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poemoftheweek poem of the week


Beth Bachmann



outside there are street bombs & citizens with guns & farther away war inside we are our own pile of legs two of us are married two of us are falling hard two of us are men two of us are man & woman two of us are not alone two of us are mother & father two of us are not fighting two of us are saying I love you I love you I love you two of us are watching two of us are touching two of us are undone two of us are whispering in the other’s ear not war not war two of us are beginning to stir two of us are at the window two of us are parting ‘til it’s just the two of us parting we’re all guilty what haven’t we done lately




place the hand that mothered you here now in the water there is so much you have breathed already to ash the sun warms our skin but not yet the ocean her fingers are in your fingers as you wash them love is private we know what it means to say yes there is no need no longer to hurry




I can’t have peace til I get what I want no more desire not now not now only after awhile we needed a witness the water couldn’t wait underground another minute before becoming spring I’ve never broken a bone before except when twisting it out of a bird I am not a patient animal not now not now all the while you were dying all the while you were overcome by radiation broken light still light you said same ocean more than my fingers you said you wanted my fingerbones this skin

-from Cease, University of Pittsburgh Press 2018, selected by Spring POW Guest Editor, Vandana Khanna

PROMPT: Free association is defined as "1. PSYCHOLOGY the mental process by which one word or image may spontaneously suggest another without any apparent connection, 2. the forming of a group, political alliance, or other organization without any constraint or external restriction. Write a surreal, free association poem without line breaks or bottom punctuation (commas, periods, semicolons) that, like Bachmann's verse, examine the affiliations language makes between the body and the body politic.

BIO: BETH BACHMANN'S first book, Temper (2009), won the AWP Donald Hall Poetry prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Bachmann’s poems have been described by Poetry magazine as anti-confessional and by poet Nick Flynn as ante-confessional. Poetry magazine praised Temper’s lyric elegy on the murder of Bachmann’s sister, asserting, “This is not only authentic, it is true.” Flynn writes, “A beautiful unease suffuses these poems-they make me aware I’m alive, and certain of nothing. A stunning debut.” In a review of Beth’s first book, the Beverly Hills Courier proclaimed, “Poetry is not just for sissies.” Describing Beth at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, Robert Hass compared the way Beth writes poems to “a sibyl burning the leaves and smelling the smoke.” Claudia Emerson said simply, Beth’s “one hell of a poet.” A new book about war, memory, and PTSD, Do Not Rise, selected by poet Elizabeth Willis for the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, appeared from Pitt Poetry Series in January 2015. Willis writes, “The collection’s conceptual center—and its most insistent word—is “open.” The poems have a stripped-down, investigatory drive.  Where the manuscript begins, everything “wants out,” and this outward pressure moves the work into a series of shifts, cuts, turns, magnetic pulls. Water on the tongue disappears into snow, snow gives way to a lake. It is as if we could witness the decomposition and refiguring of the world within the decomposition and refiguring of the line.” Bachmann was born and raised near Philadelphia, where her father, a non-combat veteran, worked as a shoe-shiner and locker-room attendant. She was educated at the Johns Hopkins University and Concordia University in Montreal. Each fall, she teaches in the MFA program at Vanderbilt University. Currently, she is at work on a book of poems about peace, called Cease, winner of a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship. Read more at news.

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