Taming the Dog

by Kristen Tracy

We hope it’s a safe and restful holiday for you and your loved ones. In that spirit, we’re sharing Kristen Tracy’s poem from Issue 112, “Taming the Dog”: Your dog arrives at my open window filled with advice. He sees how I trim the beans and complains. He believes the way I tenderize my lamb is an abomination. The neck may be tough, but in my house we use everything. We hang our laundry. We beat our rugs and there is joy. Last night, he caught me pruning the magnolia tree, appeared beneath my ladder, fur holding the light of […]

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Hangover 1.1.2019

by sam sax

Like a hammer swung into antique champagne flutes / Like a family heirloom traded for a Twix / Like a red dictionary dropped from a replica famous bridge / Like a robe made out of skin that, turns out, is your skin & oops you must wear it / Like the man who lives in your occipital lobe slowly whittles a sad stick and sighs / Like a headwrap made of crane flies / Like a framed section of your brain hanged in a museum / Like a school of hungry kids all banging their forks & knives at once […]

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The Rough Beast Takes a Painting Class

by Alexandra Teague

The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through. —Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America / The teacher says white is not truly a color, / containing as it does, all wavelengths of visible light. / She says the Rough Beast’s claws might be useful later / for scraffito—to scratch back through to what’s beneath: / cyan and magenta; Goldman-Sachs and Donald Trump. / The teacher says Trump is not a color. But everyone knows […]

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‘The Tradition’ by Jericho Brown: Bursts of Ecstasy and Longing

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To some extent, every poet creates a persona. Think of Berryman’s Henry, for example. But Jericho Brown has done so more fully and convincingly than most. Born Nelson Dimery III, he answered to the name Jericho in a dream. In that dream the name allowed him go through a door. He later learned that the loose translation of the name is “defense,” and he discarded his birth name and became the unmistakably singular poet Jericho Brown. In the same way, he has transformed his evangelical fundamentalist upbringing into spirituality, physicality, and song. This transformation is showcased in his latest book, […]

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‘Love and I’ by Fanny Howe: A Meander through a Singular Mind

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Fanny Howe prefers to be alone—perhaps that’s what makes her such a perceptive poet. In her latest collection, Love and I (80 pages; Graywolf Press), the fruits of Howe’s solitude are on full display. Howe is introspective, curious, and content when she is by herself. Many of the poems in Love and I celebrate the comforts of being alone: I’ll sit at the window Where it’s safe to say no. Won’t go out, won’t work For a living, will study the clouds Becoming snow. That’s not to say Howe doesn’t grapple with the aches of loneliness as well: “Someone help […]

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‘Be Recorder’ by Carmen Giménez Smith: A Call to Action

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Anyone who has ever questioned the capacity of poetry to do something needs to read Carmen Giménez Smith’s newest collection, Be Recorder (88 pages; Graywolf Press). Be Recorder refuses to pretend it lives elsewhere, in some untouchable world of the lyric. Rather, each poem is undeniably here, in the now of state-generated violence and imperialism, of oppressive immigration policies, of love, of motherhood, of writerly politics. This list, while certainly marking many of Giménez Smith’s major attentions, is painfully incomplete: Be Recorder sees everything, even what it has yet to witness. It is this impulse –– to witness and uncover, […]

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“Ms. Lonelyhearts”

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The phone calls me to attention. An old friend, dead. 89. She had a “good run,’’ as they say, it was for the best, whatever that means. Trumped, quickly, replaced with wincing news that another’s son killed himself, jumped off a bridge too far. Words fail, repeatedly. Searching for emoticons in lieu of emotions. Stir and mix the customary repetitive political jabber, echoing indignation. Where is love? Is it in the stars above? I sink below, mired in timeless sorrow, time beyond time. Multiple failures, fumbles, fright. Who to “speak’’ to? God is dead, or so it’s reliably said. We […]

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‘As One Fire Consumes Another’ by John Sibley Williams: Each Poem a Sermon

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The poems in John Sibley Williams’ latest book, As One Fire Consumes Another (82 pages; Orison Books), are verbs: they implore and demand, they connect and recall, they cry out and they quietly walk away. The collection, winner of the 2018 of the Orison Poetry Prize, maintains a generational sense of story — an understanding of family that is dense in time and broad in scope as it considers both the immediacy of human relationships and the distance of the natural world. Williams is as acutely focused on the wide arcs of historical violence and injustice as he is on […]

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“You Know” by Paul Wilner

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“I don’t know,’’ my father used to say when I offered the conversational tic, an adolescent affectation. He liked to put people on the spot. When they said they loved reading he’d ask, “What was the last book you read?’’ Uncomfortable silences ensued, he rather enjoyed it. Or if we were sitting around at dinner and referred to him in third person, the matriarchal duet, my mom and sister emotionally outweighing the two of us. I had divided loyalties at best, anyway. “Who’s he?’’ my dad would say, countering the implied lack of respect, deference. He wasn’t a martinet, or […]

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“Who” by Kevin Killian: ZYZZYVA No. 45

by Zack Ravas

San Francisco is mourning the loss of one of its greatest writers. Kevin Killian was not only a tremendous talent –– as a poet, a novelist, a playwright, an art critic, and more –– but one of the most gregarious and giving souls one could hope to meet. The following is his poem “Who” from ZYZZYVA No. 45 in its entirety: Who, I didn’t love him enough ninety thousand names for the government to gamble on, to conjure, out of a hole so big it could be only Who said to me look at my lesions, no, Kevin, really look, […]

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‘Little Key’ by Joshua Rivkin: National Poetry Month

by Zack Ravas

April represents National Poetry Month, intended as a way to spread awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. To celebrate, each week we will be taking a look back at ZYZZYVA’s recent and distant past to share some choice selections. For our final installment, we present “Little Key” by Joshua Rivkin from Issue No. 103: Hopes are shy birds flying at a great distance, seldom reached by the best of guns, Audubon wrote in his journal thinking not of the hawk or the wren but of course the sparrow. An animal throat untwists the shadow of your name. Song replying […]

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‘Lost Boy’ by Matthew Dickman: National Poetry Month

by Matthew Dickman

April represents National Poetry Month, intended as a way to spread awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. To celebrate, each week we will be taking a look back at ZYZZYVA’s recent and distant past to share some choice selections. For our fourth installment, we present “Lost Boy” by Matthew Dickman from Issue No.108:  I’m standing behind the 7-Eleven moving a crushed-up can around with my foot. I’m maybe twelve blocks away from the house I grew up in. I could walk there right now if I wanted. See who’s living there and if the house is the same or not […]

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