Tag Archives: Poetry

Mary Ruefle vs. Abigail Zimmer in a Death Match

Today, we have two newcomers, Mary Ruefle, who is a former greens-keeper and primarily a flash fiction author, and Abigail Zimmer, who I met once in Chicago at that touristy pier thing with the boats and the shops and ball-peen hammer and the giant bell or anchor I forget. (Abigail was at the beer garden sort of glimmering on a table drunk and doing standup. She kept dropping Derek Jeter jokes that were like 6 out of 10 funny, though humor is admittedly subjective and I had a head cold weeks early sort of lingering like ceramics.)

Hey, guys, you know why Derek Jeter’s house is so damn big?!

Ehhh…something about girlfriends, batting average…


stein nachos 3

What good is memory? I know about ten dog stories, yet I have experienced countless dogs in my life.

Abigail Zimmer writes of mice and oranges, here.

Ruefle sometimes erases shit, which seems especially cool/lazy.

I never get head colds. That’s a dern lie. Anyway, I was hungover from so much running in the parks and dairylands of Chicago, the hills and wales of Chicago–sing it with me–the rolling hills, the nighttime thrills, the icy spills, the chills running down the wine, the line, the fishing line of memory, the rain, something, something…the…ah, never mind. Let’s do this!

What shall we try?

Let’s try, “A Penny For Your Thoughts” (Ruefle) versus “My best friend says that Horton Hears a Who is an allegory for the impending zombie takeover.” (Zimmer)

The rules are simple: Which author writes the better poetry in the two texts I have chosen? The categories are:

Best Opening Line

Best Image

Best Thing That Made Think

Best Reference to Nachos

Best Ending Line

A feeble attempt to keep the track dust from peppering her nachos grande.

Grab your Pop Tart and glass of red; and let’s begin!!



 How are we to find eight short English words

that actually stand for autumn?

It’s a good question. As use of the interrogation point, or the eroteme, as my sixth grade substitute teacher would insist, as she passed around various over-sized glossy photos of herself in a bikini atop a motorcycle (she was later dismissed). I always wanted the question mark to be a bolt of lightning, but I wasn’t consulted. So. Opening with a question bring me, the willing reader, into play. Sean, would you like to enter my poem, to sit with me at the table, to track with me a hurricane of ideas, to leave yourself, to threaten your own national insecurities, to dance, to twirl, to synapse, to spend billions of tax dollars on rainbows, to arrive, arrive like the cinnamon whirl from a ceiling fan mounted on the blood moon. these opening lines really remind me of sitting by a river with the author, drinking strong coffee from a blue, ceramic mug. Possibly we are naked. I liked it.


On the first day of the apocalypse the conductor stops calling out the names of where we are but I recognize Belmont because a drag queen is stealing your cell phone.

I Think we’ve had quite enough of apocalyptic literature at this point in time.


Best opening line goes to Mary Ruefle!

Best Image


Hmmm…well MR’s poem is full of images, because all really good poetry is full of images. It’s tough. It’s like I’m picking the best acorn from a really solid barrel of acorns someone picked from the ground and placed into the barrel for some unknown reason. They all taste good to deer and any of them could grow into an even larger oak tree and taller oak tree and be around way after me (like all quality images), my children’s children might attach a swing to even one limb of the image and swing and swing and swing! And rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! Ok, I’ll go with this one:

Now the clouds look burnt. But first they burned.

That’s what I’m talking about.


There are halogen trees and fields of people discussing the just announced Pantone color of the year.

I’m not discussing Halogen trees at this point. I’m a man of principles. I don’t know what Pantone means. But I do enjoy Abigail’s keen sense of word choice. As she once said in Chicago, “The American language has too many words and is basically a pain in the ass, but, for poets, it’s OK, right, it’s like what Derek Jeter says about base hits: ‘you can’t really have too many.’ Words are basically base knocks for poets.”

Well said, Abigail.

Abigail wins best image!


(Mylar balloons drift and whirl from the ceiling like those kids you see on the streets of Vancouver.)

Best Thing That Made Think


One peculiar way to die of loneliness
is to try.

I have oft wondered if the lonely are purposely lonely, or if it’s a condition of the others, or if it’s societal/anti-societal, or if it’s something else entirely. Loneliness, as we know, adds irreverence to life, I mean chemiluminescent, like when you see minnows spinning (dead minnows) in a pool of mountain water and their scales are spinning in a sort of vortex–I mean to say loneliness puts a special “butter” on the edges of a moonset and also of course makes night air smell like copper. Then again, let me write a poem: I call it, Pomegranate Series __9.

Thank you, thank you, thank you very little…

I still don’t know what Pantone means and, no, I’m not going to Just Google it. That would be death. Akin to death. Then again, from my rotting body, flowers shall grow and some little kid will probably pick the flowers, you know, and the kid will try to give the flowers to his stinking drunk mom, who’s just drinking, you know, spending all day drinking and night, too, drinking with two or three men and sometimes three or four other men and usually another woman or two, sometimes from Memphis, a waitress or idle man from out of town, whatever, and she’d end up in dances in the country (B52 Love Shack, anyone?), those wonderful hot nights in the country, and really what could some sickly, little kid with a loofah gourd for a head (the shape), how could that kid compete, even if he has a fistful of flowers picked from the soil that was once my rotting body? So, anyway, not sure why I’m scared of death, is my point, I’ll live forever in the sweaty, rejected fist of a kid. I’m writing this from a swimming pool, BTW. In Kentucky. Anyway, I’m not Googling Pantone, I said I wouldn’t, damn it!, is my key point of emphasis here.

Best Thing That Made Think is won by Abigail!!! We might have us a dern upset here, folks! There’s a long drive, deep center field, it might be, it could be, it is! A home run! Holy Cow! This whippersnapper from Chicago with her Derek Jeter jokes, all sashaying, walking tall, legs flailing out like a plastic bag of sporks on the table, kids dropping Monopoly boards as they run wild down the sidewalks of holidays and life!

Moving on…

Best Reference to Nachos


Talk for half an hour about the little churchyard
full of the graves of people who have died
eating nachos.


First, I enjoy the humor. Obviously, no one has ever died from eating nachos, since nachos–as research has proven–is the single healthiest serving of food in the world, whether you eat them for breakfast or just because you are at local bar, lonely on a Sunday afternoon, sitting gaunt, grizzled, austere, wishing you were eating nachos as you eat nachos.

anniston egg book copy

When I read this verse, my head chopped off like a blade of ice melting across a frozen sea of a skittle, a real skittle, not the fucking candy. It’s like the love I feel for plagiarism and deadlines, as both go whoossssshing by.

I read these lines and stood up from the Kentucky swimming pool and I let out these words (loudly, echoing among the sickly, loud kids of Kentucky):


I don’t even know what that means. I felt like a galloping bat, like I just galloped past the house and kept on galloping, my little sonar pinging, pinging, and isn’t that what the lonely do, send out little pings?

I felt like I had done treed a deputy of the law.

There’s a dude in this swimming pool I swear his knees look like Norm McDonald’s knees. Odd.


Abigail Zimmer, she doesn’t mention nachos.

Best Ending Line


To you I must tell all or lie.

I prefer the lie.


I give it to you because I am asking for Bieber’s beautiful wave of adult hair and an elephantine ass like Billie Holiday must have had, had anyone thought to take a picture of her walking away.

Get Billie Holiday’s name out your mouth! But I do like writing about asses…Hmm.

The winner, in a close one, is…

MARY RUEFLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here’s a photo of her eating nachos.


Hang in there, Abigail. It was a close one. Here’s a photo of Abigail for you kind folks:

judy 3

Until the next tempest,


kill author blue nachos blar

I got Snakes at kill author.

I got Methods at kill author.

Go bleed.


The new thing is where I add poetry to the Google but I also crowbar my own line to like, like maybe add even more zest-birds to the Internets. So I will begin with Adam Robinson. I met him at AWP. We met for four minutes. I thought he would have bigger, chunkier eyeglasses because everyone talks about his eyeglasses. He might have been wearing a back-up pair or a pair especially made for indoor book fairs, etc. Here is a poem from his book:


I’m looking for a balance

between not God and God

like fruit

or feet

or nachos

or all the little birds

on Jaybird Street


I will write a big-ass AWP post soon. Hang in there, my little shrieks.


Museum of Vandals by Amish Trivedi

The walls are steel. Cold I mean. I went out to my mailbox at dawn, when the light is blue and the air cracks in your teeth and everything makes you think of bones, or bones failing, or the inevitability of bones failing. Dog turds in the snow and a tree branch on my roof like a severed arm. There was a chapbook in my mailbox. WTF? WTF makes a curly-Q, a question mark of exhalation in the air, if you were wondering. Every word in the world condensates in its own fashion, that’s just physics. Some asshole was cranking on a snow-blower at six in the morning. My head felt like a box of stuck-together photographs because I drank beer while watching the Superbowl. I went 42 inch 1080 HD last week, but that’s a different post. So. When did I order this chapbook? Sometimes I order books late at night when all the walls are bleeding and lonely and orange and this is what happens.

It was Museum of Vandals by Amish Trivedi. A thing folded in a thing, and this green paper clip. It was a spring-fastened binder clip, not the usual steel loop. Green is my favorite color.

I read the chapbook two times.

Kinetic pop slither pop movement. Somebody chooses the right word. Joins another right word. It’s like pretending to sleep, or getting ready to kick some ass. I mean crouched. Say, tar, snakes, noisemakers. For example.

I have

an imagination

of tar: something is alive

under here. Snakes are

jumping through screams

and the trees. We saw

cranes of noisemakers

and long division streets. Teal

is a legitimate surface, an

operation by which

to read. This is a design of comprehensive

time–a vigil of something traumatic.

Poetry to capture all that is falling away. Role of. Poetry to freeze-frame the jagged thinking. A mind as stained as a skillet. Gleaming with word-grease. What do I think? Show you:

So much soy lining. A parrot screams, laughing

at the

gas masks or wolves. I

laughed (just a


I read. A pain rolled from my head to my spinal cavity to the backs of my knees. I think poetry cuts to the stumble. I think poetry walks the strut. I think this poetry of Amish Trivedi is like a moon framed tightly in the window. The window has a crack through the moon. You are seeing a rupture here (touch it) and on the moon, There. It is very tight and strange and makes your hollow chest feel hollow. How so?

Something is ordinary and very wrong. Something is religious and obscene. Image as a type of gun. You fire the thing. We are all celebrities now. And sad and fucked up, like celebrities. Even a feather can kill someone, easy. Silence will not save you. Fingers, fingers, fingers–what to do with them now?


the rain? I was the

one that buried

it in a wall.

Wow. Word. And I mean word. Rain in the wall.

That is all you need to know.

Saucy. What is the Value of Poetry? Blake, and Komunyakaa. I like Rotel.


Still Life: Dinner Decisions.

(If anyone ever wants to talk hot sauce, let’s do. I rank hot sauce up there with iced beer, reading a river eddy/swirl, making out at 3 am [probably in a car, parked illegally on a blue-lit acetylene street], the pleading shape of a perfectly thrown disc golf disc. Etc.)

(Does anyone know the best hot sauce festivals? Aren’t they usually in Texas? I am a-feared of Texas, but could visit briefly, skip in like a dragonfly, nibble and pause to warm the wings, then lift away.

I’d like to visit a hot festival festival. Before I die, preferably.


I am teaching a multi-genre graduate class. So now we’re nearing the dark side, the cold moon of shivers and empty beaches, the electrochemical switches, the fever, the bleeding wings–poetry.

So, immediately: what is its worth?

(Is this actual question a symptom of something? Maybe. And I hold a bit of it myself, in my ventricles, so a very fair inquiry. But is it a sign, something involving consuming, throwing away [repeat until death] everything, skating above anything actual, anything real, this bright, bright layer, a way to just push aside every/any thing of substance?

A code, a mantra, dare I say? A code. A programmation?)

I just made up a word. So what, jabberwocky?

We do things without any questioning, but poetry won’t allow that. No sir.

Poetry makes us sit a moment. Watch. Chill. Observe.

Makes me wonder what the worth of a sunrise is, or the gurgle of river over quicksilver stone? The moss on the backside, slippery, shimmering like an voice, quivering, opening shadow.

Worth of nacho.

Worth of playful and musical language.

Of its place as flourishing WAY before prose, before creative nonfiction, as the basis of every allusion: Shakespeare, bible, Greek mythology, Homer–poetry.

How does cave painting deal with preserved shark? Shark sold for 12 million dollars, so there….

Of the day you first wrecked a car, that slow-motion, teenage blur. Remember who was in the passenger seat? I bet you do.

Of T.S. Eliot: Poetry is not the assertion that something is true, but the making of that truth more fully real to us.

Of day I threw egg. Or my shoelaces caught in bike pedals, the tumble.


Almost everyone I encounter is amused that I write or read poetry, and I am frequently challenged to defend the purpose and function of poetry and literature in a disposable society so dedicated to consumerism and earning potential. Even my best friend since I was six years old frequently asks me what good is learning Shakespeare or Keats. “After all,” so he says, “look at me, I’m doing just fine and I’ve never read either.” This issue features a poem by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy. While I selected the poem because of its quality, I wonder how many readers will be surprised that Spock writes poetry? And if they are surprised, why? What should a poet look like? It amazes me too how every other person I meet is either part Cherokee Indian or a closet poet. Hell, even my banker told me just yesterday, in a hushed and secretive voice, that she has a folder full of poems she’s written. And yet mainstream America seems to ridicule poets in movies and television. This just doesn’t make sense. If people would come out of the closet about their love for poetry, we’d likely learn that it’s one of the most common activities in America right up there beside owning a dog or cat.

(John Smelcer)

Worth of shelling beans while talking to my grandmother about tornadoes (I’ve yet to get paid for this true pleasure–weird.)

Of watching a mocking bird pluck a grasshopper from the air.

Of angles, light on skin, panties, triangles, white cotton…

Poetry is physical. It enlists the participation of the senses, beginning with the sense of hearing, of vibration, and its pace derives from and attends the body’s motions. I believe that poetry, which in the end may come to include the other uses I have named, begins as language does with the urge to give voice to the unsayable in our lives and in life itself.

(Robert Hass)

Of cross-eyed hipster.

Of suitcases leaping the tornado (and bedpost)

Of who do you text back, call back, ignore?

Of Yusef Komunyakaa, total badass:

Lately, I feel like I have been cornered by Robert Hayden’s infamous Devil’s Advocate, the Inquisitor, a shadow figure in the poet’s psyche who keeps one edgy and true to each word in his or her personal canon. Maybe this is the same force that prompts us to pick up the pen in the first place: A discourse which leads to discovery. Here, at this moment in our history, as we prepare for millennium parties around the world-big on commerce and short on celebration-perhaps what Plato feared has happened in modern America: The poet has become the philosopher, the composer and caretaker of the most fundamental and urgent questions voiced to the agency of human existence. And, in this sense, it seems that the poet is responsible for questioning and gauging every facet of our system.

Of Baileys and coffee with mom, who never drank. Before cancer. Now she drinks. I drink with her. And we talk, real things.

Of this:

Now Blake thought that this creative power should be kept alive in all people. And so do I. Why? Because it is life itself. It is the spirit. In fact it is the only important thing about us. The rest of us is legs and stomach, materialistic cravings and fears.

How could we keep it alive? By using it, by letting it out. By giving some time to it. But if we are women we think it more important to wipe noses and carry doilies than to write or to play the piano. And men spend their lives adding and subtracting and dictating letters when they secretly long to write sonnets and play the violin and burst into tears at the sunset. They do not know as Blake did, that this is a fearful sin against themselves. They would be much greater now, more full of light and power, if they had really written the sonnets and played the fiddle and wept over the sunset, as they wanted to”

Whatever…Whatever all of it. This question. This question.

Here’s a story: Saint Francis enjoying the night air one evening in the village of Assisi. When the moon came up, it was huge and luminous, bathing the entire earth in its radiance. Noticing that no one else was outside to enjoy this miracle, Francis ran to the bell tower and began ringing it enthusiastically. When the people rushed from their houses in alarm and saw Francis at the top of the tower, they called up to ask of him an explanation. Francis simply replied, “Lift up your eyes, my friends, look at the moon.”

Done, as for poetry (for now, me).


The new Keyhole Magazine is HAND WRITTEN. I believe this qualifies as bad-ass.

Blake Butler is there. I was wondering when Blake was going to publish something.


I feel like this today: