Perpetual Motion Machine

Eventually
by Michael Keshigian
 
Staring from the moon
in a dream,
I saw
people of Earth
meander aimlessly
from minute cavities,
following burrows
to dutiful destination
and back again,
some moved faster,
some carried more,
others were prostrate
to fantasy,
but above each hill
hovered ghosts of intentions
not resting, but preparing
singular openings
where well meaning
will be placed.
 
—————–
Michael Keshigian’s tenth poetry collection, Beyond was released May, 2015 by Black Poppy. He has been widely published in numerous national and international journals most recently including Poesy, The Chiron Review, California Quarterly, and has appeared as feature writer in over a dozen publications with 5 Pushcart Prize and 2 Best Of The Net nominations. (michaelkeshigian.com)

Poet Interview #19 – Michael Keshigian

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?

My career path is music, a performer and teacher in the symphonic genre; it left me little to no time to write. My creative urges were pretty much satiated in that realm. Though I read quite a bit of literature, including poetry, the desire to write occurred after reading the works of the Beats, mostly Ferlinghetti and Corso. The style was appealing, it propelled me to start expressing myself verbally. That group is still among my favorites, though I enjoy reading any author who has something to say and says it well.

How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?

I try to allot a designated time on a daily basis to work out ideas then write them down in a way that I feel captures my intention. Like any art form, the muse is secondary to the technique.

Successful creative output is a skill developed over time, coupled with the ability to make it appealing to readers. My perspective regarding poetry, music or any other creative endeavor changed when I realized that the muse is vital, but the song will not be heard nor the words read if it lacks the ability to motivate an audience.

Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

No. Between writing, performing and teaching, my time is pretty much used up and whatever minutes I might have straggling around, I’d rather use creating rather than just communicating about it. I do keep a web page, but that’s pretty much it.

Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

For the most part, I keep to myself due in large part to my performance schedule. I do have a few virtual relationships with individuals and poetry societies across the country with whom I periodically exchange/share work. What I am reading varies quite a bit with my mood; re-reading HDT’s Walden, poems of W.D. Snodgrass, and George Carlin’s Last Words.

What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

Most importantly, you must be true to yourself, seek out the right market for your work, and be persistent. Look at rejections as constructive criticism and continually work on your delivery. Chances are it is not your idea that has prompted the refusal. Like the Roman poet Lucretius wrote,  “one man’s meat is another man’s poison.” Keep submitting.

From Stardust to Sinew

Two Poems
by Tanaka Mhishi
 
The Art of Mothering
 
Your cannibal grandmother
in the Ice Age on the Bearing Straits
ate the meat of her sister’s thigh
to keep alive the children tendering inside her.
She dribbled lymph and salt,
savoured the sinew and the guilt.
 
She was brownskinned, dancertribe,
fat ankled with pregnancy. Full of meltwater
in a landscape of ice, surviving
one morsel at a time.
 
And you, descendent of this gruesome craft
are more beautiful than she ever imagined.
Deep in the underfrost she weeps
tears of ice, her fleshless fists still clenched
on a flower stalk, a baby-tooth, a bone.
 
Flow (For Kyle)
 
I love you. It waxes and wanes.
Some days I imagine your face and it’s like
a deep ticking inside me, a wasted muscle.
Then, palming apples in the supermarket
my love for you will shake me by the
shoulders, drain my chest of oxygen.
Fruit rolls in the aisles.
Seeing your face at the station
I wait for a pang of want. Nothing.
It is only later, when your head moves,
birdlike to music, or smile slashes open
your moonscaped face, that I have to clutch
at my own thighs. Sometimes your typing hands
get me so hot I want to pour myself right
into you. Sometimes I want to smash
the keyboard. When you’re here
I look forward to unshared
bathwater and less washing up.
Then I am sat, peeling sweet clems
or clipping valerian leaves for tincture
and there is a river running along my spine,
running like a current, running like a song, running
like a lamplight through the gloom, and the floor
falls out of my love for you, and I remember
we are stardust wearing skin, and I could
kiss every molecule that you
have ever been.
 
——————
 
Tanaka Mhishi is a poet and playwright. He prefers tea to coffee, cats to dogs, sleeptalking to sleepwalking. When he’s awake it’s usually at tmhishi.tumblr.com

Poet Interview #18 – Tanaka Mhishi

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?
 
I live in London, which is where I grew up, but I spent a good chunk of my writing time living in Brighton, which is the poster city for grotty-beautiful and I love it deeply. I live within spitting distance of the little flat where I grew up.
 
When I was about fifteen someone handed me ‘Daddy’ by Sylvia Plath. At the time I knew nothing about the idea of feminism or the Electra complex or psychoanalysis or anything like that. But I did know that like Plath, my dad was an immigrant with a wildly different culture experience to mine and I was terrified of living by his rules his entire life. And I knew that this person who was born an ocean away from me and died before I was existed somehow understood that more deeply than any of my real life friends.
 
Which, really, is a little bit magic and quite a good thing to spend a lifetime doing.
 
So I started reading poetry and then I started writing it. These days the poems I love are the ones that are good on the page but also allow me to perform. I like the feeling of putting a poem in a room full of people and seeing how it flies. That’s what led me to write for theatre as well-the two things are very linked for me. But poetry will always be my first love..
 
I still love Plath- she’s one of those heroes like Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg. Other poets who really excite me: Jeanann Verlee (her books are save-from-a-fire precious), Richard Silken, Andrew Mcmillan, Patricia Smith, Warsan Shire. And I’m an evangelist for the poetry of Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman- people know about their prose but both of them are excellent poets too. Other than that I’m a serial trawler of poetry magazines both online and in print. The list is long.
 
How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?
 
I guess every poem is different. My Muse isn’t really into showing up at the same time every day so I do a lot of talking to it (like actual, out loud, crazy person talking). Sometimes the Muse shows up just when I’m waking up. Other times we make a date and nothing happens; I have to do all sorts of tricks to lure it out. It’s like being in love with the world’s flakiest person and trying to run a small business together.
 
A lot of the times the form shows up before the content, or a word combination will occur to me- but that seed often gets cut in the final edit.
 
I think I’m definitely less afraid nowadays that the Muse will up and desert me. I just finished a major project which involved working with lots and lots of trauma, and afterwards my writing went fallow for a while. It was pretty miserable, but things got a lot easier once I just began assuming that it would all come right in the end. And (fingers crossed) it seems to have done just that. I try to write every day, and usually I get something. But some days I just have to accept that my Muse is being moody, and that’s a good day to do laundry or clean the bathroom, so that’s cool too.
 
Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
 
I’m on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter and I’m pretty awful at all of them. I think the poet in me wants to edit each post just as much as a poem and I don’t really have the time so I end up not posting at all. I much prefer face to face communication- it’s easier to gauge people’s reactions.
 
I do have to use them so that people know what I’m doing. It’s horribly uncomfortable, which seems silly. I still do it though. If I’d wanted to be comfortable all the time I wouldn’t have become a poet.
 
That said, social media is a beautiful thing. I shared all my first work online and I don’t think the connections we make in meatspace are more or less ‘real’ than the ones we make via the Internet. But the format of Facebook and Twitter doesn’t quite work for me for some reason. My Tumblr is my own personal one, so I use that as a collecting place for inspiration.
 
Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?
 
I have a handful of other writers from my university days and from various courses I’ve been on who I trust to send my work to. None of them produce poetry which is exactly like mine- actually not all of them are poets. If they all find something to interest them in one piece I know I’m onto something.
 
I just finished a novel called The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson, which is her ‘cover version’ of A Winter’s Tale. I still don’t quite believe that she doesn’t write poetry (I know she loves to read it) because her prose has such a lyrical quality. She’s a poet’s novelist anyway. Also, A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler is beautiful; a bit like Hemingway after an ego-reduction. I work in a bookshop so I’ve always got something or other on the go.
 
In terms of poetry, I just did a course where I was tutored by Ross Sutherland, and I’m now a hardcore addict of his poetry podcast Imaginary Advice.
 
Across the pond, Amanda Oaks over at Words Dance (which is one of the best homes for poetry on the net in my opinion) just put out a free ebook of poems inspired by Tori Amos songs called Where’d You Put the Keys Girl. The poems come in pairs, so I’m reading one in the morning and one in the evening. They’re too good to rush.
 
I’m also doing my annual re-listen of Patti Smith’s 2008 reading of The Coral Sea, which is on Spotify. It’s achingly beautiful.
 
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
 
My first instinct is to say persist, persist, persist. But actually there’s a caveat to that: be kind to yourself and respect your own work. If you’ve just had a gazillion rejections in a row then it’s ok to take some time off. If you’ve been hoarding your poems like an inky-fingered version of Smaug then maybe it’s time to send them out into the world.
 
One rule that I live by is to approach poetry magazines as a reader first. Keep your love alive. If I’m constantly awed by what an outlet publishes, I submit.

A Savage Sentience

Urban Fox
by Christie-Luke Jones
 
Through gritty, parched eyes I squint,
As hazy boulevards wind ceaselessly ahead.
 
The soupy June air weighs heavy on my shoulders,
A cruel curse befitting of a cruel hour.
 
I snarl and thrash and seethe.
I pray for a swift end.
 
Highgate lovers, swathed in crumpled bedsheets,
Gaze down from high windows in dreamy, post-coital nonchalance.
 
The soft light emanating from their cigarettes
Reminds me where I should be,
Where I should have stayed.
 
Her cascading onyx locks and melting stare, so far from here,
Snatched away in a frenetic dusk.
 
In the murky, nocturnal depths of this Hadean Borough,
The thought of fusing my weary torso
To the elegant curve in her back is a blissful escape.
 
To sweetly kiss the nape of her neck,
And watch that sensual smile paint joyously
Across her sculpturesque face
…for a brief, heavenly moment, I’m there.
 
But mine is the oppressive still of a North London night,
Where bountiful summer trees loom black and menacing
Over deserted pavements.
 
But lo, wrapped in my internal struggle I have omitted another.
One who neither pines, nor laments, nor regrets.
 
A weightless astronaut,
He skulks through the night air with a humble grace.
 
His sinewy frame, that restless, twitching muzzle,
An opportunist cat burglar, thriving in his concrete woodland.
 
He slows as I approach. A cautious arc.
His marble eyes reflecting the street lights above.
What does he see?
 
We halt in unison, we share the stillness.
 
His keen nose analyses my scent,
His pointed ears flinch at my slightest movement.
Such devotion to the senses is something I’ve long forgotten.
 
Suddenly I feel my heavy feet beneath me,
Notice my short, agitated breaths.
This wild animal has coaxed me out of my own head,
Made me living again.
 
He watches intently as I find the strength to move forward.
Down this path I myself chose.
And as I glance back, I ponder his sentience
…did he share in my epiphany?
 
Succumbing to sleep I envy the fox.
Long to dream his savage, unquestioning existence.
 
——————-
Christie-Luke Jones is an actor, writer, poet and philanthropist from Henley-On-Thames (UK). He studied French and German at The University Of Exeter, also spending 6 weeks as an English teacher in Madagascar, as well as living and studying for a year in North Germany. He is co-founder of Henley Flow, an independent charity festival of the arts which recently raised over £1000 for Madagascar charity The Dodwell Trust. To find out more about Christie-Luke’s work, visit christielukejones.com.