New website! and workshop!

Friday, April 01, 2016

Please see my new website (including new blog) at joannapenncooper.net.

Also, there are spaces left in my six-week Reading and Writing from Life workshop in Durham, NC.  It starts April 16th, and you can sign up here.


Thinking Mistakes

Monday, February 08, 2016

(by Joanna Penn Cooper and Todd Colby) 

I have a worksheet to give you, all about everything
you might be doing wrong.  Please note the bottom
of page 32 of this document—there are also mistakes
that predate you. Lamarck was not wrong. You inherited
that sadness and even the fact of your existence: one big fat
"whoops." It's ok, though. Just imagine if you could taste
what your shoes taste if shoes could taste. There are all sorts
of feeling methods, and some of your thinking happens
in unexpected parts of the body, like your hair, or your clavicles
with their pearly sheen. And I love the cohort I've found here—
we laugh at the same jokes. It's all so painful and funny and
something else that smells a little rotten at the edges.  That's
where the magic is a little like blue gravy on a pink suit. You
stumble, you glow. You're a lilac mess.

Reading and Writing from Life

Tuesday, January 19, 2016



I will be teaching this six-week writing course at Nido in Durham, NC on Saturday afternoons, February 6th through March 12th.  Join us!

No Lack of Opportunities

Friday, January 15, 2016

by Joanna Penn Cooper and Todd Colby

The way I know reality is conditional is by looking 
out the window at the mobile homes parked
under the palm trees.  What would it mean to really
be mobile?  To really have a home?  These things
are up on blocks.  That's the condition of being
anonymous amid the revelations of doom. 
It's chilly but comfortable, the way I love you 
as much as anybody loves another human being, 
if one can call a human such a thing as a being. 

New York, New York

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

(by Todd Colby and Joanna Penn Cooper)

None of us gets you.
Like a message saying,
Stop having regrets-- you'll regret it, 
I can't believe how much everything hurts.
You aren't really broken.
But it's ok if you are.
There are buckets and bandages and medications
we can share.  People are funny in New York.
You were one, which almost makes it worth it
but not quite.  You are still one.
There isn't a blurb or heartfelt inscription
in the world that can change that thing
in your ear. 

Notes Toward a Personal Mythology

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

(Answers to Nine Questions from Sandra Simonds’ Book The Sonnets)


1 .  There is a six-week-old infant in my lap.  I haven’t yet woken up from the epidural or from the whole birth experiment experience.  The first few days I don’t even change his diaper—his father does.  I stand to the side.  I look.    


At eight weeks, I become more alert.  I lay the baby on the bed and read him some Frank O’Hara poems.


2.  My son is two, and he calls apartments “compartments.”  I’ve sat alone cross-legged in compartments all over the East and the Midwest, in a posture of repose and tempered anxiety.  I chose at least two of my apartments because they reminded me of tree houses,  one in Philadelphia and one in St. Paul.  Compartments, I mean.  Both were also haunted.  

The last time I had a skylight, though, I was 15 in Heidelberg.  My mother had rented us a two-story compartment in a large converted barn by the Neckar River.  I sat on my bed in a Benetton sweater watching snow swirl above the skylight, thinking something like, “This is (my) life.”  


Once we had lived in a converted garage in the home of my grandmother and grandfather.  My mother was 18.  I was an infant in swaddling clothes.  No one could have imagined where we’d go from there.  


3.  All I see on the mantle are (a) the free Xmas tree boughs from Home Depot; (b) a picture  I bought at Taliesin (Frank Lloyd Wright’s house in Wisconsin); (c) a vase from my carpenter ex-boyfriend; and (d) a framed photo of my glamorous Myrtle Beach grandmother, two children in Catawba College cardigans trailing behind her, thinking thoughts of their own.

    Notes:
(a)    I asked for a wreath and he brought home free Christmas tree branches.
(b)    We didn’t get to tour Taliesin, as we arrived as they were closing.  I was in Wisconsin camping with three Midwesterners who spent the weekend very drunk.  Alarmingly so.  (This is (my) life?)
(c)    He bought the vase at the Walker Arts Center.  That was nice of him.  If slightly impersonal.  No, nice.  I still like it.  (“Why are you so critical?” he said.  “There’s something wrong with you.”)
(d)    “I always hated the beach,” she said.  “So much sand.” 


4.  My core has gone missing, is something you may think in the months after giving birth.  My abdominal muscles have collapsed!  We love you get up. 


5.  My college boyfriend loved the movie Tucker with Jeff Bridges.  He had a shirt he called his Tucker shirt.  He imagined himself into the role of a 1940s entrepreneur who pitted himself against the companies and lost.  It was everything I loved and didn’t love about him.  His inscrutable fascinations.  Tucker?  Yes, Tucker.  


6.  I believe I took one ice-skating lesson.  I remember at some point in middle childhood standing on ice and being told to straighten my spine by imagining a string coming out through the top of my head like a marionette.  A curious image, mixing agency and ... puppetry. 


7.  My lava has gone missing.  Well.  It’s in there somewhere.


8. Here’s a clue:  Thirteen years after “us,” I dream that I am yelling and yelling at you for being married but having a girlfriend. Well, first I am yelling at the girlfriend, but then I revise myself.  I turn to her and say, “Really, women must stick together” and begin yelling at you instead.  Later that morning, I text you to tell you about this dream.  


9.  What have I done to push you away?  What haven’t I done.  

That Was November (A Dispatch)

Wednesday, December 02, 2015



 1 .
Six years ago we came to this same landmark.  The sun shone too brightly in our eyes.  A stranger took our picture.  We’ll never know who.

2. 
Two year-olds say things like,

What’s your sister’s name, Daddy?
(Heather)

Where did your grandfather go, Mommy?
(He’s dead.  He died.)
Did he go to Las Vegas?  Do we all go to our Las Vegases?

Look at what I have.  A horn of plenty.  There is plenty here. 

3.
The therapist pauses for a long time.  I’m beginning to think that he, too, is confused.

4.
When I walked out the front door this morning, I found them staring at a spot in the grass.  Last night we thought it was a cricket.  But he leans down and picks something up, a small machine, a black rectangle smaller than our toddler’s hand, wires coming out one side.  It makes a small, steady sound easily mistaken for a cricket noise.  He sets it back down.  

5.
Image of myself walking back into the room at a family gathering, slouching and bouncing a little, like Steve Martin as a Czech brother on Saturday Night Live.  I say in a bold and sing-songy voice,  “I just wrote a poem.  If you want to be impressed.”  A wild and crazy guy.

6. 
I have different ideas about what I could achieve during a lunar cycle. 

7. 
Let’s just say that all this talking is giving me a headache.  Or let’s just say it’s my own posture, my own fascia, my own uncertain musculature.
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