Poetry Saturday: Laura Jean Baker

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Moon Over Park Avenue, New York, May 2016

Human Weather (an excerpt)

by Laura Jean Baker

August made a habit: warming our bodies
to the point of sacred.
On Dog Star days for twenty years
we loved to our dew point,
honeyed our moon,
and kneaded our bodies
into the wholesome shape of babies.
Girl-boy-girl
slid into the not-yet warmth
of every other May.

Better late than incomplete,
we made our last
between Autumn sheets; a boy named Frank,
he’d skid across the cusp of June and July.

The poem originally appeared in Calyx, a Journal of Art and Literature by Women, summer 2012.

About Laura Jean Baker: she earned her MFA from the University of Michigan. Her poetry, fiction, and memoir have been published in The Gettysburg Review, Connecticut Review, Cream City Review, Third Coast, Confrontation, and War, Literature, & the Arts.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Still More “Thing”

The factories still cry out sometimes. When we hear the keening sound, we know it is herds of ghost pigs, running into walls and crying because they can never find their way out. They are inside people’s heads, like the memory of old ways. And when people’s heads get too full of memories, the first ones to tumble out are the pigs, running every which way and squealing.

— from New Orleans Review 38.1, 2012

More “Thing”

  • We pig tenders go about our work with cowls pulled forward, shielding our faces. The sun is too bright: it scalds everything. At least, with a cowl, we still have faces.

New Orleans Review 38.1, 2012

Looking Back: “Thing”

“Thing” was the first of self’s dystopian fantasies to be published. It appeared in New Orleans Review, Vol. 38.1, 2012.

In the far future, a zoo for pigs exists in the desert. The minders are mutants, like the pigs they care for. The characters have names like Shrimp and Plankton (An editor asked if I got the names from SpongeBob Squarepants and I was so confused)

We feed the animals, clean their pens, that kind of thing. Our pigs are the result of experiments. They have all kinds of weird traits: one had a mouth in the middle of its forehead. Another had six legs. Another stared skyward, unable to bend its neck. Still another had the body of a snake and three noses. Each of the Not-Rights was unique and completely different from the others.

The mouth-in-the-forehead pig was mine. I named it Ed. I remembered that name from somewhere, I’m not sure where. When it cried, white foam spilled out of its mouth; the red of its pupils was astonishing, like fire. I never got tired of looking at it. It lasted longer than the others, I even let myself hope that it would happen differently. But one day its bristles started to fall out — big, black clumps of them, all over the pen. After that, it was just days.

But why should a pig cry, Shrimp said. What gives it the right?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Call for Artwork: Jellyfish Magazine

Jellyfish, a poetry magazine, is looking for some collaboration for the layout design issue of ISSUE 15.

Designers, artists, makers, creators — we’d love to see your work!

What do you get? Full credit, of course, a feature page in the issue, and any social media promotion/Jellylove you could wish for!

Deadline for Submissions: July 31, 2017

Submissions should contain the following:

  • Project Title
  • Photo(s) or a link to download or view photos (make sure the photos are high-res)
  • Description
  • A website for contact information

Complete submission guidelines can be found here.

 

#amreading: Sunday, 2 July 2017

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Exhibition Catalogue, SFMOMA: Jim Goldberg’s “Raised By Wolves,” Photographs of Seattle’s Street Children (1995)

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A Parent of a Runaway, Quoted in the “Raised by Wolves” Exhibition Catalogue

After Violence: Editors’ Note, J Journal, Fall 2012

This morning, self was standing on Platform # 5 in St. Pancras, waiting for the Picadilly Line southbound to Russell Square, when she heard the announcement over the PA system: We invite you to take a minute of silence to remember the victims of last Saturday’s attack on London Bridge.

It just so happens she has the Fall 2012 issue of J Journal here in London, and here’s what she read in the Editors’ Note:

. . .  after muggings in the park or fights on the street, after flood and fire, after 9/11 — why write? Why read? What good comes of either? Aren’t they just flimsy paper shields against what Yeats worries is “passionate intensity,” the eruption of chaos, of hurt and death? No. After violence, after strangeness on the street, after degradation and the jolt of darkness, what do people do? Grab someone and start talking. The writer grabs a pen and arranges events, turns abstractions into images, draws from chaos something to hold, something with meaning. In that way, perhaps writing is itself the first act of justice.

J Journal, A Note From the Editors, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall 2012)

Could have been written yesterday.

J Journal is published twice-yearly by the Dept. of English of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th Street, New York City.

Stay tuned.

“First Causes” Quarterly West, Issue # 89

Read it at Sixth Engine in Washington DC, at a group reading organized by Quarterly West in conjunction with AWP February 2017. The editors took a chance with this one, it’s all fractured syntax and stars a professor named Fire Lizard. Self is writing a sequel right now.

What a blast:

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Quarterly West reading at Sixth Engine, Washington DC, February 2017

Discussion of the First Corollary: What is average is perfect. Thoughts dark as dark. Big arguing with her. But but but. Her winking at me behind his back. Me thinking: sunlight and glass.

#amreadingpoetry: Michael Graves in J Journal

Cain’s Father

by Michael Graves

Cain, I ate of it
Long before your mother did,
And not because some tempter spoke.

I feasted underneath the limbs
Of God’s forbidden tree,
And then I slept
Between two thick and twisting roots.

(posted by kind permission of the author)

All my reading, throughout this current residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, has been about ancient Rome. I started with Mary Beard’s SPQR and now I’m reading Tom Holland’s Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic. I’m very struck by the theme of “double-ness” which recurs again and again, from the founding of ancient Rome (Mythic: Romulus and Remus, twins raised by a she-wolf, but all kinds of doubles appear in other world literature too).

And of course, just in the middle of my residency, comes this new issue of J Journal (New Writing About Social Justice, from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City).

J Journal has always had a special place in my heart. You know it. Because it blends the fields of law, social justice, and creative writing.

I kept sending them stuff, because social justice is a theme that reverberates with all Filipinos. They published Magellan’s Mirror, a story that’s a magical/realist re-telling of Magellan’s first encounter with Filipinos (They’re giants). You can read part of the story on their site, here.

A few days ago, the editors (Adam Berlin and Jeffrey Heiman) sent an announcement/preview of their forthcoming latest issue (April 2017). It included the Cain poems of Michael Graves, which were the “very first pages in the very first issue” of J Journal. I wrote to the editors to ask if I could feature one of the poems on my blog, they contacted Graves, and he gave his permission.

So here it is, one of Michael Graves’. It is powerful as all get-out.

Thank you, Michael Graves and J Journal, for letting me share this!

Stay tuned.

Self’s “First Life” (Juked.com)

“First Life” first line:

  • Ever since they moved our colony from Tonle Sap to the Philippines, my mind hasn’t been the same.

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