

(first appeared in Vinyl Poetry)


By sundown, I’d pulled three black bass


and struck them on rocks. I used to have


style: a wicker basket, trout,

a herringbone coat.

In a grizzled autumn,

you told me these


were merely echoes: the falling tree

that took the forest with it,

crisp duff, another


hunter’s moon. I enter the night, a sow

sniffing in the cool,

so the passing leaves


can cling to me for calm,

and you can practice

in the loose

sound of crows,

with your medicine knives.


Dorothea Lasky// Thunderbird

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Dorothea Lasky is an amazingly talented American poet- she’s also managing to make the second half of September feel endless. Lasky’s anticipated new book of poems, titled Thunderbird, comes out officially October 2 by Wave Books (thought you can order it now) and from what we’re hearing and occasionally catching glimpses of it looks like its going to be a great read.

Catch a glimpse of Thunderbird from the poems below via Wave as well as a video of Lasky reading “I like weird ass hippies”



David St. John// The Auroras

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

I’ve enjoyed David St. John’s writing ever since I was given his book The Red Leaves of Night. His poetry has a strong yet self aware voice with that perfect touch of pessimism (or realism depending how you look at it), plus I always enjoy his ampersand obsession. His latest book, The Auroras, is no exception though the tone is a bit darker it is as hard hitting and thought enducing as his previous work and contains one of my current favorite lines of poetry “The cold & actual sky.” David St. John currently resides in Venice, California where he serves as the director for the Literature and Creative Writing Ph.D. program at USC. Check out some of his poems from his latest book of poetry, The Auroras, below.


The Aurora of the New Mind (David St. John)

There had been rain throughout the province
Cypress & umbrella pines in a palsy of swirling mists
Bent against the onshore whipping winds

I had been so looking forward to your silence
What a pity it never arrived

The uniforms of arrogance had been delivered only
That morning to the new ambassador & his stable of lovers
The epaulettes alone would have made a lesser man weep

But I know my place & I know my business
& I know my own mind so it never occurred to me

To listen as you recited that litany of automatic miseries
Familiar to all victims of class warfare & loveless circumstance
By which I mean of course you & your kind

But I know my place & I know my business & baby
I know my own grieving summer mind

Still I look a lot like Scott Fitzgerald tonight with my tall
Tumbler of meander & bourbon & mint just clacking my ice
To the noise of the streetcar ratcheting up some surprise

I had been so looking forward to your silence
& what a pity it never arrived

Now those alpha waves of desire light up the horizon
Just the way my thoughts all blew wild-empty as you stood
In the doorway to leave      in the doorway to leave

Yet I know my place & and I know my business & I know those
Melodies melodies & the music of my own mind.


The Lake (David St. John)

Opaque     the lake woke emerald
The raw decorum of the night giving way
To a slow extravagance     the petal-felled touch
Of skin & mist allowed by this

First undressing of the day     So much for beauty. . .

That is     not so much as in
Well my friend     That’s that nor as in I’m certain —
At last — of something . . . No instead I mean

What’s given to us     however dulled & undeserving we remain

Is beyond our reckoning     though we gaze expectantly into the sky
Entitled to nothing & yet demanding all     like these swollen red
Poppies at the end of each sudden summer’s



Human Fields (David St. John)


It was she thought
A glorious trail coiling

Through the jungle beneath
The terraces & pancake layers

Of viridian leaves & limbs as
The parrots & howler monkeys

Delivered the day’s editorial
Although she knew

She was hiking along those
Clearings & fields

Where hundreds of bodies
Had been shoveled into shelves

Of earth & sockets of rock
Villages hacked entirely to pieces

& planted haphazardly in the ruts
& furrows & she made herself recall

These were now human fields
No longer given over to local crops

From which at times a stray
Stalk of mud-caked shin-bone

Or some misguided white rake of
A hand might reach up

Out of its bed as if
A new order had been announced

As if some heaven of actual memory
Had begun to radiate at last beyond

The cold & actual sky

Adrienne Rich// To a Poet

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I’ve been reading The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich and it’s without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and insightful books of poetry I’ve read. Today I came across her poem To A Poet and I can’t get the words out of my mind.


To a Poet (Adrienne Rich)

Ice splits under the metal
shovel another day
hazed light off fogged panes
cruelty of winter landlocked your life
wrapped round you in your twenties
an old bathrobe dragged down
with milkstains tearstains dust

Scraping eggcrust from the child’s
dried dish skimming the skin
from cooled milk wringing diapers
Language floats at the vanishing-point
incarnate breathes the fluorescent bulb
primary states the scarred grain of the floor
and on the ceiling in torn plaster laughs imago

and I have fears that you will cease to be
before your pen has glean’d your teeming brain

for you are not a suicide
but no-one calls this murder
Small mouths, needy, suck you: This is love

I write this not for you
who fight to write your own
words fighting up the falls
but for another woman dumb
with loneliness dust seeping plastic bags
with children in a house
where language floats and spins
abortion in
the bowl

Jeffrey McDaniel// The First Straw

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Anna posted this beautiful poem by Jeffrey McDaniel on Undertow’s Tumblr and I had to repost it here for everyone. Jeffrey McDaniel is an American poet living in Brooklyn. He has published four books of poetry, most recently The Endarkenment, and currently teaches creative writing and Sarah Lawrence College. I hope you enjoy “The First Straw” just as much as I did.

Jeffrey McDaniel, “The First Straw”

I used to think love was two people sucking
on the same straw to see whose thirst was stronger,

but then I whiffed the crushed walnuts of your nape,
traced jackals in the snow-covered tombstones of your teeth.

I used to think love was a non-stop saxophone solo
in the lungs, till I hung with you like a pair of sneakers

from a phone line, and you promised to always smell
the rose in my kerosene. I used to think love was terminal

pelvic ballet, till you let me jog beside while you pedaled
all over hell on the menstrual bicycle, your tongue

ripping through my prairie like a tornado of paper cuts.
I used to think love was an old man smashing a mirror

over his knee, till you helped me carry the barbell
of my spirit back up the stairs after my car pirouetted

in the desert. You are my history book. I used to not believe
in fairy tales till I played the dunce in sheep’s clothing

and felt how perfectly your foot fit in the glass slipper

of my ass. But then duty wrapped its phone cord

around my ankle and yanked me across the continent.
And now there are three thousand miles between the u

and the s in esophagus. And being without you is like standing
at a cement-filled well with a roll of Yugoslavian nickels

and making a wish. Some days I miss you so much
I’d jump off the roof of your office building

just to catch a glimpse of you on the way down. I wish
we could trade left eyeballs, so we could always see

what the others see. But you’re here, I’m there,
and we have only words, a nightly phone call — one chance

to mix feelings into syllables and pour into the receiver,
hope they don’t disassemble in that calculus of wire.

And lately — with this whole war thing — the language machine
supporting it — I feel betrayed by the alphabet, like they’re

injecting strychnine into my vowels, infecting my consonants,
naming attack helicopters after shattered Indian tribes:

Apache, Blackhawk; and West Bank colonizers are settlers,
so Sharon is Davey Crockett, and Arafat: Geronimo,

and it’s the Wild West all over again. And I imagine Picasso
looking in a mirror, decorating his face in war paint,

washing his brushes in venom, and I think of Jenin
in all that rubble, and I feel like a Cyclops with two eyes,

like an anorexic with three mouths, like a scuba diver
in quicksand, like a shark with plastic vampire teeth,

like I’m the executioner’s fingernail trying to reason
with the hand. And I don’t know how to speak love

when the heart is a busted cup filling with spit and paste,
and the only sexual fantasy I have is busting

into the Pentagon with a bazooka-sized pen and blowing
open the minds of generals. And I comfort myself

with the thought that we’ll name our first child Jenin,
and her middle name will be Terezin, and we’ll teach her

how to glow in the dark, and how to swallow firecrackers,
and to never neglect the first straw, because no one

ever talks about the first straw, it’s always the last straw
that gets all the attention, but by then it’s way too late.


The Art Of Disappearing // Naomi Shihab Nye

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

The work of Naomi Shihab Nye (who calls herself a “wandering poet”) has a distinct warmth to it. Her poems have a soft tumble to them, sonically, and are easy to connect with because her poetry’s concerns are so incredibly human. She pays great attention to the ordinary and speaks of it in a fresh, interesting way. Many of her poems are also concerned with war, peace, loss, and lineage. Here is a poem of Nye’s that, as an introvert, I have always loved. It does great work in making me feel whole and validated in my desire for silence and space.


The Art Of Disappearing (Naomi Shihab Nye)

When they say Don’t I know you?

say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.

Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say we should get together.
say why?

It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.