3rd Semester Reading List

I’m working with Joan Larkin this semester, and am so excited to be doing so. I have to write a long critical essay, in my case looking at 2 or 3 sonnet sequences. I’ll be studying scansion and meter (which I will learn, yes I will!) and reading Dickinson and May Swenson.

Spring 2010 Study Plan

Packet One

Reading to narrow down which poems to explore in critical essay paper on poems within a sequence:

“21 Love Poems” Adrienne Rich
Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons Marilyn Hacker
The Sonnets, Ted Berrigan
She Heads into the Wilderness Macari
Eye of the Blackbird McFadden
American Sonnets Stern
Blackbird and Wolf Cole
Holy Sonnets Donne

Begin scansion study using Ciardi How Does A Poem Mean, Stravinsky “The Phenomenon of Music”, Langston Hughes The Book of Rhythms

Packet Two

Read: Dickinson, especially the 1862 poems, Rich “Vesuvius at Home,” and selections from either/or:
White Heat by Brenda Wineapple
Emily Dickinson: My Wars are Laid Away in Books by Alfred Habegger
Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life by Aife Murray

For Critical Essay: readings from Penguin Book of the Sonnet, essays on the sonnet from Finch Exaltation of Form or other craft essays to be determined

Packet Three

Read: May Swenson, from New & Selected Things Taking Place and The Complete Love Poems.
Sue Russell “A Mysterious and Lavish Power” from The Kenyon Review
Alicia Ostriker essay from Body My House

Packet Four

Read: selected sequences from packet one not used in the critical essay, titles to be determined

The first time

I read this at the final student reading at my third Drew residency. It felt so good to speak it, to inhabit it, that I know the poem is done, after many many drafts and re-visions.

The first time,

in the Rittenhouse Radisson, was to
be crazy hot, me and her and her girl-
friend who even then was hiding the blood
she coughed up. I kissed one and then the other,
the first time, when we still worried about
jealousy. The first time she hid her blood-
stained panties in the tangled sheets for the
first time. She howled and whooped, each hand deep in
a competing cunt, the first time, three days
after the report said melanoma.
We were innocent, the first time. We had
more hands than Kali but not enough to
shield liver and lungs and spine. The first time
we had a great time, time we would not have.


Julie Cadwallader Staub

Who could need more proof than honey—

How the bees with such skill and purpose
enter flower after flower
sing their way home
to create and cap the new honey
just to get through the flowerless winter.

And how the bear with intention and cunning
raids the hive
shovels pawful after pawful into his happy mouth
bats away indignant bees
stumbles off in a stupor of satiation and stickiness.

And how we humans can’t resist its viscosity
its taste of clover and wind
its metaphorical power:
don’t we yearn for a land of milk and honey?
don’t we call our loved ones “honey?”

all because bees just do, over and over again, what they were made to do.

Oh, who could need more proof than honey
to know that our world
was meant to be


was meant to be

New Work Workshop #2

Assignment – imagine walking through a beautiful wood and coming upon a cabin. In the cabin is a chest, and in it a single piece of clothing, clearly there just for you. What is it? What does it feel like to wear it?

Sky Skin

Everything. Shirt, robe, cloak, sari,
warm wool socks, lightest linen shroud, the sky skin
is every kind of cloth worn in every era.

Sky over trees, sky over seas,
sky over skyscraper, sky over desolation—
these are the same sky
the skin of the earth.

In my sky skin my veins
become rivers
my breasts mountains
my eyes clouds
my mind opening to the universe itself.


Sky Skin

Everything. Robe, cloak, shroud, vestment, habit,
gown, cape, kimono, burqa, shawl, mantle, peignoir—
sky skin is every kind of cloth
ever wrapped, molded, to a body.
And more. But less.

Not light enough
for how I slide it on
and become boundaryless

but bound to the earth.
The gravity in this situation.

Sky shaping trees, sky stirring seas,
sky scraped, sky gauzed over desolations—
the dermis of the earth, its hide. Space restrained.
Oceans contained.

Slipped into my sky skin my veins
become rivers
my breasts mountains
my eyes clouds
my scalp, stretching, bares my mind
to the universe itself.

New Work – 10 Commands

our charge – write 10 commands, pretty much as fast as we could write them down. These, or variations of them, will keep popping up in the various new work workshop poems. And they were fun to write!

10 Commands

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love yourself as you could love another.

You are obligated and you damn well know it.

Love me damn you.

Fix it. Just shut up and fucking fix it.

Do everything, anything, everything to find an answer, and then act on it already.

Stop searching and start seeing.

Make it so!

Act as if women mattered.

Get out of the middle of your life.

New Work Workshop #1

assignment – write a 5 line poem using images from three earlier brainstorming exercises. Make it image heavy.

It’s a first draft, folks, and that’s rarely pretty.

The World is a Moon Bounce

The world is a moon bounce and falling off
is inevitable. But easy, landing ass first
in soft hay at the bottom of the old barn, in the middle
of your life where your grandmother’s skin
waits to wrap you warm. Just so.


The World is a Moon Bounce

and falling off is inevitable but
easy as landing ass first

in soft hay in the old barn
in the middle

of your life where your grandmother’s
skin waits to wrap you warm,

just so—as if her flesh could pull you
back from over the edge of the world.

Miriam (and why one should clean from time to time)

Today was Clean Out the Office Day. Well, step one, anyway, with several steps to go. My reward is that I found an entire outline of a novel I meant to start but had mainly forgotten about. And I still like it. Yeah!

It grows from this poem, Miriam speaking about the plague of the killing of the first born children and exactly how that act of tremendous violence came about.


Who killed the children?
Can you bear to know the answer?
Would you rather revere
ancestors who killed children
or worship a God
who killed children?
Can you possibly tell the story
of the killing of the children
without keening
as if the world itself were dying?