Poems in The Westerner and PoetryBay (Online)

Two very different poems have appeared in the same week on opposite sides of my native continent.

PoetryBay has been publishing poetry from their Long Island base for many years; The Westerner, focused on themes of the American (and sometimes Wild) West, recently asked for a poem as well.

You can read “Tingle” in the free downloadable Christmas issue of The Westerner (the poem is on page ten), and subscribe to the magazine on their website.

The poem “Reading Dostoevsky in the John Lewis Café” is available at PoetryBay, along with many other excellent poems.

Wishing you all a lovely Christmas, whatever continent you’re on.


If There is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova

“You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.”

-Alexander Nikonov

Sacred Love Versus Profane Love by Giovanni Baglione

I have Kit Stolz to thank for turning me on to Vera Pavlova. I devoured her first collection in English, aptly titled If There is Something to Desire. Keen, startling, and erotic — poems of such love and longing have not made as deep an impression on me as since I first discovered Pablo Neruda. And it occurred to me: I have been attending the erotic in poetry with shyness and apprehension. For example, although I love and support the Artists’ Union Gallery, each year when their erotic poetry fundraiser reading rolls around, there is always some good reason I cannot attend.

Toward the end of my study in the Pacific MFA program, the poet Marvin Bell suggested in one of his lectures that instead of writing so many elegies to the dead, we might do well to write more love poems to the living. It occurred to me in that moment that I could be rightly accused of giving too much attention to Thanatos, at the expense of Eros. My recent reading of Vera Pavlova only added evidence to the prosecution. In fact, she might be speaking directly to me when she writes, in poem 15, in her characteristically direct manner:

Do you know what you lacked?
That dose of contempt without which
you cannot flip a woman on her back
to make her flounder like a turtle,
to make the heartless fool realize:
she cannot flip back on her own.

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