National Poetry Month: ‘Richer than Anyone in Heaven’ by Jennifer Elise Foerster

by Jennifer Elise Foerster

April represents National Poetry Month, intended as a way to spread awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. To celebrate, each Wednesday we will be taking a deep dive into both ZYZZYVA’s recent and distant past to share some choice selections. For the final week of April, we present Jennifer Elise Foerster’s poem “Richer than Anyone in Heaven” from ZYZZYVA No. 95, Fall 2012:  I abandoned my shoes at the corner of Market & Pine. It was hailing. We were holding tin pots above our heads. Collecting the granulated wind and singing. I don’t care about my shoes, I said. The city […]

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National Poetry Month: ‘Art Wong is Alive and Ill and Struggling in Oakland California’ by Marilyn Chin

by Marilyn Chin

April represents National Poetry Month, intended as a way to spread awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. To celebrate, each Wednesday we will be taking a deep dive into both ZYZZYVA’s recent and distant past to share some choice selections. For this second weak of National Poetry Month, we present Marilyn Chin’s poem “Art Wong is Alive and Ill and Struggling in Oakland California” from ZYZZYVA No. 9, Spring 1987. You can order selected back issues of ZYZZYVA here: I. Chi Pai Shih was born in the Year of the Boar. And a bore he was; his […]

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‘Still Life with Cacography’ by Dean Rader: ZYZZYVA No. 111, Winter Issue

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  Dean Rader is a professor of English at the University of San Francisco. His most recent poetry collections are “Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry” (Copper Canyon Press) and “Suture” (Black Lawrence), written with Simone Muench. You can see him in conversation with other ZYZZYVA contributors tomorrow at East Bay Booksellers. Two of Rader’s poems are featured in ZYZZYVA No. 111. Presented here in its entirety is the poem “Still Life with Cacography”: “If some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here— right to their waist or right to their ankle—and one of the people in that room happened to have […]

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Testaments to Our Will to Live: ‘Objects From a Borrowed Confession’ by Julie Carr

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Somewhere along the way, confessional poetry developed a bad rap. Perhaps it was the result of ubiquity: by 2003, every other turn of the radio dial delivered a soul-baring lyric to one’s ears (“On the way home this car hears my confessions,” went a lyric from a band literally called Dashboard Confessional), and college freshman creative writing classes were inundated with impressionable students expressing their angst through pen and paper. (You may have sat next to one, you may have been one yourself.) These days, mediums such as Facebook, Tumblr, and, well, Medium allow us to broadcast our inner lives […]

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Three Poems for Inauguration Day: ‘I Used to Be Much Much Darker’ by Francisco X. Alarcón

by me

On the occasion of Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day, we would like to share with you three poems from our early volumes—poems we believe speak to values that will be very much challenged by the incoming administration.

“I Used to Be Much Much Darker” by Francisco X. Alarcón (who died last January) appeared in ZYZZVA No. 3 (Fall 1985). A playful even jovial poem, it tells, in English and in Spanish, of the speaker’s love of self, of reveling in his “darkness”—something others would deem unworthy of celebration. Indeed, as the speaker plangently notes: “but anyway/ up here ‘dark’/ is only for/ the ashes:/ the stuff lonely nights/ are made of.” Yet it’s the poem’s indefatigable cheerfulness—could we even call it optimism?—that remains with the reader.

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Three Poems for Inauguration Day: ‘Snake’ by Sherman Alexie

by me

On the occasion of Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day, we would like to share with you three poems from our early volumes—poems we believe speak to values that will be very much challenged by the incoming administration.

“Snake” by Sherman Alexie appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 77 (Fall 2006). In the poem, a driver recounts the accidental running over of a bull snake. But what is really being recounted is how the speaker takes responsibility for the creature’s body, and how respecting the dignity of others, and holding oneself to account for actions that affect them, is akin to holiness.

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Three Poems for Inauguration Day: ‘Justice Without Passion’ by Jane Hirshfield

by me

On the occasion of Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day, we would like to share with you three poems from our early volumes—poems we believe speak to values that will be very much challenged by the incoming administration.

“Justice Without Passion” by Jane Hirshfield appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 12 (Winter 1987). In the poem, the speaker observes a friend’s son practicing the piano, noting “he is like a soldier or a saint: blank-faced, and given wholly/ to an obedience he does not need to understand.” Perhaps, the poem suggests, justice rests in understanding when obedience is merited, that justice requires us to be aware if we are only playing “for playing’s sake.”

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‘Letter to Galway From Tahoe’ by Heather Altfeld: ZYZZYVA No. 105, Winter Issue

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Heather Altfeld’s first book, “The Disappearing Theatre,” won the 2015 Poets at Work Prize, judged by Stephen Dunn. Her poems have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Green Mountains Review, Poetry Northwest, Okey-Panky, among other publications, and in ZYZZYVA No. 92 and 99. Her poem “Letter to Galway from Tahoe” is in ZYZZVA No. 105.

Addressed to the late great poet Galway Kinnell, who directed the poetry program at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the speaker of the poem finds herself seeking the ear of Kinnell, who has died only months ago. “I turn to you because I think you were one of the ones a little like me,// for whom terror and beauty were like the green languages of birds/ we longed to interpret, and felt, if we could not do so,/ that we had failed.” The following is the poem in its entirety.

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Everything Contained in a Small Moment: ‘Saint Friend’ by Carl Adamshick

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Saint Friend (64 pages; McSweeney’s Poetry Series), the newest collection by Carl Adamshick, is massive, not in length, as the collection clocks in at well under 70 pages, but in quality. The poems Adamshick presents us with are expansive thought projects. Even the shorter poems occupy a space that is difficult to comprehend—yet they are so readable, like all the poems here. The fact that Adamshick can write with such variance, that he can be in tune with society and with the incredible poets of the past and present, makes his work impressive and enjoyable. In the opening poem of […]

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Labor Poem No. 10, Emilio Fonseca Construction I

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Dan Alter is a poet whose work has been published in Camelia, Southern Lights, Zeek, and, now, ZYZZYVA. His poems “Labor Poem No. 10” and “Labor Poem No. 11” appear in Issue No. 100. “I took the form for this series of Labor Poems from Joshua Beckman,” Alter says, “who developed it in his book Shade.”

Alter, who lives in Berkeley and is a union electrician, will be one of several readers at ZYZZYVA‘s All-Stars Summer Celebration on Thursday, July 17, at the McRoskey Mattress Company Showroom in San Francisco. The event is free, and you can RSVP your ticket here. In the meantime, we offer one of Alter’s poems from our milestone issue.

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Adventures in Language School

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Joseph Di Prisco is the author of several books, including novels—the most recent of which is All for Now (MacAdam/Cage)—and two poetry collections. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Prairie Schooner, and The Threepenny Review, and his poetry was published in the Winter 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA.

Two new poems by Di Prisco appear in ZYZZYVA’s Spring/Summer issue: “Symptomatology” and “Adventures in Language School.” Here we present the latter, which is characteristic of the humor and the warmth that imbues Di Prisco’s charming poetry.

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L.C. Smith and Bros., Makers of Fine Guns and Typewriters, Advertise

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Alexandra Teague is assistant professor of poetry at the University of Idaho and the author of Mortal Geography (Persea), which won the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and the 2010 California Book Award for poetry. Two of her poems appear in the Spring/Summer issue of ZYZZYVA.

The poems come from her manuscript in progress, The Wise and Foolish Builders, which, Teague says, “branches out from the story of Sarah Winchester, Victorian heiress to the rifle fortune, and the six-acre house she build in San Jose, California.” The poem “L.C. Smith and Bros., Makers of Fine Guns and Typewriters, Advertise” takes its verses from the sort of advertising copy employed by various companies of the era (e.g., Remington) to sell their typewriters and firearms. The following is the poem in full.

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