Found poem

Thursday, December 20, 2012

[Mom's comment on a photo posted to Facebook.]

A group of us went out to a Hibachi restaurant and it happened to be our 20th anniversary. So I was forced to wear a Japanese cook's hat. Bill was not forced. He loved it. The cake is two cupcakes for us with cherries on each so they looked like boobs. Of course Bill had to compare them to his lovely wife.

November dispatch #3

Monday, November 19, 2012

One day will I be described as an "unlikely impresario"? 

Will I curate a freak show of loose metaphors of my ever-shifting delight and discontent at the small contemporary art museum of a medium-small town?

From that time forward, will the residents of the town decide to live as their own metaphorical embodiments of discontent and/or delight, as in some contemporary novel along those lines?

I guess we'd have to free the animals from the zoo, and a quasi-orphan boy wearing a pirate's hat and a union suit would be seen riding a zebra down Main Street at dusk and dawn.

An eleven year-old girl would transform the elementary school into the headquarters of her psychic hotline business.

Meanwhile some of the adults of the town would go back to school, but they would do it in the form of unschooling, spending a lot of time reading up on alchemy and learning to oil paint.

Would I eventually be the old woman in a house on the hill, wearing a strand of large cloudy beads that tell your future if you peer into them long enough as I play with them over a candlelit conversation?  

Certainly I'd learn some esoteric gardening practices and cultivate a delighted bird-like scowl when a man in Napoleon britches came to play the violin on the third-floor turret balcony of my house every day from four to five.

It could happen.  

November dispatch #2

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My favorite part of the day may have been when the optometrist projected a very large E onto the wall and said, Don't pay attention to me and my light.  Just pay attention to the E.  Then she shone her light at each of my eyes while bouncing a little, then swaying a little.  I paid attention to the E, but while I did it, I thought about how the large projected E in a dark room and her bouncing and swaying in front of me might make a good moment in a movie.

Later, I was hoping that the man in line in front of me at the co-op was the actor Bob Balaban, but it was not.  So I pretended that the man in front of him was Philip Glass.  I watched an older woman drop a pre-made pizza crust on the floor and then pick it up again.  (I couldn't get to her to offer help from where I was in line, and, anyway, she seemed fine.)  Then I made my purchases-- four tangerines, Chem-Free Fair Trade decaf, pecans from the bulk section, chocolate-covered raisins from the bulk section, and some trail mix called Cranberry Jubilee, also from the bulk section.  Jubilee!  But not.    

I leave to sit at a table at the local library branch and write my dispatch.  Two middle school aged girls walk by my table.  One is drinking  something from a Dunkin' Donuts cup.  The other is saying, "You don't know how to act like a lady."  They both look straight ahead, trying to have dead eyes.  In front of me, a small boy checks out a large stack of picture books.  Then I'm thinking about Gandhi, a movie I saw when I was in elementary school and watched again on Netflix last night.  I think about how we can start out one place and end up in another, and how this might involve reading a large stack of books.  When Gandhi was a small boy, he had a very serious gaze.  This boy in front of me has flames on his sneakers and a green puffy down coat.  He wrinkles his nose a little to push his glasses up, maybe looking at me in his peripheral vision.  (Don't pay attention to me and my light.)  Then he zooms away on his emblazoned feet. 

November dispatch #1

Friday, November 09, 2012

Just wait: soon enough
You will be quiet too.

--Robert Hass, "After Goethe"

Often in a play, a scene will open on a stage lit in such way as to remind you of individual consciousness spreading out into a shared domestic space.  A lamp, a rug, a plant.  The indication of a hearth.  A comforting sight and one with a slight frisson of dread.  


I'm studying the felt-ish skirt and colorful tights of a woman on the subway (one a leafy-loden green, one a subdued poppy), when I'm back in a dim fourth grade classroom watching a film about the Lapps.  All that year I was lost, except that afternoon in the dark room among the Laplanders and reindeer.


My friend left her humanities professorship to become a nurse.  The work is demanding, and she is often exhausted, often sore.  She reports that one man in his 90s wanted to watch a cowboy movie, so she found one for him, but when it flooded in the movie, it flooded in his room, and he called and called that they needed to move everyone to higher ground.  Sitting on the floor next to the bed and finding ways to calm him were a respite from the procedures and charts.  Being a presence for the dying may be her favorite part.  


In the dream, theories of home and of structure are something I can learn.  The seminar is called "What Is a Domicile?"  I will absorb the history of the dwelling place and develop the ability to infuse place with ritual significance.  A structure in which to reside.  An atmosphere both fluid and contained, which grounds and fades the ghosts.  We all live there together.

November dispatches

Friday, November 09, 2012

I had an idea to post some small "dispatch"-- a description of a moment or a short poem-- several times a week in November.  The storm and some deadlines have thrown me slightly off course, but stay tuned.  Meanwhile, we are fine here in our part of Brooklyn.  Our power only went out once for a couple hours.  The biggest inconvenience for us was that the subways near us were down for about a week, but the most troubling part was watching the news and wondering how those in hard hit areas nearby were faring.  And continuing to wonder.

Here's the tree I can see out the window of my office at home.  The broken part has since been removed.

There have been other, happier events these past few weeks.  Obama was re-elected.  (Phew!)  My friend Amanda visited, and we went about doing cultural outings.  Clif and I visited Philadelphia, where we saw my friend Catherine and I met her baby, Gabey.

Me and Amanda.  Here we are on an outing to the High Line.

Another outing: Storm King Art Center

Me and Gabey, my "Poet Baby," at Rittenhouse Square.
There are other signs of good things to come, signs that things are on the right track.  Much encouragement and good cheer surround me, if I choose to see it.  Also, being six months pregnant is pretty bizarre and amazing.  I think there's actually a person growing in there.  So far, I know that he likes dancing and chocolate chip oatmeal muffins, and that he might be born in the Year of the Water Dragon.  Much else remains a mystery.

Here's some more good news:
  • My friend Todd has been posting some amazing poems lately on his blog.
  • As has my friend Annmarie
  • This poetry reading I'm hosting next week, along with J. Hope Stein and Jenny Zhang . . . come if you can.  It will blow your freaking mind.   

Dispatches from Here

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

1.  The sky is very clear today, and there are calls across the air-- a nesting bird, a leaf blower, incidental traffic sound.

2.  The two year-old downstairs is wailing mournfully in long cries that end with little yelps and howls.  Perhaps he is remembering and grieving his time with the wolves.  Perhaps he got a flu shot.

3.  In Philadelphia, I could live in luxury for what I'm paying here.  Well, I could live in large apartment in a Frank Lloyd Wright building in a sculpture park.  Private terrace.  Washer and dryer.

4.  Before long, I will have very important visitors, viz.: A friend I met in college, who I first admired for her over-sized sweaters, fuzzy hair, and steel-trap mind; the brother who was born when I was 15 and who has only recently stopped insisting that he knows I'm secretly his mom [I'm not]; a mysterious traveler who will come in his own time, once he's done absorbing material from the collective unconscious, or whatever he's doing in there. 

5.  Writing that last phrase was punctuated by a stretchy jab from inside, as if to say "my agenda remains my own for now" and "hello."


Friday, October 12, 2012

[with thanks to Todd Colby]

Opportunities abound.  But I had rolled oats with pecans and cherries for breakfast, so I feel that I have done my part.  And the air-- I should say something about how the air today both holds me in place and pushes me toward winter.  I'll sit here in red flannel pajama bottoms and a charming scowl.  I'll listen to the roofers next door and their quieter hammering.  The cloud cover makes it quieter.  But really, they've just moved to the farther side of the roof.  When you get here, we'll drink hot chocolate and misremember novels together.  Somewhere from a room upstairs, we'll hear a low stringed instrument being played.  We'll think about music and its relation to walking.  We'll take naps.  I had something else to tell you.  But this will have to suffice. 

October Monday

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

1.  I made soup.

2.  I defaced a William Carlos Williams poem.  (See below.)  I started out following this assignment by Nada Gordon to "baroqueify" (which I saw by way of Shanna Compton).  But my poem isn't baroque at all!  It's more like me trying to be Roethke trying to riff on Williams.  [shrug]

3.  Clif shaved and cut his hair.

That's about it.

A Sort of October Song

Monday, October 08, 2012

(after Williams)

Let the snake of the mind wait under weeds, damp leaves,
radiator hiss.
Learn plant words. 
Or better, learn the sound of plant growth slowing. 
Forget the sleeplessness and slow wit of summer. 
Reconcile the people and the stones.
Be the stones.
Be the somnolent waiting smell of old houses in the damp.
Under covers, learn one to three books.  But slowly.
Learn wet asphalt.  Low sky.  All of it. 

For Chris Toll

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Today I learned from the life of a poet who has died.  He once accepted a poem of mine and wrote to tell me, saying, "I have a ghost girl living in my mind."  (The poem has a ghost girl.)  We exchanged maybe eight emails, and in one he asked how I'd fared in Hurricane Irene and we talked about downed trees.  I like a person who can ask how you fared in Hurricane Irene and who can tell you he has a ghost girl living in his mind.  It means, "I am not afraid to be a human being." 

Another thing he wrote me was, "In Art, I like to go fast." 

Reading about him and re-reading our emails, what came into my mind was, "I'm just going to have to embrace my weirdness.  It's the only way." 

The night before he died, he wrote this in an email to R.M. O'Brien:

i know i’m nobody – i’m a snowflake and i’m drifting toward a bonfire – i know this well – i’m getting hot.
everything we do at every moment is critically important – every deed at every moment in every day should be a living prayer – if we pray hard enough, we will have a New World – and we will have it sooner rather than later.

Thank you, Chris.  And good journey. 

Slow Crescendo

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In the crime shows I’ve been watching, things culminate into worst case scenarios and long drawn-out scenes of broken pool cues and smeared mascara.  A Rottweiler lies down in the snow to die with the prostitute he swore to protect.  Around here, all that happens is I wait until four to nap and then have to listen to the family below get home and clomp around like a drunk fourteen year-old in a tube top and clogs.  A whole family made up of multiple copies of the same drunk girl and her sad feathered hair. 

I should put more beautiful words to this.  I should say, the near October light through blinds.  Or just, I have a proto-human growing in my abdomen.  He weighs a little more than a can of Coke. 

Yesterday was cracked and somber, and I made my way uptown, seeking out any odd moment to be weird and gentle after a bummer of a rough morning.  Then I lay in a darkened room while a Caribbean lady jabbed a sonogram wand at me to get Peanut to pose right.  He acted pretty put out.  I wanted to cry.  The screen on the wall showed the bones and snow.  The beautiful part is that everything’s fine. 

I’ve been off coffee, and much of my life is a slow movie on an art gallery wall.  You climb into a room with pillows on the floor and watch it all swim around.  You are in love with someone you just met, who’s lying there, too.  You barely touch, but you’re also the same person.  Part of the movie is a tiny spine, tiny kidneys.  A four-chambered heart.  Look at all the wonder. 

Quote from Mom

Monday, September 17, 2012

When you were a fetus I read everything about teaching little kids so I could be sure to teach you myself even if the school didn’t or instead of the school. I loved John Holt then. The educator, not the reggae singer.

[FYI:  My mom was 18 when I was a fetus.]

Three or four things

Thursday, September 13, 2012

1.  I received my copy of the new issue of Ping Pong.  I have a poem in it, as part of the folio "Poetic Responses to Jean Arp's Poem in Translation 'What Is It?'."  I'm in excellent company in the journal.  My poem lives alongside work by Elaine Equi, J. Hope Stein, James Harms, and many other cool poets.  Nice!

2.  Two chapbooks I worked on this summer were finalists at a press I really admire, Bloof Books.  Huzzah!  And onward!

3.  I'm sitting at my desk in my office at home.  Now that it's not 100 gazillion degrees, I can actually sit up here in the attic and think deep thoughts with only the ghosts for company, as I am wont to do.  Someone next door left a box of books on the sidewalk, and I can see pedestrians stopping to examine the books, then walking on with or without a book.  I like catching people in the act of being interested. 

4.  If you tell someone you like sock monkeys, your life will become total sock monkeys.  But at least you are loved. 

Something about ghosts in the fall

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I am smarter in the early- to mid-fall, so I'm waiting for that to fully kick in.  I read that scientists have found that if you want to be happy, have cool air blown up your nose.  Happy.  Warm air up your nose:  Less happy.

Also, I'm writing a new book, and I won't mention ghosts in it once, even though I already did (oops).

My mom says, "What is it with you and ghosts?"  And I say, "I don't know."  Then I say something about the early twentieth century and free-floating anxiety.  She seems to understand, or at least to understand that that's how my mind works.  We are standing in a room in a Hampton Inn in North Carolina when this conversation happens.  That's where the ghost might have been.

Later I agree to go with her to Hardee's so she can eat a biscuit and gravy and I can eat a biscuit with jam and an orange juice.  I tell her that at my previous job, I kept doing things like filling in for tenure-track faculty who would go on mysterious medical leave without telling their independent study honors students what to do.  I'm not sure anyone noticed the extra work I did, besides the students.

One time I put in a request with the department secretary to get a screen put on my office window.  I told her that a squirrel kept looking at me from the ledge and threatening to steal the lunch out of my hands.  The secretary laughed then in a way that made me feel both foolish and appreciated.  That job came with a time limit, but I miss the students, many of them.

This all seems to have to do with whether I'm secretly appreciated or haunted or not.  That's how I feel in the fall when cool air circulates through my nostrils and lungs and around my body.  Secretly appreciated.  Affably haunted. 

Some of what my grandmother told me

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

You become like those with whom you associate.

Back in the old days, they called children by nicknames to keep the devil from knowing where they lived.

Mountain people won't tell you anything and they resent you asking.  [About some of our family.]

Fools are found in high places.  Beware.

I have a funny mind.  I'm watching it all, the passing parade. 

Mom and grandmother

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

I think my grandmother said that the jeans my mother's wearing were called "devil dogs."  (Is that right?)  Also, they are in the telephone alcove at my great-grandmother's house.  People had little nooks for their telephones back then.

Some thoughts while traveling by subway

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

1.  Some days the East River sparkles like any other body of water in almost fall in the late afternoon. 

2.  My grandmother says that when my mother was a young woman, she once jumped in a van with some other young people and drove all the way from North Carolina to New York.  She called on a pay phone from Times Square to say, "Mom, I'm in Times Square!"  Then she drove back.  This story was reported with a mixture of incredulity and admiration.

3.  It's the year of the water dragon.  The last year of the water dragon was the year my mom was born.

4.  The phrase "delicate condition."  I was born in a delicate condition.

5.  Frau Lyrakis saying "puzhalsta" to get our attention in Russian class.  It means please, and you're welcome, and here you go.  Puzhalsta.

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Admit One

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some Notes on Footnotes

Sunday, August 19, 2012

1.  Last night I was re-reading Maggie Nelson's Bluets, and I realized that part of the reason I like it is that it reads like footnotes to a larger text-- one that is just out of view, that we can't have access to.  

2.  I was also thinking about Claudia Rankine's Don't Let Me Be Lonely, and how the footnotes in that book form a parallel narrative, an exploration through apparent ephemera of personal and national experience at the turn of the twentieth century.  The footnotes become their own story, which is in part a story about how the story needs to be told through accretion and indirection.

3.  See also the work of the poet Kristina Marie Darling, who I met at the Vermont Studio Center.  She is drawn again and again to the form of a poem in footnotes, and, like Nelson and Rankine, the work becomes a circling around some other version of the story.  Darling's work is, in part, about the female poet's debt to and obsession with the pre-existing narratives, but it is also a sly wresting of control.

4.  I have long been interested in footnotes.  For years I considered it my job to read novels and books of criticism very closely (and to make incisive and slightly peevish marginal comments).  This is because I was in a doctoral program in literature.  I grew to enjoy my own incisive peevishness.  It even extended to arguing with or becoming overly fascinated with footnotes. 

5.  I have some ideas about how footnotes are a good form through which to think about Emily Dickinson.  This is in part because I really enjoyed the footnotes in Alfred Habegger's biography of Dickinson, My Wars Are Laid Away in Books, when I read it a few years ago.  I would like to go back and read those footnotes.  There is also Susan Howe's My Emily Dickinson, which, like Nelson's Bluets, reads like a book of footnotes.  Collage-like.  I actually need to read that book more closely.  I've been circling around it for years.

6.  Perhaps footnotes are a good way for thinking about Dickinson because her poems share certain qualities with footnotes.  They are fragmentary and authoritative at the same time.  Contained power. 

7.  Since earning my doctorate, I have learned that there are many ways of reading closely in life, and only some of them involve books. 

8.  At the same time, embracing non-academic ways of knowing and perceiving does not have to mean forgoing an enjoyment of one's own incisive peevishness (as I am now thinking of my critical faculties).  I am beginning to feel that the footnotes are a way back in, a way of wedding my critical and creative interests. 

9.  These thoughts have to do with the following:  Something about accretion; something about the building of scaffolding; something about the indirect revealing of argument and voice; a satisfying skeletal architecture that points to something else beyond the page, a more complex narrative than we can express in words; leaving space.

More quotes from Mom

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's ridiculous.  It's like building a transistor radio. 

You're the only person I know who uses Twitter, and I never understand your tweets.

[On why she hates Facebook:]  I don't want to see your kitten.  I don't want to hear about Jesus or how you think Obama is a communist.  Or a big picture of the American flag-- "the most beautiful colors in the world."  Half the nations in the world have the same colors in their flag! 

I'm trying to gather my strength so I can be normal tomorrow. 

Modern Times: An Occasional Poem

Friday, August 10, 2012

(Photo: Tina Holmes)

(for Andi) 

This week my little brother went to a '90s party dressed in a pink shirt and faded jeans, as if that happened in the '90s, which it did because they were his father's old clothes.  My brother is the one who will drive me to the airport-- even though he has computer simulations to work on and I still call him "the baby"-- and he's the one who will keep turning the air conditioner down one notch for every two that I turn it up.  Mostly he understands me.  On the airplane home, I read in the literature that "everyone deserves a working TV on a flight," so I begin flipping through the channels to exercise my right.  I will watch anything that doesn't turn my stomach sideways.  One man on the television asks, "If the spirits can produce enough energy to move someone's hair, what else can they do?"  I worry about these things, too, and about what happened to the child-faced 25 year-old I was in the '90s.  But mostly I think we should honor our dead and tell them it's ok to feel peaceful around us.  If they ever move your hair, they're probably just telling you it's ok to be present right here and to live your life in the 2010s-- or whatever decade you find yourself in-- with as much joy as if you always wore a Blossom hat from the '90s, one that made you laugh and that only you and they could see.

"Kiss my ass. This is a holy site."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Between the Worlds of the Tiny and the Big

There's a boy in a branch library in an o.k. part of Brooklyn
being tutored in math by an exasperated woman.  I pass his table
 on my way to biography, and he looks up into the middle distance
to make a wry face.  This is me witnessing his one and only life.
This is him witnessing mine out of his peripheral vision.
This library is closed on Sundays due to budget cuts.  This library
has two shelves of poetry.  One day in the fall, a teenage girl
will come here after school because she needs the quiet
ruckus of a good book.  Her parents have accents.  She's wearing
the wrong jeans.  She'll sit at a table with a view of the children's
section and read Plath for the first time, and her hair will swim
on her scalp.  Kiss my ass.  This is a holy site. 

Quotes from Mom

Sunday, July 15, 2012

You can't get a precision grip with salad tongs, especially mine, which are from Halloween and shaped like skeleton hands.  [About using salad tongs to get a small snake out of the pool.]

Does anybody remember the movie with the guy with a big nose and something about tea in the title?  [Darjeeling Limited]

Ethel's the name of the bunny rabbit I talk to when I ride my bike around the lake.  She's one of two I always see, except there are probably 100 different ones.

Ferns are magic, especially if they grow directly out of your house.  I just made that up.

Stain of Poetry

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Come out on Friday 6/29 for what promises to be a stellar reading from poets Loren Erdrich + Rebecca Howell + Monica Hand + Aubrie Marrin.

Friday 6/29 will be my first official Stain of Poetry reading as co-host/curator with J. Hope SteinJenny Zhang is the third new host joining us later this summer.  I'm excited to be working on this series with these lovely people, and I'm excited for Friday's reading!

Stain was founded in 2006 by Ana Bozicevic and Amy King, and the the series was taken over in 2010 by Christie Ann Reynolds, Steven Karl, and Erika Moya.  More information about past and current hosts can be found here.    


Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Cyndi Lauper's birthday!    

Some News

Sunday, June 17, 2012

[drawing by Bronwynne Cornish, from "Where the Bear Went" exhibit, Vermont Studio Center, May 2012]

1.  I'm honored to have a poem in RealPoetik today.

2.  I'll be reading with some poetry luminaries at the Popsickle Festival in Brooklyn on Saturday June 23rd.  Along with the brilliant David King, I'm representing the journal Lyre Lyre.  (Thanks, Lyres!)

3.  On July 21st, I'll also be reading in the Second Annual New York City Poetry Festival on Governors Island, representing the journal Ping Pong.

4.  The Stain of Poetry reading series will also be represented at Popsickle and the NYC Poetry Festival, and starting this summer, I am one of the curators of Stain.
Runner-up for L Magazine‘s “2011 Best Reading Series” in Brooklyn, Stain of Poetry showcases a mix of ”weirdo and beautiful poets,” (BlackBook magazine).  Readings are held on the last Friday of every month (7 – 9 p.m.) at the beloved Goodbye Blue Monday in Brooklyn.   The series is curated by poets Erika Moya, Joanna Penn Cooper, Jenny Zhang, and  J. Hope Stein.

Former hosts include founders Amy King and Ana Bozicevic, as well as Christie Ann Reynolds and Steven Karl.

Upcoming events (lots more in the works)
Popsickle Festival – June 23
Hosts:  Erika Moya, Joanna Penn Cooper
Readers:  Jenny Zhang, Mike Lala, Dan Magers
NYC Poetry Festival - July 21–  2:40 on The Algonquin
Hosts:  Joanna Penn Cooper, J. Hope Stein
Readers:  Melissa Broder, Todd Colby, Claire Donato

5.  I had a wonderful time at the Vermont Studio Center.  I'm still processing the experience and revisiting the work I did there.  I will post more photos at some point.  I have some good art, people, and river pictures. 

6.  More exciting developments are underway, including a collaborative chapbook with Todd Colby.  Also, I'm going to see Prometheus today, as my requisite summer blockbuster.  I'll keep you posted.

7.  There's a small gray bird with a long, flat tail that keeps landing on the tree outside my window.  What kind of bird might that be?


Monday, June 04, 2012

1.  Reading nest.
2.  I will need new sneakers to face these challenges.
3.  Decaf skim latte weather.
4.  Visible river-bottom rocks as koan.
5.  Generative possibilities.
6.  Driver 8, take a break.  We can reach our destination. 
     But it's still a ways away. 
7.  Be as visionary as you like in your spare time.  

Life Drawing

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reported to my brother that I went to life drawing this morning.  His response:  "Stop living the life of a Victorian ill person and get back to writing."  Fiine.  But I'm going back to life drawing at least once.  And I will be sunning myself in an Adirondack chair and taking in a slide lecture later, in addition to writing. 

Jenny Schade

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Here is a slightly blurry photo of a painting-in-progress by one of the amazing artists here at Vermont Studio Center this month, Jenny Schade.  The red square signifies solidarity with the students in Montreal.

[Side note:  Jenny also has some amazing karaoke skills.  Her rendition of Nena's "99 Luftballons," the German version, translated from the English version on the fly . . . was pretty inspiring.]


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Five from today

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

1.  Heavy thunderstorm.  Atmosphere suddenly electrical and ship-like in the studio building.
2.  After the thunderstorm, reading Tranströmer.
3.  After Tranströmer, a nap on the studio floor.
4.  Attending a reading in an old white clapboard structure.  White plank ceilings, balcony area.  Podium in front of a stage hung with a theatrical backdrop of a turn-of-the-century street scene.
5.  Coming back to studio to listen to Talking Heads on headphones and think.

Notes on the Movie "Contempt"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

by Joanna Penn Cooper and Todd Colby

I let myself into your house and wrapped your family portraits in muslin. There wasn't a lot I could do with images of fetid life.  I don't really want to hear about your nostalgia for summer telephone poles sweating creosote on dirt roads, either. Or the movie lot with the dust bunnies or some palace on a peninsula. I'm done with glitz, for the time being.  Please meet me in the creek where my project begins, something about mud, something about, oh here I go again about mud.  You know that feeling where you've been thinking a lot about the appeal of French New Wave cinema, and you don't even really like French New Wave cinema?  I mean, I did spend a year of my life pretending I was Jean-Paul Belmondo and/or Jean Seberg, but that's between me and my shrink. Did I say "shrink?" I meant I'll be back in just a second.

[Note:  Ideas from a slide talk I saw by the painter Hanneline Rogeberg-- such as family portraits being wrapped in muslin-- have been finding their way into my poems, but they are, of course, out of context and get further pulled in strange directions when collaborating.  But Rogeberg's work, and how she talks about her work, are my new art crush.  Also, the image above is from the movie Breathless.]  

Where have you been, my blue-eyed son?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I've been on a Dylan kick for a couple days, compulsively listening to the Rolling Thunder Revue version of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."  Found out today's his birthday.  HB, Bobby Z.

Drawing-poem blog

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hey, have you seen the blog of collaborative drawing-poems my brother and I keep?  (It's his drawings and my words.)  We called it Malfeez, a reference to a German board game and an archaic word in German that means "misdeed" or "bad action."  We will be updating it more this summer.

Down by the Riverside

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

by Joanna Penn Cooper and Todd Colby

It is a vulgar error to assume the things you see there
were put in the mud just for you.  You'll be dead soon
enough, and you can think about it then, how a certain
percentage of the population walks around reading
your mind like it was an ad for laser surgery on the A train.
I won't even mention the ghosts who wait for you outside
the bathrooms of historic homes, but I just did so: there
are ghosts outside bathrooms of historic homes waiting
just for you. Go to them but come to me first: I have the drugs,
the good ones for your alienation. But don't be alarmed, you
have the option of paying a different fee, like joining a cult
to help you with your thinking or playing the hero and feeling
your feelings all the time. But I digress; in fact, I'll be frank
and positive. I'll be so frank and positive it will mildly terrify
the people around me who don't quite see things my way.
That's what the river is for: wrapping my friends
in light gauze and tossing them into the water.

News from here

Friday, May 18, 2012

1.  I wrote a short piece on Will Oldham for the music issue of Poetry Crush.  I'm glad to be included with these contributors writing interesting pieces on some of my favorite musicians and songs.

2.  Love for Donna Summer, who was (strangely?) important to me as a child.

3.  I'm working on more collaborative poems with Todd Colby.  TC is back in Brooklyn, and I am here in Vermont, but through the magic of technology, we can quickly send each other lines.  I am also working on some other writing.  And I'm surrounded by visual artists and starting to get to see their work (and will get to see more in the next few weeks).  I've been thinking a lot about paintings.

4.  I'm at a residency in VT until 6/8.  If you'd like to send me a postcard or good old-fashioned handwritten letter, here is the address:  Joanna Penn Cooper c/o VSC, PO Box 613, Johnson, VT 05656.  


Thursday, May 10, 2012

My little brother is a whopping quarter century old today.  I hope  he stays sassy as he moves firmly into adulthood.  Here are some highlights of his visits to New York since I've lived here.

Japanese snacks.

 His notes from a poetry reading I made him go to.

Pretending to be a "Brooklyn hipster."

Hanging around.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Well, National Poetry Month is over, and with it poem-a-day April.  As usual, it was challenging and gratifying and a little scary to post a new draft every day.  I will take my April drafts down in a few days, in order to work on revising them.  But thank you to my friends who read them.  And to my friends who wrote them.  Here's Annmarie O'Connell's amazing poem for the last day of the poem-a-day challenge.  It is strange and moving and beautiful, as the best poems are.

And thank you again to Maureen Thorson for featuring my blog on the NaPoWriMo site and to Jennifer L. Knox for featuring two (!) of my poems on the Best American Poetry blog.  Wow.  (By the way, check out Jen's desert island music picks on over at the Poetry Society of America.)

I can't believe it's May already, and that my Vermont writing residency is coming up.  eep.  I'm grateful to everyone who's donated to my fundraising page for the residency.  And sincerely grateful for the wonderful writing community and support system I have in general.  Truly.

Happy second day of May, everyone.  Allons-y!

April 30th Poem

Monday, April 30, 2012


April 29th Poem

Sunday, April 29, 2012


April 28th Poem

Saturday, April 28, 2012

[see ya]

April 27th Poem

Friday, April 27, 2012


April 26th Poem

Thursday, April 26, 2012


thank you!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'd like to say a sincere thank you to everyone who has donated to the fundraising page for my writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center.  I've been touched by the donations and also by the support of friends who've shared my page and those who have cheered me on (many of them for many years).

"So shines a good deed in a weary world . . ."  (Am I Wonka or Charlie?  Both, I guess.)

Thank you.

April 25th poem

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


April 24th poem

Monday, April 23, 2012


April 23rd Poem

Monday, April 23, 2012

[closed for maintenance]

April 22nd Poem

Sunday, April 22, 2012


April 21st Poem

Saturday, April 21, 2012


April 20th Poem

Friday, April 20, 2012


April 19th poem

Thursday, April 19, 2012

[thanks for playing]

Thanks, NaPoWriMo!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The founder of National Poetry Writing Month, poet Maureen Thorson, listed my blog as today's featured NaPoWriMo blog.  Wow-- thank you!

And thanks to Jennifer Knox, guest blogger at the Best American Poetry blog, for listing my April 17th poem over there, as well.  Wow again!

April 18th poem

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


April 17th poem

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

[closed for processing]

April 16th poem

Monday, April 16, 2012


April 15th poem

Sunday, April 15, 2012


April 14th poem

Sunday, April 15, 2012

[we value your patronage]

April 13th poem

Friday, April 13, 2012

[y'all come back now]

April 12th poem

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I Am Pleased to Introduce My Brand

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hello, friends.  So, my good news is that a small Brooklyn press has expressed interest in publishing my first full-length book, tentatively titled How We Were Strangers.   I am currently working with an editor to revise and expand a manuscript of short lyrical prose pieces that exist somewhere at the intersection of prose poems, short short stories, and lyrical essays.  We're calling them lyrical shorts.  This is indeed a happy thing.  My other good news is that my four-week residency is coming up at the Vermont Studio Center, at which I hope to make headway on those revisions, as well as do some writing toward a second book. 

If you are able to help out, here is my indiegogo fundraising page to help raise money for my residency.  If you are not able to contribute money, I am also accepting contributions of friendship and support and good vibes my way, which some of you have long given me, unasked.  Thank you.  For real.   

Here is the first piece in what I hope will be my first full-length book:

I Am Pleased to Introduce My Brand

Sometimes you can help someone else through by plucking at the air around them until they feel revived.  The final step, though, is yours alone.  You may discover that no one appreciates the grace of a skateboarder quite like you do.  That your secret desire is to appear in a poster in the subway wearing green sequined underwear and own it.  We all need time alone before returning to the marketplace with words and gestures that others mirror back to us.  Some need more time than others, which is both blessing and curse.  Think Spiderman.  Think Witch of Blackbird Pond.  Most things happen at dusk.    Sometimes the trees will call you up a hill, particles slowing then turning counter-clockwise.  One.  Two.  Three.  When you let the drawing happen, that’s your brand right there.  A voice in your head like from a creepy ‘70s movie about kids who might be possessed or maybe were born that way.  Literal woods.  Literal dusk.  

April 11th poem

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

[draft under reconstruction]

April 10th poem

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

[goodbye, goodbye]

April 9th poem

Monday, April 09, 2012


April 8th poem

Sunday, April 08, 2012


April 7th poem

Saturday, April 07, 2012


April 6th poem

Friday, April 06, 2012

[thank you thank you]

April 5th poem

Thursday, April 05, 2012


April 4th poem

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

[I will leave this one up.  My gift to you, with thanks.]

Transformation Is Never Easy 

I come from a people who are fond of saying things
like, "Your face is always changing throughout your lifetime.
Indeed, your looks can change from one day to the next."
So, that partly explains that.  This morning it was knocking
that woke me, and the options were (1) ghosts, (2) baby,
(3) boyfriend.  But I was alone by then and it was just an open
window in the next room sucking the door shut and shut
and partly open again.  Even if you hate the word "gift" as a verb,
I gift you this tree of tiny white blossoms out my window.  It's
making my eyes itch.  I gift you the idling truck sound,
how traffic is like the ocean until it isn't.  I gift you this portrait
of my face and its bird-eyed, good humored scowl, the way
it's always changing, having never learned to settle down.

Napowrimo-ing Friends

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Here are links to amazing poems by two friends who are also writing a poem a day in April, the lovely and wondrous Annmarie O'Connell and Karen Dietrich.

Also, many thanks to Best American Poetry's guest blogger Jennifer L. Knox for including my April 3rd poem on the BAP blog!

April 3rd poem

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

[thank you for playing]

April 2nd poem

Monday, April 02, 2012

[see you next year!]

April 1st poem

Sunday, April 01, 2012



Sunday, April 01, 2012

It's National Poetry Month, and also National Poetry Writing Month.  Founded in 2003 by Maureen Thorson, Napowrimo challenges us (invites us?) to join a community of poets in writing a poem a day in April.  This is my third year doing it.

Thorson is providing optional prompts on the Napowrimo website.  The first prompt was to write a carpe diem poem, which I sort of (maybe?) did for my April 1st poem.

Here goes . . .  Happy April!

OutKast cover

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What I'm Thinking About

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

1.  It's a good thing I am in love with this blue & white & green & blue atmosphere-- my area of my planet has a lot of that.
2.  Lizard on a screen.
3.  A book of autobiographical micro-fictions.
4.  People back in Brooklyn.
5.  The difference between beauty and kitsch, between happiness and obliviousness.
6.  The cost of it all.  The literal cost.  In shekels.
7.  Litany as a means of avoidance.
8.  Weirdness & movement.
9.  "A genius is the one most like himself." --Thelonious Monk
10.  Trayvon.  The little boy at the restaurant the other day.  The little boys sitting on the neighborhood sign who waved at us, and the security car that slowed down to look at them.  Boys and men I've known.  My country, my country, my country.
11.  Who are my teachers?  Who have I taught?  Who's in my cohort?
12.  All of us.

Tuesday dance

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

(This guy's dance.  In the second half of this Astrud Gilberto video.  I am learning it.)


Monday, March 26, 2012

I'm reading in the Stain of Poetry series with some stunners on Friday.  Photos and bios can be found here.

Lindsey Boldt /Joanna Penn Cooper / Tyler Flynn Dorholt / Dorothea Lasky / Steve Orth / J Hope Stein
7 PM on March 30th @
Bushwick, Brooklyn


Monday, March 26, 2012

The website Poetrycrush has included me in their Hey, what are you reading? feature.   My thanks to the editor, J. Hope Stein!

Earth axioms

Thursday, March 22, 2012

1.  If something is mysterious, it's probably a ghost or good news.

2.  You may discover a picture of yourself dressed in white on your mother's lap, discovering your fingers in the sunlight, revealing that you are part mystical being, part lemur.  Yes, it's all true.

3.  If you just smile and act pleasant, that's 80% of your job.  The other 15% is remembering that your job is more than just smiling and acting pleasant.  It could be called something like "to unfold" or "to kick ass."  The missing 5% is a secret.

4.  You are moving into the unknown at the speed of time.

5.  There's all sorts of wildlife around.

More quotes

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Do I look too much like a crone? 
--Mom at lunch

What the fuck are people doing in their homes?
--Brother looking at the internet

These leprechauns won't let me by.
How do I get 200 happinesses?
Guess I'll have to buy 'em doves. 
Sometimes you just have to try stuff. 
--Mom playing computer game

Far Away Eyes

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Que Sera Sera

Friday, March 16, 2012

Some out-of-contexts quotes from my mom

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It's like a friggin' Jenga puzzle. 

Who wants to be haunted by a decision you made 25 years ago?

You guys were both experiments.  [about me and my brother]

I prefer to eat like a snake.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

1.  I'm reading in the Stain of Poetry series in Brooklyn on Friday March 30th, with some lovely people.  It will likely be my last reading in NYC for a while (at least a few months?) because I'm going underground to work on a couple projects.  So come on out.  It would be nice to see you.

2.  Don't forget to look at the hawk cam.

3.  I'm heading to Florida for a visit with fam.  I may post dispatches from there.  Stay tuned.
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