Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: poetry

“Deborah Landau, Writing Poems For an Unsafe World”

The World Trade Center burns

We all want to know how to handle the horror that is, it seems, always around us now, haunting us all like a shadow we can’t shake. Poet (and director of the NYU Creative Writing Program) Deborah Landau has been thinking and writing about terror, and terrorism, and how to live in our unsafe world, for her new book.

“That Tuesday morning,” writes Fran Bigman, “September 11, Landau told me, she was pregnant with her second child and dropping her three-year-old son off at nursery school downtown; they were on a bus and people started screaming, and they saw a plane hit the tower. Scenes of disaster, both remembered and imagined, run through her head, but she isn’t a narrative poet who retells a story. “I am not a depicter, not any more. I’m never writing about something,” she tells me, “I’m always writing out of something—or into something.”

“Landau finished these poems, which make up Soft Targets [her upcoming collection], after the attack on Bastille Day 2016, in an intense 12-day burst—not her usual working method. These are poems for a world in which there is no safety. It opens with Landau’s fears for herself, familiar fears. But then the poem rushes outward—we, the innocent, are soft targets, but even bin Laden was a soft target to his attackers. The poems in Soft Targets keep sweeping outward, dizzyingly, from the intimacy of Landau and her “you” to the entire city to the entire world. Another of the book’s early poems follows this same trajectory:

I’m a soft target, you’re a soft target
and the city has a hundred hundred thousand softs;

the pervious skin, the softness of the face
the wrist inners, the hips, the lips, the tongue,

the global body,
its infinite permutable softnesses—”

Deborah Landau, Writing Poems For an Unsafe World

“New Poetry by Indigenous Women” curated by Natalie Diaz

We are lucky to have a selection of Indigenous poets to read at LitHub: Abigail Chabitnoy, Tria Blu Wakpa, Heather Cahoonand Sara Marie Ortiz. I’m happy to draw your attention to their work.

New Poetry by Indigenous Women

Berkeley Fire

Here is a poem from my second collection, Steam-Cleaning Love:

Berkely Fire

for Corbin

 

I know you are reading this poem

I said to Liz I want to understand the trees

I was speaking of eucalyptus in particular

When I met you I said Hello

You said Maybe it will sound ridiculous

but I pray for rain every day here

 

On the television I saw a woman

shaking hard

I watched her forearms

how she tried to hold herself together

by pressing her elbows on her knees

her face in her hands

Everything else was a still photograph

the still hush of smoke

 

You are reading this poem

You are rolling a cigarette, or Sharon is

putting flame against your lips

I meant to ask the names of what grows

I said The vegetation is so different

You said I love thunderstorms

 

Once I passed a burning house

I was safe but I was scared anyway

I didn’t understand

how loud, how hot, how big

Later a woman interviewed

standing in the rubble said

It’s like being dead then coming back

I’m scared now, I said

You are reading this poem in Berkeley

You said Is it raining?

 

You can order Steam-Cleaning Love through Brick Books here.

 

National Poetry Month: The Hole in Her Cheek

One of mine today!

National Poetry Month

“Wendy Xu on the Impossible Complexity of Immigrant Love”

Poet Wendy Xu over at Lit Hub and this passage about learning to parse literature:

“My father was my first poetry teacher in all of these ways—he paused to let us wonder together at the power of words. Why was this part so vivid and easy to picture in your head? Why did you cry at this part? Why did you fall in love with this phrase and repeat it over and over? Back then I was just happy to be spending time with my father, but the gift he gave me will last a lifetime.”

I can’t get it out of my head how helpful this training would be for a child who would later become a poet.

“Xu is the author of Phrasis (Fence, 2017, winner of the Ottoline Prize), and You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013). The recipient of a 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, her poetry has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Boston Review, Poetry, A Public Space, and elsewhere, with fiction and essays appearing in BOMB and BuzzFeed. Born in Shandong, China, in 1987, she currently teaches in the Creative Writing MFA Program at Columbia University, and is poetry editor for Hyperallergic.”

Her poem, Notes for an Opening, is here.

The interview with her from which I pulled this quote is here.

Words for Your 2018 by Louise Erdrich

Advice to Myself by Louise Erdrich

Love Will (Still) Burst Into a Thousand Shapes

“…The next section of the collection following the one focused on artists is “Our Terrible Good Luck,” an apt oxymoron that encompasses the devastation that populates these poems on topics not often associated that kind of horror: motherhood and children. Oh boy, was this part of the collection hard for me. They’re just shattering to read: domestic abuse, the death of children, gun violence, mass murderers, the dark sides of motherhood, the physicality and sometimes grotesqueness of child birth. For me, they were painful and difficult to read, despite their being beautifully written. When I say devastating, this is what I mean:

In the month before they find your son’s body

downstream, you wake imagining

his fist clutching the spent elastic

of his pyjama bottoms, the pair with sailboats riding them

He’s swimming past your room toward milk and Cheerios

his cowlick alive on his small head, swimming

toward cartoons and baseballs, toward his skateboard

paddling his feet like flippers. You’re surprised

by how light he is, how his lips shimmer like water

how his eyes glow green as algae

He amazes you again and again, how he breathes

through water. Every morning you almost drown

fighting the undertow, the wild summer runoff

coughing into air exhausted, but your son is happy

He’s learning the language of gills and fins

of minnows and fry. That’s what he says

when you try to pull him to safety; he says he’s a stuntman

riding the waterfall down its awful lengths

to the log jam at the bottom pool

He’s cool to the touch; his beauty has you by the throat

He’s translucent, you can see his heart under

his young boy’s ribs, beating

as it once beat under the stretched skin of your belly

blue as airlessness, primed for vertical dive

HOLY FUCK, Jane Eaton Hamilton. I don’t remember the last time I read a poem so fucking sad and heartbreaking.” -Casey Stepaniuk

CBC Guide to Writing Contests for Canadians (some international)

We’re lucky when we get a more or less up-to-date list of what’s happening on the contest scene. Here we are for fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry:

CBC Guide to Writing Contests

I Show My Dick

unknown source: please contact me for credit

I wrote a new poem. I’m sure you can guess whose voice I wrote it in. Louis CK has been accused of showing his penis and masturbating to colleagues. I watched Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi Season 2 reference to one of his assaults recently, as it happens, and I wondered about the male privilege and disregard for others you’d have to experience to commit assaults like these. What relationship would you have to have to your penis? I bet you’d have to think it was pretty great, at least superficially, wouldn’t you?

 

I Show My Dick

 

I carry my dick in front of me

It’s an easy-glide dick

It’s a strong dick

It’s a big dick

a stand-up dick

It’s a straight dick, it doesn’t bend

My dick’s a trophy dick

My dick’s a race car dick

It’s a stallion dick

an elephant dick

a blue whale dick

In a bag of dicks, my dick perks up

In a bag of dicks, my dick’s a fountain

In a bag of dicks, my dick’s Dick of the Bag

 

-Jane Eaton Hamilton

 

Surrey International Writers’ Conference

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton

Out presenting at Surrey International Writer’s Festival this past weekend, I popped into a workshop held by Meg Tilly to help improve writers’ reading skills. Here she is sitting on a participant’s feet. There’s probably a great story behind that, but I’m not whispering it.

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton

Sharon Olds: Can She Write, or Is She Just a Woman?

Over at Read It Forward, Jonathan Russell Clark talks about the phenomenon that is Sharon Olds in The Poetic Persistence of Sharon Olds: Why critics can’t handle the poet’s honest depictions of life, death, and women. The critical response to her work has leaked its hatred of women–of their embodiment, of their insistence for indulging this,for demanding a place at the table of letters. But literature snubs its nose back at them. Sharon Olds has been persistently successful as an American poet, in 2013 winning the Pulitzer for Stag’s Leap and this year winning the Wallace Stevens Award carrying a purse of $100,000. And she will be forever revered for teaching many of us how to think about intimacy and the domestic, how to approach it honestly, with our pens drawn, with an analysis of rounded character, with our politics in our pulsing blood, in words.

Finish your goddamned book

Yonder at Terrible Minds, here’s the not-so-terrible truth about finishing your novel, by Chuck Wendig.

Here’s How To Finish That Fucking Book, You Monster

Dionne Brand: Writing Against Tyranny and Toward Liberation

Dionne Brand

In this talk and reading at Barnard College, the Canadian poet, speaks to our questing, wanting hearts.

“I don’t believe in the notion of justice, since it presumes a state of affairs that is somehow formerly good but for certain anomalies is legitimate. In our case, I think that we live in a state of tyranny and to ask a tyranny to dismantle itself, to claim, to ask for, to invoke justice is to present our bodies, already consigned in that tyranny to the status of non-being, to ask that tyranny to bring us into being and that is impossible and it won’t.” -Dionne Brand

This talk is an excerpt from “Poetics of Justice: A Conversation Between Claudia Rankine and Dionne Brand,” part of the series Caribbean Feminisms.

Dionne Brand: Writing Against Tyranny and Toward Liberation

 

The Blodwyn Prize

I didn’t win this new prize for emerging writers–I am far from an emerging writer–but I am glad thinking so caused someone to read and enjoy my latest poetry book Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes and All Lit Up to report on it.

Must-Follow-Canadian-Book-Instagrams-for-World-Photo-Day

Sweet criminy, Warsan.

Just read it.

The House, by Warsan Shire

“For women who are difficult to love”

Warsan Shire, people.

For Women Who Are Difficult To Love

 

Many Gendered Mothers: Ntozake Shange

I’m not sure Ntozake Shange would be thrilled at being my literary mentor, but nevetheless, she was my first and I honour her every writing day.

Many Gendered Mothers

So You Want To Write About Life

gillianjerome_sidebar_retina

Gillian Jerome is a poet and essayist from Vancouver, British Columbia and a contributing editor at GEIST. Her work has appeared in GEIST, New Poetry, Colorado Review, Malahat Review, Canadian Literature and elsewhere.

Life Writing

March 25 @ 2:30 pm7:30 pm

“I write to define myself—an act of self creation—part of the process of becoming.”
–Susan Sontag

“This workshop is designed for people who aren’t professional writers, but who have something meaningful to say about their lives. We will learn how to discover our stories and to focus our material using techniques of creative nonfiction and Life Review, an educational process that enhances our understanding of ourselves and our lives through storytelling. By reading, writing and participating in interactive exercises, we will be guided toward finding new ways to write about our lives, for ourselves and/or for others.”

Life Writing

27 Books Every Person In Any Country Should Read

…but especially if you’re attending one of the hundreds of Women’s Marches around the world this weekend. Or should I say especially if you’re not?

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-12-37-41-pm

“These novels, essay collections, memoirs, histories, and more will help you understand why there is no feminism without intersectionality, why we should remember our history before we repeat it, and why Roe v. Wade is a lot more tenuous than you might think.” -Doree Shafrir

Buzzfeed Books

The fleet-footed thing among us

fleetingness

happiness.
you cannot lock it out,
nor bar the door against it.
like the midnight cinnamon
and ginger wafts
from the kitchen
of the insomniac
finnish woman one floor
down, sleepless and dour,
prone to nocturnal baking,
it simply arrives,
happiness, that is,
through the vents,
the radiators,
the small cracks
in the parquet or plaster.
uninvited,
unannounced,
unreserved,
it goes from room to room,
examining your favourite things,
touching them, gently,
not saying why it’s come,
where it’s been,
who it’s seen.
genial, uncritical,
it overlooks the dust,
the lingering odours
of squander and rancour.
astonishing how much
space it claims, something
so small as this happiness,
so small and so demure.
it does not want you to fuss,
not even to fill the kettle
let alone put it on.
what would be the point?
it won’t be staying long enough,
not long enough for tea.
there’s somewhere else it’s going,
it has someone else to see.
goodbye, goodbye, till next time.
it’s come and gone before.
its bags are packed and ready.
they’re waiting by the door.

–Bill Richardson

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