Remaking MadMax: National Poetry Month, Day 30

Every time I see a commercial warning us of an imminent remake of some “classic” or “cult” film, I bristle. What will the remake do that the original didn’t do? Other than some souped up special effects, remakes of films are pointless. They scream at me “This white story needs to be told a thousand times again!!!” The preview for MadMax is no different. We still have a future in which there are practically no people of color. A future in which a white man is still the closest thing to Hope. What does a remake do to rectify the erasures of people of color? Pretty much nada. 

It’s the final day of National Poetry Month, this it’s Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day. I’m sharing this Audre Lorde poem entitled “Power“. We all have to remember that we actually do have power. We just have to think about how we tap into it. How we enhance it. How we share it. 

The Art of Self-Promotion: National Poetry Month, Day 29

This post should be called the The Artifice of Self-Promotion, The Agonizing Act of Self-Promotion. It will have one sentence: Grin and Bear It. Or maybe this sentence: Suck it up. Or: Just do it dammit. Or: If you don’t who will?

I have nothing much to say about self-promotion, other than the attention on “self” and that pesky hyphen that makes the act feel dirty makes me feel sullied. Promotion is promotion, I’d like to think. Until it’s The Self promoting The Self. You know where this post is leading, don’t you? I have a new piece over at North American Review, some thoughts on the confessional and the personal.

In other worlds, tomorrow is National Put a Poem In Your Pocket Day. I’m not sure what poem I will put in my pocket tomorrow, but today, as I think about destruction and cultures of violence and closeness, I have Muriel Rukeyser in my pocket.

Sex in the Small Cities: National Poetry Month, Day 28

I’m all the way in Raleigh at a dealership thinking of trading one car for another. This car I have, I purchased four months ago, traded a 7-year old car for the brand new sportier car I have now. I want to return to the shape size & body of my older model, the car I thought I’d hand off to a reluctant kid in 17 or 18 years. 

I don’t have kids, so as painful as the trade was, back in December, it was a necessity. Now I have buyer’s remorse. I’m all the way in Raleigh to look in the eyes of a new salesman to say “Dude, I have buyer’s remorse. Help a woman out!”

Last night I went on something like a date with a man who is as unfamiliar to me as my new car. Loud and brazen and cheesy and brutish, a true son of Mars, god of war & excess. We were meeting up to toast the return of his old job. The bar was brand new to me and old hat for him. He sang cheesy love songs while patting his heart and then fluttering his jacket, pointing at me when he & the singer crooned “you” or “girl” or “lady”. A 42-year old man who missed his boy band calling. I wasn’t drunk or even on my way. I had a lot of time to think between the karaoke-for-one & the proclamations (“you’re so beautiful! You’re making me nervous”).

New ration ships. New cars. All anxiety-induced. A bad date like a bad purchase can leave us asking “Did I get dressed up this?”

Here’s E. E. Cummings on cars dates & the deliciousness of anxiety. 

Messes, Generative & Debilitating: National Poetry Month, Day 25


I finally got around to getting bookcases, 22 months after moving to the Cackalacka. It’s only taken me two weeks to hire someone to assemble them (he assembled 1). Today I assembled one & will likely get to the other tomorrow. My office-cum-bedroom is finally starting to look like a room v a storage unit. Back in 2007 I moved to Indiana with more books and zero bookcases. A year later, I bought cases. Before that I took what I could to my work office and left 18 boxes stacked in my room. A few years before that I was lucky enough to have a few built-ins and closets with shelves stacked from floor to ceiling. 

Messes are messy. Sometimes they are dynamic. Hybrid work is messy. An unneat unsymmetrical untidy blend of styles. 

 Too, a messy desk generates energy for me. Makes me want to work through the piles. At work I can be task-oriented although I hate tasks. But whipping through stacks of papers says one thing to me: once you’ve done that you can get your own writing done. Of course one pile replaces another.

A messy home. Today I took a nap to escape the sheer reality of my house. 

I often wonder if Gertrude Stein kept a tidy office. Her tenderest buttons says yes. Here is her book in its entirety. 

Seeing Beyond the Cover: National Poetry Month, Day 24

I am at our new president’s inauguration. This will be a short post. I’m looking at all of the robed students robed faculty robed admin robed trustees robed alum robed mayor robed city leaders. Those in pink are music. Those in dark blue have the PhD. Brown must be accounting folks. Purple is for the law. White is the arts. 

Who are they behind and beyond what their hoods tell us?

We won’t know unless we talk to them. Learn them. It’s important to talk to people. To remove the hoods from our faces from our eyes from the beliefs we inherit from those who inherit their beliefs from other inheritors of beliefs. 

Read this new poem by Ross Gay. It gets right to that point. 

On Erasures, Silences & Absences: National Poetry Month, Day 23

Yesterday I posted about not “outing” myself in my home to keep the peace with a man who was building bookshelves for me, a man who has an issue with gay people, although he insisted that he didn’t. Afterwards, I saw an email from my friend Adela (whose gorgeous face you can see holding one of her three debut books in one of my earlier April posts) who shared this David Mura piece about race in the MFA classroom. I’ve been reading this piece in chunks on my phone. I can only read three or four paragraphs at a sitting. My blood pressure is already on the edge of normal and 5-alarm chili fire. It’s not only the issues that Mura raises, each of which are incredibly familiar to me, nor is it only the incredible familiarity, the eerie feeling that I’ve seen this story a hundred times, that I’ve lived this story, nor is it only the truths that he lays bare.

I’m peeved at the typos. The glaring errors that the editors of Gulf Coast did not catch. I’m angry that they left these errors in this critical piece about the ways in which POC are seen as “a troublemaker, a malcontent, someone with psychological problems” this “manual for battle and survival” left unedited unproofed. How easy it will be for the very white writers who Mura so carefully & compassionately unpacks to simply dismiss the essay or scoff at it for its mechanical errors. While I want to be publicly silent about this disregard of the editors of GC to honor and respect not only Mura but also its own journal, I also find silence to only be useful in meditation.

How many times have I sat in a classroom in which there is only one or two persons of color and the only person whose typos are called out are poc? How many times have I sat in a classroom in which the person of color’s work is considered “undecipherable” because of the typos? That the writing has been called “sloppy”.

This is one way that POC are erased.

Once, I sat on a committee and listened while a white committee member said with the absoluteness of a guillotine: “I liked the passion but the execution was just not there; this person had too many typos.” This person was the only POC applicant. A couple of the other applications, too, had errors. When I pointed these out, the committee member blinked rapidly and another member told me this wasn’t a contest to see who had the most errors.

Rationality is absent when, as Mura delicately points out, white people attempt to maintain the status quo of whiteness.

The white professor and the white students start with the assumption that none of the white people in the class are racists or consciously or unconsciously subscribe to any elements from an ideology of white supremacy.  To challenge this assumption is treated as blasphemy, as an act of aggression.

I have yet to finish Mura’s essay. I can only read it in chunks. It’s too familiar. Too painful. Too filled with erasures and silences from the absent editorial hand. Here is a wonderful David Mura poem.

Choosing My Battles: National Poetry Month, Day 22

This morning I opened the door to a man whose name I did not know. I met him a week ago when he & someone else brought a twin-sized mattress + box spring, bed frame & headboard into my home and proceeded to put it together. One stood in the doorway while the other quickly put the bed together. He left sawdust under the bed (& didn’t bother to tell me!) and the bolts on the bed were so far out from the bed, I though another piece of wood was meant to be there.


I complained to the owner. He graciously sent the doorway hugger back yesterday, who profusely apologized, brought new bolts, a new work partner, and a great attitude. I asked him if he did side work. This morning, he came over, dressed to the nines: gleaming white cowboy boots matching white cowboy hat and cologne up the wazoo. He has to be hitting on 65 & he wears a wedding band. I had my “I have a beau whose moving here from Place X”-story ready to go. I asked him how his birthday went (his birthday was yesterday) and he proceeded to tell me how his birthday dinner at Red Lobster was ruined (1) because the food was cold and (2) and, most importantly, because the waiter was gay. “I don’t have anything against gay folks but they not serving me my food.” I kept out of it. He later returned to the ruined evening to say, “I had to call the manager & the manager was gay. Damn! I couldn’t catch a break!” He told me has a gay brother & he works with a lesbian. “I just don’t understand,” he said. I kept out of it. I hired him to put together some bookcases and a crib. I didn’t have the energy to fight with him or to “come out” in my home. Besides, what would he do if I told him the truth: “I’m queer and polyamorous.” No thank you.

A few weeks ago, Harvey L. Hix invited me to participate in a project in which he asked poets to respond to a quote by Adorno and one by Auden. I sat with these quotes for weeks, wondering if this was a battle I wanted to fight. I did. & I did. Here is the outcome.

Knowings: National Poetry Month, Day 21

Yesterday I somehow mentioned the name Pablo Neruda & was met with a chorus of owls. My students not knowing who Neruda was gave me a headache, the Victorian kind that calls for a fainting couch some bonbons an open window a breeze and a book of fiction. It was the same feeling I had when they told me they didn’t know who Prince was. I suppose it’s the same feeling visiting writers feel when they ask if my students know this poet or that memoirist. Why do we feel so deeply insulted when writers don’t know the writers we love and admire?

Years ago I met the poet Frank Stanford in a book at a bookstore called McKay in Chattanooga. Today my student staff associate, Chelsei, and I talked about how bananas it is that the McKay in TN is not the same as the Ed McKay’s in NC. I think she called it stupid. That or the Christian college in Chattanooga that has merged with the Christian college in NC. When I lived in Chattanooga and came to know myself as a poet, I went to McKay every week and bought 1 book of poetry and 1 literary journal. When I got into grad school, I went to McKay & bought 20 boxes of poetry books. Stanford’s The Light the Dead See was one of those books. When I read this book of poems, I had to go and see if Stanford was still living. I felt he had entered my body that I was the reincarnated Stanford. He died when I was five. I had the same feeling about Janis Joplin who died three years before I was born. How long can a soul float before it finds its new home?

The first time I saw Janis I felt Victorian, headache *le faint* & hand on head. I ran to McKay & bought every Joplin CD I could find. When I got my first email I added her name to my newly adopted name: Jade.

I loved Janis. But before I knew Janis I didn’t know Janis. My college professor had a poster of Janis in his office and when I saw her my jaw dropped: Who is she? I asked him. He looked at me like a Victorian.

Here is the poet Lorenzo Thomas talking about the poet Frank Stanford. Here’s a micro chappie of Lorenzo Thomas’. I didn’t know his name until I met Patricia Spears Jones. When I told her I didn’t know who he was she rolled her eyes, said something like “Honey” and schooled me. If we always know everything what is the joy of being alive in this world?

Working Sundays: National Poetry Month, Day 19

There truly is nothing comparable to sitting at your office desk at your place of employment on a rainy Sunday afternoon grading student writing. Sundays are for families and football and friends and frolicking. Rainy Sundays are for cuddling & cozying up to a good book & communing with coffee & crock pot dinners. If it weren’t raining, I’d pack up and take the grading home. If it weren’t raining, however, I wouldn’t be at home grading, I’d be where I am now, where I arrived before the rain threw itself from the clouds and onto the pavement and grasses. It’s a conundrum, certainly.

Back when I lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I dated a man who would bring me jazz CDs from the public library & I’d give him the CDs I’d brought home from the same library. Just about every rainy day, I listened to the compilation album, “Jazz for Rainy Afternoons”. I couldn’t get any work done on those rainy days. I’d open my Nietszche homework or a Kundera novel or Toni Morrison’s Jazz and eventually I’d give in to the dreams that could only happen with my eyes wide open my mind at rest my heart filled with the love of love.

It’s not winter but today I’m thinking of Robert Hayden’s searing and loving poem, “Those Winter Sundays“.

Understanding Mis/Understandings: National Poetry Month, Day 17

Half-way into the original post (I was at the laundry) I hit the wrong key then the really wrong key & lost my great beginning to this post. 

A few minutes ago I picked up a wine glass and immediately dropped it on the kitchen counter. My last wine glass shattered. When was the last time I had a glass of wine in my own home? 


Two years ago I broke a wine glass in someone else’s home. Their home. Their glass. It was an artistic breaking. That breaking was nothing like the most recent breaking. This new post is nothing like the last post. 

On Tuesday I opened my front door for the first time in weeks. Weeks ago, I opened my front door to show the exterminator the places I thought the wasps were entering from. He said the holes were just shifts in the house. He pointed & I looked up, made eye contact with a robin nesting. I maintained eye contact for so long the robin flew off. I shooed the exterminator into the house, followed him & shut the door behind us. I hadn’t opened it since then. On Tuesday, I heard the Ikea delivery van pull up, so I opened the door. Then the screen door. Which I opened wide. Looked down towards the stool, which I would use to prop open the door and saw a baby robin. Dead on the front porch. The Ikea delivery truck had parked. The men were opening the truck’s back door, preparing to bring my possible future child’s crib in. One box of unconstructed crib pieces. One mattress. One mattress pad. Three white sheets. Five white towels. A baby robin no feathers that had fallen out of its nest. 


The wine I am drinking was the most expensive bottle on the shelf. It was on sale. The wine tastes like the most inexpensive jar of grape jelly. The kind that tastes like sweet not like grapes. 

My earlier posts began something like this: When I think about misunderstandings my mind lingers on mis- the sound so much like miss. I know mis- is not miss but misunderstandings are so often about missed opportunities. To listen. To hear what has been said. Today my typed words (figuratively) written beneath by someone who misunderstood my words; intentionally. All of the words beneath the lines. Not my words. Not my intent. An opportunity to hear me missed. Deliberately. How sad I thought to be the person who writes between someone else’s lines just so they can have something of their own to read. 

A week of irony and misunderstanding and omens. 

I hope I’m being clear enough here so that you understand
who will get this poem and who will not.
I can only be as honest with you as I am with myself
in the effort, the raw motion, to tell why
you may or may not understand this poem.  

–Amy King



After I broke my wine glass I sat to have my take-out dinner, dinner I bought so I could relax prior to cleaning my house for a writer friend who will arrive after midnight. What happens to the mind when it scrubs to hide the truth: my life is too busy for domestic chores. I ordered against my usual order. I wanted something new. Until I arrived home, my mouth ready for my usual order. Beside me, a package my staff associate handed to me hours ago. The note said the most important thing: I hear you; I listen. That is all we ask, as humans, to be heard, to be understood. Thank you, dear Chelsei. 

Enjoy the rest of that sprawling Amy King poem. I have a guest to prepare for.