Monica Wendel for Word for Word Poetry, June 11, 2013
Featuring the poets of BOA Editions
Tell people you’re from New York, and they picture New York City: skyscrapers, Statue of Liberty, hipsters. BOA Editions is a New York press – but here, we’re talking about Rochester, New York, only a ferry ride from Toronto or a quick drive to Niagara Falls. However, all three BOA authors (and Bryant Park readers) hailed from the greater New York City area: Craig Morgan Teicher, Jean Marie Beaumont, and Michael Waters.
Craig Morgan Teicher began with poems from his latest collection, To Keep Love Blurry (BOA, 2012). It’s an odd title, and these poems blurred the line between the fake and the real: “When I was happy, lambs were born,” he said. The poems reflected upon emotion and identity, linking them together. “This is you talking to you. I’m dead,” he said, deadpan. Later, a first kiss was described as coming “with the promise you could come out of your mouth.”
Jeanne Marie Beaumont read next. The co-editor of the anthology The Poets’ Grimm: Twentieth Century Poetry from Grimm Fairy Tales, she noted that “death always ends up in poems,” and I thought of how death, or the threat of death, sets into motion the plots of fairy tales. She also read a poem honoring Lucille Clifton (1937 – 2010), another BOA poet, and with that poem it became clear that we are free to create more mythology, more “fairy tales,” out of what has been presented to us, and that we are not bound only to the stories we were told as children. “These Heavenly bodies never leave me,” Beaumont nearly sang, the word “Heavenly” encompassing storytellers as well as their stories.
As Christopher Kennedy was unable to make the reading due to a family emergency, Michael Waters was the final reader. He relished the space of Bryant Park, noting that he had met Allen Ginsberg in Bryant Park decades ago at an anti-war reading. With a great deal of humor, the story continued: Ginsberg gave sixteen-year-old Waters his phone number, and though Waters never called him, he did carry the scrap of paper around for months. Later, he discovered that this object was not as sacred as he believed, since Ginsberg’s phone number was public, listed in the phone directory.Waters pushed boundaries, illustrating a child’s budding sexuality and Oedipal impulses in his poem “Lipstick” (“I'd wrap tissue after tissue // around my small, preening member, / smudging the lipstick on my flesh.”) In “Wedding Dress,” a poem from his book Darling Vulgarity, the speaker switches genders: “Love, I was your bride.” This crossing of boundaries occurs because the world that the speaker inhabits is full of rules that are consistent, but illogical. His poem “Black Olives” features a speaker wandering, attempting to decipher neighborhood signs.
At the end of the night, I felt as though I had been given three vastly different scenes of domestic life. When we connect with someone – a spouse, a parent – how, exactly, are we joined to that person? How does that joining change us? Perhaps what makes the most sense, as Craig Morgan Teicher wrote, is “to keep love blurry.”
Monica Wendel is the author of No Apocalypse (Georgetown Review, 2013) and the chapbook Call it a Window (Midwest Writing Center, 2012). She holds an MFA in creative writing from NYU, where she was awarded both Goldwater and Starworks teaching fellowships. Her poetry has appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review, Lamba Literary Review, Lambda Literary Review, Nimrod, and other journals. The former writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac Project of Orlando, Florida, she currently lives in Brooklyn and works as a visiting instructor of composition at St. Thomas Aquinas College.