Archive for the ‘Philadelphia Poets’ Category

Philadelphia Poets: JenMarie & Travis Macdonald

Our place-based and occasional series on Philadelphia poets continues today with 4 collaborative poems from Bigger On the Inside by JenMarie and Travis Macdonald. Look for more in the future, curated by our resident Philadelphian, Zach Savich.

Statement on the Poems

We once conducted a collaborative interview with Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop about their collaborations, and, at one point, Rosmarie said, “It is true that our collaborations do not quite sound like either Keith’s poems or mine. Which shows once again that the BETWEEN is fertile ground … our reality is no longer substances, but systems of relations, ‘no longer things, but what happens BETWEEN things,’ as Charles Olson paraphrases Whitehead.” And at another point we quoted Jacques Roubaud who said, “when Keith and Rosemarie write poems together, whose are those poems? They are the poems of a third poet, whose name and gender and origin and language we do not know.”

What we mean to say is that, while we are not comparing our poems to Keith & Rosmarie’s in any way, we are getting to know the fertile 3rd person sitting between us. When we trade a notebook back and forth between us we’re writing on the lap of an intimate stranger.

Because we are collaborating on poems while binge-watching Doctor Who episodes, we’re also writing in the space between entertainment and ekphrasis. Rosmarie said, “The most obvious way relation affects our language when we collaborate is that we allow ourselves to play with the other’s manner.” And we do play with one another’s manner, but we are also playing with the manner of the actors, the television writers, the scenery and costume people. The whole of the BBC. etc.

On how many strangers laps have we written? And who is it exactly that lurks in the gaps between the letters on each line?

The empty presence of the third poet in collaboration is the same way we feel about the characters on Doctor Who. They are real enough that our mind (for fleeting one-hour periods, at least) imagines them actually living in the world. Or if not THE world, then a similar intermediary space that we, the perceivers, create between our perception and the screen, between every single exchange of the page between us.

What are they up to right now? The Doctor and our third voice? Both are too real, too present to only exist at the sites of evidence: the computer, the poems, the stranger sitting between us…and then you there, reading this.

The Exterminator’s Downfall

The children of time work
against us with words dipped in rift.

What’s the last thing
you remember? The descendants assume

formation. The medusa cascades
and swallows the trail
of the bees’ disappearance.

A sentient piece of software
stands by its actions. Home
at the end of the world,

the subwave will
bring us together.

Falling in Flight

And the earth was no more
or less responsible for the last
transmission’s charge,
raging the rift and slant
against. The end of everything
is strong enough to hold the paradox
box open, long enough
to get out and pick the ring
up from the ashes of the ending.

Stuck in the center of the dingy
Titanic x-mas skyline.

Stay here while I ascertain
the information angel damages.
Cauterize your time
wound, tossing off its razorblade halo
into the host’s lonely drift.
Reflected in the doctor’s grimace:
an echo of atoms kissed.

Inform the Cage: We’re Headed Down

Patch us in. The com
system fell to earth. On Ascension
Island, patent a binary

vascular current. Calculate one
hundred thousand million combinations
in a second flat. You’ll get rusty
following the primary
order of instinct. Drag

down and label the stars.
They’re all dead
because of you

and contaminated, saved.
Function locked and loaded, I can feel
so many ideas. Exterminate my sickness.

I win.

Vashta Nerada

The library runs on
wishes. Never land on Sundays—boring!
A million million life forms’ silence

left a note from the courtesy node:
count the shadows if you want to live.

Cry for help with a kiss and a screwdriver
that won’t do
wood or resurrection
banks. Pick a face for your security
camera consciousness.

I thought we were an exclusive expedition? Tear up
your experience contracts. It’s death
for the river song. Spoilers

flying off the shelves
hold an impression: the brain waves
in a footprint tide pool.

Let’s all meet the shadow meat
feeders ghosting, a swarm
in a skeleton suit. Move
the console signals if

there’s a teleport bridge
collapse. Your imagination escape plan

hatches and builds
a nest of its own.


Philadelphia Poets: Michael Loughran

Our place-based and occasional series on Philadelphia poets continues today with two poems from Michael Loughran. Check back Wednesday for another entry in the series.


No one cares
about the painting of the orange rooster.
I hang it up and remember
whatever I want,
maybe what Kafka said
about me.
What a rooster he was
and how orange,
all those inclinations,
the black urge
to stroll through the hallways
of some other house,
every desire
an illicit constitutional.
Rooster! Don’t be funny!
Let me think!
Soon I’ll be
under the tongues
of the streetlights
at 60 m.p.h.

New Jersey

Hay bales!
The ones we prefer.
Golden stomachs
we drive past
about our mothers.
Future auditors
of the heart,
what we liked most
was to make
the hay bales blur.
We liked Rousseau,
whose epitaph
pleads he devote
his sacred
leisure to the light.
He painted no hay,
perhaps there is
no hay in France?
France! You have nothing.

Philadelphia Poets: Emily Abendroth, Pt. 2

Emily Abendroth, whose poems appeared on THERMOS last Friday, speaks briefly here on being a poet in Philadelphia. This place-based feature, curated by Zach Savich, will continue occasionally in the future, with poems accompanied by brief commentary. Look for Emily’s first full-length book of poems, ]Exclosures[, out from Ahsahta in May. — AS

I’ve never considered myself to be a regional writer or to fit into the category of a “writer of place,” at least not to the degree that one thinks of such categories as entailing a committed affiliation to residency as a significant component of one’s artistic identity. For lack of a better way to say it, I’m definitely more a “poet who lives in Philadelphia,” as opposed to a “Philadelphia poet.”


Far more than the geography and natural environment of Pennsylvania, it is my engagement with the various communities of Philadelphia writers/artists, community organizers, human rights activists, and friends/comrades that have most impacted the shape of my artistic practices here in this city.

Further, the current dynamics of Pennsylvania politics profoundly shape my understanding of the existent obstacles that preclude our achievement of individual and collective health, well-being, self-determination, and, ultimately, emancipation (be it cognitive or physical in nature). This, in turn, informs my sense of what art has a mandate to attempt to, first, make legible and, then, to confront, even as the means and modes of art are very different from those of traditional organizing. I don’t by any stretch think this is art’s only mandate but, from my perspective, it is a primary one of them.

In the context of Pennsylvania, this includes such life-destructive details as: the widespread implementation of hydraulic fracking which is, as I write, poisoning our watershed and ourselves for millennia into the future; the insufferable fact that spending on prisons has once again outpaced spending on higher education for several annual budgets running; the dovetailing reality that this state has more people who were condemned as youth to sentences of life without the possibility of parole (or “death by incarceration”) than anywhere else in the world; and the monstrous truth that our current Governor prefers to leave tens upon tens of thousands of people uninsured and without health care access of any kind, rather than to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid to poor people.

I don’t mean to say that these intentionally engineered calamities of social neglect and outright violence either directly predict or dictate the form/voice of my poetic work in a narrow instrumentalist or journalistic way. That would be, I believe, a demoralizing defeat for the creative imagination. My poetry is not “about” these things in that strictly documentary sense; however, its concerns and contours are absolutely invaded by and responsive to those realities.