Andrew Levy

from The Real World


A bunch of college students just banned the word Quidditch.

It sure pays to have an edge, all kinds of edges.

To broaden the horizon of what gets represented, let’s invent a new poem, a poem
That places itself between protagonist and readers.

Let’s set up a new planet of self-documentation. The living body in the public soul.

I’ll see you in a few.

Okay, the flowers were delivered.

The DOW is down 600-and-something points.

I gave a check for ten million to my friend who has been without any means of existence.

You, on the other hand, must not look in that direction or you will turn into a pillar of salt.

On the inside salt will finger the perp with an extra syllable until daylight.

Pepper walks through the palace and easily abides in the nervous system.

There are no laws
When you need one.

Slow Down

To broaden the horizon of what gets represented, let’s invent a new poem.

I’ll see you in 4.5 billion light years.

Protagonist and readers walk through palaces, easily abide. Between new planets
Of self-documentation, the public slips and slides.

Sous vide octopus, fava lentil, chives green oil, black garlic caviar.
Teams are required to moussaka by the gender rule.

Intersectionals vanish in pleats derived from the vanquished.

Cauliflower tiramisu turns my stomach sour. Many people peter out in silence
the less poetic everybody becomes. Before they split the center of innocence communes,
It cannot be saved. A mighty pre-existing chaos ends.

Meanwhile, Moon Knight’s birthright follows upon complexities and denials.
As we’ve said, what’s left? The escaping hero fumbles.

Slow ships don’t stand a chance.
The heart attacks go crazy.

At Land’s End

Who knows what vicarious impulses my sympathy holds. The next
Oscillation, abyss or chasm.

Paradigms or disguises intent as a draft of Buddha.

Never one-sided metaphors like a little door swing open the
Imagination and the carnage in this country, the before or behind,
The ascendancy of being so young and delinquent.

The curve behind the rails, astral straws, the distinguished.

The nature of Nature to dispel the path the horizon
Is counterpoint to & survive.

My own spirit observes the indifferent, the debris of a good atrocity.
Even criminal libel has economic muscle, a facile positioning of the past.
Favorite target of the purple membrane, repeating again and again.

Squeezing tales through a sense of shame. Ready to spring
An invincible eye. Ready to commit any crime.

Dark irony, Self-flagellating Introspection

Manic obsessiveness, and unapologetic moral perversity
Cackles from every age.

I’m trying to control my emotions.

(Right now?


To console and compensate somehow, any how, the injuries.
That old helpless rage at it all.

From memory from shadows this kind of pain.

The indigestible or pleasing. What do you see?

Lofty clouds imprecisely printed. Graspability. Jubilantly erudite
Ruthlessness. Impertinent demands. Blatant disgracefulnesses.

The tongue doesn’t have a cough.

An absence of language on the part of my mother.
Continue to hold true.

A Certain Unfinishedness

Wide open.

An end to traditionally patriarchal society as standing next to people.

To make special impressions the spurs transposed into heaven.
I want to thank you and the mouth called ink on the paper of my behavior
Whose name is clearly less uniform.

Unimaginable insincere resistances require instructing.

Differences shrink the contemplative child. We must begin at the top,
Through the encroaching dark like someone who’s sure sparks have long sense talked,
Whose platform reachable by rope ladder feels blessed—into the branches palm
Playing sleep pounding metabolites a snare.

What have you done before? Turned to Turkish coffee? People mistake
Mastery for someone else? Nonhuman intellectual property?

The other side of an opposable thumb.


Blushing, beaming. Doing nothing until they do.


I have been someone, this is what I have become.

We should be able to hear all the voices coming in and those going out. What is inevitable
And irresistant. Ubiquitous and sacred.

Nobody destroys this possibility and nobody tolerates its destruction. And yet, from his writing desk,
Disenchantment inhabits the subject. Its rigorous architectural elastic symptom.

Cellular segments feel adequate and more fragile. Its limit is a form of appropriation
Between classes. The teacher lays too heavy a hand.

Nothing need belong to me or to the end.

The idea we have is new enough. Its ambiguity and alibi does not preexist, nor does
Debt and time, a promissory glitter of what was tried and kept apart.

Perhaps not.

Gunmen break open
An alien distance.

The world’s outside and below.

Andrew Levy is the author of Artifice in the Calm Damages (Chax Press, 2021), Don’t Forget to Breathe (Chax Press), Nothing Is in Here (EOAGH; novella), and twelve other collections of poetry and prose. His work has appeared in numerous American and international magazines and anthologies, including Poetics-for-the-More-than-Human-World – An Anthology of Poetry & Commentary; The Canary Islands Connection – 60 Contemporary American Poets; and Resist Much, Obey Little – Inaugural Poems to The Resistance. Levy’s writing works on the intersections of class and the ecology of commerce, and experimental music and the digitalization of freedom. A drummer, he works in collaboration with musicians and writers on readings and performances.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 32)


Welcome to Posit 32! Depth and moral courage inform the formal and substantive genius of the poetry, fiction, painting, sculpture, and collage gathered here. This is art and literature that grapples with the current state of our selves and our world: the countless ways our possibilities for living are impacted by the pandemic and the abuses we wreak upon the planet and each other — while also exploring timeless human preoccupations such as beauty and desire, aging and loss: the “inevitable / And irresistant. Ubiquitous and sacred” (Andrew Levy, “Nicked”). Here is art that “renounces renunciation” (Laura Moriarty, “Which Walks 5”) to demonstrate the “embracing // moveableness in holding on still” (Rahana K. Ismail, “Burn on my Mother’s Forearm”) — shaped with a passion for the stuff of its own making, including “words . . . like plums in the mouth—plums spirit will never share” (Dennis Hinrichsen, “[readymade] [With iPhone in It and Two or Three Plums]”).

With their elaborate agglomerations of shape, color, and texture, Ron Baron’s vases fashion beauty and vitality from sorrow and loss. Assembling remnants of discarded household objects into vessels whose curvaceous contours and expressive handles strongly suggest the human figure, Baron celebrates the resilience of the human spirit. Standing tall and proud with their ‘hands’ on their hips, these figures are survivors, emerging from adversity to confront the future. At once exuberant and touching, these works speak to the potential of damage to generate the forward-looking self. These unities assembled from mementos of individual loss are also testaments to collective perseverance, with special resonance for our atomized isolation in the early days of the pandemic, when the series was conceived.

Michael Brosnan returns to Posit with a suite of elegantly crafted poems confronting the challenge of meaning-making when “[y]ou and I, we are here for a spell. / And we need to speak honestly” – and, to be honest, “our story is in tatters.” As cleverly structured as they are direct and plain-spoken, these poems deftly and probingly enact what they address, applying a disciplined practice of attention to the humble stuff of dailiness, “seeking new possibilities / in a small illusion with unambiguous lines” in order to come to terms with the fact that “we sip from words that sound like glory, / then rest on eternity’s pouty lip.”

C Culbertson’s poems create a magical space where body and intellect, emotion and abstraction commingle and sing. Culbertson’s enigmatic, sonorous formulations are as haunting as they are elusive. This gifted poet’s “thrown fragments, gathering what lush silences” manage to be at once rich and spare in an “attempt at articulating the attempt, not so much in discontinuities but // startling constants, infinite // palpable bitter its indulgent // sighs but still brackish, & / tender / heat.” “Inclined to embrace the sensuous agonies of the world,” Culbertson’s intrepid verses “trace an intensity” whose “reverberations of affect echo” in the heart and mind of the reader.

Elisabeth Adwin Edwards perfectly observes and renders the extraordinary/ordinary moments we all experience, and the questions and realizations they engender. Roaming in CVS for the obligatory 15 minutes after a Covid vaccination, she notes all the reminders of how we are limited by our capitalist consumption and its personal cost: “How many / gradations of gray / eyeliner all // the shades / of a depression,“ as well as the cost for our planet: “You say Someone //could build a raft /from these pallets/ of bottled water // if they drank the bottles first.” Then, in the face of personal loss, the stray bits of knowledge that we come across take on new meaning. We “learn that the tissues of ankles are the softest part of a body. How fragile the seams holding us together, how easily we come apart.” Even when mourning, the body reminds us, or we remind the body, that we still live: “At home I masturbate using those shorn and throbbing fingertips, the ones on my left hand, because coming means I’m alive. I’m doing everything I can to stay in this body.”

Sean Ennis’s almost-hopeful, witty but painful story of a narrator trying to cope with his partner’s mental health and his own insecurities works on several levels. In a conversation ostensibly about movies, “Grace and I talked about the type of story we’d like to see told.” Since “[t]here are, of course, multiple frameworks available to choose from,” the reader is treated to a story about the characters, but also about the act of writing itself. Everything in the marvelously unpredictable movement of this narration is tentative: the flowers that were not planted, the narrator’s struggle to make a living (“I’m becoming more non-profit”), the not-so-good meals he cooks, the “tiptoes on a sticky floor.” Ennis cleverly uses language to both shape the story and to show how language changes us as we think it, as well as how it could change us, if we’d let it: “It was a new day, but fragile!”

In poems that juggle and encompass magical shifts of time and perception, Peter Gurnis weaves the history of a place and time into the here and now, even as his narrator claims to tell time by the living detail: “I pay attention to lilacs, and such-like native fruit. / I pay attention to the birds.” In these poems grounded in a seemingly mundane domestic life, going to the post office, sitting at home, and even a simple walk engender questions of marvelous transformation. “What if you could only think of the name for a river by going on a walk? What if you could only think about a river by falling into sleep?” Gurnis’s narrator becomes absorbed into the language and events of the past, invoking Henry (Thoreau?) and further back, Increase Mather. He recounts memories and dark events: “a handful of feathers coming out of a loving mouth,” a child who “coughed up a handful of soot,” as well as “Invisible Furies” like “the Capitalist . . . or an indefatigable lynx,” but “This is but a speculation.” Yet, what happens in the brain also happens, doesn’t it? “For example, once / I saw a tanager being eaten by a hawk. And in the evening, he nailed /on the wall: / a landscape of greenish yellow, dark blues and black. / While his wife watched from a chair. / And the cat slept.”

Sue Havens’s ceramic sculptures have an almost icon-like presence. These are shapes that stay in the memory, in rich and various patterns and colors reminiscent of beautiful sea creatures like the nudibranch or different species of coral. Finding inspiration in such sources as thrift-store finds, miniature golf architecture, kilim rugs and tree bark, to name a few, Havens creates sculpted and drawn environments that incorporate layering, tactility, and the accidental. Havens is seduced by the world in its myriad forms and textures and her work offers the viewer a kaleidoscopic record of this world, so that, as she says, “content might be remembered, discovered, and felt.”

Dennis Hindrichsen’s pure honesty and explicit eye detail the brutality of loneliness and growing older, as well as our sure knowledge that we are destroying the planet, “besieged by end times // a toxic forever chemical feeling” in which “I am sarcophagus // but I don’t worry the half-life because they are better than plutonium and Jesus—the fluoropolymers—they do not break down // I ingest by pan (dearest Teflon™) // by clothing and pizza box” while exploiting people: “shirt Sri Lankan—pants Vietnamese—//the one or two women/from among the millions toiling on my behalf//muttering names under their/breath—harsh//names—mine again—their sweat and tears/falling into the fabrics (I love buying shirts).” We may say we love the planet, although it doesn’t seem to stop us from our shallow pursuits. Yet these poems also celebrate desire, “the substrate vector—why / deny it,” and the moments when love strips away our façade, as, for instance, for “a friend I love—he is failing— /death is in him like a leaf—or paddle into a river—/one heron angling crosswise. //He saw this once—shallows to deeper shallows— /and was moved by it—//and so I will pause here now (hearing voices) (reliving joy)—/obliterating all my coolness.”

In language heady with compassion and love, Rahana K. Ismail’s lyrical visual images of daily life and the natural world speak to the profound connection of the physical and metaphysical. In “Burns on My Mother’s Forearm,” “[a] moth alights on the clabbered cloudlet skin. / Brown sleep sprawled on wings, an embracing //movableness in holding on still, a cotton-woolled /confession smudging the edges…” And in “Crochet,” a troubled girl is set a frustrating task: “Having the amaranth yarn make the first hole is to open another hole another /hole another hole,” which becomes a moving meditation on loss and the learning of it. “Carrying loss is to open loss like a package: a snarl of yarn or a window you climb over/ when the bars fall away, the room you hear the ill /-oiled swing of a sewing machine, / the foot treadle groaning a rust-ridden elegy. To be unable to search for my sea-glass / quietude in the red-oxide drone.”

Jean Kane’s prose poems consider the limitations and possibilities of autonomy under existential threat. Cryptic and compressed to the point of codification, Kane’s potent, razor-sharp prose is reminiscent of Emily Dickinson’s virtuosic linguistic and conceptual puzzles. Evoking the emotional complexity of a father’s transition to death and a “Skewed History” of abortifacients as instruments of free will, these dense works are bookended by a meditation on the anxious vulnerability of being the “Unmasked” prey of human and virus alike, and a fantasy of what it might mean to “Unclench” and “soothe [the] knots” of the constraints of personal identity itself. Like two sides of the same coin, “Unclench” and “Unmasked Hours” evoke self-exposure’s potential for anxiety or liberation – to suffer “pit panic” or to “float walking under a bank of air,” “open and open without expulsion into the blue over bare trees.”

Francesco Levato’s fascinating combination of glitch technique and erasure strikingly portrays the social isolation of our attempts to cope with Covid and the disruption of the psyche the pandemic has caused. Words selected from pages of Jack London’s novel The Scarlet Plague reiterate our fear of death, while the distorted objects themselves, as well as the fractured movement in the glitching process, symbolize a reality that has undergone a profound change with chilling effects. Levato’s titles, too, lend weight to the seriousness of this societal earthquake and its repercussions. “Barcode, Notepad, Hospital Bracelet” evokes the dangerous and deadly consequences of the pandemic; and the allusion of “In Flag on Pole, Inert” is followed by text that suggests a society unprepared: “the way to kill it / went no / farther. /they /were /unable to move /and / years in discovering how.”

Andrew Levy invites the reader into the process of his brilliant and multiplicious thinking, which ranges (and sometimes rages) from postulating other strange and wonderful modes of being (“Nonhuman / intellectual property? //The other side of an opposable thumb”) to work that sharply makes plain the bitterness and absurdity of our inescapably political existence: “I gave a check for ten million to my friend who has been without any means of existence. // My own spirit observes the indifferent, the debris of a good atrocity.” Like a dark film, devastating and elemental, Levy’s language surprises us into a truth: “Gunmen break open / An alien distance,” as his elegant imagination leads the reader to an altered perspective: “And yet, from his writing desk, / Disenchantment inhabits the subject. Its rigorous /architectural elastic symptom.”

In this selection of poems and related artworks, Laura Moriarty heeds the exhortation of Yoko Ono’s Walk Piece to “look out / as the broken world // breaks again” in order to contemplate the variety of ways in which both world and artist are “drawn to bits.” The active reader has much to unpack in these formidable intellectual and prosodically dazzling excursions, richly conceptual and studded as they are with word play, double entendre, rhyme, and rhythmic riffs. The works of an artist “inwardly // directed to / arrange and play / as we (rapt) / are carried off,” these poems and multimedia creations emerge from a practice of “daily acquisition” not only of “beads… balls . . . brass. . . [and] steel” but of observation, insight, and recollection. Moriarty creates incantatory assemblages capable of managing “what we want: // an engine of past time, / creation, and abstraction // whose apparatus / reflects the precision of // wrapped glass / collapsed threading through / the fastness // of everything as everything / found or findable // resolves into action.” By “resolving the ‘made place” / into the made real day,” Moriarty is committed to bending art to the monumental and necessary task of changing reality itself.

Begun at the outset of the pandemic, the collages in Jill Moser’s Nude Palette reveal both shifts from, and continuities with a body of work dedicated, in her own words, to the “teasing of form and gesture each insisting on the other.” In these collages, initially assembled from fragments of past work in collaboration with poet Anna Maria Hong, Moser’s dense, vividly chromatic biomorphic forms evoke poured and pooling fluids, gels, bubbles, cells, and bodily organs layered over and contained by geometric structures in a saturated matte palette that glows with vitality. Any departures from Moser’s earlier work are in keeping with the circumstances of their conception in the early days of quarantine — from gesture to form; from line to solid; from dynamic to static (or at least contained); from a contemplation of signification (often in a tonal palette) to being (in the vital hues of Spring). But perhaps the seeming shift from gesture to form is better understood as an evolution of focus — since form, as Moser has remarked, is simply gesture suspended. And in fact, many of the ovoid, stacked shapes in these works are familiar from earlier series like Syntax, Topographies, and Naming Game. In some ways, these biomorphic forms appear as isolated and confined within their shelters as we all were during lockdown. But just as collaboration was their origin and animating impulse, these collages enact the collaborative interdependence of form and color – thereby celebrating deeper, if quieter, dimensions of connection. Texturally rich and dense as buds, these lovely works salve the anxiety of trying times by reminding us of the beauteous “thereness” of what is, ripe with the potential of what will be.

Julie Marie Wade’s Jeopardy poems contain multitudes. Playful, sly, carefully constructed verbal puzzles, they are also sophisticated meditations on the academicization of insight (“this phenomenon is college, where the lexicon begins to bloat at prodigious rates”), as well as frank considerations of desire and its elusions. This is the work of a writer who has “been studying Beauty all this time—assaying so as to essay? probing so as to poem?” – where the beauties in question are sexual, intellectual, and linguistic, as this excerpt from an extended abecedarian demonstrates. Noting the “little irony of our language that vexes as it woos” and musing about the nature and intensity of paradigm shifts in which “it’s your old version of reality that’s fading now, losing consciousness,” Wade notes that “sometimes a shift is a harsh slip. Sometimes a dig is a cruel joke. Sometimes what I actually know amounts to a weird log cabin made of used Popsicle sticks…”

Thank you for being here!

With love and gratitude,

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann

Andrew Levy

Summertime Blues

—to Thom Donovan

Set the seats, another heartbreaking day. Come together, play
a central role outside, from all across the country straight into a ditch
these state-of-the-art surveillance arrangements, holidaymakers
cartoon stickmen masturbating with their nose, the starving potato
peelings the haute cuisine. The good friend and loving speech
sooner or later we’ll inevitably speak. We can give our attention,
highly anticipated, to help us understand our own and others’ suffering.
Clear accounts and commentaries help remove fear, anger, and
suspicion. We can’t wait any longer. The transformation bridges cobbler
and servant, master and mistress, barricades against the reign of an
intellectual personality rendered banal, trains of thought, gravediggers
whose actions wordplay stylistic deficiencies, meaner purposes of an
intolerable culture. Pain soaked and spluttering and angry and crying
and scared. Beneath the chilly water in departments of health
clockwork communicates its clues and blind alleys, the chance
resolution the comedy a creditable dissent. This is for us to decide.
Ecstatic argue its expandable strap, plunge me down into the cold water,
drop it onto the window ledge, the horror of the established order
of things shoulders back into the bath. As a representative of the Jewish
people, His huge hands under my armpits swung me up with ease.
It’s a huge, huge blue shirt clinging to His huge form. Welcome gay
and lesbian couples, non-binary maroon paisley tie, small pleasures in the
wondersome by all this perfect smart. Read a little about it, think
on it. Decide what exile worshipped midway come to change an ancient
god locked up with iron bard flooded most moons. Let’s go back
to risk no ambush, puff of a sinister rabbinic cigar blistering a limp but
unsure how, the path of suffering the world for its very uselessness.
Correspondingly, outward bigotry transmits two separate realities
from the thing transmitted and the person to whom transmission is
made, but there is no separate existing body. The land of the free
is a tiny child trying to climb onto the rim of a well.

In which Ideas are Candied

—to John Shoptaw

This poem is the poem you have read, the smudge
of conjunction where the meat is then served on
some kind of road and can stumble on, or in a swamp
admitted spice to the ‘exploit’, impoverished, ‘authentically
fruitless’ the precision, the density and balance rallying
the ultimate penury, destitute virtuous back to the
mere misery short of self, short of the world, stale bread
for their starving, enlarging its repertory, the pathetic
antithesis possession-poverty perhaps estheticized
automatism expire in good particular, cooking pot on plates,
lychees with dog. Defend the rapture of hummus.
Housekeeping, drill the Arctic. Put your all into it.
Squeeze light, bend the spine, prime that atlas. Trouble
an engineer, culture then abandon Basquiat, ruin
paradise. Bandwagon lonesome peaches melt the pollution,
fillet the cognoscenti, in the Gulf apricot globular
raindrops splat the text of the day, read that and know
who you are, tour de force a Fulbright, weigh the nuclear
peril, the impenetrably complex. Read every coincidence
this salt doesn’t salt. Cherry-bomb the smart-ass
manure-smelling ‘talent’. Seed the abasement of home,
trigger loving speech. Bring the capacity to relieve.
Suffer all discrimination and fear. Reincarnate cancer.
Care rightwing minders pining moonlight love into
transcendence run riot by delusion separate from
perceiving it. Keep the Kardashians conscious. Blend the
bodhisattva when seeds are watered, when questions and
answers dismiss the idea without a second thought. Set into
a small wooden table a corner and passage to a staircase.
Errand brown trousers a swallow’s tail, no underpants,
no buttons, walk up and down the root.

Take down the Flog

—to Mark Lamoureux & to Tonya Foster

Spite the moribund obsession Death-of-the-Month-Club damnable
self-justifying claim, lies, and self-deception arranged as the steps
of a Jacob’s ladder exploited in a big way. The hot water the cold
enriched and ripe transmits an unconscious sojourn dropped in final
spasms of dislocation ‘expediting matters’ surrounded by the doomed.
In the beginning is the Word, saith the camouflage, pull down your pen
to limit the margined damage, assume gravity empties continuity, the
things on one’s table, the accomplishment cycling across particularized
floods circling the kaleidoscopic return of clarity. Circle the cryptic
breastfallen, this unprecedented competition, this respectable stadium,
the divine snakes in the grease, the grass scouring the arena a slight
weakening, slowing down of actual debit, conceivable darkness
and silent perhaps slower light. Think about water sheltered by shade,
mutation of innocence as a discontinuous disposaling propaganda,
the details ‘reasonable’ moralizing more convoluted, undeserved and
ill-gotten, syntax fucked entering death, uncountable. Hannibal
distressed for the sake of receiving a reciprocal apology short-changed
bar mitzvah to get two brains over the railing. Rust without destroying
a fixed point pitches strong a long time trust. Signatures shutdown,
bridge a miracle agent ammonia moron ‘virtual’ thought half-melted
houseflies in the hidden calcium reaching sky reactor kick your ass,
elbow rocket empties the clip, presses out the last drop, footballs no
balls. Shield the radar, warn the breach, read the eyes that see
supermarkets learn the suffering of the birds and the meditation
of the list. Train to Coney Island splurge one-hundred percent,
Charleston the conclusion, the last drop seize an unforgettable show,
validated, convulsing in this net category and sunlit systems
offline ashcan enthusiasm. Disgust that will to rehabilitate a southern
hysteria. Digest and finish the mission, ride the fall.

I’d like to Show You Godzilla

—to Emily Skillings

Those who are old enough to remember are able to better focus on
one aspect of reality: ‘No day shall erase you from the memory of time.’
The recurrence of certain ways in which pieces of the world relate
to other pieces, our groundlessness, is that we are unable to grasp solutions
to the enigma of existence, see the beginning or end of time, or put off
the discovery of the meaning of life; but that doesn’t go far enough. There are
more things. In the snow, in the defile, in the chosen people the private
sector inherently facilitates drastic reductions in quality. Storming the doors
of the Garden we are subdued by the mounted police. Yet, I manage to
sustain the pleasurable illusion that I find myself in a metropolis enjoyed
by a youthful gentrification keeping its financial resources secret. Much that is
admirable is fraught with background full of mystery and omissions that
leaves unsaid any detail that does not pertain to the person’s purpose.
Conversely, what is said is always loaded — the monster, ecstatic agent of the
sublime superstate, won’t compute. A nuclear plant waiting the moment
of transition it needs to be decoded as the now-all-but-unreadable DNA
of a fast reindustrializing species, clear of its wrong beginnings. The just
extinction that it travels to, not to be here, not to be anywhere but with all
the tools of irony, seems to me like a word that has been uttered too often.
To think that you and I together comprise a poem or a novel or a readily
comprehensible declaration that I for my part would never dream of presenting,
being filled with a colorful assortment of people more homely than particularly
pretty. The slightest pressure of its sharp teeth and claws on our flesh is too
much to bear. Its dialectical maneuvers become recognized as a distinct
set of puzzles thought infinite, not just an antinomy but a dilemma a plurality
believed lost. An ESP, with nonlinear narrative like “Hiroshima Mon Amour.”
A lover’s step into the abyss, children lay dying around us, and we do not see
the beginning — one can’t help it — or the end to outdated criteria,
mutation or musical deterritorializations that like all technologies are unable
to develop a theoretical self-appreciation. All its permutations are quiet
or more intense. My Godzilla places its tabernacle in the sun, the position
of a celestial body in motion it permeates every cell in our bodies.

Andrew Levy is the author of Artifice in the Calm Damages (Chax Press), Don’t Forget to Breathe (Chax Press), Nothing Is In Here (EOAGH Books), and Cracking Up (Truck Books), along with eleven other titles of poetry and prose. You can read his essay “TALKING PAUSE – Reflections on Basil” at

Editors’ Notes (Posit 17)


“What does love have to do with history,” asks MC Hyland in her poem, The End, a question which nicely sets the stage for the remarkable work we’ve gathered for you here. This 17th issue of Posit is a weighty one, to be dived into; to be savored. Many of these poems address identity and personal relation, contextualized. Some convey public dismay along with private encouragement, because, as Jessica Wickens points out in Department Store Days, “real life is still awesome.” Some resemble status reports, or instructions on how to move forward in a “culture numbed and stung // by the image it’s become” (Paul Hoover, Chinese Figures) — a society guilty of “underestimating the underestimated” (Patricia Hartnett, Silos) — an “established order” characterized by “the horror” and “meaner purposes of an / intolerable culture” (Andrew Levy, Summertime Blues). Others address the “hidden interiors” of art-making, and all that is “racing against / its very own appearance” (Steve Barbaro, Articles of Capitulation), or its nurturance and conservation, in light of “the impossibility / of repetition” (Norma Cole, Ongoing). Yet, even while “[p]lanes arc overhead while history seems to plunge” (Hyland), there is good news amidst the bad, since who knows what “will ignite from / the smallest spark” (Cole).

Despite what Adorno identified as the “complicity that enfolds all those who, in the face of unspeakable collective events, speak of individual matters at all,” these works make the case for its necessity — for the necessity to “be the blueprint” (Asiya Wadud), “[t]o build a face from the materials of history” (Hyland), to take personal responsibility in a reality in which “no one is a spectator” (Hartnett, Complicit). In fact, they make the case for the necessity of poetry itself, whose “reaching keeps us from never nursing doom” (Wadud, my decent one). Because, as Denise Leto puts it in Mystic with a Dishtowel: “A hole in the air that empties air: this is what it is not to be able to read poems.”

Here, then, is the physic for that affliction.

In Steve Barbaro’s poems, an elegant voice contemplates fumaroles, insects, the desire to be away from the world, and a painting by Cezanne. In The Pond, narrative content and the composition of the painting blend into the dream of one of the painted “sitters” and then into the viewer’s own “fall” into the painting, “their face gradually mixing with the scarcely shown face of the water… not that one must necessarily see something to see, of course,” going on to muse that nothing can ever really be seen, “except as something racing against its very own appearance.” And in Articles of Capitulation, the narrator makes a revelatory/revealing inquiry into nature and self: “Is it surprising that the world flaunts only such coy hints of its most ominous flutterings?”

In keeping with the title, Norma Cole’s Ongoing transcends reductive notions of beginnings, endings, or progress itself, “unfurling” like a textile or an “ascending raga” to explore riches below the surface, like the Dunhuang caves they consider, or any “tumulus . . . barrow . . .[or] kurgan.” Like those caves, these stanzas are “placeholder[s] / filled with treasure,” charged with an energy not to be defeated, any more than “magma,” “carpels tough as nails / surviving ice ages,” that which “will ignite from / the smallest spark,” or the intensity humming beneath the quiet calm of this powerful work.

In magical collages that partake of landscape and anatomical section drawings to create their own genre, David Felix “balanc[es] verse and sign” so “we [can] scan the horizon.” Against delicate color, the bold play/puzzle of typography, in which the repeated ‘a’ in one poem marks the visual row where a “draughtsman’s hand had planted limes” reveals the perfect fit of “making bared,” creating a shared ground for philosophy and lyric to reveal that “Time is a horse in a field and no horse in another” and the future “is certainly not here with you and I right now.”

Patricia Hartnett’s philosophical/psychological investigations of the “harm and charm” of complicity, risk, maturation/self-definition, and the contest between mammon and the “unruly” issue their Delphic pronouncements with mystery and precision. To the exquisite sensitivity of a narrator “stranded out here in America / with everyone else equal parts greed and fable” on “another morning under the newly revealed metal fist of the grin,” the “harm and charm and hazard” of America, aging, and perhaps existence itself, “sound . . . down the body like an alarm” even as they look, as do these finely chiseled poems, “like brilliant kites.”

In aphoristic verses whose melodic prosody is propelled by a driving rhythm peppered with thought-provoking turns and returns, Paul Hoover considers how we navigate Time and art-making in a moment when prosperity means “everyone sleeps alone / on the ice of his choosing” and “no one spends attention // we’re overloaded now / every surface known” in “a culture numbed and stung // by the image it’s become.” At the same time they remind us that, thankfully, “what isn’t is // what could be” — that it’s still possible to let go of the “zig-zag parade,” to “read the reader /and be read // . . . by the ones [we] / soon will be.”

Woven into the powerful prose of MC Hyland’s The End are the meditations of a “trespass artist” “trying to build a face from the materials of history” in the “affective prehistory of the crisis” of these difficult times, in which “capital sleeps like a shark,” we are “unmade by uncertainty and the theatrical rollout of the new order” and “joy arrives with a political undertow,” even if we are sometimes “buoyed by tiny lucks” — such as the pleasure of reading these rich and wise poems.

Denise Leto’s dreamlike poems explore a sea to which she holds a magical and “Mythical Map,” treating us to mysterious images like the “radical gloss of radiation” or a “face scattering the shorebirds.” In these spellbinding stanzas, a “Sicilian fishing port no longer maps” and “[e]ating is a womb…of those who are under” in a world in which the “church can’t think—it is more like a spoon.”

Andrew Levy entices us to gorge on his feasts of observations and pronouncements, exhortations and advice for navigating “another heartbreaking day” faced with “the meaner purposes of an / intolerable culture.” His wry linguistic turns and ominous bluntness bring a “kaleidoscopic return of clarity” to a devastating critique of our “unconscious sojourn dropped in final / spasms of dislocation,” even while reminding us to “digest and finish the mission, ride the fall” in light of “the small pleasures in the / wondersome by all this perfect smart.”

Laura McCullough’s stunning suite of poems reluctantly accepts and does not accept the difficulty of intimacy. The objects in the poems — knife, bulldozer, tree — participate like living partners in the despair. Marriage (intergenerational) introduces “a man … bending his wife … around something she has bent herself around all her life,” who then “gets this knife … if she likes… — one with a curved tip — and skin[s] her like she’s never been skinned.” In Marriage (wood and dog) the ordinary situation of chopping wood for the winter reveals the couple’s “separate fantasies” for the use of an abandoned bulldozer, “things they are each ashamed of and can’t’ imagine sharing.”

Douglas Piccinnini’s bleak but graceful verses contemplate identity and suffering in a world of our constant construction in which “you” (i.e. we) “”teach/your hands” with your hands” until you “become yourself in spite of yourself.” With spare lyricism, these poems land us neck-deep in a frightening, if universal, human condition in which a “house is like a house on fire” inside of which “there is no news at all.”

Brad Rose’s prose poems employ a laconic, dark humor to present a narrator who “lead[s] a quiet life” which “[y]ou can read about … in the Great Big Picture Book of Problems,” even while he needs to speak to an attorney “who knows about the death penalty.” One of Rose’s concerns is the act of thinking: “I’ll bet the people in the car ahead of us have thoughts, although there’s no such thing as a perfect translation,” and the way thoughts connect, as in nerve synapses or a cracked mirror, yet holding deep lyrical truth: “It’s quiet inside a mountain — coal dark, the aftertaste of ants.”

With an “exactness which / Takes courage,” Asiya Wadud offers prose and verse poems which glow with “a faultless aura” of embodied yet ethereal light. Like the narrator in Be the blueprint, each form manages to organically unfurl the precise architecture of its unique project, offering “this complete orb, this leaden strobe, this searing, direct heat . . . this . . . weighted gold” of her finely wrought prosody, “as delicate as a new quail cupped in [her] light,” capable of “fillet[ing] the softest parts // To glean the glowing parts” with the grace and power of “a quake on a tender fault line.”

The unflinching gaze and bracingly direct voice of Jessica Wickens’ “stories from fragments” find cause for celebration even amidst the painful reality of our existence. These poems remind us that “happiness is a journey not a destination” and “real life is still awesome,” even for those who “nap. . . on the couch at salvation army” and other “casualties of our superficial train” in an America that “is a nonstop fucker of / prosperity and peace.”

Thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann


Raven Halfmoon has a fierce story to tell. In her majestic ceramic sculptures, she examines questions of identity and cultural heritage, while at the same time making art that is deeply affecting. Her work, primarily images of women and their “accessories,” feels immediate and fresh. Big gestural marks in the clay combine with drips and flow of glossy glaze to remind us that the maker’s hand is always present. The work is bold and self-assured. These women with handbags, cigarettes and lipstick are not to be messed with!

William Eckhardt Kohler’s work harkens back to an earlier era when painting dealt with meaty issues such as surface and ground, representation and meaning. Richly painted, these canvases are admirable in their desire to ponder such questions, coming up with answers that are entirely personal. Kohler’s paintings are quite formally structured, while at the same time painted with a control and purpose that become an important part of the story. With a palette that is generally somber, he enlightens the visual stories he tells with hits of brilliant color, like the sun shining through clouds on a stormy day.

The sublimely beautiful paintings of Sarah Lutz dance between abstraction and representation with lovely grace. We see hints of what might be possible, like architectural detail, or a horizon line, but in these delicate works, nothing is certain. These paintings raise questions the viewer must answer. The open quality of the work means that each response is correct. Are these canvases scientific illustrations of an imaginary world? Are they landscapes of the mind? References to the natural world, as well as the history of decoration, abound. The resulting paintings are lyrical, mysterious, and deeply satisfying.

These Jennie Ottinger paintings are both hilarious and scary. They depict men and women (or boys and girls) in scenes of constant conflict. These works are painted with a deceptively loose, gestural hand, in a slightly sickly sweet palette; the color pink is used almost as weapon. Upon first glance, they could seem childish, but they are deadly serious. The people in Ottinger’s universe laugh, grimace, fight, and triumph within traditional American scenes. Her “cheerleaders” smile at the world through maniacal grins. The men in Ottinger’s paintings bear expressions of ambivalence. Perhaps they know their time is up.

The work of P. Elaine Sharpe raises more questions than it answers. Her mysterious “portraits” of hair are painted in such a way that they dance back and forth between “hair” and “brushstroke.” A self- described “pleasure- bot,” she makes work that conveys a passionate love of mark making, with seductive swirls and whorls of gleaming pigment. The sole figurative portrait, that of the artist observing her own work, hints, perhaps, to one meaning of this body of work, “Diary of a Seducer.”

Jerry Siegel photographs the world he knows. A lifelong resident of the South, he captures the people in his world with deep affection. Deeply saturated with rich, vibrant color, his photographs are portraits of people and places suffused with his own Southern identity. He is a master of catching the perfect moment that makes a photograph magical. He clearly has the street photographer’s gift of relating to strangers and drawing them out in his work. In their own way, the still lives are also portraits — of time and place rather than individuals.


Melissa Stern