Contributor Update, Michelle Ross: Find What’s Been Missing In “There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You”

Today, we here at the Superstition Review are emptying out the valves and shining the brass so that we can properly trumpet the release of Michelle Ross’ debut collection of stories There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You. This collection has already garnered a list of accolades and praise that you can really march to, most importantly the honor of the 2016 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Michelle Ross was featured in our 17th issue wherein she provided us with “Stories People Tell.” That story and many more are all contained in her There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, which has been hailed by critics and readers alike as “fearless,” “exceptional,” and “the kind [of stories] I want tattooed on my skin.”

To pre-order this fantastic collection of stories, click here.

To learn more about Michelle Ross and her work, visit here website here.

Pre-order this book!

Michelle Ross’ debut collection, There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You.

#ArtLitPhx: District 4 Presents – A Four Chambers Takeover

District 4: Four Chambers Takeover

Four Chambers Press is taking over the mic at District 4! Pam Davenport, Jaime Faulkner, and Orlinda Pacheco  will be featured on Thursday, January 19th, at 7pm. Check out the Facebook Event page for more information.

Pam Davenport settled in Arizona after traveling the world throughout her childhood. She thinks it is strange for humans to live in the desert, which is probably why she is there. Pam has an MFA from Pacific University, and her poems have recently appeared in The Avalon Literary Review, Snapdragon, Rougarou, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Spilled Milk Magazine, and Bared: An Anthology on Bras and Breasts

Jaime Faulkner is a student and poet living in Tempe, Arizona. She’s been writing privately since she can remember and publicly for the last year. She has published with Four Chambers and Fem Static Zine.

Orlinda Pacheco is an MFA graduate from California State University, San Bernardino whose poetry embraces the sacred with the profane. Her poetic moans grope at the reality of infertility and expands the walls of being female. Her work has appeared in the Badlands Literary Journal, Inlandia, Poemeleon, and San Diego Poetry Annual.

Contributor Update, Patricia Clark: Take Refuge Underneath THE CANOPY

Superstition Review is both pleased and proud as all get-out to announce the forthcoming book The Canopy, written by past contributor Patricia Clark and published by Terrapin Books. The Canopy is Clark’s 5th full-length book of poetry (others include Sunday Rising and She Walks into the Sea).

Buy this book! Tell yr friends!

The beautifully rendered cover for The Canopy, out this year from Terrapin Books.

Patricia Clark is the recipient of many awards and honors including the former poet laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan, as well as the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Prize, the Mississippi Review Prize, and the Lucille Medwick Prize from the Poetry Society of America. She currently serves as the Poet-in-Residence and Professor in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University.

To read the official press release, click here.

To preview and purchase the book, click here.

Guest Post, Mark Lewandowski: Bikini Clad Bad Ass

Mark Lewendowski holding a panda cub.Moments after leaving the theater, my wife Katie checked Facebook and found out Carrie Fisher had died earlier in the day.

The adrenaline pumping through me after experiencing Rogue One dried up immediately.  The news wasn’t unexpected, but as all good movies do, the newest Star Wars film had kept reality at bay for nearly two and half hours.  Granted, Rogue One isn’t the most uplifting of the Star Wars entries.  Pretty much all the good guys are killed off.  But, it ends in the way I had hoped:  Princess Leia, one of cinema’s all-time great bad asses, accepting the plans to the Death Star, the very same plans she will feed into R2-D2’s databanks in the original Star Wars.

Since hearing of Carrie Fisher’s passing, I’ve spent a lot of time in my memory, hearkening back to my first meeting with Princess Leia.  I was twelve in 1977.  I saw Star Wars at the drive-in with my family, the sound squeaking through those tin speakers you had to hang from a partially closed window.  (The cheapest lap top produces a cleaner sound today.)  Like so many others in 1977, I instantly crushed on Princess Leia, but I can’t say it was sexual.  Maybe I was too young yet.  I just couldn’t remember seeing another female character like her on the screen (big or small) before.  She wasn’t cheesy like Wonder Woman or Barbarella, and didn’t look at all like Racquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., nor did she resemble the femme fatales of every James Bond flick.  Unlike Samantha in Bewitched, or Jeanie in I Dream of Jeanie, Princess Leia didn’t give up any special powers just to please the men in her life.  In my 12 year old eyes, she was completely unique.

At the beginning of Star Wars, and just moments after the end of Rogue One, Princess Leia slips the Death Star plans to R2-D2 and instructs him/it/whatever to find Obi-
Wan Kenobi.  She then turns and accepts capture at the hands of Darth Vader, stooge of the Imperial Emperor, who tortures her in an attempt to find out the location of the rebel base.  Even after seeing her home planet obliterated, she doesn’t give an inch, sacrificing herself for the cause.

Once in her holding cell, George Lucas sets up Leia as the classic damsel-in-distress; that’s certainly how Luke Skywalker and Han Solo see her.  However, Lucas subverts the archetype.  Once Luke frees her from her cell, Leia grabs a blaster, holding her own against advancing Stormtroopers.  With their only apparent path out of the prison cut off, it is Leia who engineers their escape via the giant trash compactor.

Later, as the Millennium Falcon zooms away from the Death Star, Han Solo quips, “Not a bad bit of rescuing, uh?  You know, sometimes I even amaze myself.”

“That doesn’t sound too hard,” Leia jabs back.

Only Leia knows the rescue was too easy, and that a homing beacon was likely planted in the ship.  Her own “escape” will lead the Imperial Forces to the rebel base she kept hidden under torture.  The future of the rebellion rests entirely on her hope that the plans R2 has hidden in his databanks will prove useful.  In Joseph Campbell’s analysis of a typical Hero’s Journey, the protagonist initially shows reluctance to accept his task.  Han Solo shows his reluctance throughout the film.  Even Luke must be pushed by Ben Kenobi to leave the “ordinary world” of his home planet.  Leia?  Never.  Of this triumvirate of heroes at the heart of Star Wars, she is the strongest, the most steadfast of them all.

. . .

Some years ago Hallmark released a Christmas ornament of Princess Leia dressed in the infamous bikini from The Return of the Jedi.  My eight-year old nephew had recently discovered Star Wars, so I bought it for him.  His mother wasn’t amused.  Like so many others, she views Leia’s get up as some kind of sexual exploitation.  Is it?  I’m not sure if I see it that way, and when I gave my nephew the ornament, I wasn’t playing the clichéd role of the perverted uncle.  Even now, when I rewatch The Return of the Jedi, I don’t see a sexed up, exploitative version of Princess Leia; I just see another manifestation of her heroic strength.

At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo is frozen in carbonite.  At the beginning of the third movie, he’s nothing more than a wall decoration for the mobster, Jabba the Hut. Leia enters Jabba the Hut’s fortress disguised as a bounty hunter, with Chewbacca as bait.  We realize Leia is part of an elaborate ruse, along with the droids, Luke and Lando Calrissian, to free Han Solo.  Arguably, Leia has the most dangerous task.  She ends up playing chicken with Jabba the Hut when she activates a thermal detonator to illustrate her ferocity.  If Jabba doesn’t give in, she’d blow herself up, as well has everyone else in the room.  While the ruse works initially, Leia is ultimately discovered.  Jabba dresses her in that bikini (giving new meaning to the concept of going “undercover”), and chains her up, replacing another bikini clad female who had earlier been fed to the planet Tatooine’s twisted version of a Bumble, which lives in a cave below the throne room.

Luke Skywalker eventually arrives to save the day, but once again, Leia doesn’t play the role of damsel-in-distress.  With the boys messing about with light sabers and laser blasters out in the desert, Leia steps up and wraps the chain around Jabba’s enormous neck, choking him to death with the very thing that had tethered them together.  It’s the very last time we see Leia in a bikini.

Leia ends up doing all kinds of other cool things in The Return of the Jedi, like killing off a lot of Stormtroopers and zipping around the forest on a hovercycle.  (It’s a shame she’s never allowed to train as a Jedi Knight, but she does achieve the rank of General.  That’s not too shabby.)  Without Leia’s heroics in the original Star Wars trilogy, we might never have become acquainted with Daisy Ridley’s Rey, or Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, let alone Buffy Summers, or Xena the Warrior Princess, or River Tam, or any number of past, present and future female heroes.

Thank you, Carrie Fisher

Guest Post, Maari Carter: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Obsession

Headshot photo of Maari CarterFor the past thirty years my grandfather has kept almost every single issue of Golf Magazine he’s received in the mail. A constant source of vexation for my grandmother, these issues fill the shelves of armoires, stand knee-high in his closet, and serve as a veritable fortress surrounding his TV stand. Every now and again, he’ll take one from a pile and peruse images of Jack Nicklaus captured mid-swing, Arnold Palmer lining up a putt, and advertisements selling everything from Big Bertha drivers to golf gloves. Being the stoic and laconic man that he is, my grandfather’s obsession with golf always made sense to me. It was a game he could play alone; a brief time during the week when all he had to contend with was himself and weather conditions. As far as obsessions go, it’s about as harmless as you can get. We’re not exactly talking Sartre’s mescaline-induced chats with crustaceans here- more like Tarantino’s frequent call back to Fruit Brute cereal, or Hirschfield’s habit of hiding his daughter Nina’s name in most of his drawings. There’s a familiarity there- one that evokes some element of order or existential meaning in its preservation of an artifact- in keeping it close and ever-relevant. And despite her aesthetic objections, I think my grandmother recognizes this as well, because not once has she ever asked him to get rid of them.

As for me, I’m only just beginning to recognize the nature of my own obsessive gestures.

A couple of weeks ago, I revisited Spinoza’s Ethics for the first time since undergrad and came across the passage in which he discusses the mind-body problem by examining the nature of sleepwalkers; how they often wake, surprised at the actions their bodies were able to execute while the mind seemingly took a backseat. As is typically the case, the text elicited a different response this time around. In terms of morality, this conceit provided interesting jumping off points that I had never really explored in my own work, and that led to a bevy of questions, such as: if mind and body are ontologically inseparable, is there any difference between the moral agent who only thinks of committing an immoral act and the agent who actually commits said immoral act through bodily extension? And isn’t imposing an etiological framework onto questions of morality further proof that it can’t be objective, because it relies upon the individual’s subjective conceptions of what constitutes cause and effect? And do we merely perceive something as good only by virtue of its being desired? And doesn’t the notion that a person’s ability to dictate what is genuinely good presuppose the existence of an idealized model human? And, by extension, if mind-independent moral properties don’t exist, then wouldn’t each person’s concept of an idealized model human be constructed in their own image and therefore be inherently fallible? I think you’re starting to see where I’m going with this…

Within three days I had written six poems entitled “Sleepwalker,” in an attempt to deal with the existential aftermath of this curious deluge. At one point, I even expressed concern to a fellow poet and friend, saying that I was worried about devoting too much poetic capital to a singular device for fear that it become gimmicky. But being the ever-supportive and wise friend that she is, she cautioned me against questioning it too much. Just go with it, she said. There’s a reason for the obsession. Since then, I’ve written five more “Sleepwalker” poems. Of course, I’m not so naïve as to believe that one poetic sequence will effectively bring about any sort of resolutions to the questions I have regarding morality, but resolution isn’t necessarily the goal. It’s enough to simply participate the act of recollection and extrapolation; to know that, when the mood strikes, there are artifacts of experience that I can return to again and again, because they represent something foundational to my understanding. At different times I’ve written poems for various reasons. Lately, I’ve been trying to write poems that examine how I know a thing; the calculus behind my knowing it. Because more and more, writing and sharing that writing with others is becoming a way to put my worldview in conversation with theirs; to allow my own subjective experience to be complicated, altered, and influenced through reciprocity.

As artists and writers, it’s not always easy to resist the inclination to impose our own ways of making meaning onto others. Because so much value is put on the unique elements of our individual style, syntax, point of view, and what have you, we tend to want to apply those when considering another’s work. But I do think there is a moment that precedes this reflex; a moment in which we want another’s experience to stand unqualified. Perhaps, that is a bit of an oversimplification. But mostly, in a lot of my daily interactions, I think I often get in my own way; I sometimes default to the notion that another’s perception somehow discredits or calls into question my experience. But there is something that occurs during the initial reading of a poem that actively opposes such qualifications and encourages me to reserve judgment. Coming to a poem is an act of surrender, or if not surrender, it’s at least an act of reception. In this way, I’m often surprised by poems- not just by their direction, scope, ambition, etc. It’s more like I’m startled by the gravitational shift away from egocentricity; how it feels to melt into a poem; how it takes a while to become solid again.

Much of my mental energy as of late has been devoted to a pre-prelim reading list of critical theory texts; so much so that on more than one occasion different friends have joked that I’d be perfectly justified in moving forward with that Bakhtin 4 Eva tattoo I keep threatening to get. I mean, you can only be that person who brings up polyglossia during casual conversation for so long until something needs to be done about it, right? But, truthfully, obsession has its place in art, in writing. And as much as I’ve hesitated to utilize the same subjects, objects, ideas, and figures in my poems, there is something to be said for paying attention to such patterns of cognition, for being aware of the through lines that are inherent to one’s intrinsic, critical thinking. After a somewhat creative drought, it’s been extremely productive to revel in this latest obsession. By not constantly trying to determine the source or validity of it, I’ve come to see it not as intrusive, or as a failure of my singular imagination. Rather, I can accept it as an antecedent to wonder… or as Spinoza might say, a point of origin from which infinite things follow- one I intend to ride all the way to the ground.

Guest Post, Marcus Banks: Writing, Meet Emoji. Emoji, Meet Writing.

Introduction

In 2015 the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was

Laughing emoji with tears

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s right — in the estimation of Oxford’s editors the “face with tears of joy” emoji “best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.”

The year 2016 turned out to be a very gloomy and depressing year for many people. This year’s emoji/word, for many of us, would be

frowning emojiOxford itself did not choose an emoji as its word two years in a row. This year’s word is post-truth, which is a reflection of our fractured political times and the perils of relying on information that is provided without any gatekeepers.

Perhaps, then, Oxford’s 2015 foray into emoji was a one time dalliance. Maybe the alphabet and punctuation, which are themselves arbitrary and socially determined symbols, will continue to be the only components that we allow to form into “words.” We will fill the moat to prevent anything from threatening this settled understanding.

I hope not. Oxford was onto something in 2015. Alphabetic words are wonderful and enriching instruments of written communication, but they no longer deserve their exclusive status as the only way to convey complex ideas, emotions and thoughts. My guess is that some readers of this post resonated with the angry emoji I posted earlier very viscerally. If I had conveyed the same thought with a string of powerful words, the feeling would have been different. So it is true. A picture is worth a thousand words (or at the very least, the dozen or so words I would have used when I just pasted an emoji instead).

I Get It

The funny thing is that I love words. Right now I am re-reading Angle of Repose just because I want to, and have two books on tap for my two January book clubs. None of these books contains any pictures, just pages upon pages of glorious words.

At museums I look at the painting or sculpture for approximately 3.2 seconds, and then spend however long it takes to read the information card about that item word-for-word. Then I look once again at the art object itself, just briefly.

One last example: IKEA directions. Apparently everyone finds those squiggly pictograms easy to follow. Everyone except me. I would much rather have every single step explained in exhaustive prose.

So yeah — words.

Word lovers should acknowledge, though, that for centuries we have enjoyed an unfair status. The reader and writer was the thoughtful person, everyone else a mere dabbler. This is true even though oral and pictorial speech actually pre-date written communication. Speaking and drawing are innate skills. Writing and reading, on the other hand, are highly artificial acquisitions. Learning to read and write well requires good education and sufficient discretionary income, which of course not everyone enjoys. There is no reason for readers and writers to feel guilty about the advantages they have enjoyed, but it would be good to acknowledge them.

In any case, emojis point to a newfound status for visual communication in our internet age. What is old is new again. Readers and writers should come to terms with the diminished status of the alphabet, rather than pining for how things used to be.

The Big Tent

For every word defender there are those who would love to see words perish. In 2012 Michael Ridley launched his “Beyond Literacy” project, which provocatively claimed that “Reading and writing are doomed.” I admire Ridley’s verve and passion, but zero sum thinking just leaves everyone grumpy. Words are here to stay, and I for one will admire tautly rendered prose for the rest of my life. I will also feel jolts of understanding and connection whenever I see an emoji that perfectly captures my mood and perspective.

Win win win. Drain the moats, everybody. Pitch a big tent instead.

Guest Post, Kamilah Moon: Beyond Looking

Beyond Looking: Revealing What’s Hidden in Plain Sight

 

Kamilah Moon bio photoBearing witness in poetry is about intention, empathy and clarity; the ability to zoom in and out of an emotion or event with a camera’s precision, yet calibrated to the human pulse. I believe it is our charge and bond as poets, and as human beings, to acknowledge and bolster each other as thoroughly as possible. To bear is to be able to carry, to sustain. At our most significant life events, we require a signature, some sort of proof that yes, these people love each other and promise to do so for a lifetime. Someone has accepted a position or calling of great responsibility, standing before others to be sworn in. A precious child has arrived on earth and his or her parents, along with chosen community, have circled in a ritual of dedication to assist in this person’s life journey, agreeing to nurture this child’s spirit and burgeoning potential. And when someone prepares to leave this plane of existence, there is usually a vigil of loved ones, and an official declaration followed by a ceremony honoring that this person was among us and lived.

Bearing witness is an attempt to honor the magnitude of beauty and struggle on our bewitching planet, to affirm as many manifestations of life as possible for each other. It is one of the most crucial, loving and generous things we can offer to another human being and shouldn’t be taken lightly. As poets, we work in the often inadequate medium of words to glean meaning from and give voice to what David L. Ulin calls “the succession of simple moments, the bedrock bits and pieces of reality by which we compose our days.” We turn to craft to build what we hope will be indelible records of existence that address our collective and inextricable fates in a valiant effort to celebrate, explain, interrogate, foster and lament our interactions with the world and all of its inhabitants.

This is not easy work. In fact, my fellow writing friends and writers for centuries have remarked on how foolish we are. What many people spend their entire lives avoiding because of its challenging nature, we willingly sign up for. We stare at voids and imagine what could be. We run back into the hard places and record what it means to endure and escape, or succumb. We document the transformations and the failures. We plumb depths as often as we seek transcendence. We agree to be small in the enormity of the sublime and risk being consumed by it in order to share whatever the results are—a triumph, a close call, lessons of survival. We cull moments of grace, recognize and banish shame, restore dignity. We sign up to be mirrors of treachery and glory, reflecting everything underneath, above, between and within every surface we encounter, literally and figuratively.

The willingness to get lost and the faith to handle what is discovered as a result is essential not only to bearing witness, but to creating something new. And sometimes when something is familiar, we don’t explore it as thoroughly as we should; it can remain hidden in plain sight. Known but not understood, thus valued. A witness interprets and values what he has seen, far beyond simply looking.

Below are two examples of when craft, experience and spirit meet in the creation of poems that unabashedly bear witness. In the first, I retrace my own process of conceiving and composing a poem. The second is an exploration of another poet’s poem.

The first example comes from what I now see as a turning point in my own work. The summer after graduating from Sarah Lawrence, I received a fellowship to attend the Prague Summer Writing Institute. To walk down completely unfamiliar streets and be immersed in language completely foreign to my ears was both delightful and disorienting. Discovery in every sense of daily life would surely lead to new perspectives and ways of bearing witness to my own journey and the journeys of others.

We visited Terezin Concentration Camp. I had no idea of what to expect. The first thing I saw was this huge Star of David looming out of a bed of roses. For a place that had experienced such a harrowing history, it was so pretty and peaceful. We read bios along the walls of those who lost their lives there. Scientists, housewives, musicians…oh the musics lost in that compound! I’d read many accounts of the Holocaust…as I walked around the empty rooms of this former death camp, I knew I had to respond somehow. I wanted the terror to be immediate to someone who didn’t know what happened here, or who knew and had let it become a numb, inert history—which sets up the possibility of return.

I turned to formalism. To enter something this big, I needed a small container to hold part of this outsized grief. Rita Dove calls form “a welcome cage.” I chose the villanelle because of the repetitive nature of the form, building in meaning and impact like an obsessive lullaby (which always tend to be scary, ironically.)

In terms of content, my mind kept returning to a small photograph that had been in a room that had served as a kitchen.  It was a picture of detainees peeling potatoes. How mundane and odd in such a place, was my first thought.  Secondly I thought, “how terrible to prepare dinner for your executioners?!”

My reference point for this kind of sick circumstance is slavery and Jim Crow in America: maids cleaning a bathroom they aren’t allowed to use; mammies nursing children being taught to hate her own children—who miss her presence at home due to long, grueling hours; packing the picnic a family might eat at one of the lynchings depicted on postcards, as if attending a sports event…cruelty, like love, needs no translation and is universal in its reach.

I knew that this photograph was the content—the common, repetitive action of peeling potatoes as the metaphor for the vicious end these people were about to face. Old story, new way to view it; a way to remember the ferocity in order to guard against its resurrection. Simple, direct language. Image-driven, quiet so that the violence screams between the lines.

 

PEELING POTATOES AT TEREZIN CONCENTRATION CAMP

 

Ribbons of skin pile at our feet;

we count wet orbs like heads.

Beneath the blades, white meat.

 

Their kitchens are not kosher, or neat.

The knives engrave our dread.

Ribbons of skin pile at our feet.

 

They will salt these crops, a doomed fleet

torn from the earth’s cold bed.

Beneath the blades, white meat

 

to be mashed or boiled, a treat

ravished to nothing but shreds.

Ribbons of skin pile at our feet,

 

flesh carved in dangling sheets—

slice after jagged slice spread

beneath the blades, white meat.

 

We work under the glare, a street

of eyes gouged and shed.

Ribbons of skin pile at our feet.

Beneath the blades, white meat.

*

This poem needed to be a persona poem as the potato peelers/detainees. Writing outside of ourselves and our experiences fully invites imagination and encourages empathy. This could be as simple as writing from a perspective opposite of our own experiences—perhaps someone of a different race, gender or class background. Science fiction writers dare to go even further, imagining spaceships, life on other planets. On occasion, making the decision to inhabit our art as “aliens” regardless of genre is a way to keep the process surprising and our awareness keen.  The empathy required can erect sturdy bridges connecting our humanity, if enough of us are willing to do the grueling work of building them.

Writing this poem was a revelation to me in so many ways. It showed me the importance of being deliberate and listening to what each poem needs to accomplish over any ideas that the ego may have in mind. It made clear how imperative it is to respect a subject’s humanity. Otherwise, a poem can become spectacle without meaning, and come off as gawking rather than bearing witness.

Aracelis Girmay’s poem “on kindness,” is a tour-de-force of bearing witness with such a deep consideration, compassion and respect for herself and for her subject matter that packs an emotional wallop without venturing into a cloying sentimentality.

This poet-witness undeniably interprets and greatly values what she has seen, wielding exceptional lines and imagery that go far beyond simply looking at a scene transpiring outside of her window. It is almost cinematic in quality, with jump cuts and flashbacks. She excuses, implicates and forgives herself in the same poem. She juxtaposes her loneliness with the woman’s loneliness in the street. She acknowledges a kind of falling, and this stranger’s fallen war cry, the haplessness of it that indicts everyone –

I heard a woman screaming
about how she was lonely & so lonely
she didn’t know what she’d do, maybe kill
herself, she said, over & over like a parrot
in a cage, a parrot whose human parent
only taught it that one sentence

-until the poem parachutes open into the soft landing that the boy’s quietly heroic gesture provides to this woman in crisis, which inspires the poet and models for her what is possible.  This poem begins personal and rooted in a specific world-weariness and sweet melancholy that is ultimately hopeful (the attentive sisters, the mail lady’s greeting), veers into a moment of distress that feels intrusive and breeds resentment, admitting that sometimes the agony of others piled on top of our own agony is too much, then proceeds to avalanche into a breathtaking poetic treatise and tribute to the best in the human spirit.

The devotion to bearing witness is why we still have and return to Rumi’s and Hafiz’s timeless testimonies to being human, thousands of years later. It is why we can’t forget Stanley Kunitz “Passing Through”; Philip Levine’s faithful renderings of his brother’s factory worker life that the writing life saved him from; Marie Howe’s tribute and elegy for her brother in What the Living Do; Yusef Komunuyakaa’s decision to face it all—war, love, despair in his poetry collections with such eloquence and lyrical dexterity. It is Cornelius Eady’s bruised elegy for his father, You Don’t Miss Your Water. It is why we are forever devastated and unable to look away from Lucille Clifton’s first few lines in “jasper texas 1998” for James Byrd’s senseless death, chained and dragged behind a pickup truck by racists: “i am a man’s head hunched in the road. /i was chosen to speak by the members/of my body.” It is Sharon Olds’ compassionate, deeply self-aware and astute farewell to her ex-husband and their way of life together after many years in Stag’s Leap; the intergalactic reach yet earthbound realness and radiance of Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars.

We affirm and grant each other worth through paying close attention, selectively using the craft tools we have available to, as poet Beckian Fritz Goldberg writes, “generation after /generation, speak to the broken horse / of the human heart.”