Simple Machines is an SPD Bestseller for July–help me crack the top 10 for August!

Hi! Simple Machines is #15 on the Small Press Distribution July Poetry Bestsellers list.  Woo-hoo!  That was a secret, long-held dream of mine.  Now, help me crack the top ten for August!  There are 23 copies left over at SPD–if you haven’t already bought one, please head over to Small Press Distribution and get one!  Let me know you got one, and I’ll send you a signed bookplate or sign it in person the next time I see you.  And please share!  #SimpleMachinesSellOut


NPM Curated Poem 14: Gregory Pardlo’s “Double Dutch”

Gregory Pardlo won the Pulitzer last year, so it’s probably not a surprise to you that he’s a good poet to read.  I thought I’d include a poem from his earlier collection, though, to show that his musicality and wide-ranging consciousness were present in the last book, too (from


Double Dutch

The girls turning double-dutch
bob & weave like boxers pulling
punches, shadowing each other,
sparring across the slack cord
casting parabolas in the air. They
whip quick as an infant’s pulse
and the jumper, before she
enters the winking, nods in time
as if she has a notion to share,
waiting her chance to speak. But she’s
anticipating the upbeat
like a bandleader counting off
the tune they are about to swing into.
The jumper stair-steps into mid-air
as if she’s jumping rope in low-gravity,
training for a lunar mission. Airborne a moment
long enough to fit a second thought in,
she looks caught in the mouth bones of a fish
as she flutter-floats into motion
like a figure in a stack of time-lapse photos
thumbed alive. Once inside,
the bells tied to her shoestrings rouse the gods
who’ve lain in the dust since the Dutch
acquired Manhattan. How she dances
patterns like a dust-heavy bee retracing
its travels in scale before the hive. How
the whole stunning contraption of girl and rope
slaps and scoops like a paddle boat.
Her misted skin arranges the light
with each adjustment and flex. Now heather-
hued, now sheen, light listing on the fulcrum
of a wrist and the bare jutted joints of elbow
and knee, and the faceted surfaces of muscle,
surfaces fracturing and reforming
like a sun-tickled sleeve of running water.
She makes jewelry of herself and garlands
the ground with shadows.

It’s a beautiful image, and the sonic qualities of this poem are equal to its visual interest.  Track the letter “t” through the poem–see how many lines have at least one t.  My favorite lines are “How / the whole stunning contraption of girl and rope / slaps and scoops like a paddle boat.”  I love the consonance of “slaps” and “scoops,” and those verbs are so precise that they conjure the rope turning in air.  I love that the poet makes good on the metaphor in “contraption,” comparing the rope-jumping to the “paddle boat” wheel.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT:  You have a choice–either choose one moment, one scene, and depict it as beautifully and gracefully as you can.  Nothing needs to “happen” or change, necessarily–inhabit a beautiful moment with surprising description.
Choose your favorite consonant, and write a poem that includes that consonant at least once per line.

NPM Curated Poem 8: Melanie Jordan’s “In the Broken Zoo”

Melanie Jordan recently released her debut collection Hallelujah for the Ghosties from Sundress Publications.  I wrote a review that you can read here.  Here’s a short poem, first published in Diagram:



They kept us and now they’ve left us.
My marble eye rides blackwater;
prey I can become. Banging on the far wall.
Soon the umbrage of pit and scale, the fur,
the thumbs. The tarsiers founder on snakes
now, but until spring on air I could survive.
I ride this stale water, I am the heir of abiding:
they shook the earth, my oldest ancestors,
they rumble my cold blood still, though
egg-sucking rats and the endless winter
laid them down like logs to die.
So long as the pool was deep enough,
so long as the need was slender,
we got along. So long as
the glass was strong.

This monologue demonstrates Jordan’s lyricism, unconventional point of view, and intelligence, her scientific know-how and her poetry chops.  I’m on board as soon as I get to that second line–the alliteration of “my marble” is bookended by the internal rhyme of “my” and “eye,” and I love “blackwater” as one word–some chaos has happened, and it’s dangerous below the surface in the aftermath.  I love “the heir of abiding,” a great description of being the result of adaptions that happened longer ago than average–a species, I’m assuming of reptile, that was so well-evolved so long ago that it hasn’t changed much since.  I enjoy the delay in the syntax of “they shook the earth, my oldest ancestors,” maybe because it’s iambic pentameter, maybe because it plays on the etymology of dinosaur names like “seismosaurus.”  Her last line is great, and it demonstrates a rule of thumb I learned from Jackie Osherow–if you know you have to get away with making a big proclamation, you have to prepare for it, sonically.  Jordan does that here with “long,” “long,” “along,” leading into “So long as / the glass was strong.”  The zoo is broken, literally, but has led to an explosion of animal life that is both dangerous and thrilling.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT:  Write a poem from an animal’s point of view.

NPM Curated Poem 7: francine j. harris’s “enough food and a mom”

francine j. harris is my fellow 2015 NEA Literature Fellow in poetry, and around the time that we found out the names of the other fellows, I’d read one poem of hers in Poetry magazine, “enough food and a mom.”  I can’t get the formatting to work right here, so please go to the link and read the poem there.

I love the fractured syntax of this poem, particularly the way the loaded words “dad,” “mom,” and “ghost” seem to take over and take the place of other nouns, and even other verbs:  “to keep him from going into dad” (the ghost?  or “dad” as a state of being?), “Come on now, dad.  come to ghost,” “the mom with the smell of cracked dad,” “No. says the dad:  lost in ashes,” “They ghost like the bushel of a snowflower,” “At night, I have really long dads” (“dads” instead of dreams?), “We are all sappy dad, aren’t we,” and, of course, that brilliant last line:  “I mom of you.  I mom of you a lot.”  I also love the line the title comes from:  “a good seance starts with enough food / and a mom.”  To me, this poem enacts the disjoint between the material and spiritual worlds by disjointing its language, so that the words “dad,” “mom,” and “ghost” seem to haunt the words we might expect to be in their syntactical place–in that last line, I’d expect “take care,” or “tire,” or “cut the heart out,” not “mom” of you.  But that also feels real, that “mom” is a verb very different from “mother.”


YOUR ASSIGNMENT:  Play with parts of speech.  Write a poem where nouns become verbs, verbs become nouns, adjectives become nouns (that’s called a “substantive”), etc.  Have that role swap become part of the story of the poem.




Available for preorder: My debut poetry collection, I Might Be Mistaken!

I’m very excited to announce that my debut book of poems, I Might Be Mistaken, will be published in early August!


Jacqueline Osherow called it “…original, witty, charming, honest, affecting, profound.”  Michael Dumanis says, “These poems are as sly and funny as they are arresting, unnerving, and sharp.”

You can now PREORDER my book directly from me!  Ordering directly from me entitles you to SPECIAL BENEFITS–your book will be $2 OFF THE COVER PRICE and SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR (that’s me!).  You can order through PayPal for $16, plus $2.50 shipping & handling and 6% sales tax.

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