2sDay Poems: Readings from Louisiana’s Current Poet Laureate


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Today’s poems come from Ava Leavell Haymon‘s award-winning, fairytale-inspired collection Why the House is Made of Gingerbread (LSU Press)

The Witch Has Told You a Story

You are food.
You are here for me
to eat. Fatten up,
and I will like you better.Your brother will be first,
you must wait your turn.
Feed him yourself, you willbk-jacket-Gingerbread-194x300
learn to do it. You will take him

eggs with yellow sauce, muffins
torn apart and leaking butter, fried meats
late in the morning, and always sweets
in a sticky parade from the kitchen.

His vigilance, an ice pick of hunger
pricking his insides, will melt
in the unctuous cream fillings.
He will forget. He will thank you

for it. His little finger stuck every day
through cracks in the bars
will grow sleek and round,
his hollow face swell…

Audio file of Haymon reading below (first link), followed by a discussion of the poem at NPR (second link)


Hear the full NPR interview below and a second podcast in which Haymon joins Julie Kane, the previous Louisiana Poet Laureate from 2011-2013, for The Poet and the Poem series* at the Library of Congress.


*Full catalog of available podcasts from the Library of Congress series here.

Sunday Sentence #12


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imagesMy weekly contribution to David Abrams’ “Sunday Sentence” project in which participants share the best sentence read during the past week “out of context and without commentary.”

As a child in a small town on Cook Inlet in Alaska, she saw volcanoes erupting, whales migrating, and icebergs looming at sea before she ever saw a skyscraper or what could properly be called architecture.

SOURCE:Alexis M. Smith‘s debut novel Glaciers (Tin House)


Explorations in Magical Realism


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from Polish painter Tomek Setowski‘s “Magical Realism” series

I first came to magical realism through Isabel Allende‘s absorbing novel The House of the Spirits, which features a haunting cast of star-crossed misfits, including the green-haired, golden-eyed ‘Rosa the beautiful’ and her strange, also clairvoyant, younger sister Clara. My paperback has endured so many readings that it has developed its own, almost biblical sheen. It remains one of my all-time favorite books and is definitely on my desert island list.

Recentlywww.randomhouse.com, I’ve fallen in love with the work of Karen Russell, whose skill with a sentence is breath-taking, both as a short story writer and a novelist.  If you haven’t become acquainted with her work just yet, click on over to this Sunday Sentence post for a delicious short from her collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

Then tune up your ears for her fab Writer’s Workshop podcast over at Tin House, where she shares tips on building up impossible worlds and makes it sound easy.


Aimee Bendimageser also has some helpful craft tips and thougindexhts on the genre in an interview at The Bat Segundo Show. Your next must-listen is then Hold That Thought’s “A Conversation with Kelly Link and William McKelvy” hosted by Washington Univ.

Next, you’ll want to block off some time to wade through all the goodies at Zoe Brooks‘ Magical Realism blog. Besides a massive reading list with some reviews, she has Facebook & Goodreads groups and a kicking bloghop/linkup just begging for your perusal.


You might also want to read up on:

painting by Kevin Sloan

painting by “Magical Realist” artist Kevin Sloan

Magical Realism in YA       and

Trends in Middle-grade Magical Realism.

Also interesting is a 2012 blog project called A Year of Magical Reading in which Ted Gioia explores “non-realism” in fiction.


And last but not least, visit the Women on Writing (WOW) blog for a handy shortlist of resources, including links to books on craft and scholarship for those who want to delve deeper.


**Tell me about your favorite Magical Realism reads or share your resources and finds in the comments section. Love hearing from you.  Happy reading!!!!!




2sDays Poems: Getting Goochie With the Wolfies Under the Supermoon


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The Tlingit word for ‘wolf’ is gooch, and with the recent supermoon plastering the weekend skies, I thought it would be fun to share two of my favorite wolf poems, both from kick-a$$ poets (like top of the top ten of the poetry gods, no lie).

The first is from fellow Alaskan Native Mary TallMountain.images.duckduckgo.com


The last wolf hurried toward me
through the ruined city
and I heard his baying echoesindex
down the steep smashed warrens
of Montgomery Street and past
the ruby-crowned highrises
left standing
their lighted elevators useless

Passing the flicking red and green
of traffic signals
baying his way eastward
in the mystery of his wild…


from The Light on the Tent Wall


The second is from Latino poet Victor Hernández Cruz.



Her voice comes out of her knees,
her fingernails are full of sound,
Birds are in her lungs,
which gives her gargantuan flight,
A florescence through ether waves,
like ancestral Morse codes.
Oriente province de Cuba
her first steps.
At nineteen she dismantled retinas—
roosters blew themselves inside out,
When she swayed by cathedrals they folded,
guayacan trees fell to their knees,
Mountains bowed with the contents
for ajiaco.
She filled the horizon with kerchiefs,
gypsies danced behind her,
Her bracelets were snakes,
forces were captured in her…

from Maraca: New & Selected Poems


And for those Native American art lovers, enjoy oodles of Tlingit (and other tribal) art over at AlaskaNativeArtists.com, including this supercool carved gooch helmet:


Sunday Sentence #11


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imagesMy weekly contribution to David Abrams’ “Sunday Sentence” project in which participants share the best sentence read during the past week “out of context and without commentary.”

Because life should be as simple as a bucket of fish caught a few miles offshore and a van full of produce bought at a roadside stand; It should be as sweet as a cube of melon the color of your heart.

SOURCE:Natalie Baszile‘s debut novel Queen Sugar 


2sDay Poems: The Delicate Brushstrokes of Poet-Artist Ruth Bavetta


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6938403Ruth Bavetta is a widely published poet and a talented artist whose work is infused with a powerful starlight. I first ran across her work through the Women’s Poetry List-Serv (WOM-PO) and fell hard for her visual poems. Our first selection, “The End and the Aim”, is one such example.

The end and aim

Find more lovely pieces in the visual poetry section of her website.

But beyond those eye-catching beauties is a whole body of work that is more traditional but as equally captivating. At least, in the fine way that the painter’s delicate brushstrokes are woven into its words.

Fugitive Pigments (from Future Cycle), a gorgeous collection of Ruth’s ekphrastic poems, is not surprisingly my favorite of her current publications. Our next selection is one of Ruth’s favorites from the book:

Memories Suspended by Filaments

                                              -in the voice of Joseph Cornell

The house is small, but it has room for dreams.

For birds, books, stamps, stars, marbles, butterflies,

balls, dolls, my brother Robert, maps, romance,index

playing cards, lace, lobsters, small sticky hope.

Eyes down, I walk the streets of Manhattan,

eat pastries, sweet, stale, talk to pigeons, find

orphaned desires in gutters, in dime stores,

in second-hand shops with dusty windows.

I discover, gather, magpie away.

My treasures hibernate waiting, sleeping

in basement shelf rows, labeled by heartbeats

slowed to a drip. When my dossiers have lived

together long enough, I take them out,

let them speak, cherish them in my boxes,

where parrots talk of sunsets, and clay pipes

float and fill with a summer of bubbles.

Behind glass, my birds and my women sing,

locked into universes I create,

where lovers are dancers, princesses, queens,

secrets detained in shining glass bottles.

I sing the juene fille Lauren Bacall,

slender Botticelli, silent in blue,

construct a pink palace with sapphire stars.

I mediate history for the Prince

of the Medici, give him a compass

so he finds and he follows true love. Oh,

Bebe Marie, you are so beautiful,

pale pink, hidden among silvery twigs.

Also available for your enjoyment is Embers on the Stairs (from MoonTide Press), her second collection. embers-on-the-stairsA third book, No Longer at This Address is on its way later this year.  Can’t wait to snatch that one up!




**Readers, have your own favorite poet-artists? Please share your recommendations.  One can never have too much poetry in this life, somebody once said. Picasso? Or maybe Naomi Shihab Nye.  Post your thoughts on that too.  Looking forward to hearing from you!!

Sunday Sentence #10


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imagesMy weekly contribution to David Abrams’ “Sunday Sentence” project in which participants share the best sentence read during the past week “out of context and without commentary.”

I was expecting some ineffable girl smell, dewy and secret, an eau.

SOURCE:Karen Russell‘s short story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves  (from “Z.Z.’s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers“)


BadA$$ Asian-American Poetry Finds


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With the definition of “Asian-American” constantly in flux, broader and broader intersections of ethnicity have begun to fall under this umbrella.  In the poetry realm, there has been a surge in new work from Korean-, Vietnamese- and mixed race-Americans. And while I’ve only just begun to investigate this fascinating universe, I’ve found some truly BadA$$ work that simply must be shared. (My picks followed by a quick list of where to find new poems.)



1. Sally Wen Mao, who first came to my attention several years ago when she hit the pages of Cave Wall and Drunken Boat and now has a new collection out with Alice James Books.

From Mad Honey Symposium: j1qNTxFZ_400x400


      Stigma, n. (in flowers) the female part of the pistil
that receives pollen during pollination

For Melissa W.

There is no real love in the apiary.
Hive mentality: 1. Fatten until you reign

your country on a throne of propolis.
2. Copulate until you explode

with larval broods. Honey makes me sick,
and so does the Queen Bee. Even

in sleep, I see the arrows point at drones
stuck to the ceiling, sparkling spastically

like the sequins on a girl’s yellow promMHSCOVER_USE-200x300
dress. Some girls pray to be Queen.

They think: wouldn’t it be terrific, to be
wanted like that. Wouldn’t it be terrific

to be stroked and adored, to lose your virginity
in the glorious aftermath of royal jelly.

Wouldn’t be terrific to roost, rest, be the envy
and the mother of all. But one girl turns

the other way. At lunch she eats green tea mochi
on the edge of the field, scouts unpopulated

places—a lemon tree, a barberry bush.
Dreading assemblies and cafeterias, she ducks

under the library’s front steps, smuggling
field guides or National Geographics

with covers of jewel beetles and capybaras,
counting the minutes until recess is over

and biology begins. The price of sincerity:
when the honeybee shucks the anthers

from the camellia, an anthem begins.
It’s a slow soprano. An anathema. It screams…

Full TEXt


2. Performance Poet and activist Bao Phi


From Sông I Sing (Coffee House Press)


Song-I-Sing-356x535Under the ocean where I was created
in a womb of dancing atoms, a tectonic tale
is breaking the skin of sea floor. Dreams burn here:
lava flows underwater like bleeding fireballs,
sunless sleep disturbed as they listened
for the sound of the nightmares they dropped.

Fat Man and the Little Boy drop,
like two suns tumbling, sent to destroy creation,
no one will be left alive to listen
for the lessons we need to learn from this tale,
just a skyline made of a blossoming fireball
and a symphony of silenced screams horrible beyond…


3. Poet/Teacher/Artist Franny Choi


from her collection Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody)




4. Arlene Kim 

also known as @quietlybananascontrib_arlenekim

reading “Curse”

from What have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes?(Milkweed Editions)

I am also rather fond of this one, originally published at Blackbird:


My love. I tended him
after he fell. His charred wing stumps,
his elegy of scabbed feathers. Only then
would he accept a bed, me
in it. The memory burnt into his limbs
burned me, too, so that only my negative remained
in what amputated dreams he had, what
eerie ornithology haunted him. My hybrid,
neither bird nor angel—I cameindex
to gather what boy there was left
to salvage.

I fold him paper suns, light them
on fire, hurl them skyward,
a revenge I can offer.
For a moment, the sun in his face,
twinned in his eyes.
For a moment, not the sun, but his face,
its reflection like the sun,
like an old story. In the water,
another sky, a ghost sun.
He didn’t know at first
if he was falling or…


5. Award-wining poet & playwright Ed Bok-Lee (looking all cool with his super snazzy website)


Excerpt from Whorled (Coffee House Press)


On the other side of the world, there is a language I have never heard
It is beautiful, and in this dying tongue, there are words for Love and God
that resemble Bread and Wing
Or another forest language in which Mother and Knife

equal Drawer and Sing
And Island Wood is somewhere Desert Milk
And Berry, elsewhere is a Door
And if you added up all these dying words, and the people who speak themindexw

All their memories, histories, and lessons
All their gods, jokes, rituals, and recipes
If you learned and stirred them, over and again, until
each utterance became a star, a new footprint, the marrow of a poem—

*originally appeared on Broadside from Red Dragonfly Press

See his website (linked above) for more poems.




Find new poets to fall in love with in:

Victoria Chang’s Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation anthology

Poetry Magazine’s Asian-American Voices in Poetry (with links)

And these journals:

Cha: An Asian Literary Journal
Kartika Review
Asian American Journal
Asia Literary Review
Lantern Review
Hyphen Magazine

You can also consult my Kick-Butt Asian-American Poets list (name pared down for Amazon filters), which is itself always in flux.


Happy reading!!! And be sure to share your finds in the comments.


2sDay Poems: Hot Out of Chicago with Highlights from Dancing Girl


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indexOk peeps, today you get a double shot from one my all-time favorite small poetry presses, the women-centric Dancing Girl Press & studio.

This artsy shop is run out of downtown Chciago by poet/artist Kristy Bowen, a talented gal with impeccable taste.

In addition to overseeing the publication of its annual chapbook series, Bowen also has on offer a quirky collection of paper goods/vintage ephemera and produces the feminist online mag wicked alice.

Two of Dancing Girl’s newest chaps are featured below with selections.  Click italicized title to order.


from In the Yellowed House

Janeen Rastall

by Janeen Pergrin Rastall


The surf lays out featherless wings537fb7a0c643a_80495n
and sanded birch limbs,
pieces once bound by ice.
Does a wave batter debris into something better?
A woman goes to the lake.
shorts and t-shirt taunt early May,
faded welts dapple wintered flesh.
She carves the sand with a stick,
draws two names inside a heart.
In an hour the beach will be blank.
She has predicted this end,
tasted it on his menthol tongue,
felt it in each whorl and callus,
every knuckles’ edge.
When waves encroach, she snaps
a photo with her phone.
She will not stay
to see her name sucked back with the sand.

The audio for this poem is at The Poetry Storehouse.



from For the Girls, I

Christina M. Rau

by Christina M. Rau


Cathy—it’s a sweet name,
one who loves her husband
but since she’s got a bit
of resistance in her, maybe53ac975abbe74_80495n
it’s Kathy, with a K,
or Kat since she’s got some
sass, too, or Katerina,
a strong, sexy name,
but that would make her too skinny.
No one has ever seen a fat Katerina;
Fat Katerinas simply do not exist.
She needs to have some weight
so she can throw it around
when she stands her ground.
Georgina—slender with a slight belly,
a woman who can bellow at the Gods,
but that’s not old enough;
it needs to be antiquated,
like Antigone, but not as depressed,
like Aphrodite, but not as beautiful,
like Angelika, but less cinematic.
Frannie, Francine, that must
be her name—no, Francesca,
a woman with looks, older but not
too old a soul, one strong enough
to love a man whose heart attacks him
and then kills him
though he refuses to die.
Perhaps that’s too pretty still;
even a slightly average woman
would move on.
Laura, Maria, Betsy, Daphne,
Portia, Sally, Vesta, Wanda,
Yolanda, Zelda, Helen—
nothing quite fits.
They are all slightly off.
Nothing safely and soundly
encompasses all that is the woman
who stands by her man
in the face of his false immortality
and the consequences of his
undeadly denial.


DGP: Chapbook manuscripts currently being accepted from women poets through August 31. Guidelines.

Sunday Sentence #9


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imagesMy weekly contribution to David Abrams’ “Sunday Sentence” project in which participants share the best sentence read during the past week “out of context and without commentary.”

Poetry began when somebody walked off a savanna or out of a cave and looked up at the sky with wonder and said, “Ah-h-h!”

SOURCE:Lucille Clifton in conversation with Bill Moyers (part of his compilation of conversations with 34 poets from the PBS TV Series) in The Language of Life: A Festival of Poets


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