Thank you for following these posts all week, for your re-posts and your tweets and re-tweets and comments and discussions and phone calls telling friends to take a look at the love we've been making one day after another. Thanks for your many messages of encouragement, your patience with my typos and misprints, and most of all, for looking forward to a new day of gratitude. Thankfulness does not have to end here!
Thank you Chard DeNiord and Rita Dove and Fanny Howe and Michael Dumanis and Christine Garren and Dawn Lundy Martin for being brave enough to tell the truth just because this starstruck admirer asked for it.
Thanks always and forever to David Lehman for The Best American Poetry Series and Stacey Harwood for putting up with the OCD and technological incompetence that help to make me Jericho Brown. Thanks for asking me to do this and for letting me do this my way.
Thank you, Derrick Franklin (the other fine man pictured above), for being the love of my life, for dealing with me and without me in the midst of my end of the semester grading and recommendation writing and refusal to sleep or eat because I think I've figured the right word in the last line of some old poem, for being my long distance love who makes both coasts my coast, for letting me flirt with the anonymous and the ridiculous knowing that, in truth, I'm coming home to put my whole check and whatever else you require in the palm of your perfect hand. Thanks for letting me chase whatever it is I think I'll catch when I'm foolish enough to agree to blog for a week at the busiest time of year.
This final post is written in gratitude for the lives and legacies of Rudolph Byrd, the man I credit with teaching me how to read, and to Essex Hemphill, whose poems Dr. Byrd used as the primer for my lessons. I live with their spirits in my ear: no wonder I get where to go!
And finally, thank you Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Saeed Jones, Rickey Laurentiis, Phillip B. Williams, and L. Lamar Wilson for sending me poems and pictures with which to end this week and to share with lovers of poetry who are about to read what the critics call brilliance. Nobody teaches me to be free like the five of you do, THE PHANTASTIQUE 5.
Since I've been asking questions all week, one last interview before all of you enjoy these short lyric poems:
Q: Why spell fantastic like that? Why five instead of four?
A: Hmm...queer, isn't it?
L. Lamar Wilson, winner of the 2011 Beau Boudreaux Poetry Prize, has poems published or forthcoming in jubilat, African American Review, Callaloo, and Rattle.. The Cave Canem fellow and Virginia Tech MFA is working toward a PhD in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His first book manuscript, Sacrilegion, was a 2011 finalist for Crab Orchard Review's Open Competition Award. It includes "I Can't Help It," which was originally published in jubilat (Fall 2011).
I talk too much. I cannot tell a liar
from a preacher, so I tell you
what you want: I’m saved & sick
of this world, safe in God’s arms. God,
give me this world in an honest man’s
arms. An ego is hard to stroke. Or easy if
you know how to quiet it, let a man feel
his burn in your throat. I talk too much.
I’m sorry I’m not sorry enough. I’ll dance
all over you. O liar. Preacher. Daddy-
o, your tongue lashing is never hard
or fast enough. When you lie still,
stroking your chalice, the quiet makes me
retch. I am a lone dandelion in a field,
waiting. Come. Blow me to bits. Still.
You’ll die this way, saved by the lies
that burn like the ice water & alcohol
Mama sits me in to break the fevers
our silences brought. I’ll die thrashing,
telling any body all my secrets.
Rickey Laurentiis was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1989. He received his bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College where he was awarded the Stanley and Evelyn Lipkin Prize for Poetry. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, the Atlantic Center for the Arts and a Work-Study Scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His work can be found or forthcoming in several journals, including Callaloo, jubilat, and Indiana Review. Currently, he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Washington University in St Louis where he is a Chancellor’s fellow. His first book manuscript, One Country, received an honorable mention for the 2010 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, judged by Claudia Rankine, and was a finalist for the 2011 National Poetry Series. It includes "You Are Not Christ," which orginally appeared in The Collagist.
For the drowning, yes, there is always panic.
Or peace. Your body behaving finally by instinct
alone. Crossing out wonder. Crossing out
a need to know. You only feel you need to live.
That you deserve it. Even here. Even as your chest
fills with a strange new air, you will not ask
what this means. Like prey caught in the wolf’s teeth,
but you are not the lamb. You are what’s in the lamb
that keeps it kicking. Let it.
Saeed Jones received his MFA from Rutgers University–Newark. His work has appeared in Hayden's Ferry Review,StorySouth, jubilat, and The Collagist. His chapbook, When the Only Light is Fire is available from Sibling Rivalry Press, and his first full-length poetry manuscript, Prelude to Bruise, includes "Mississippi Drowning."
I’ve lined my throat
with the river bottom’s best
allowed my fingers to shrivel
and be taken for crawfish.
I’ve laced my eyelashes with algae.
I blink emerald.
I blink sea glass green.
I am whatever gleams
just under the surface.
Scoop at my sparkle. I’ll give you nothing
but disturbed reflection.
Bring your ear to the water
and I’ll sing you
down into my arms.
Let me show you how
to make your lungs
a home for minnows, how
to let them flicker
in and out of your mouth
like last words,
Phillip B. Williams is a Cave Canem fellow and a native of Chicago, IL. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Southern Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Hunger Mountain, Boxcar Review, Sou'wester, BLOOM, African American Review, Callaloo, and others. He is currently working in Chicago as an HIV tester and prevention counselor. His first book poetry manuscript, Sway, includes "Husk."
I am a thing to do. A window
broken by my own head flying
through. I was pushed or I wasn’t.
You should walk away, but you
can’t. You can’t trust me. Don’t.
Love me. Call me sweetheart
like you mean it. Slide the black
leather from the loop. I’m on
my knees because I’ve fallen
like a dead man in a grave
for you. This is my face darkening
where the glass claimed my cheek,
me smashed into it, me taking it
like a pro. This is my hair, unbrushed
and Dear-God all over. I don’t love
myself and I never will, thighs, clapping,
making room inside
another room. Unbuckle
this breath for me, would you?
I have a heart amongst other things
nobody seems to know how to pull
the beat from. Give me your hand.
I’ll fold it into a hammer. In my ribs,
send it forth. Rattle me loose. It’s been
so long. Let whatever moves, move.
Darrel Alejandro Holnes is an award-winning poet and playwright from Panama City, Panama and the Programs Director of the Poetry Society of America. He holds degrees in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and the University of Houston. He and his work have been featured nationally and internationally in the Kennedy Center Annual College Theater Festival, TIME Magazine, and The Caribbean Writer among others. He is the recipient of scholarships to Cave Canem, Summer Literary Seminars, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and a writer’s residency at VCCA. He continues to work as a writer and emerging performance artist in New York. The latest news about his performances can be found at www.darrelandpreston.com. His first book manuscript, Incarnate, inlcudes "ba-by."
\ \ n. 1. Auburn, gold, and blossom cherry: our fingers, two rings and my tongue along your ear. / Electric lighter, gas stove good time/ Praying for lightning. 2. Man made, made man, fire. 3. This woman’s need for the family lost to the Hutu tribe/ This man’s efforts to be her lost village/ Inferno. 4. A bump barring in the words I don’t love you anymore as he kisses her belly for the Christmas card photo. 5. The end of an argument in the emergency room 6. What we lost in the flames. \ \ v. 1. To nurse, cure with promises, a cocktail of words, each word mixed in to strengthen the other. / Marry me anyway. 2. To link by umbilical cord./ To cut the cord and hit the thing’s bottom so we hear it breathe. 3. To hear silence instead.
Jericho Brown worked as the speechwriter for the Mayor of New Orleans before receiving his PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston. The recipient of the Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland, Brown is an Assistant Professor at the University of San Diego. His poems have appeared in journals and anthologies including, The American Poetry Review, The Believer, jubilat, Oxford American, Ploughshares, A Public Space, and 100 Best African American Poems. His first book, PLEASE (New Issues), won the American Book Award.