Brain Mill Press Celebrates
Many poets are confronted with questions about the role of poetry in their lives or in the wider world. “But, what does poetry do?” “Does anyone read poetry anymore?” “So, you’re a poet . . .?” with a long lingering silence afterward, as if the person has encountered a rarefied artifact – or maybe a rhinoceros.
This year, for April Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press seeks to answer this question by asking our contributors to address poetry in the context of teaching and learning. The essays and poems we’ll post over the course of April engage with what poetry teaches, and how in learning poetry (and learning in poetry) we learn something about ourselves, each other, and the wider world. Our contributors shared essays and poems that speak to poetry in multiple contexts, all centering around the idea of teaching.
“Teaching” is understood broadly, as is “learning.” Several poets write about their early poet-mentors and how this early support and knowledge has borne them along in their writing lives. A former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin engages with teaching and poetry as witnessing. The current Poet Laureate of Wisconsin writes about collective and community memory. A teacher-poet reflects on his younger poet-self, meeting a poet he much admired and learning to ignore well-intentioned advice, when that advice urged the poet to step back from his understanding of what poetry could, and should, do. A young writer writes about how she manifests her reality: dogs and desires and visions. What these poets suggest is that we learn through each other – language and poetry is the medium of this learning.
Please join us over this month as we read the words of poets and share the incoming entries from our Student Poetry Contest, highlighting the voices of young poets. Be sure to check back at the end of the month to help us congratulate the winner of our Student Poetry Contest.
–C. Kubasta, BMP Assistant Poetry Editor & contest judge
For April Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press is sponsoring a Student Poetry Contest. For our purposes, “student” includes anyone enrolled either in high school or college, who has not yet graduated with an undergraduate degree.
Please submit 1-3 poems, any style and length. In a short bio, include information about where you attend school, your studies, and your poetic interests. Please also upload an author photo – which we will use it if your poem is selected as either an editors’ pick or a winner. By entering the contest, you confirm the work is your own, and that it hasn’t yet been published (either print or online). We particularly encourage submissions from poets of color, women, and LGBTQIA+ writers.
The editors will select a poem or poems each Saturday in April as the editors’ pick(s), and BMP poetry month coordinator C. Kubasta will choose a grand prize winner. Selected poems will be published on the Brain Mill Press website and social media channels. Editors’ pick poets are awarded with a Brain Mill Press print book (and associated art gift, if available) of their choice. The grand prize winner receives a full set four Brain Mill Press Mineral Point chapbooks from 2015-2016 and associated broadsides. Poets retain all rights to their work.
Poetry and Essays
“She needs clothes. / Her budget is tight, my clothes are tighter.”read more
“There is nothing a mother desires more than to see her child feel fulfilled and happy with life. I have an adult daughter who is euphoric now and at peace with herself through gender transition. It makes me happy to see her flourishing. I admire her courage to change.”read more
“Deep in a field that was not ours, / I heard a barbed fence call me / by someone else’s name.”read more
“Despite this truth, I also believe that poem-making isn’t always so logical. Sometimes, it’s as if the decision has been made before the ink leaves the pen. I don’t know where it comes from: I can’t claim it’s a gift one is born with or a mystical muse randomly spreading inspiration. But I know there’s something.”read more
We believed the sand & good intentions clinging / to our bodies that night could be washed off, forgotten, / & memories found like sunglasses or a lost cell phone.”read more
“I don’t write to heal, even though I’ve been told, and read, and heard from many people that writing is the path to recovery. I write because I’m a writer, and I have a story to tell.”read more
“I’m afraid of being afraid, afraid of not experiencing, afraid of not being as active as I am mouthy. I’m afraid of the no in my throat before my mouth makes it.”read more
“I’m not a religious person, but you don’t have to be when you’re raised by strong Italian Catholic women. Religion, whether close or important, surrounds me because of my family. Religion feels like part of my culture, but in a strange optional way. I could be religious easily, and no one would doubt my faith.”read more
“Yellow of fire and fear. I have / become a violent man, seduced / by every shadow of your shape.”read more
On writing thank-you letters after his wife’s death, loss, and grief.read more
“The first time we met she was all shuddered shoulders, chin dipped and he was standing, she sitting, he looming, she hunching, he talking, she slightly shaking her head.”read more
“Brave girl! You faced the worst and wrote.”read more
C. Kubasta speaks with her Wells College mentor, Bruce Bennett, and reflects on what she’s learned as a student and teacher of poetry.read more
“In the book of shadows and recipes I keep, I find this brief entry: ‘Poetry is no longer the thing. It is one important thing in this wild, good life.'”read more
“I will paint in the palette of dreams you forgot, / not some land far far but as close as your eyelid.”read more
When My First Boyfriend Learned I Was on Anti-Psychotics, He Laughed and Told Me He Always Suspected I Was Crazier Than I Let On
“I wanted to murder him, / but his body kept getting / in the way. We learn to / live with that sawtoothed / loudness, caught halfway / between the wonder & / the wanting. & how I / wanted. I wanted his eyes / blue & razed shut.”read more
“I inserted a piece of string / to go between my toes, big knot / on the bottom, then attached / the rest to either side of my foot. / Didn’t my toes feel free and cool / and princess-like?”read more
On memory cafes, poetry, and individual and community memory in the work of a Wisconsin poet laureate.read more
“Deal gently / With those / Sore of Soul // For whom / Each invitation // Or word spoken / Is wound to sea-salt”read more
On a bus ride to the airport from AWP with an admired poet, and what the poet’s place is as teacher, scholar, author.read more
“Today, more than ever, we need poetry in its role as an agent of change.”read more
“I search a color I might know, / some pigment like boiling maple sap / like dried fish blood.”read more
“I started to wrench words, like teeth / and watched them drop, and drop, and drop / while the blood fled my fingers. // Because I wanted to catch you”read more
“you walk in and show your ID / you sign the book time in 5:37 pm / you pick up your badge / drop your quarter and put your wallet / your watch your keys and phone in the locker”read more
I am a white woman sitting in the gallery, / my two white girls fighting for space on my lap / as black boys mostly avoid looking / at the pictures on the walls / and at the three of us / huddled on our plastic chair.read more
2016 Contest Winner
When a Black ______ dies and they last breath is played on repeat, must we still paint the forest?
I debate this with my hands.
They say Ain’t nobody else to remember the blood.
I say they ain’t the ones bleeding.
Imani Davis’s “Grave Robber Digs with a Pen” uses subversive structure that leaves the worst of its witness unspoken and unwritten. This approach confronts the reader’s buried racism, excavates it, and holds it up to examination. It’s a rare poem that can be so rich and singing and yet spare in its use of language. “Grave Robber Digs with a Pen” reveals Davis as a poet of great wit and great sensitivity, self-aware of her voice and its power.
BMP Poetry Broadsides
A commentary on art-making and grace. The text is printed in two colors on 110-pound 100% cotton Crane Papers Lettra, overprinted on the chapbook’s signature interior illustration of a keyhole, which also appears as a printed motif.
Reproducing lines from the poem “The Presentation,” the text is printed in two colors on 110-pound 100% cotton Crane Papers Lettra, overprinted on the chapbook’s signature interior diatom illustration, which also appears as a printed motif.
Reproducing lines from the poem “pretty pretty princess vs. the underworld,” the text is printed in two colors on 110-pound 100% cotton Crane Papers Lettra, overprinted on the chapbook’s signature interior illustration of an empty ball gown, which also appears as a printed motif.
Discover BMP Poetry
From “Me and Tanka”
You’re dull, she says, you can’t even
cross your eyes correctly. Your relationships last
five months because you turn so USUAL.
In your Secret Garden
you grow carrots and plastic wrap.
You like Lean Cuisine dinners.
You don’t have fancy shoes.
You hum poorly. And you’re dull.
I know, I say.
Then how did you make me? she says.
Grace, I say.
Now I want joy to arrange you.
Forget the spool, the queue.
May you crow from the prow.
Be your element’s namesake
and alive, know it. My Seaborgium.
My little radish bugaboo, my
pillowfoot jeweler. Sweetgum,
sing, sing to wake the water.
From “The Presentation”
This is my lordosis: look: my part.
It wants to feel the syllables your heart
putters. I want your obsessive pulse
to part with mine only when universe
and starlight disentangle. Dumb stud, come;
I’ll be the radiator and the heat
it hisses. I’ll paint the memory
of you on my closed coffin lid and lard
my arteries with your untamed beauty.
I’ve assumed the posture of a rapt
ocelot: I moan my smell to you:
swell with me: boil with me: glue
your sternum to my sternum and we’ll do
what blue jays do until Orion snaps.
From “pretty pretty princess vs. the underworld”
my tall handsome, you are always
hydrangea in my rib, popped open
always dazzle of salt on my punched lip
love of life
the he & me I will devour
we beneath black cherry tree
all fruits and crystals on your chest
you were my first body—now and always
forever and ever, in the pink bed rippling