The MFA in Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College

January 22nd, 2015

Vulnerability

What are you afraid of,
so tremulous you dance
in the doorway of expression,
a butterfly in love

What are you afraid of,
so tremulous you dance
in the doorway of expression,
a butterfly in love
yet so unsure of its feet
that presses lover-like
on the blossom beneath it.

Where do the words go,
when your eyes
speak volumes despite
the unconscious muteness
that seals your lips closed,
lips just before so open
and warm upon my own.

Why does your heart hide,
when it knows only
the obvious comfort
of a love fully returned,
so beautiful it renders
the world tearful…
and I, as silent as you.

 

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Amalie Howard is the author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, PW, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddes, a Spring 2014 Kid’s INDIE NEXT title. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was an Amazon bestseller and a Seventeen Magazine Summer Read. As an author of color and a proud supporter of diversity in fiction, her articles on multicultural fiction have appeared in The Portland Book Review and on the popular Diversity in YA blog. She currently resides in New York with her husband and three children.

 
 
What motivates her to create:
“For me, creative inspiration comes from reading great books. There’s nothing like reading something amazing to get you fired up to write something equally brilliant. My love affair with fantasy and science fiction began with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and continued with books like The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Lord of the Rings, and Dune. Given that, it’s really no surprise that that’s where I feel most comfortable exploring my own writing voice. With fantasy and scifi, I love creating whole worlds with elements that may not exist in real society, and the only limits are the ones that I set. I like being able to create interesting multi-layered characters, and I especially like redefining myself in those characters. They are all different versions of me in different worlds with infinite possibility at their fingertips. There’s something exceedingly powerful about that. Lastly, I’m motivated by how my work has impacted my readers—it’s incredibly humbling to get letters, tweets, and Facebook messages from fans about how much they have enjoyed my books. Readers are an essential building block to the creative process–I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without their enthusiastic and generous support. I’m very grateful for that.”

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January 8th, 2015

Last Patch

I gently place my hands on her small shoulders, guiding Rebecca to walk in front of me in an attempt to give the approaching elderly couple some extra space on the sidewalk. They slowly make their way past us, coming a bit closer than is normally socially comfortable. I catch a whiff of too-sweet perfume, stale …

I gently place my hands on her small shoulders, guiding Rebecca to walk in front of me in an attempt to give the approaching elderly couple some extra space on the sidewalk. They slowly make their way past us, coming a bit closer than is normally socially comfortable. I catch a whiff of too-sweet perfume, stale bread, and hair pomade. I can’t exactly tell which one of them is helping the other, bolstered by arms and time. They seem to know one another as well as two people can. Both painful and beautiful to take in, I refocus on my own task of getting us in the door of the clinic. But I am drawn to them once more, momentarily as I hear his nearly inaudible statement, “I’m ready to go.”

We enter the cool dark of the red brick building, which is always a relief from the blistering New Mexico sun. But once inside, it’s all bad here. A toxic mix of bleach, rubbing alcohol, and old carpet hits me like ton of bricks. I’ve got my ibuprofen just in case a headache seeps in. People of all ages clog the waiting room. Most of them are older. My guess is sixty-five and up. Walkers, electric power chairs, and a few regular wheelchairs hold geriatrics lining the far wall of the waiting room. With the frail and hunched are their upright, adult children who push, wipe, fill out forms, and play on their phones. All there to assist their parents and loved ones more comfortably maneuver toward death.

I sign us in at the desk and we take our seats. Rebecca is dwarfed among them. I see a few folks who have noticed us pull their lips in toward their teeth and look down with an I’m-so-sorry face. Most look away except one who frowns as she shamelessly examines Becca’s soupy brown patch of hair, the rest of her head now nearly baby-bald where falls of once-glistening, penny-tinted locks framed her peachy cheeks. Only the sun truly knew the depth of that red. But my Becca does not care if people stare. She says she is a duck as she lets it roll off her back. She smiles at them. Always on the high road, that girl, making me proud.

It’s our turn now. The young aide makes a grand gesture that we should follow her. She’s new, but we’re not. We know the way to the infusion room where twice already this month the nurses have celebrated two patients’ last chemotherapy treatment with bells and clappers. Becca loves it when that happens. She thinks it’s a good omen. It might be my imagination, but it seems like it’s been happening more often. It’s happening again as we enter the room.

“Mommy! They are going to do that for me one day!” I force a smile, a nod, and a “Yes.” I do this because I have to, not because I believe it. There goes another patient set free. Becca runs up and hugs the elderly gentleman who’s surprised but is genuinely grateful. He smiles and pats her on the back with the side of his arthritically bent hand.

Shelly, one of Becca’s favorite nurses, is on duty. We are escorted to the large, sand-colored, reclining medical chair that my little girl will spend the next four hours in. Shelly and Becca chatter about fun, normal things, kid things. Shelly works while she talks and removes the small piece of plastic wrap where Becca smeared on the lidocaine cream more than an hour ago. Running smoothly and on time, as things always do when Shelly administers what could be life or death, the clear poison begins to drip.

Juice box on the side, blankets tucked in tightly, remote in hand, my only child fully reclines and turns her full attention to the wall-mounted TV that she takes complete control of. Flipping through a few soaps, a special on Egypt, and Judge Judy, she deftly lands on the cartoon channel where Spongebob and Patrick are singing something silly in front of The Krusty Krab. She’s already laughing and I can’t help but smile with her. I watch the underwater shenanigans for a few minutes. I’m pulling a book I’ve brought out of my bag as I hear her mumble something. I look at my baby. I am surprised to find that she has fallen asleep so quickly. It usually takes her at least a half hour to doze off. As I study her small features she stirs again. The dull patch of brown so proudly displayed a mere fifteen minutes ago fails to follow as she moves her head. I freeze, witnessing the last little patch lose its hold and slide down the pillow to her shoulder. Heart in my throat, eyes glued to her, she moves her dry lips just enough to eek out an early inaudible statement, “I’m ready to go.”

 

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Bleuzette La Feir was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, She is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater. Her work has appeared in Blood Lotus, Blue Lake Review, decomP, Descant, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Forge, Lindenwood Review and Storyscape. Her flash fiction piece, “Bangs,” was nominated for the Best of the Net 2012 anthology.

 

What motivates her to create:

“Putting words on the page is magical. Remembering the childhood books I read such as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, gave me my first taste of the bittersweet world of storytelling. Bittersweet because once I began reading a wonderful new story I knew that it would end. I never wanted the story to end.

“I lose myself as I let rise then begin to knead a new story. I press and fold words together that create rich environments that paint luminous images and birth multi-dimensional, relatable characters. It is the way for the story to live on. Now that I create the stories they have lost the bitter and are just sweet. I am stuffed full and satisfied.”

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December 17th, 2014

Two Poems

Keep my journal short.
Just review January through March.
Life is a dig deep snow on my sorrow.
Bare bones of naked sparrows,
beneath my balcony, lie lifeless.
The few survivors huddle in bushes.

 
Missing of the Birds

Keep my journal short.
Just review January through March.
Life is a dig deep snow on my sorrow.
Bare bones of naked sparrows,
beneath my balcony, lie lifeless.
The few survivors huddle in bushes.
Gone, gone is kitchen bowl that holds the seeds.
Sparrows cannot get inside my refrigerator door
nor shop late at Wal-Mart during winter hours−
get away with it.
I drink dated milk. I host rehearsals of childhood.
Sip Mogen David Concord Wine with Diet 7Up.
Down sweet molasses and pancake butter.
I give in to condominium Polish demands.
My neighbor’s parties, loud blast language.
I am weak in the Jesus feeding of the poor.
I now merge day with night and sleep
avoid my shame and guilt.
I try clean, my thoughts of shell spotted snow.
I see fragments, no more feeding of the birds.
 
 
Chicago Street Preacher

Street preacher
server of the Word,
pamphlet whore, hand out
delivery boy,
fanatic of sidewalk vocals,
banjo strummer, seeker of coins,
crack cocaine and salvation within notes.
Camper on 47th from Ashland
to California promoting his
penniless life, gospel forever
Kingdom here it comes.

 

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Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois, who has been published in more than 750 small press magazines in twenty-seven countries, and he edits eight poetry sites. Michael is the author of The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom, and several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises, Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems.

 
 

What motivates him to create:
“To begin with, I’m prolific in thought and number of poems. At 67, I’m like a young women running out of time to have a child. I do not do poetry for profit, rather a hobby and hopefully a legacy after I’m gone. I also think the rugged life I lived in exile and difficult times I had in my youth lead to many attempts at poetry, many of which have been successful.”

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December 11th, 2014

Mothers of Suicides

The mothers of the suicides
wear downcast looks years later.
The skin of their faces sag,
the corners of their mouths are etched
in expressions of permanent discontent,
hollows of sadness form around their eyes.

The mothers of the suicides
wear downcast looks years later.
The skin of their faces sag,
the corners of their mouths are etched
in expressions of permanent discontent,
hollows of sadness form around their eyes.

Their sons took their lives at home,
in early manhood. One hung himself
in the garage; his sister found him.
The other waited till the family left
for a reunion he’d refused to attend,
arranged himself in an armchair,
and slit his wrists. It was a hot week,
and the smell from the apartment
alerted the neighbors.

Worse than the dread were the discoveries.
The nightmares have never gone away.

What do you want from me?
You were the one who left—
Why won’t you let me go?
Whatever I did that was wrong,
I’m still paying for it.

 

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Anne Whitehouse is a poet, fiction, and non-fiction writer who was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and lives in New York City. She is the author of five collections of poetry: The Surveyor’s Hand, Blessings and Curses, Bear in Mind, One Sunday Morning, and The Refrain, as well as a novel, Fall Love.

 
 

What motivates her to create:
“Writing is a matter of intuition and paying attention. It begins in desire and need. I write because I feel incomplete without writing. I write out of a love for literature, reading, language. I write to convey what is authentically mine—my own experiences and my observations of others. I write because of a wish to create something durable and permanent from evanescent experience.”

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December 1st, 2014

lake

Lake by Andrew J Khaled

Lake by Andrew J Khaled

 

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Andrew J. Khaled Madigan is a writer and photographer. He spent 20 years traveling in the Middle East and Far East. His first novel, Khawla’s Wall, will be published by Second Wind later this year.

 

What motivates him to create:

“I don’t know what leads me to create things. I feel compelled, and then do it right away without thinking. There’s no waiting room or limbo during which I think about it or consider why. It’s possible that nostalgia for everything that has gone before, for all the many deaths that make up a life, and every moment, is behind this, for all of us. We create as a bulwark against the inevitable demise of everything that we have ever loved and will ever admire. Perhaps we create as a rebellion or making-do because we have no real control over all of this death; we want to put something in its place, a placard to mark what has passed. Sorry I can’t be more definitive or eloquent.”

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November 19th, 2014

The ladies laughed darkly

Five harpies converge
Their barman must emerge
Ice cubes hide submerged
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

Five harpies converge
Their barman must emerge
Ice cubes hide submerged
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

Eyebrows drawn, mouths cuss
Cloudy tattoos subcutaneous
Their alcoholic rage is just
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

Giggles conceal secrets within
Abyssal midnight, howling
Deep in drink, prayers hidden
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

Whispered plans of attack
Each, a wicked pyromaniac
Ember eyes, shades of not black
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

These scorned flowers
With fathomless powers
Mankind cowers
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

 

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Jake Tringali was born in Boston and has lived in LA for 8 years. Currently, he is living back in his home city where he runs rad restaurants. He is surrounded by artists and the occasional physicist.

 
 

What motivates him to create:
“Girls, mainly.”

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November 12th, 2014

Cabin Fever

Envy is like feeling cold
and eating cookies
instead of turning up the heat
or putting on more clothes.

Envy is like feeling cold
and eating cookies
instead of turning up the heat
or putting on more clothes.

Like fighting a bout of cabin fever
by taking a nap
instead of stepping outside
in the snow
and running till the boots
get stuck in a drift
crossing the park in the soft
sounds of late afternoon.

Envy is like reading all day
about miracle foods
and then eating the whole
blueberry pie still warm
out of the oven,
sugar throbbing in my ears
like a sparrow caught
in the warehouse at Lowe’s.
 

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Lucia Cherciu is a Professor of English at SUNY / Dutchess in Poughkeepsie, NY. She was born in Romania and she writes both in English and in Romanian. She is the author of two books of poetry: Lepădarea de Limbă (The Abandonment of Language), Editura Vinea 2009, and Altoiul Râsului (Grafted Laughter), Editura Brumar 2010. Her poetry appeared in Connecticut Review, Connotation Press, Cortland Review, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, Memoir, Off the Coast, Paterson Literary Review, The Prose-Poem Project, Spillway, Oglinda Literară, Pro Saeculum, Salonul Literar, Timpul, Hyperion, Contrapunct, Astra, and elsewhere.

 
 
What motivates her to create:

“The guilt that I didn’t spend more time with my father or that I didn’t listen more to his stories inspires me to try to piece together fragments of memories with him. Additionally, writing in a second language makes no sense because my mother doesn’t speak English and so she can’t read my poems. But it’s the need to retell all those stories, to celebrate our laughter together that brings me to my writing chair after my daughter goes to bed.
To me, my poems are like the apricots my father picked from the garden and saved on the table for us.”

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October 16th, 2014

Measured

I am standing at the edge of the woods. There is a doe listening to my heart. The trees measure me with their bodies full of uncut rulers. What size do I have to be to fit this forest? I’ve been here before. I have seen a bear, believed the way it pulled was nothing …

I am standing at the edge of the woods. There is a doe listening to my heart.

The trees measure me with their bodies full of uncut rulers. What size

do I have to be to fit this forest? I’ve been here before. I have seen a bear,

believed the way it pulled was nothing less than some crumb of gravity,

its memory: a heartbeat and a bruise. The hunter pulls back his bow

then lets it down like a snowflake being made and then melting on a tongue.

The secret of the woods is that the trees have hearts. The doe treats me

like a heap of corn or a bullet flying slowly toward her. I am measured

in her round black eye but neither of us can define how small I am.
 

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C. L. O’Dell was born in Suffern, NY. His poems are published in Ploughshares, New England Review, Barrow Street, Southern Indiana Review, and Blackbird, among others, and his poem “My Father Named the Trees” was selected by Dorianne Laux for the Best New Poets 2014 anthology. He is Founder and Editor of The Paris-American, a poetry e-zine and annual reading series at Poets House.

 
What motivates him to create:
“I create because the mind doesn’t allow the hands to enter; not mine, nor a stranger’s.”

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October 2nd, 2014

Early & Late

When I chose you, I was young & the future I’d won promised to fan open like a peacock’s tail, sweeping the world’s riches before my feet. So what if the slipper didn’t fit— I could learn to walk a little differently. How could someone so unlike myself know of my cramped feet, the bleeding? …

When I chose you, I was young & the future
I’d won promised to fan open like a peacock’s
tail, sweeping the world’s riches before my feet.

So what if the slipper didn’t fit—
I could learn to walk a little differently.
How could someone so unlike myself

know of my cramped feet, the bleeding? Exchanging
future & looser confederations
for a single stolid Nation, I stood

on a platform like a promised set of
Hèrmes luggage never to be opened.
As the train pulled out, past all whistle

stops, I looked back, already blaming you—
princely husband— cause of all my future
woes, forever trying to sooth my stumped toes.

 

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Paula Goldman’s “The Great Canopy” won the Gival Prize for Poetry and published in 2005. Her work has appeared in the Harvard Review, The North American Review, Poet Lore, Poet Miscellany, Briar Cliff  Review, Slant, and other magazines.  Her poems have appeared in Boomer Girls published by the University of Iowa Press,  The Party Train: A Collection of North American Prose Poetry published by New Rivers Press and most recently Conversation Pieces published by Knopf.  Former reporter for The Milwaukee Journal, she served as a docent and lecturer at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Her manuscript “Late Inamorato” was a finalist for the 2012 Gival Press Poetry Award.
 

What motivates her to create:
“I find that writing poetry gathers all sorts of associations which one would not consciously think about bringing together like The Red Shoes and Hermes in Early & Late. By writing, I come closest to myself in no other way possible. One never knows, for sure, what one is going to discover, and it is this discovery that is so worthwhile.” 

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September 4th, 2014

2 Poems

Guitar Woman* For many years, Joni Mitchell was the lumpy wool sweater of the music business. You dipped into that hearty bowl of nuts, dried fruit, and Joni Mitchell the same way you might slip on a third layer of clothing on a cold morning. Joni Mitchell signified back-to-the-earth; her name a synonym for organic …

Guitar Woman*

For many years, Joni Mitchell was the lumpy wool sweater of the music business. You dipped into that hearty bowl of nuts, dried fruit, and Joni Mitchell the same way you might slip on a third layer of clothing on a cold morning. Joni Mitchell signified back-to-the-earth; her name a synonym for organic granola. Decidedly not chic, Joni Mitchell could be many things, from a jazz collaborator to a parfait topping. But take a closer look at Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters, a tribute in which Joni Mitchell makes a small appearance in the re-recording of “The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms).” Granola has traded in the scratchy sweater for a little black dress. All over the country, Joni Mitchell would have been a booming sector, an elegant and wide-open canvas for experimentation, if she hadn’t lost the high notes, if she didn’t suffer from possibly delusional Morgellons, festering flesh. Joni Mitchell, Roberta Joan Anderson in variations that are whimsical and sometimes like itchy fibers sticking out of the skin.
 
 
*A partially found poem, the words “Joni Mitchell” replacing various nouns in the strung-together text fragments.[back to top]

 
 
 

Patsy Retrospective Album

                                  A collage of quotations from: “Walkin’ After Midnight,” 1957; “Crazy,” 1961; “I Fall to                                   Pieces,” 1961; “So Wrong,” 1962; “She’s Got You,” 1962; “Faded Love,” 1963;                                   “Always,” 1963, all by Patsy Cline.

It was in the springtime that
you said goodbye, and made
me cry, not just for a day, and
not just for a year.
With every heartbeat, with
every backbeat, with every two-
beat, you made me weep with
the realization that you’d love me
only as long as you wanted.
How could I be just your friend
when you walk by and I
fall to pieces? I’ve been so wrong
for so long; time only adds
more steel guitar and banjo,
time only adds to the flame. Crazy
for thinking that my love
could hold you. Now,
unless I decide to stalk you,
I’m left with just my songs.
After midnight, night winds
whisper to me, hillbilly themes
of lost love and pity: I’ve got
your memory, or has it got me?

 

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Susana H. Case is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology. Author of several chapbooks, her Slapering Hol Press chapbook, The Scottish Café, was published in a dual-language version, Kawiarnia Szkocka, by Poland’s Opole University Press. She is the author of four full-length collections, including Elvis Presley’s Hips & Mick Jagger’s Lips (Anaphora Literary Press), and, most recently, 4 Rms w Vu (Mayapple Press).

What motivates her to create:
“Freud said creativity was how we rearranged the things of our world in a new way and that’s what I do.”

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