community feature: Airlie Press book launch!

This particular community feature post is focused on the upcoming book launch of three of Airlie Press’s new titles: Ordinary Gravity by Gary Lark, Savagery by J.C. Mehta, and, winner of the 2018 Airlie Prize, Wonder Tissue by Hannah Larrabee!

Here’s the info for those of you in the Portland, OR area:

When: Tuesday, October 1st @ 7pm
Where: Annie Bloom’s Books, 7834 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, OR 97219

I’m presently in my second year of a three-year stint as a co-editor of Airlie Press and can honestly say that it is a joy to be able to play a part in bringing these books out into the world. Below are excerpts from the new books either to give a taste of the upcoming book launch or to hold space for those of us, like myself, who aren’t able to be there.

Excerpt from Ordinary Gravity by Gary Lark

Much Improved 

Hardly anyone dies of typhoid fever
any more. We can send our sons to war
without complaint. Lice are quickly dispatched
and no one freezes to death.
We have piles of antibiotics.
The broadsword wounded aren’t left
in the field to die with others rotting around them.
Of course there are more bombs and bullets
but morphine is readily available.
We can usually save a soldier whose limb
is blown off.
Yes, things are much improved.
We can send more daughters up to the front.
They have the right.
Soldiering is still a good option for the poor.
We’re working on pills for madness,
more medications to calm the nerves
and we’ll get a handle on this suicide business,
yes we will.

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Excerpt from Savagery by J.C. Mehta

The Heart Consumes Itself 

It’s not true the starved
don’t eat, we die

of broken hips, pelvis
churned to dust—slowly,

the heart consumes
itself. Atrophies and implodes.

(These chambers, remember,
are a muscle.)

Nobody nowhere shoulders
the strength to stop it all, the whole
fat world from slipping
between cracked, wanting lips. We eat

and we hate,

with each bite and gag-
me spoon. Our weakness
displayed like limbs
splayed wide, flushed
shameful folds of pink.
How I wish

I could stop. Let the valves
shut down cold. Listen,
that last organ coda. And you
in dutiful ovation.

*

Excerpt from Wonder Tissue by Hannah Larrabee

Extraterrestrial

Loose-leaf planet I survive
steeping in a pocket of dust
or lakeside listening to loons,
my tongue curling around
their songs of sorrow, fierce
red eyes, fierce as her body,
its way of going about me—oh,
abandoned bed like a reliquary,
her bone fingers a memory
inside me—oh, I have learned
the language of the homesick
 on
this planet of horses, this planet
of her legs tightening around me,
force rising against gravity, magma
loosened as from a spur kicked
into earth, foaming at the bit, I am
tamed, I am tamed, come tame me
extraterrestrial, I, too, have learned
the word beautiful, mapped its quiet
coordinates, the wind through her dress
is the conversation of cells, I am alive
in all my fires.

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Click on the following to learn more about Airlie’s publishing collective model, our present single poem prize, our national Airlie Prize, and the regional open reading period from which editorships are determined.

And be sure to check out my own new Airlie title, An Empty Pot’s Darkness.

new book: An Empty Pot’s Darkness!

I’m happy to announce the release of my newest poetry collection, An Empty Pot’s Darkness (Airlie Press)! This collection takes the octave form I worked with in my chapbook Corpus Christi Octaves and expands on it with new sequences on life, love, and death.

araguz coverThank you to Ani Schreiber for creating the cover art! Special thanks also to Adeeba Shahid Talukder, Vincent Cooper, and Laura M Kaminski for writing blurbs and spending time with the project early. Also, thank you to the whole Airlie gang for taking a chance on this project.

One last thank you to all of you who have taken the time to read my work in the past! This new project has me working in a more nuanced space, one that I hope reads as a further development of my way with the line.

Copies can presently be purchased at the Airlie site – where you can also read more about the book as well as catch an excerpt.

Thank you for helping me welcome this new book into the world!

writer feature: Yahia Lababidi & Laura Kaminski

This week’s poem was drawn from the feature submissions! For guidelines on how to submit work, see the “submissions” tab above.

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Happy to be sharing a collaborative poem this week by two poet friends: Yahia Lababidi and Laura Kaminski. Collaborative poems create such singular reading experiences, the meeting of two sensibilities creating another sensibility performed through the poem. Because of the idiosyncratic nature of this creative undertaking, I asked Yahia and Laura to share some thoughts on their process, the results of which are featured below after the poem.

PITCHERI was excited when I first read the poem, intrigued by its pacing and lyric turns right away. What I most enjoy about this poem is how its meditation on sin and the body is approached in references and images that redefine both as they accumulate. The first stanza, for example, sets up a logic around guilt that is quickly subverted in the second. Then at the end of the second stanza there is a reference to Franz Kafka’s The Trial, “Guilt is never to be doubted.” This line on its own is one of those faux truisms that denies itself the moment after it’s read or uttered. The silence after the line break makes you immediately doubt this statement on doubt. These moves early in the poem have the effect of a bottle rocking unsteadily on its base and then settling into stillness via the Kafka line. This stillness is the perfect lead into the following stanza’s “Walk softly then” direction.

Similarly, the body is described in house terms and images, all of which create a different conversation about interiority and the self than usually encountered in poems. An image like the water pitcher one in stanza six, for example, is effective for what it evokes through the directive tone and leaves unsaid. By the poem’s end, gratitude for the “holy mess” of who we are works as a physical and active thing through the refrain of breathing.

Holy Mess
by Yahia Lababidi & Laura Kaminski

Overnight, your once blessed existence
might reverse course
become an alien thing
and you stand accused
of unspeakable crimes

Never mind, you are innocent
of these base horrors—
as Kafka says, in his Trial,
‘Guilt is never to be doubted’

Walk softly then, in sock-feet
across the floor that’s in your mind
until you reach the alcove
between the two open windows
that serve as sockets for your eyes

inhale through the nose
exhale through the nose

Be grateful, then
there are still dreadful sins
in our fallen world
of which you are blameless

Then move to the left window
lift the pitcher full of water
just beneath it to the sill
and pour it out

inhale through the nose
exhale through the mouth

Cross over to the other window
and look out, cross your arms over
your chest and clasp your shoulders

Now, tell me, how will this crucible
change you? Then show how this
unasked-for crisis is
blessing, allow it to assist
the birth of your longed-for self

inhale through the mouth
exhale through the nose

Slowly, return to descend
the spiral staircase of your spine
until you reach the landing
level with the Heart —

Thank God, for this Holy Mess —
Open the window, air it out

inhale through the mouth
exhale through the mouth

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Yahia: Poetry is an expression of the intolerable. Through it, one can confess in code and attempt to articulate what is unutterable.  Recently, undergoing a particularly difficult spiritual trial, I turned to poetry for solace, as a form of prayer, to overhear my higher self.

But, in this trying instance, I found that my voice and vision were not enough; I needed another poetic soul to unburden myself to, who could talk back to the intimacies that I shared and walk me through them.

So, I submitted the partial poem that I had composed to a poet and friend I admire, Laura Kaminski, and the result is this fuller work of (he)art — a steadying call and response and a kind of breathing meditation.

Laura: I carried the partial poem with me through the remainder of that day and into the night, and what came was this: when a part of our body is in pain, it screams out along the nerves, and it becomes difficult not to slip into that pain as an identity: *I am the torn ligaments in my foot* and such, where the injury and pain of it supersede any other perceptions of the body, become defining. When I hurt, pain hijacks my identity. I cannot see my self beyond the injury.

How much the same is true when what is injured is one of our inner selves, part of our psyche rather than physical body, but superseding identity in the same way: our “I am” is lost beneath the “I am the falsely accused.” How to return to the wider, more comprehensive perspective, to gently invite the injured voice inside to subside, to return to being part of a larger, uninjured whole? Then came the words of walking across the floor within the mind, and it struck me how once those words are thought, the imaginative-identity, like Alice, resizes its self to fit, and opens us to wonderland again.

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Yahia Lababidi, Egyptian-American, is the author of seven books of poetry and prose, most recently the collection of aphorisms, Signposts to Elsewhere.

Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba) is the author of several poetry collections and chapbooks. She serves on the editorial teams at Praxis Magazine Online and Right Hand Pointing. For more information on her work, check out her site.