What They Tell Me

I was thinking about Tenney—my old prof—today. He taught my very favorite poetry class. We read all the greats, Frank O’Hara, Akhmatova, Bishop, Rich…O’Hara has this ridiculous joy that is more like melancholy. A lilt. He lilts. He flits. He meanders seemingly and yet is directive, has direction, is insistent. For me, sometimes I pick apart his poetry to just lines. These killer one-liners that leave me breathless. Almost literally. I still have my books from that class. God they are so old now. The pages are brown and bent every which way. They are worn out. Taped on the binding. Comforting. I’m one of those nerds that believe books are family. We bicker. We cry. We laugh. Sometimes that sly sort of laugh, sometimes a gut one. Sometimes I sneer. Or I ignore because they glare at me. Are aloof. Whisper to me: you can be better. You should be better. You should work harder. You are not smart enough. Push. Push. Feel it all. Let it all go. It’s inside you.

Jennifer Harris

Author of PINK! and resident Poetry Editor, Jennifer Harris, is an active literary organizer and served on the Board of Trustees for the Poetry Center of Chicago. She earned her MFA in Writing from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

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The Venus Salon

Dear All -

I’m pleased to present our inaugural issue of The Venus Salon featuring a host of wonderful poets and their work. You can flip through the issue here by simply clicking in the centre of the front cover, which will open it fullscreen. Or, if you prefer, by clicking on the information ‘i’ button at the bottom of the magazine, which will take you to Issuu.com where you can download a copy to your desktop to read later.

Either way, we hope you enjoy our first online outing and more, leave a comment here for our contributors to let them know what you thought.

Alexandra Wolfe

Alexandra is the founder, owner, and publishing editor of the Kissed By Venus web site and magazine.

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Daydreams, Suicide, Hate – Causal Relations?

Okay, I’ve been a slacker this entire month. It’s true. I’m sitting here now in my PhD class on urban politics, not wanting to pay attention. We’ve inevitably wandered into race relations. I’m wanting to talk about poetry because I’m distracted. I tend to live in distraction, but I’ve been sick so I have an excuse, at least for now. I’ve been in the hospital with a million tests only to find out I’m perfectly healthy (yet sick).

I would like to talk about anything but race relations, what about gay relations, lesbian relations, what about transgender relations. Anyone? Hate isn’t just black and white. It’s Catholic-Protestant (and how stupid is that? Could they be any closer related? I’m not sure what my grandmother was thinking when she’d go off on “those” Catholics). My grandmother was truly prejudiced. She wasn’t exclusive in her prejudicial behaviors and habits. She hated everyone, equally. So there was that. Though I’m not sure it’s about hate, per se. I think it had more to do with class than race or religion (though really how does one actually delineate those things?)

Whatever, she was a snob. Strangely the last image I have of her is her lying in the morgue in her red Keds about to be incinerated. Not exactly high class, but still, she was terrified of falling. Red Keds, red apples. Wisps of a sunset. She died in fall; I mean that’s the cause that led to the fact of her being dead. Broken hip. Surgery. Dead. Typical old folk story.

Why is it that so many poets have killed themselves? It begs the question. Death. Ways of dying. Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven. Berryman jumped off a bridge. O’Hara got drunk and ran over by a dune buggy in the Hamptons (what fun!) Ann Sexton. Was she pills? No, no, she killed herself in a car in a garage with the door shut tight. My grandmother tried that, but it didn’t work. My father pulled her out. Dragged her out to the green, green grass. My grandmother (now this is not to be confused with the snobby one, the one who hated Catholics) my father’s mother (as opposed to my snobby mother’s mother) (though really, Louise, my father’s mother was likely just as much a snob) tried to kill herself a good five times.

Wikapedia actually has a site that lists poets who have committed suicide. True fact. It lists seventy-one poets who offed themselves in, I suppose, relatively famous ways otherwise why and-or how would they be listed to begin with? There are only thirteen historians who committed suicide and only eight literary critics. Now really, I would think lit-crits would far outweigh the poet-suicide rate. It seems unfair. How can a critic, someone who doesn’t even create, be healthier and happier than someone who (by subjective definition only) creates beauty? It seems unfair. Perhaps I should think more about hate and less about poetry. What is the suicide rate of haters? I wonder.

Jennifer Harris

Author of PINK! and resident Poetry Editor, Jennifer Harris, is an active literary organizer and served on the Board of Trustees for the Poetry Center of Chicago. She earned her MFA in Writing from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Heat!

It’s the 28th consecutive day over 80 degrees in Chicago. The most in 140 years. Everyone is hot, hot, hot. It’s funny to watch the reactions: those who are grouchy and worn down, sweat stains, the bits of sweat on the forehead, the constant glare. I feel exhilarated. I am a lizard. I love to bask in the heat. Let it fall over me, down to my toes. When I think of heat I think of my lover. My husband/hersband. What do you call a butch husband? I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Wife seems to take away one’s butch identity. I could be wrong but it doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t feel right. I am the wife and I don’t even like the term.

Jennifer Harris

Author of PINK! and resident Poetry Editor, Jennifer Harris, is an active literary organizer and served on the Board of Trustees for the Poetry Center of Chicago. She earned her MFA in Writing from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

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To: Direction Toward A Point

It’s July and I am contemplating forgiveness. I am contemplating anger and rage and all the things I never want to feel. I am contemplating the fact of suffering. What that means. I am wondering why it is that language makes so much more sense written down.

Words spoken are too illusive. Slip through the air. It’s so unfair. When I was a young girl I played dumb. I acted dumb. I wanted to fit in. I didn’t want to be the girl sitting in front of the class with glasses and braces and headgear. That’s exactly who I was. I built up a shield around me. I used words to distinguish myself from others.

I gathered ammunition. Deep guttural vowels.

Have you ever said something so many times you think you’ve forgotten the meaning of what it is you’re trying to express? My mouth goes dry with it. I’ve heard it said to lean into it. Lean into the love. The arms waiting for you. You don’t have to be alone.

Jennifer Harris

Author of PINK! and resident Poetry Editor, Jennifer Harris, is an active literary organizer and served on the Board of Trustees for the Poetry Center of Chicago. She earned her MFA in Writing from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

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