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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Open Books Release Reading, 2/24/2011

Thanks to all who came out to hear me read from my new book this past Thursday night at Open Books here in Seattle. I didn't expect more than a dozen people to show up (it was snowing and threatening to be icy that night). When three of my long-time Seattle friends walked in at 7:33 pm, they took the last remaining seats.
John Marshall and Christine Deavel mind the till while Poetry Northwest editor Kevin Craft purchases copy of The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception.

A cozy and inviting bookstore, indeed. Visible in this shot are Jeannine Hall and Glenn Gailey, Erin Malone, Megan Snyder-Camp, Carmen Zelaya, and Kevin Craft.

My kids gearing up for the demonstration of Newton's third law of motion: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
A most excellent microphone with no feedback whatsoever. I planned on being nervous, but I forgot about that as soon as I began my thank yous and prepared for demonstrating the first law of motion.

Here's a video of me reading the title poem.

Here's a video of me reading "It's All Gravy," with Greg Sinibaldi accompanying me on tenor saxophone.

Yucking it up with Greg Sinibaldi, tenor sax player extraordinaire.
Super, duper yucking it up with scientist Carmen Zelaya.

For those of you who weren't there, I divided my reading into three sections, one for each of Newton's laws of motion. I wish I had pics of these, but it was difficult to capture, to say the least. For Law of Motion #1 (a body at rest remains at rest until acted on by a force), I spun a bucketful of little green men around and around. For the 2nd law, F = MA, I threw a little green man at an unsuspecting audience member (my apologies!); for the third law, my kids let loose two balloons.

I don't know about those who attended, but the demonstrations were my fav part of the reading. It was very reassuring to have a break from the seriousness/formality of poetry. I am thinking I will use the same format when I read this Wednesday eve at Portland State!

Thanks again to all those who came out for a night of poetry and science!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Students Study Edson, Write a Mess-o Prose Poems

The challenge:

I provide a short lecture on the prose poem, including:

how Russell Edson likens the prose poem to the offspring of a giraffe and an elephant: It may look grotesque but is hailed nonetheless as a beautiful animal.

how Charles Simic refers to the prose poem as an impossible amalgamation of lyric poetry, anecdote, fairy tale, allegory, joke, journal entry, and many other kinds of prose . . . the culinary equivalent of paella and gumbo, which bring together a great variety of ingredients and flavors, and which in the end, thanks to the art of the cook, somehow blend.

how James Tate says The prose poem is an effective means of seduction. For one thing, the deceptively simple packaging: the paragraph. People generally do not run for cover when they are confronted with a paragraph or two. The paragraph says to them: I will not take much of your time, and I am not known to be arcane, obtuse, precious or high falutin’. Come on in.

We read some excerpts from Tender Buttons, all the while bearing in mind that prose poems are little paragraphs of rebellion, shirking the staid and predictable.

Here's a sampling of what they came up with. They are beginning poetry students, yet I know I could not have outdone them as an MFA student studying at the UW.

Hats off to you, my dear disciples of Edson!

Football Pot

My mom loves to cook in her football pot. My crazy uncle likes to give the most random presents someone could give and she got lucky with the football present one year. Every Sunday she brings out the pots and fills them with different things. Meatballs are always a touchdown in my house and if she has nacho dip in the other then the extra point was good in our book. She complains that she can’t use them for everything but I beg to differ. Who doesn’t want to eat their food out of a football?

--Kedja Johnson

Ant Farm

I was raised in an ant farm, I was the biggest one of them all. People would ask, why don’t you look like the others? I ignored them. They hid from me. In my opinion, I was an ant. I was taller and bigger, and to most, scarier. Only my aunt understood, in her petite, fiery red frame. Day after day I spent being ridiculed, until the first of February, a furry ferocious beast attacked our home. My first response: kick. He was gone in an instant. And I, well I had never been swarmed by so many ants.

--Jaclyn Brain

Things are not Always as They Seem

There once was a chicken with feathers. Like a beautiful peacock and a pig snout. Yet, it was still a chicken. The other animals burned her and plucked her because they hated peacock pig chickens. They thought she was different, so they painted her with glue and stuck their dead feathers on her. Now she was just a pig chicken. So the animals sawed her nose with a butter knife, then put a pecker on her face. The next day the butcher chopped her and said, “What a nice slice of meat!” Things are not always as they seem.

--Victoria Howell

My Sister, the Mermaid

My sister is a mermaid. It is very awkward to visit her. We sit on her couch wearing scuba suits, unable to eat. I suppose that is a good thing since all they have is eel and seaweed; not really my cup of tea. I find it hard to spend the night. You sleep like a floating dead body. We have had many a run in with rescue teams (to say the least).

--Victoria Howell

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dear Wystan Hugh Auden

As I Walked Out One Evening

As I walked out one evening,
   Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
   Were fields of harvest wheat.
And down by the brimming river
   I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
   'Love has no ending.
 'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
   Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
   And the salmon sing in the street,
'I'll love you till the ocean
   Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
   Like geese about the sky.
 'The years shall run like rabbits,
   For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages
   And the first love of the world.'
 But all the clocks in the city
   Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
   You cannot conquer Time.
 'In the burrows of the Nightmare
   Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
   And coughs when you would kiss.
 'In headaches and in worry
   Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
   To-morrow or to-day.
 'Into many a green valley
   Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
   And the diver's brilliant bow.
 'O plunge your hands in water,
   Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
   And wonder what you've missed.
 'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
   The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
   A lane to the land of the dead.
 'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
   And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
   And Jill goes down on her back.
 'O look, look in the mirror,
   O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
   Although you cannot bless.
 'O stand, stand at the window
   As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
   With your crooked heart.'
 It was late, late in the evening,
   The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
   And the deep river ran on. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sandy Longhorn Features The Little Office on her Blog Today

I was so tickled to wake up this morning and see that blogger poet Sandy Longhorn has posted a review of my new book, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, on her wonderful blog, Myself the Only Kangaroo among the Beauty. Thanks, Sandy!

I know just about anyone who blogs knows this already, but Eduardo C. Corral (Lorcaloca) has just won the Yale Younger Series of Poets Prize. Hooty-hoot and a woot, woot, woot!

If you live in the Seattle area and want to go out and hear some poetry tomorrow night, why don't you come on over to Redmond's Soul Food books and have a listen to me and my buddy Tom Hunley, along with some open mic poets? Here's the goods:

SoulFood Poetry Night

Thursday, February 17, 2011, 7:00 p.m.

SoulFood Books, 15748 Redmond Way, Redmond, Washington

(for directions, visit or

Tom C. Hunley is an associate professor of English at Western Kentucky University and the director of Steel Toe Books ( His poems are included in current issues of National Poetry Review, Louisville Review, and Verse Wisconsin. His newest books are Octopus (Logan House, 2008, winner of the Holland Prize) and Greatest Hits (Pudding House, 2010). Tom divides his time between Kansas and Oz.

Martha Silano's books are The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, chosen by Campbell McGrath as the winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Prize, Blue Positive (Steel Toe Books, 2006), and What the Truth Tastes (Nightshade Press, 1999). Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Paris Review, TriQuarterly, AGNI, The Best American Poetry 2009, and elsewhere. Martha has won grants and fellowships from Washington State Artist Trust, 4Culture, the Arizona Poetry Center, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She teaches at Bellevue College, near her home in Seattle.

Reading series curated and hosted by Michael Dylan Welch and Lana Hechtman Ayers.

For information, please phone SoulFood Books at 425-881-5309.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Once Upon a Time the Poet was Wondering the Rooms of the National Gallery

And now the poet is nursing two sick children.

And now the poet is preparing for the class in which she will be observed as she commandeers her 1,000th peer review.

And now the poet's eyes are smarting as she looks over a page in her notebook, an ekphrastic poem she began at the National Gallery two weeks ago, but which she has not yet had time to transcribe to the computer screen.

One child is living on Campbell's Chicken with Stars. The other made foam-flower poster-board creations all day. They both ate too much Valentine candy.

But last week that poet was . . . a poet! Got her nose right up to Pollock's "Lavender Mist," unnerving the guards.

No way! The poet is still a poet. The poet lives on amidst the Dove heart wrappers and the piles of unwashed bowls. The poet, breaking up the fight about who gets to be on the coziest side of the bed. The poet and her satchel of ungraded research proposals, Levis' Selected in one hand, thermometer in the other.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Preparing for My Release Reading at Seattle's Open Books on 2/24

I am preparing for my Open Books reading, which takes place on February 24 at 7:30 pm here in Seattle. This has involved (1) viewing MIT Open Source physics lectures by the famed instructor Stanley Kowalski, (2) practicing my physics demonstrations, (3) putting in time at a certain Wallingford music studio, and (4) trying to decide how much glitter and (5) where to stash the space aliens.

Without giving away too much, I am in the midst of planning a multimedia event of unprecedented devotion to Newton's laws. I hope those of you who live in Seattle will bust out of your first-law-of motion selves ("a body at rest will remain at rest") and come on down to the best poetry-only bookstore in our great nation. Be one of the first to purchase my new collection, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, and when you do, receive your very own free gift.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rattle Online: "What the Grad Students Said"

Thanks to Timothy Green at Rattle for featuring an audio version of my poem, "What the Grad Students Said."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jennifer L. Knox's Chicken Bucket

Chicken Bucket

By Jennifer Knox

Today I turn thirteen and quit the 4-H club for good.
I smoke way too much pot for that shit.
Besides, Mama lost the rabbit and both legs
from the hip down in Vegas.
What am I supposed to do? Pretend to have a rabbit?
Bring an empty cage to the fair and say,
His name's REO Speedwagon and he weighs eight pounds?
My teacher, Mr. Ortiz says, I'll miss you, Cassie,
then he gives me a dime of free crank and we have sex.
I do up the crank with Mama and her boyfriend, Rick.
She throws me the keys to her wheelchair and says,
Baby, go get us a chicken bucket.
So I go and get us a chicken bucket.
On the way back to the trailer, I stop at Hardy's liquor store.
I don't want to look like a dork
carrying a chicken bucket into the store—
and even though Mama always says
Never leave chicken where someone could steal it—
I wrap my jacket around it and hide it
under the wheelchair in the parking lot.
I've got a fake ID says my name's Sherry and I'm 22,
so I pick up a gallon of Montezuma Tequila,
a box of Whip-Its and four pornos.
Mama says, That Jerry Butler's got a real wide dick.
But the whole time I'm in line, I'm thinking,
Please God let the chicken bucket be OK.
Please God let the chicken bucket be OK.
Please God let the chicken bucket be OK.
The guy behind me's wearing a T-shirt
that says, Mustache Rides 10¢.
So I say, All I got's a nickel.
He says, You're cute,
so we go out to his van and have sex.
His dick's OK, but I've seen wider.
We drink most of the tequila and I ask him,
Want a Whip-It?
He says, Fuck no—that shit rots your brain.
And when he says that, I feel kind of stupid
doing another one. But then I remember
what mama always told me:
Baby be your own person.
Well fuck yes.
So I do another Whip-It,
all by myself and it is great.
Suddenly it hits me—Oh shit! the chicken bucket!
Sure enough, it's gone.
Mama's going to kill me.
Those motherfuckers even took my jacket.
I can't buy a new chicken bucket
because I spent all the money at Hardy's.
So I go back to the trailer, crouch outside
behind a bush, do all the Whip-Its,
puke on myself, roll in the dirt,
and throw open the screen door like a big empty wind.
Mama! Some Mexicans jumped me!
They got the chicken bucket,
plus the rest of the money!

I look around the trailer.
Someone's taken all my old stuffed animals
and Barbies and torn them to pieces.
Fluff and arms and heads are all over the place.
I say someone did it,
but the only person around is Rick.
Mama is nowhere to be seen.
He cracks open another beer and says,
What chicken bucket?

Well, that was a long a time ago.
Rick and I got married
and we live in a trailer in Boron.
We don't live in a trailer park though—
in fact there's not another house around
for miles. But the baby keeps me
company. Rick says I'm becoming
quite a woman, and he's going to let Mama know that
if we ever see her again.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

AWP Confession #2,657

I think I fell a little bit "in like" with Jason Schneiderman. Strike that. I think I fell in love with his SHOES.

Monday, February 7, 2011

AWP 2012, the Aliens Have Landed

Thanks to all of you swag-lovers I had to order another batch of space alien notebooks, green men miniatures (some of them are wearing bows in their hair?), and extra-terrestrial buttons. Rush order from Area 51.

Check this out! Chicago looks like a good place for me ------->

Sunday, February 6, 2011

How do you spell Ex-AWP-tion?

I hope everyone who was there had a rollicking good time.

For me there were many high moments, such as the following:

*Cornelius Eady's great gushing laugh as he gave us all permission to write persona poems;

*Joan Houlihan referring to the "poem as alibi," reminding us to read Stein's Everybody's Autobiography, and quoting Whitman ("I may not tell everybody, but I will tell you");

*Listening to Robert Thomas read his poem, "Take this Job and Shove it";

*All the poets who read for I Can't Dance to it/Not My Revolution; Seriously Funny, and the Outsiders Write About the Outside;

*Paisley Rekdal's "innocence is the first right to being alive";

*Doug Goetsch's comment that "time is the best editor at all."

*Hearing and meeting Juan Felipe Herrera ("everybody say SHESH-TEE-NAH!"), especially the description of his tia: "like a mean Frita!!!!" and the partial recitation of his 6th grade report on the Bay of Fundy.

*Running into and hugging and laughing with so many wonderful poets.

*Sigh* It is always a little sad to me when the blue/white signs go down and the next batch of conference attendees start to roll in with their suitcases. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I am behind on grading. Yes, I am having trouble getting out of bed, and will probably stay parked in this room/bed until my airport shuttle arrives 4 hours, but HEY, wasn't that FUN!?!?!?!?!?

(Top to bottom: Henry Israeli and I, Barbara Hamby & David Kirby, Keetje Kuipers)