Jen Stein, one of the poets I’ll be reading with this Thursday in Pittsburgh, recently alerted me to the existence of the Lament for the Dead project. Editor Carey Wallace describes the project this way:
Lament for the Dead is an online community poetry project which will mark the death of every person killed by police this summer, and every police officer who loses life in the line of duty, with a poem.
The first lie that hate tells us is that any other person is not as human as we are.
This project resists that lie by recognizing each other’s humanity, even in the most difficult places.
I felt compelled to participate, and received my poem assignment yesterday morning: a 57 year-old man named William Dale Jeffries from Watson, WV who ultimately died because he urinated near a business while he was walking home drunk. Click here for the news story.
It’s difficult to write a poem about someone you know very little about, but whose death you are inexplicably very emotional about. I found myself fixated on the idea of control: the impression of powerlessness he likely got from growing up in foster care, the dog he would tie up outside the bar while he drank, the immediate need to urinate, the officer who wanted to control the situation.
This was a powerful experience for me. If you’d like to participate, you can contact Carey Wallace. You receive a date or two to be “on call,” then you receive an assignment one of the mornings, and have to have the poem back by midnight that night. It’s published the next day. They need several hundred poets to assist with the project.
You can find my poem for William Dale Jeffries here. Rest in peace, Mr. Jeffries.
At 7:00 pm on July 23, I’ll be reading at Classic Lines, a bookstore in Pittsburgh, PA along with brilliant poets Jen Stein and Ruth Foley. Click here for more details.
You may remember Jen from the TheThe Poetry Blog feature I posted about a couple weeks ago. Jen is a writer, an advocate, a mother and a finder of lost things. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia where she works to help find employment for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Her work has recently appeared in Nonbinary Review and Stirring, and is featured in a micro-collection in Wood Becomes Bone. Here’s an excerpt of her poem “Sepia” from Stirring:
A grimm’s fairytale, perhaps, a tale of good
versus evil. Only, now it was because
his hands were dirty, and I was cleaner than
six in the morning, than trilliums and moss.
Ruth lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her work appears in numerous web and print journals, including Antiphon, The Bellingham Review, The Louisville Review, and Sou’wester. She is the author of two chapbooks, Dear Turquoise (dancing girl press) and Creature Feature (ELJ Publications), and serves as Managing Editor for Cider Press Review. A few of her poems from Creature Feature were recently up at Extract(s); this is from “Dear Maria”:
. . . this is where your
power lies, where you might have grown
from peasant girl to peasant wife, your
own children playing near the dappled edge
—but dead, your power forces men to
their knees, and then their feet; . . .
Hope to see you there!
Throughout the month of June, I selected poems to appear each week at the TheThe Poetry Blog. TheThe is great at sharing interesting work and engaging essays and interviews. Here are the poems I selected, with an excerpt from each:
Better than Television and Will’s White Hen by Alisa Golden
Her ankles swole up
and she leaned on a
sprinkler key like a cane.
Letter from the Back Porch by Sara Biggs Chaney
I would never ask you
to come back
as I don’t contain ideas
like come back
The Size of Things, Decreasing Scale by Jen Stein
11) Your pupils grown wide soaking light
12) A bean seed to be planted
13) My pupils when fixated
14) The distance between your thumb and my neck
Nocturne in Which we Fail Yet Again to Have Sex in your Parents’ Hot Tub by Amorak Huey
Your breasts at the surface of the roiling water. The smell of chlorine
and desire. We divide and assign the space between us.
Your specialty is keeping score, mine is pretending not to.
A huge thanks to Fox Frazier-Foley and Micah Towery for inviting me to contribute!