Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I hadn't realized how long it's been since I've typed into this here journal. Almost 2 months. What is new is what is new for most people. Life. Death. The swings in between. Now, I'm in Washington with my family. My stepmom is real sick and we spend lots of time together laughing the dozing and making plans.

This came out today in the Portable Boog Reader. I read it to her while she took it easy in bed; she liked it a lot. So, that's nice.

I sent in my final book edits today to Milkweed Editions for Sharks in the Rivers and I'm getting very excited for the book. But this poem is in a whole different book. (The fourth, and yet to be determined amorphous book of strays.)

It's raining, and cold. I've worn my slippers all day. Though I did change into jeans around 5pm when the nurse left. I don't miss New York right now, but I do miss my dear ones. 

The fire is lit. The fire is lit. The fire is lit. (Now, I must stare at it.)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Okkervil River & This Big Fake World

For years, I've known and loved Okkervil River. Their first few albums, Stars Too Small to Use and Don't Fall in Love in with Everyone You See (which is hard for me, so I still use it as a mantra) served as the official soundtrack to my book, This Big Fake World. I lived in a house on Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn, we called it the "manor" and I had just quit my job in a fury. I sat upstairs during my few months of glorious unemployment (I really LOVE my job right now, so don't get any ideas), and wrote a book essentially to their songs. I was completely broke, dating a fascinating and angry, aging actor/muscian (I based Lewis on him), and madly happy with the world. I hung all my pages up on the wall with tape, while T (next door in her room) wrote her play, Straight On 'Til Morning. Then we'd break for a drink in the afternoon and wonder if anyone in Williamsburg actually worked. (Nope, they don't.)

Things are different now. But the same, too. I still hang up my pages on the wall when I'm really writing, and if you come to visit you can hear them rattle around when the heat comes on. I live on a different street, but it's the same world. I still play those old songs, too.

But, I digress. All this to say, a few weeks back I conducted a brief interview with Will Sheff, singer/songwriter of Okkervil. It's up today, and for some reason it made me nostalgic for some place I've never been. If I go there again, I hope to see you.

Check out the interview here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fairy Tales!

Last night we read Fairy Tales to raise money for breast cancer research. We sat in a yoga studio and drank pink champagne. Everyone's fairy tale was amazing, but I only have mine to share. I wrote 4 and gave myself the following parameters (rather, these parameters were dictated by T and H): (There is blood, there is improbable love, there is magic, there is a lesson or a warning, a quest, a gift, a witch, a wish. And there is not always a happy ending.)

I have been reading the Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales to prepare. He was phenomenal. He was also an aries. He died in his sleep. But before he died, he fell in love many times.

{fairy tales were here}

Saturday, September 12, 2009

i'm sorry i've been away! i promise to post more. but in the meantime....

Friday, July 31, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Guest Blogging...

Over here at Unstressed. Sleepy post on brass bands and poems...and silence.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My New Little Book

From Cinematheque Press, here's a new collection of poems. It's available at the end of this month! Here's what they say:

"Ada Limón's poems are stories, intricate worlds of becoming. She is writer, director, & cinematographer. Every-Thing has its place, every stretch of highway glows under the hot hot sun of the past & the present. What Sucks Us In Will Surely Swallow Us Whole could be a verse novella. Or it could be a collection of some of the shortest stories ever written. Or maybe it's just a book, a book that will smash through the window of your chest & thieve your heart."

Thanks Nate Slawson for making this all happen. I can't wait to hold it in my hand, in my chest.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July. Happy America.

I wrote the poem below before we went to war in 2001, and when the country felt so divided and angry that it was impossible to feel at home in this country. I lived in a small apartment with T and wrote overlooking the backyards of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. All this sad and colorful laundry hanging from the line. I really wanted to LOVE America, but was so very disheartened by the current state of affairs that I thought I might have to move. That's what this poem is about. It appears in the first book, Lucky Wreck. Now, though we are still a divided country, I feel like those little houses in the back are waving their swallowtail-flags and getting a bit more notice, opening their doors to welcome in something new.  Happy 4th of July!

The Frontier of Never Leaving

If the wound you cover is made of sheet metal 
and iron gates left over from the junkyard of
of Forever Worried, and the school of Always Broken, 
here, I have saved you a seat. If you have hidden your
outlawed books in your mattress and your outlawed 
thoughts in your hands, here, I will give you refuge.
This is what I heard underneath it all, underneath and in the
beginning but now let’s move to Canada. I hear it’s nice and 
they don’t kill each other as often. I can even forgive them for speaking
French. Really, not all of them speak French. But would I miss it?
If I move to Canada, and there’s no war in the Spring 
I won’t miss Iowa, that’s for certain, but it’s the only thing.
The fields keep growing longer like a veil between us,
the mountains like sutures on the map, and yet they are
ours, the way mustard can be ours off the highway
and windmills in the deserts and roads, even roads. Barbed
wire between us, fences between us. The roadrunner has
run into the river and Misters, you do not care. Another puzzle
piece of my American map has unfolded. I am the only 
thing that fits together here, in this frontier of Never Leaving.
Today, I am going to play the record of the revolution,
everybody is going to sing along and the more we turn it up,
the less the flag will wave over you and the more it will
become a swallowtail and migrate to our houses, the little ones
in the back, the ones with the lights in the window. Look!
You can see them now, opening their doors in the fog.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Last Night's Reading at ACA Galleries, Effing & Boog City

The ladies! I like tall people. I like to surround myself with them. Dear poets and friends, Shanna Compton and Jennifer L. Knox. 
The crowd!
Justin Marks reading. He read a poem off his phone!
Music and feet. Katie May was wonderful.
The crowd and the naked paintings!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Interview with Me in the SF Examiner

I meant to post this, but was traveling and got all caught up in the slipstream.

Here's me talking about the poem, Crush...and other flights of fancy.

Me in the SF Examiner.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Summer Readings: Join me!

I've been graciously asked to read at the following events. Please come if you can!

1) Tuesday, June 30 2009

Boog City Presents

d.a. levy lives: celebrating the renegade press

Effing Press (Austin, Texas), featuring readings from

Farrah Field, Ada Limón, Justin Marks, with music from Katie May
Hosted by Effing Press editor Scott Pierce
Curated and with an introduction by Boog City editor David Kirschenbaum

ACA Galleries
529 W. 20th Street, 5th Floor (10th/11th Avenues)
Free, incl. wine & cheese | | | 212-842-2664
Subway: C/E to 23rd Street, or 1/9 to 18th Street


2) Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Heading Home:

Art Opening & Gallery Reading on UWS

46 W. 90th St. Fl 2

With my love, Jason Schneiderman


3) Tuesday, August 18


The Word for Word Series in Bryant Park

Robert Polito & Dana Goodyear & Ada Limón

(hope to see you!)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I have a poem in the New Yorker today.

I'm so very humbled. Thank you, thank you.

Dear New Yorker,

I have a CRUSH on you.

Love, Ada

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dear Blog, You are a Winner

My blog just got listed as one of the top 100 poetry blogs. I'm number 19! Which is one of my lucky numbers. As in "Hey 19," Steely Dan. Check it out!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Quick Interjection from Amsterdam!

I have my remaining poems for the month of April. PROMISE. They will be posted when I return sometime in the next twenty years.

Jen and Jason, you are rockstars without comparison. I've never seen blogger in Dutch, it's kind of awesome. I'm off for a canal ride after a trip to my new favorite "cafe."

Much love & pics to come.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ada's #20


I’m at the age where people talk about houses,
houses and homes, and houses that house
their housewares and homegoods. And maybe it’s here
where I admit that I don’t know how to have a house.
Not sure about the paperwork or what “in escrow”
really means, and isn’t everyone losing their houses?
Even the White House is worried, and no matter how
hard anyone holds on to their house, their households
are shaky, and then there are those shows about housewives
that seem to have enough house to share with everyone,
enough hours in the house to share, and though I love
my houseplants I’m afraid they might be apartment plants,
some of them already want bigger plant-houses because
they’re so happy, and I am happy, and that’s because I do
know how to make a home. It starts here, with this simple
building: I make an O with my arms and hold my household
in my breath, I imagine stingrays and marlins swimming
up my steps and you’re here, and there’s a good dinner
on the ceiling, and a fireplace in my hips, and I lay
down my skin by the door, it reads, Welcome Home.

Jen's for Day 21


Monday, April 20, 2009

Ada's #19

The Best Button

“If I ventured in the slipstream/Between the viaducts of your dream

Where immobile steel rims crack/And the ditch in the back roads stop

Could you find me? /Would you kiss-a my eyes?

To lay me down/In silence easy”  --Astral Weeks, Van Morrison


I’ve been listening to the album, Astral Weeks for weeks now,

so much so that a friend calls and says, It really is turning into

Astral Months. And Bob writes to say that he’s been listening to

the same album for five years so maybe, I’m just getting started.

The way you think this could either go on forever, or stop now,

or how you find a safe place to lay down and before you get really

comfortable, you’re already nostalgic for here, already miss where

you just came to be. I’m just getting started on wanting things

to go on—eating  past hunger, kissing past the point

of no return, swallowing the whole sky when you look up to

see the birds go by, thinking they’re angels, and here’re the clouds

again, and darkness past the point of regular behavioral glooms,

and it’s the spinning that’s so satisfying, though it’s no longer

on a record, it’s the way it asks nothing of me, or the way it

exists in another time, and it keeps giving me something, 

the way most live people can’t keep giving, because it’s exhausting 

and so hard to give all the time. And who am I to ask someone to 

fill my singular, impossible need? Give me a little more here. 

Wait, take it all back. It is the noise we’re making, that tree 

making noise, this voice making a noise in my jeans, up in this 

plane, where for three hours now, I’ve pushed repeat, repeat, repeat 

and it’s become my favorite button, my favorite pet of an item. 

So much so, that I’ll think I’ll use it more. At the end of the 

slipstream’s whoosh of breath, I’m going to push it, push my 

little button so the song comes on, this time louder,

this time, no one will lose their job, or have to go on broke and scared,

and this time, no one will get stuck on the other side of the world

dying and scared, and this time everyone will have button, a button

made out of blood cells that lives on tiny beats, a button that 

looks like a heart, and we can walk around and push each other’s 

buttons and these good buttons will be on the outside, and people 

can see if our button needs pushing, will know just when to touch 

us right here in the chest, to turn us on all over again.





Jen's toofer Monday!

[au revoir]

Jen's for Day #20


Ada's #18

Live Longer, Snake   

I’m talking to my brother on the phone
in the backyard of my parent’s house, blue-belly 
lizard on the picket, two donkeys, Cisco and Garbo, 
guzzle water near the oak tree. I’m sad because 
my stepdad is so sick that he’s not coming to the 
reading, and it’s okay, he’s had a bad day, and 
everyone knew he might not go, and it’s okay. 
And I’m crying a little and my brother understands 
but I feel stupid, the child he’s picked up a million 
times from school and made happy, can’t make him 
happy. Can barely hide her hot tears from the  
bummed-out barn animals. I feel not just stupid, 
but ineffectual, as a drug that does not work gets 
pulled off the market. And just then a snake in the grass, 
not a metaphor, just a real snake, half in the hole, half 
out of the hole. I almost crush his head. I shout and then I 
get close in, he’s not a rattler, he’s a good non-dangerous 
vermin-eating snake, and I love him. I sit for awhile 
by the overgrown swiss chard and the mountainous pile 
of cuttings and weeds and want to make this snake love me 
back, want to make it have a nice life, want to hide it 
from the mowers blades and protect it from hawk’s 
quick-cutting claws, want to make this snake live longer 
than me, or rather, I prefer to die first, want to slip under 
while watching this snake slink beautifully on and on.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jen's for the 19th


Jen's for the 18th


Ada's #17 (I've been traveling, so more to come...)

Practicing Someone Else


She tucks the thick sound into

her pocket and takes it to the street,

she’s going to stay all day in someone

else’s voice. She’s a tremor, a nerve,

a border crossed with a big toe.

Once, she kissed a kid who died

and even his lip-print bristles on

her bouncing skin still, now, here.


Day 19, after watching Anne Carson's Orestia, from Jason

[no more poem]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jen's for Day #17

[later, gator]

Jen's day #16


Ada's #16

Sleep’s Undoing


Though I veer in the direction,

of cool bloom, of crater and rise,

dare the past to deepen its pit,

the careful judge of days machining

the mind, and I’m not afraid of animals

nor afraid of lasting, still, I’m afraid of

my teeth in my own mouth, the way

they click and grind in my head,

but always behind my back.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ada's #15

Traveler’s Song

Take your good self with you,
Pack your ticket in your heart.

Begin at your familiar doorway,
For that’s where the world starts.

Let the globe’s spinning song
Come seduce you, soft and low.

Take your good self with you,
The thrumming earth says, Go!

Jen's for the 15th (TAX-I DANCE DAY!)


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Jen's for day 14


#14 for Jason

[no more poem]

Ada's #13 & 14

(For Deborah Digges)

“I thought I could grow old here,
safe among the ghosts”—Deborah Digges


I had a big love who liked to jump
out of airplanes. Did it twenty-three times,
all before he was even twenty-three. Every time
he’d go (sleek body swept up in the slipstream),
I’d give ultimatums to the sky, rack up
agnostic deals to the unfaithful blue.
But the best part was when he’d come home,
wind-burned and vibrating, pull a note, a note
from his pocket and read me what I would have
read if he had died. And I liked it, words
folded into my obstinate palms like I had won
something this time. Then, when he found out
that mainlining cocaine was cheaper than
paying for plane rides and I became a parachute,
I began making my own notes. Notes for him
to come home, demanding notes, loving ones,
and they worked. He flew in through a window
and handed me his head on a platter of notes,
what remained of the altitude’s gifts.


Today, a news notice told me that a woman
whose words I loved, whose sound rung out
like an air-horn in the spine, was found fallen.
And it’s no good. No good at all. Shuffling I go,
and want to bring all these pages. Come, let’s
curse this gloomy going, let’s hold a handful
of her notes like holding hands. Come let her
welcoming sans serif-fingers make a sort of harness,
some magic flying thing, let’s thank some left-over
god for what’s left, these notes, these words,
this inheritance of risk.

Deborah Digges at Pete's Big Salmon, 2004

Top: Deborah and her family at Pete's.
Middle: Reading...
Bottom: ...sans shoes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Jason's for the 13th

[no more poem]

Jen's for Day #13


Deborah Digges

In 2004, when Ada and I were hosting the Pete's Big Salmon reading series at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn, Deborah Digges came and read for us with Greg Pardlo. She was one of our Dream Guests—and the prospect of meeting her was a reason we said we'd do the series in the first place. In person, she was gracious, humble, completely down to earth (she was barefoot the entire time, actually), and obviously adored by the family members who accompanied her that night (they seemed as excited as we were to hear her read).

Ada and I are both HUGE fans of her work and have spent many wine filled evenings reading her poems aloud to each other, finishing with, "THAT'S what I'm talking about!" I love the way she risked being so unfashionably emotional and clear. Full of longing and mourning and humor, her expansive yet tightly crafted lines read effortlessly. It's like eating a whole box of See's candy--that easy and that delicious. And there's always a genuine, intelligent surprise in her poems--about why we're here, suffering like we are--that makes me feel better. Especially when it hurts. Deborah Digges didn't just teach us how to write, she taught us what it means to be a human being.

We absolutely loved her.


Ada's #12 (late!)


There is not enough silence in this cavern of telephones.
When do you expect you’ll arrive, this coming you speak of?
The world crawling in your lap.

Years now and we’re still at war,
and what comes back? Who opens the door?

Let them in just a little bit
while you’re making the bed.

The lights go up on his horizon
and all is not forgiven, city blocks full of our undoing.

It’s too much with the world shrinking
and here is Africa between your ribs and full of starch and silver.

So go there—bring a well of help on a cloud of cash
and the highest hope to be beyond human, to save even yourself.

All the trips are not far enough,
Overwhelmed by the world in a dirty dish—the water turned stranger on the run.

Trouble is we’ve grown so fond of our flesh and homes.

Who’s wearing the front page on her naked chest—no one.

Bring back the tricks, the camera man and his bowtie,
I miss the taste of tin and brand-name snacks.

My umbrella’s not big enough for this—
All these angels falling down to pieces.

Enough about the weather, real lives are being lost.
And I’m tempted to throw myself out the picture frame.

But this suit is so nice and her thighs are right here.

I’d make you a card if I thought it would outlast the second we had.

Evacuate that heart of all its longing and silence beats,
When do I get to become a song, on the valley wind?
Not soon enough. But soon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Jen's for Day #10


Ada's #10

Love Letter

To the quaking bird on high, wing-deep
in the wired light, to the quick-stepping
ghost following me, to the camera’s catch,
to the beauty’s bridge-walking demons,
to you, to you, to you.

To the fake heavens stuck in a real wish
for saving, to the valley’s mounting pour
of thick longing, to this vibrating hymn
where we rock, to the carpet’s sly beg
to lie down, lie down, lie down.

To my wanting and my not wanting
and the carousel in between. To the complicated
dream-speaking mouths, to the quiver of truck
tires on Carriger’s gravel, to star-counting in dust,
to the hour, the hour, the hour.

Terrible beauty, I address you. Every live
thing in me is widening its loving fangs, is aimed
at the tenderest skin, but cannot take you on.
What’s left is the feathered acacia teasing
the heart gone mad with blessings.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Jen's # 8 (under the wire)


Ada's #8


Once, when I jumped off the bed
At sixteen, full-force fist at my first love.

Once, in Germany, my seventeen year-old
Shoulder slipped out of its hard new syllables.

Once, in Spain, in a tiny tent heated by two
Slick bodies. (My arm numb for seven days straight.)

Once, in my father’s car, almost driving,
The seatbelt’s reach wrenched it raw.

In Albuquerque, when every part of me
Was unhinged like a worn-out cotton wood,

At a pool table, in a firefly-filled clasp,
Putting on a coat, putting on an attitude.

My shoulder doesn’t want me, or rather
My humerus doesn’t want my scapula.

But I want my shoulder, just how it is,
It’s not broken. Funny, what it does is, it aches.

It wants to go backward, a targeted tug
On one side, a leashed-beast, pulling for release.

The first time it happened, I was twelve
Heard it snap in the middle of a friend’s pool.

I swam one-armed to the lip, quietly cried.
Then, I shook, and it clicked in, my trick.

I never told anyone, cold all day in the sun,
Tiger towel, squeezing my left hand for feeling.

It felt good, as if finally I had my own secret,
A crack in my being, a shiver I could name.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Ada's #7


Avocado walls in a district office meeting
have a lot to say, a lot to add about
educating students in the early seventies.
I wasn’t born yet, but I wish I had been part
of that day’s discussion. The one where someone
said, “The only thing Mexicans are good for
is stealing hubcaps.” And my father, a new
principal, stayed silent. The man who said it,
laughing and leaning up against the pale green
room like a plastic figurine in a fake place called,
“Outside.” I don’t know if everyone laughed,
but they might have, let’s face it, they did.
I do know that, the next day my father stole
all the hubcaps off that man’s car
in broad daylight, in the parking lot
of the elementary school. It’s one
of my favorite stories, though what I want
to know the most, is how good each
hubcap felt—a useful thing taken
and made a better-tool, rooted so deep
in a man’s pride that the weight made
the wheels stop spinning, its sole purpose
born into a fierce standing still.

Jen's for Day #7


Jason for Day 7

[no more poem]

Monday, April 06, 2009

Ada's #6


You’re telling me about your cactus
and the orange tree and I’m three
thousand miles away, but not really.
You’re saying something about fires
in the licking wind, in your cringing skin,
and I’m so selfish. I think, get to the part
about me. The part that makes me
feel something, the part where I’m
on fire too, the part where you think
I’m three thousand miles away, but
actually I’m face up on your lawn
watching the cactus catch fire,
its punk-tough spines fighting
a losing battle against all that heat.

Jen's for Day #6


Jason for Day #6

[no more poem]

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Jen's for Day #5


Ada's #5

The Human Skill

That the world has been doing its thing
for a very long time, is a comfort. A pill
in the marmalade of breakfasts since
the beginning of the rotation. Start here.
You’ve done everything. Even the really
really bad stuff. And so have I.
So when we walk into the backyard
and stare out into the dim distance
of our neighbors, we know they’re
watching us. For good reason,
for good reason. But the good too,
we’ve done that. Loved. Opened.
Everyday, I wake up and think,
“Today I will attempt to be
exceptional.” But instead I get tired
and fall asleep. Maybe my
exceptional skill, is waking up.
And again, again. Start here.

Quick Interjection

This is really really very hard.

And the Jason who has joined us is the lovely and talented, Jason Schneiderman.

Ada's #4

What Suits Us

Your good love suits you,
like a suit of good love.
It’s not just that the barking
pierces the skin, but
that you like the skin
a certain shape. Last
night I called you,
“angel head,” instead
of “angel face.” But
it’s because I meant
your whole head,
(which included the brain
not just the face).
In the pictures, your
suit is like someone else’s,
the way I pretend to
wear your good love
sometimes, when no one
is looking. Put it on
in the mirror. Make
kissy faces, and pout.
Then I put it back,
the invisible stitching,
the stiff ache of distance
between clothes
and skin.

Jason's #5

[no more poem]

Friday, April 03, 2009

Ada's #3

Unorganized Love

When the lava dome was over, like history,
after Mount St. Helens and Cougar Mountain
were conquered, after there had been streams
and lost in the woods, I got strep throat, like a tool,
had to take the Greyhound bus back
to responsibility and straight up-and-down A’s.
Fever dream in the front seat (“Sit in the front,
next to the driver.”), the woman who asked
if I was okay, touched my forehead, said,
I looked like her family. Her family,
a Pacific Northwest tribe. And I wasn’t.
But she insisted. And hours later she went on,
my body slumped over an old backpack,
my throat blistered with give-up.
The kind of give-up you get when you’re 19
and think it’s still an option. Like, just stopping
is an option. She was saying something about magic
and how sometimes you just get a sense
of things, and I thought that was true.
The first boy I loved; I met him in the back
of a Roundtable Pizza where he was making
things disappear for a whole room of us
twelve year-olds, and he was made of magic
and carried fake roses and real rabbits
and I loved him for real, for real, for real.
She talked about how my tribe, in Mexico,
in Aztlan, was also a part of her tribe,
from the same coast, the same ground, she knew
when I got on the bus that I was her people.
She gave me a grape soda because I couldn’t talk,
and told me to look at the trees and how,
didn’t I feel like I had known them forever, and how
I probably had, and how people had been
here before too. I sipped my grape soda
and for miles of interstate I was so full
of love that for a minute, I forgot who I loved
most, as if I had lost the hierarchy.
It scared me. Made the whole world seem too
unorganized. I needed rank and file, a system of
loving. This person is number one, a fake rose,
a top hat. She put her hand on my forehead again.
My fever was breaking. A soldier got on, and
someone said, “we’d get there faster if we didn’t
keep stopping.” A grove of trees. A grove of homes.
And I couldn’t tell who I was wishing well, or
even if it mattered. So I said, “I'll miss you,”
to the window’s nothing and didn’t care
if it said it back.

Jen's for Day 3


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ada's #2


Because we didn’t want to kill
anything, we covered the baby
scorpions with a mason jar, slipped
a white paper underneath their
segmented metasoma, their twice
moulted ecdysis and left it
on the counter. Eight scorpion
babies (one for each of our years)
twisted up like they were spit
from hell’s white hot mouth
and asked to bear some angry
weight. We stared at them,
human-eyed, and wrote a note:
Their grimaced carapaces
looked into ours, until
we turned our young backs
to the jar of nightmared boos
and quick-footed, we fled
to the mountain’s tall rye grass
to release the live things inside
of us. Our own brood of crawling
young cold-blooded stingers
aching for a chance to remain
jar-less, to live this one life
un-captured, ready to blow
the lid off any atmosphere.

Jen's for Day 2


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ada's #1


Shake it. Like a tree.
Like a blossoming tree,
a young one who's doing
this all for the first time,
whose blooming buds hurt
as much as they shiver,
whose love is so big
it wants to spread it all over
the great state of California,
wants to be every state’s
state tree, wants us all
to be in the state of tree,
the state of tantrum and
buzz, the state of, Take me!,
the state of, C’mon, C’mon,
let’s burst open everywhere,
leave bits of ourselves like
tongues in the world’s ears.

Jen's #2 for Day 1

[Sayonara, baybee]

Jennifer L. Knox: Day 1

[Bye bye!]

NAPOWRIMO Comes But Once a Year!

Hello there, whoever is reading this. I'm Jennifer L. Knox (but please, call me Cherry) and I'm going to be posting a poem every day, along with Ada Limón, on this here blog.

If you don't know anything about NAPOWRIMO, you must not be a poet.

So I'll explain briefly: NAPOWRIMO stands for National Poetry Writhing Iguanas Mojito, which is fairly self explanatory. It was invented by Santa in, like, the 1800s. And Ada and I have been doing this since the dawn of time. You (if you are me or Ada) write a poem every day and share it with the world via the Interschnitzel, or you keep it silently, even greedily, to yourself.

Some people (and 100% of all prairie dogs) say NAPOWRIMO is killing poetry by making it go swimming too soon after eating. To those people I say, "I'm trying to watch JEOPARDY! Isn't there a new Harry Potter DVD you could be dancing to right now or something?!" And that usually does the trick.

Ada and I aren't the only ones who do this, though we may be the only ones who insist on doing it naked. NAPOWRIMO sites are all over the place, like on the blog for Bloof Books, where there are like 1000 poets posting and podcasting. I hear kids love podcasts. I'll probably phone a poem in one night if I'm drunk.

Thanks for having me, Ada, and befouling your blog this way.

Strap on your poetry pants, whoever you are, and let the games begin!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Guerilla Chapbook Poetry Contest

March 17, 1934 - February 13, 2008

The Red CalacArts Collective, Calaca Press and Red Salmon Arts seek submissions for the

Guerrilla Chapbook
Poetry Contest

As a way to honor the late Xicanindio poet activist the Red CalacArts Collective, Calaca Press (San Diego, Califas) and Red Salmon Arts (Austin, Tejas) have teamed up to create the raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest. The Redz seek material from authors whose poetry best reflects the lifework and interests of raúlrsalinas, including Native and immigrant rights, the Chicano Movement, Black Power, prison struggles, political prisoners, Leonard Peltier, Mumia abu-Jamal, social movements, EZLN, Cuba, independence of Puerto Rico, the Beat writers, and of course jazz, amongst many other issues related to culture, human rights, community empowerment and social justice.

Raul was an inspiration for many. This effort is a way to keep that inspiration alive.

raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest
Submission Guidelines

The raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest seeks work by Chican@, Latin@ and Native poets between the ages of 18-35 who have not graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing, nor are currently enrolled in an MFA program. Poets also must not have a collection of poems published by a small or large press exceeding 64 pages. Self published books, being published in anthologies and/or on the internet is ok. Previously published work will be accepted only if author has full rights to work. Please indicate with submission wether work was previously published.

To enter the raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest authors must submit via email the following:

1) Ten poems written in caló, Spanglish, English o en español

2) A short essay describing your community work

3) A short bio in third person

4) Personal info: full name (and pen name if applicable), age, occupation, education, address, phone number, email, and website

Please send as 2 separate Microsoft Word files using Helvetica font size 12. One file with poems and the other with personal info, bio and essay.

Send to:
Deadline: May 1, 2009

Contest results will be publicly announced by the end of June 2009.

The winner will be determined by a three judge panel including:

Louis G. Mendoza, Ph.D. - Editor of raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen

Rene Valdez - Executive Director of Red Salmon Arts


Brent E. Beltrán - Co-owner of Calaca Press and member of the Red CalacArts Collective

The judges will be looking for the following:

1) Well written poems whose themes and subject matter relate to the lifework and interests of raúlrsalinas

2) Creative use of language

3) Your community work

The chapbook will be edited by Cal A. Vera who will have final decision (with input from the author) on title, chapbook contents, layout, and cover art. All ten submitted pieces may or may not be used. The editor may ask for revisions or even for alternative poems prior to publication.

1000 copies of the chapbook will be printed. Winner will receive 100 copies. The chapbook will be approximately 40 pages (give or take four).

Winner must own publication rights to submitted work. Author retains all rights to poems after publication of chapbook.

Depending on budget constraints the contest winner will be flown to, and read at, two chapbook release readings (one in San Diego and the other in Austin) and receive an honorarium of $250 for each. Readings will be scheduled for September 2009.

More about raúlrsalinas and the judges:

raúlrsalinas, the author of the seminal Chicano experience poem, Un Trip Through the Mind Jail, was not only an accomplished poet but a dedicated community activist who gained a political consciousness while serving approximately 13 years inside some of America’s most notorious prisons (Huntsville, Soledad, and Leavenworth among others). While in prison at Marion he was befriended by Puerto Rican Nationalist Rafael Cancel Miranda (famed for an armed assault on congress on March 1, 1954 with fellow Nationalists including Lolita Lebron). Sr. Miranda was a major influence on Raúl’s lifework. Imprisoned during the early Chicano Movement years he was active in the prison rights struggles of that time. His book, raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen: Selected Writings by Raúl Salinas highlights his struggles and victories inside America’s prison system. Including winning a landmark prison rights case. After his release from prison in 1973 he dedicated his life to Chicano and Native American causes. He was a member of the Centro de la Raza in Seattle, the American Indian Movement, a cofounder of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and various other progressive organizations dedicated to defending the rights and interests of all working class and colonized people. A true internationalist he was committed to supporting Puerto Rican independence, the Cuban Revolution, the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, the Zapatistas in Chiapas and the Bolivarian Process of Presidente Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela among many other struggles. After serving many years of forced exile in Washington state (where he helped defend Native American fishing rights), he eventually returned to his home in Austin, TX. Shortly thereafter he opened Resistencia Bookstore and Red Salmon Arts which became a cultural and political hub for East Austin’s Chicano community. Raúl authored four poetry collections Viaje/Trip (Hellcoal Press), East of the Freeway (Red Salmon Press), Un Trip Through The Mind Jail (Arte Público Press) and Indio Trails: A Xicano Odyssey through Indian Country (Wings Press) as well as three spoken word CDs Los Many Mundos of raúlrsalinas: Un Poetic Jazz Viaje con Friends (Calaca Press/Red Salmon Press), Beyond the BEATen Path (Red Salmon Press) and Red Arc: A call for liberation con salsa y cool with Fred Ho (Wings Press).

Louis G. Mendoza, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Chicano Studies at the University of Minnesota. His research interests include Chicana/o Literary and Cultural studies, U.S. immigration literature, prison literature, and oral histories. Dr. Mendoza is the editor or coeditor of four books including: Telling Tongues: A Latin@ Anthology on Language Experience (Red Salmon Press/Calaca Press, 2006) and raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen (University of Texas Press, 2006). He is currently working on two books related to his 2007 Journey Across Our America research project on U.S. Latina/o communities that he conducted while bicycling around the perimeter of the country.

Rene Valdez is the Executive Director of Red Salmon Arts and Resistencia Bookstore in Austin, Tejas. A long time protégé of raúlrsalinas, Mr. Valdez continues the work Raul started at Red Salmon and Resistencia.

Brent E. Beltrán aka Cal A. Vera is a spinal injury surviving, third generation pocho and Chicano Studies community college dropout who dishes out the word from Calacalandia in National City, Califas. Along with his super hero wife Chelo, and fellow Red CalacArts Collective member, he runs the maverick Chican@ publishing house Calaca Press. Lacking two tongues himself he has committed the last 10+ years of his life to publishing rebellious writers whose work dances somewhere between the ever shifting boundaries of Castellano and the King's English. To date he has published/produced work by over 100 different authors and artists

For more information on Red CalacArts, Calaca and Red Salmon:

Calaca Press
Red CalacArts Collective
P.O. Box 2309
National City, Califas 91951
(619) 434-9036 phone/fax

Calaca Press is a Chicano family-owned small publishing house dedicated to publishing and producing unknown, emerging, and established progressive Chicano and Latino voices. With a commitment to social justice and human rights Calaca Press strives to bring about change through the literary arts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Marriage of the Minds

Come out and join us! We're all getting married. (Or not.)

A reading on the complex institution of marriage
and the complex state of being wedded (or un-)

Rachel DeWoskin
Major Jackson
Jennifer L. Knox
Ada Limón
Paul Muldoon
Gregory Pardlo
Marie Ponsot

Sunday, April 5, 6PM
The Bowery Poetry Club

Monday, February 16, 2009

Brief Narrative of AWP with Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago

I started out in the cold Chicago glow of all my far-away friends and new writers to adore. Light shot out from everywhere, and sometimes I had to lock myself in my room and breathe real slowly and remember that quiet was awfully important. Then light shot out from everywhere again. And it snowed on my hats (one white, and one black). And light shot out from the inside until I sucked it back in and held it in my lungs and in between my ears.

(Georgia O'Keeffe, Electric Light)

Then I walked around and swam too (underwater! underwater!) like a fish. I saw the Buddha Seated in Meditation (Dhyanamudra) and got ready to enter my world again. Big buildings that I work in and stare out on. And there's magic sometimes when the light is just right.

(Georgia O'Keeffe, The Shelton with Sunspots, NY)

Then I took the plane, met more writers, and tried to hold on to all my far-away friends and far-away lights like buoys in all that icy water. Big red buoy all covered with life, I particularly like how it becomes one with the sea, but manages still to float despite all the ocean pulling it inward.

(Peter Blume, Buoy)

New poems in...

Fourth River



Thanks Editors!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Readings at AWP

Readings..whoa. Hope you can make it.

Friday, February 13, 2009
4:30pm - 5:45pm
Astoria, 3rd Floor
Hilton, Chicago, 720 South Michigan Avenue
North Chicago, IL

F187. Astoria, 3rd Floor
Milkweed Editions Poetry Reading. (Wayne Miller, Eireann Lorsung, Alex Lemon, Melissa Kwasny, Ada Limón, and Managing Editor James Cihlar) This reading features new work by five distinctive poets—Ada Limón, Melissa Kwasny, Alex Lemon, Eireann Lorsung, and Wayne Miller—all recently published by or forthcoming from Milkweed Editions, one of the largest literary nonprofit publishers in the country. Commemorating Milkweed's twenty-fifth anniversary as a book publisher, this event is an exciting opportunity to discover innovative work. Moderated by Wayne Miller, author of The Book of Props and editor of Pleaides.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Bishop.

The first and only book I ever stole was from my English teacher's classroom during my Junior year (which was also my senior year, but that's a longer story). It was a small book that contained a few poems by Elizabeth Bishop. I was in love, of course, as I was 16 and in agony. And then I fell in love with these poems. First it was, One Art. Then, The Fish. And finally, after many readings, I began to understand The Man-moth and was unhinged. Today is Bishop's Birthday. She would have been 98. I've read the majority of her letters back and forth to Robert Lowell and most of her poems. I'm not a scholar (lord knows, I can barely spell), but I consider myself a deep appreciate-er of her work. She baffles me and inspires me. I'm having a little birthday party for her right here at this very moment. We've got coffee. And poems (what more is there?).

In her letters, one of my favorite quotes, is this treasure:

September 8th, 1948

"Dear Cal (Robert Lowell),

I think you said a while ago that I'd "laugh you to scorn" over some conversation you & I had had about how to protect oneself against solitude & ennui--but indeed I wouldn't. That's just the kind of "suffering" I'm most at home with & helpless about, I'm afraid, and what with 2 days of fog and alarmingly low tides I've really got it bad & think I'll write you a note before I go out & eat some mackerel."

The Man-moth

Here, above,
cracks in the buldings are filled with battered moonlight.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,
and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon.
He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties,
feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold,
of a temperature impossible to records in thermometers.

But when the Man-Moth
pays his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface,
the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges
from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks
and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.
He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky,
proving the sky quite useless for protection.
He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.

Up the façades,
his shadow dragging like a photographer's cloth behind him
he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.
(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)
But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.

Then he returns
to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,
he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains
fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way
and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,
without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.
He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards.

Each night he must
be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.
Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie
his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window,
for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison,
runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease
he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep
his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers.

If you catch him,
hold up a flashlight to his eye. It's all dark pupil,
an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens
as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee's sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you're not paying attention
he'll swallow it. However, if you watch, he'll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.

See a little snip-it from Voices and Visions and here the poems aloud:

Man-Moth and One Art

Here's hoping that today is a good day to foster tears, and to try to slip through the moon.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

new one.

{poem was here}

I Am My Own MacDowell

My dearest friend is at MacDowell (actually she's here right now, but don't tell anyone). It's her second time. Last night we caught up and talked about the dear deer and the good and talented people she's met. It made me want, very much, to apply to an arts colony. I haven't ever applied because I've had a full-time job in publishing for years and years. I like my job a great deal, and I am very GRATEFUL for it, but it doesn't allow for months off or long uninterrupted hours of writing. So if I did get in, I wouldn't be able to attend. I did have a fellowship at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center in 2001-2002. For seven months I wrote, and walked, and went a little crazy. It was wonderful and terrifying.

But today, I've decided to create my own MacDowell. I have given into the fact that I write at my kitchen table (I'm sorry desk, you're too far away, and rather uncomfortable). I bought a lamp a few weeks ago at a junk shop (it's green marble!) and a little 70's style table for all my "currently reading" books. Welcome to MacDowell. A little corner in my kitchen. For the weekends. And for evenings. And for any moment I can carve out for myself to write, and read, and stare.

Now, if only you will stop by and drop off lunch in a basket, I'll be all set.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"When I have a terrible need of - shall I say the word - religion. Then I go out and paint the stars." Vincent van Gogh

Happy Lunar New Year.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Today is Virginia Woolf's 128 birthday. She's not here anymore, but a few of my favorite quotes are still around, including:

"I meant to write about death, only life kept breaking in as usual."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

new one.

{poem was here}

{for Dustin, because he likes these brackets}

{poem} {was} {here}

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

While I agree with Elizabeth Alexander that "love" is the mightiest word, I might add...that on a cold winter's night, when the wind has gone out of you a million ways, and the house is empty, and you're a bit blue, but a bit hopeful too, that a pretty mighty word might also be "royalty," followed by "statement," followed by "check." Ladies and gentlemen, I've officially made money off a song I wrote. And to top it all off, the letter began: "Dear Songwriter, Composer, and Publisher." Thanks Jason! Thanks Guiding Light!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Of Poetry, Service, and Hot Toddy's

Today, I'm thinking of service and Dr. King. And my dear friends and I are gathering coats for a coat drop and writing poetry and it's a good day of reflection. And a good day for a hot toddy. I'm a sucker for a good hot toddy in the middle of winter, and the other night, while at a new wine bar in the West Village, L'Artusi I had the best hot toddy I've ever had. It was gorgeous. And the very handsome server wrote down the recipe. So I thought I'd share it. I was with my two friends with whom I used to work at Martha Stewart Omnimedia, so we are prone to savoring things and talking about flavors and food. Oh and due to this hot toddy, we've all decided to go to Amsterdam in May. That's what a real good hot toddy can do.

Here's the recipe.

L'Artusi Hot Toddy

3/4 oz. lemon
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/2 oz. Michters American Rye Whiskey
1 1/2 oz. chamomile grappa (!!)
4 oz. chamomile tea (!!)
4 dashes orange bitters

And then it started snowing.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New glasses for new poetry.

For Deb:

How to Give Up—Give In

Someday, unbeknownst to the sorry
lot of the dark virile ghosts in your corner,
the blue moon will actually come.

Bruised by the stone glare of the limelight,
it’ll come to stand in your tenuous doorway,
ready to admit it’s been late in coming.

Leave the indolent lotus-eaters right
then and there, their gorgeous blond faces,
and go to work, your shoulder to the hard sky.

Stop blaming the heat, the weather is
not a response to your desire, or non-desire,
you are part weather, part flower-leaf waving.

Lieutenant of the present room, practice
more of those human blunders, less fast lies,
leave your fumbling empty to the glossies.

You can be taken down as easily as taken up,
leave your arms loose in the hour, your body
buoyed by your own coalition with the air.