Every Step by Michael Prihoda

the interval
of anticipation,

of severed
connections.

the identity
so lonely,

the window
intact

in the visible
sliver of losing interest.

maybe thinking
rustled the suitcase

the door locking
above a whisper.

dialogue,
close-ups,

wary to know
every step.

Source: Don DeLillo’s Falling Man.

Michael Prihoda is a poet, editor, and teacher living in central Indiana. He is the editor of After the Pause, an experimental literary magazine and small press. His work has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. He is the author of eight poetry collections, the most recent of which is Years Without Room (Weasel Press, 2018).

 

The Best I Can Say by Mary Ardery

Dad—

It is Saturday morning.
They planted grass seed yesterday.
All good here,
beyond me.
Mom loved reading
the magazines.
We mark time with rituals and pictures—
a mother and father,
three little girls—
though
the real world
is not a straight line progression.
I’m struggling,
but I wake up every morning
and remember
that we are
much more than fine.
You’ve been like that forever—
committed
even in those moments when doubt threatens your faith.
The chaos,
the demons,
are waxing and waning.
The best I can say is
see you soon.

Source: Letters from my dad 2015-2018

Method: Thinking ahead to Father’s Day, I pulled out excerpts from handwritten letters from my dad over the past few years. I rearranged them to create a letter addressed to him, constructed by his own words addressed to me. Each line break represents a change in which letter I pulled the phrase from. The punctuation (and much of the capitalization) is my own.

Mary is from Bloomington, IN. You can find more of her work on Parks & Points, Sweet Tree Review, and right here on Unlost Journal. She is currently pursuing an MFA at Southern Illinois University.

Hesitant Afterlife Shat a Little Sunshine by Aditya Shankar

Sometimes
the scattered Buddha
hung a billion limbs
that flared time
and straitened language.

Under the tree,
Bodhisattva is the invisible forehead
of an underground sky

which rises through the
fast lane of a xylem,
nests with God
to curl as water in the clouds.

The squirrels watch –

Look, gallons of steam
distills in the tender membranes
of sharp worms and hunger,

leaving us with humanure,
and heart sutra.

That living is a rebound experiment
for the burning roots.

That being is the cluttered innards
of a violent ritual.

When you tap inside
the tender detours of animals,
sacrifice is rain.

When you climb
the ladder of a day,
density is blood.

Source: Hidden Light, Wooden Ladder, Bucket of Clay, Pillar of Water by Marco Wilkinson

Method: I randomly marked the list of words as I read down the source text and married them in the order in which they chose their own meaning. 

Aditya Shankar is an Indian poet, flash fiction author, and translator. His poems, fiction, and translations have appeared or is forthcoming in the Unbroken Journal, Modern Literature, The Queen Mob’s Teahouse, The Ghost Parachute, Canada Quarterly, Indian Literature, MoonPark Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, and elsewhere. Books: After Seeing (2006), Party Poopers (2014). His anthology of poems, XXL is forthcoming (Dhauli Books, 2018). He lives in Bangalore, India.  You can reach him @suncave.

 

How to Be Safe by Melissa D. Sullivan

Try not to
wear scarves or
long jewelry
that could be used to
strangle you. If you’re in
a home
with stairs,
try to stay on the first floor. If
violence is unavoidable,
make yourself
a small target. Dive
into a corner
and curl up into a ball
with your face
protected
and arms around
each side of your head.
Don’t run
to where the children are,
as your partner
may hurt
them
as well.

Source: thehotline.org

Method:  In researching how to help in a friend facing a bad situation, I found this website of practical, yet horrifying advice meant to assist victims of domestic violence.  As I read the suggestions, I was struck with how violence was presented as all but inevitable. In creating the poem, I tried to focus on the instructions that made me the smallness I felt when reading that website.  

Melissa D. Sullivan is a writer, attorney and recipient of the 2016 Parent-Writer Fellowship in Fiction from the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing.  Her most recent short story appeared in the Adelaide Literary Magazine. She lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with her family.

 

Mortality by Mark McKain

A diver squats in a tea cup, a poorly understood benthic mass,
largest Antarctic sponge, slow to grow,

quick to die, extreme longevity,
gang-planked in
experimental gardens,

Diving into zero-degree water, she measures urn-shapes with lasers.
In field notes: A vase

molded by a third grader
or a Japanese ceramics master,
sculpting raw silica beauty.

Lighter than smaller species, its central cavity, a negative capability,
where other life forms, three worms,

husbanded in sym-
biotic policies of
shared data and material.

A hundred sponges collected, a scientific booty/baseline for extinction?
Fallen off the plank, Father’s biomass un-

balanced, tipped off, sunk,
spicules found on bottom.
Cover him with kisses, sponges.


Source: Dayton et al. Recruitment, Growth and Mortality of an Antarctic Hexactinellid Sponge, Anoxycalyx joubini. Plos One. February 2013. Volume 8 Issue 2.

Method: I like to travel to inspire writing and when I return home, I read about where I’ve been.  Through readings in history, geology, archeology, and biology, I am often struck by a passage that resonates emotionally, giving me a visceral sensation that is inexplicable or outside what the text is talking about.  I will copy this passage in my journal and add other material—early memories, recent experiences from my travels, and the death of a loved one.
I organize this material using syllabic lines. Then let the composition go elsewhere answering a different or unexpected question to complete the composition.   

Mark McKain’s work has appeared in The New Republic, Agni, The Journal, Subtropics, Blue Mesa Review, Superstition Review, and elsewhere. His poetry chapbook Blue Sun was published by Aldrich Press in 2015. He teaches creative writing in Orlando, Florida.  

Sonnetizing the Singularity by Richard Holeton

1.

Think artistic aptitude resembling
The development of new exhibits
And a human counterpart assembling
Its masses and thereby increasing its
Nucleic acids: a structure throughout.
Of this which the author argues his case
Arming this project (Ray Kurzweil) about
Poems and storing that protein embrace.
That the brain receives input from the arts
(The computer is not a Picasso
Since we already have maximum hearts)
This suggests no robotic Tomasso
Can overcome a stuck arithmetic
Or model many patterns syncretic.

2.

Second generation simulated
Patterns underlying biology,
And sufficiently high, unabated,
To continue training (tautology) —
A human level of concentration.
The universe to become, that forebears
Expected before the inflammation
Of the atmosphere, will provide base pairs
Faster. Evidence civilization
Achieves the infinite, but because least,
Remains critical approximation
To technology, or measurement feast.
If neural scanning is most effective,
Your result — exponential perspective.

3.

We undertake immune responses more
Than the relatively slow, extensive
Procedure to eventually restore,
Create individualized defensive
Government regulation improvements.
Whether or not it is existential
To ask this question (with global movements’
Dramatic culmination, sequential),
Are the nervous system genes accurate
A mere twenty years? If expectations
Are you’re suggesting that’s inaccurate,
The represented mechanizations
In regard to the limits we discussed
Are evolutionary cosmic dust.

Source: Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near.

Method: To expand slightly on the method for “Sonnetizing the Singularity,” I used an open-source Python program by Ross Goodwin called “Sonnetizer,” which generates Shakespearean sonnets from a text corpus that you input. I input the entire text of Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Singularity is Near” (Viking, 2005), which is available online, and let the program generate dozens and dozens of sonnets. I then selected what I felt were the most promising ones, mixed and matched a few lines here and there from different sonnets, and did some minimal editing for sense and syntax (e.g., subject-verb agreement). In a few cases I substituted different words for what the computer program generated, but words always still from the Kurzweil text corpus.

Richard Holeton is author of the critically-recognized hypertext novel _Figurski at Findhorn on Acid_, other electronic literature, and fiction or hybrid work in many journals including the Indiana Review, Mississippi Review, ZYZZYVA, Black Ice, and Vassar Review. His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell Colony, Brown Foundation, and California Arts Council. Formerly a teacher and administrator at Stanford University, he lives and writes on the coast near Half Moon Bay, California.

Requiem for the Mother of Exiles by David P. Wilkins

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
is sinking down in its tranquility;
whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed,
but no confusion, no disturbance rude.
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right,
dared dignify the labor, bless the quest
in which we rest and, for small reason, think.

it is at moments after i have dreamed
that, if I could, I would compose her roots again,
I bring you, calling out as children do.
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain.
If only you would free, at least, the sparrows
pinned down by need and moaning for release.

Source: Lines taken from thehypertexts.com, The Best Sonnets of All Time compiled by Michael R. Burch

Method: Constraining myself to only the poems included on one website, I extracted lines which essentially kept to iambic pentameter in order to construct a blank verse sonnet (though line 10 is iambic hexameter).  Each line of the Cento had to come from separate poems. The aim was to take lines from poems written in several different centuries in order to construct a piece that spoke to a contemporary issue brought on by Trump’s election.

David P. Wilkins is a semi-retired anthropological linguist living in Sydney, Australia. Though he has written poetry his whole life, this is the first time he has sent out his poetry to be published.

Into the Union by Rosemarie Dombrowski

Glancing over our slight topography,
your districts fertile and detached,
I am wasted and powerless
in your view.
I foster a river to the west,
to the north, a blessing.
A treaty founded on your body
to which I pray.

Source:  Application of Missouri for Admission into the Union as a State (16th Congress, No. 475)

Method: My approach for both teaching and writing redactions/erasures is to start with a pencil, underline the first few words that strike me as usable, and then evolve it from there. If the narrative or vision changes along the way, I’ll erase some of my previously underlined words and underline new ones. Once I think it’s a poem, I write/type it out with line breaks, just to make sure, maybe make a few more minor changes/edits, then do a final redaction in sharpie or with the black highlighting function. It’s one of my favorite activities to do in poetry workshops with teens, and I even start my college students off with a unit on found poetry.

Rosemarie Dombrowski is the founder of rinky dink press, the co-founder of the Phoenix Poetry Series, and the inaugural Poet Laureate of Phoenix, AZ. She is the recipient of five Pushcart nominations, a 2017 Arts Hero Award, the 2017 Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award in Nonfiction, and a fellowship from the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics for her Phoenix Community Poetry Gardens project. Her collections include The Book of Emergencies (2014, Five Oaks Press), The Philosophy of Unclean Things (Finishing Line Press, 2017) and the The Cleavage Planes of Southwest Minerals [A Love Story], winner of the 2017 Split Rock Review chapbook competition.

 

Brit Lit Weighs In by D. R. James

Billows were breaking, sea against sand,
long before prime had rung from any bell—
and from a long way, hard and dangerous.
Yet little good hath got, and much lesse gayne
by spells and medicines bought of mountebanks.
Each flower had wept, and bowed toward the east,
time’s winged chariot hurrying near,
but when the assault was intended to the city,
(before polygamy was made a sin)
their fluid bodies half dissolved in the light.
Cruel with guilt, and daring with despair,
the applause of listening senates to command,
they reeled, they set, they crossed, they cleekit,
and then the perilous path was planted.
I rose and turned toward a group of trees
through caverns measureless to man,
which kept my optics free from all delusion,
now dark—now glittering—now reflecting gloom—
diffused unseen throughout eternal space.
Once more uprose the mystic mountain-range,
and I, perchance, half felt a strange regret
of all the thousand nothings of the hour,
not knowing in any wise compassion,
all things counter, original, spare, strange.
Drawn on by vague imaginings, maybe,
the full round moon and the star-laden sky,
to wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’
tell me not here, it needs not saying.
This land, cut off, will not communicate:
spot the blown word, and on the seas I imagine,
in short, a past that no one now can share.

Sources: Beowulf, Chaucer, Everyman, Spenser, Shakespeare, Herrick, Marvell, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Johnson, Gray, Burns, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Arnold, Swinburne, Hopkins, Hardy, Yeats, Eliot, Housman, Auden, Thomas, Larkin.

Method: I’d never written a cento before, in fact never heard of it and now can’t remember quite how I did, but once I discovered the form and that it is “found,” I knew I had to try one.  So I pulled out my trusty, undergrad Brit Lit I & II anthologies and began searching chronologically through the ages and poets, looking for single lines to steal and sequence. I was amazed that once I had a couple (in this case from Beowulf and Chaucer) the rest practically leapt off the pages to become the next, next, and next.  The 2016 election and subsequent inauguration were heavily on my mind, and I found the resulting poem to be, in a slaunch-wise way, a commentary on the situation.  I would guess that if I hadn’t said that, readers would find their own connections, political or not.

DR. James’s seven collections include If god were gentle,Since Everything Is All I’ve Got,and the most recent chapbooks Why War and Split-Level. Poems and prose also appear in various print and online journals and anthologies. James lives in Saugatuck, Michigan, and has taught writing, literature, and peace-making at Hope College for 33 years.

Exploring the Universe by Howie Good

Do I believe the Earth
is shaped like a Frisbee?
I believe it is.
Do I know for sure?
No.

I’m not a robot.
I’m just a guy looking around.
It’ll kill you.
It’ll scald you to death.
It’ll blow the skin
and muscle off your bones.
I’ll feel it in the morning.

At least I can go home
and have dinner
and see my cats tonight.

Source: npr.org, One Giant Leap for a Man One Small Step Toward Proving the Earth is a Frisbee, March 26th, 2018

Howie Good is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize from Thoughtcrime Press, and Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry. 

Cause of Death by Brenda Birenbaum

I just moved into a house
and they are all dying
every day for a few minutes
from the inside out
you wonder how this disease
in its virulent form
suddenly appears

we continue to see
wildfires along the roads
beginning in autumn
near motorways
anywhere you live

the roads in winter
when there’s snow or heavy frost
huge swaths turning brown
starting at the bottom
spreading to the top

death along with disappearance
the biggest I have seen
as the drought continues
a growing wasteland
this vernal time of year

we live in the country
summer progresses
along the roadways
it is a slow death
from the top down
We refer to this situation as decline
for want of an exact cause of death

Source & Method: DuckDuckGo search engine results for the term “dying pines”, using odds and ends from the blurbs in the results page. Not always in order and some slightly revised.

Brenda Birenbaum writes things. Her work has appeared in Low Light Magazine, The Vignette Review, Random Sample Review and elsewhere. Find her @brbirenbaum.

O Poetry by Ronnie Sirmans

There is always hope
always tomorrow
the way a great poem can move you.
You’ll detect a woodsy bouquet
of jasmine, rose, and oak
as delicate as can be
without ink soaking through.

Source: O, The Oprah Magazine, April 2011 issue

Method: For National Poetry Month 2011, Oprah’s magazine featured poems and poets, with help from guest editor Maria Shriver. Seeking to find inspiration from the special issue, I created a poem in which each line came from pieces that weren’t poems.

Ronnie Sirmans is a metro Atlanta newspaper journalist whose poetry has appeared in The South Carolina Review, Tar River Poetry, Deep South Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry, The Museum of Americana, Britain-based Blackbox Manifold, and elsewhere.

Like Any Good Son by Kathy Douglas

Open this when you need me most
Don’t you know? A mother’s love can’t sleep
Instead, let it be the echo to every footstep

Suppose you do change your life
Tell me it was for hunger, a finger’s worth
of dark from daybreak behind the fallen oak,

a scar’s width of warmth on a worn man’s neck
where everything has a price afterward.
I woke into the red dark.  There was a door

& then a door
a b c   a b c a b c   Red
is only black remembering we made it

Don’t be afraid
I approach a field
I pull into the field

& cut the engine
& close his eyes
& this is how we danced


Source: First lines. Vuong, Ocean. Night Sky With Exit Wounds.  Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2016.

Method: Selected first lines are transcribed in list form, and the poem is written using the list as a basis (including title).  No words are added.  Not all lines are used.  Lines are moved, blended, restructured, and truncated (at end only). All words are kept in the order in which they appear in the original line of text. 

Kathy Douglas is writing a series of centos on estrangement using first lines from individual books of poetry. Kathy has three poems forthcoming in an anthology of found poetry, and her work can be found in Right Hand Pointing, After The Pause, shufpoetry, Unlost Journal, Calyx, Drunken Boat, The Cafe Review, Noctua, and Poetry WTF?! She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College.

Lost Child by Emily McAvan

To write,
you have to do,
redo,
redo,
cover,
reinforce,
and then suddenly undo,
break.

You have to live,
fragments of yourself
exploded to splinters,
you have to want
something to survive.

I was so afraid that I thought
in the disquiet of my mind,
the fear and disgust,
that one writes to inflict pain.

But where is it written that you have to be unhappy?

 

Source: Story of a Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

Method: I wrote this poem with the aid of a Markov text generator, which feeds in prose as an input and generates an output randomly. I grabbed the best bits of random prose, repeating the process until I got something I liked, and then edited for sense from there. I worked using material from the pseudonymous Italian writer Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan novels are some of the best literature of the last decade.

Emily McAvan is a Jewish Australian poet whose work sits at the intersection between sacred and profane.

21st Century Old Money by Thomas Fahey

Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water…Then there were bloody towels upon the bathroom floor, and women’s voices scolding, and high over the confusion a long broken wail of pain

I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet, I don’t even wait.  And when you’re a star…you can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything

Civilization’s going to pieces. I’ve grown to be a terrible pessimist about things.  The is if we don’t look out the white race will be-will be utterly submerged … we’ve produce all the things that go to make civilization-oh science and art and all that

They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people…I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for the wall.  Mark my words

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my head ever since “ Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone” he told me ‘ just remember that all the people in the world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had”

Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on….so we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly back into the past

Source: F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and actual speeches by President Donald Trump.

Method: I took passages from the easily quotable novel, and tied them in the following passage to some of the monstrous things (about sexual assault and overt racism) actually said by the president.  The last passage combines his fascistic call for an end to Muslim immigration with Gatsby’s most famous line, trying to evoke a sense of futility but a need for resistance.

Thomas Fahey is a 31 year old graduate student living alone in Columbia, South Carolina.  He is intensely bored by his day to day life, but creative writing is providing an emerging escape from the mundane.  He is influenced by authors ranging from Hunter Thompson and Jack Kerouac to Rimbaud and Artaud. He is originally from New York City but has lived all across the United States, and is fascinated by the absurdity of modern American society.  He is genuinely frightened by the idea of settling down with a wife to raise two kids in SUV’s behind white picket fences, and in general hopes for his life to take a more interesting path.