Joanna Fuhrman

President’s Day

Before George, there was another
first president,

his flesh carved
from the body
of a cherry tree,
veins full of
pre-linguistic vowels,                primordial auburn sludge.

They say it was he

who divided the states               into genders:

the South, a buoyant mouse-
hearted femme fatale,
the North,

male as an oak or the word “oak”
in the crease of a dusty forestry textbook.

I am telling a lie.

The first president’s face couldn’t bear fruit.
Instead of lips, there was a branding iron.

When he kissed,                he burned
his partner’s lips (my lips?),               so they

looked like            his lips.

Not too ugly, but when I sucked on them
they tasted            like hate.

When the rivers voted for him,
the earth cratered in shame.

We made love in the mud,
but it wasn’t love, and his brain

seeped into my brain until I became
the President and he became the slave,

became the wife,      the broken broom
and the cracking sky.

I felt the power of that,
but wanted more than power,

so I said,
“let’s start over,”           but

the fires had already           started
and there was water

in my iron shoes
and in the glass archive

I thought was his (or my)
brain and in my agate-

lightning-full eyes, so all
that was left of our romance

was the skin              that created it,
was the sound of the paper skin,

creasing, and ripping, when the other
first president’s axe            finally hit.

This Tyger Burns the Bones of William Blake
(Or, Self-Portrait as Poem)

The body of the text
resembles me
before plastic surgery.

The idea of the text
resembles me
after.

Death isn’t
plural,
just two-faced.

If you want to become
the red dress
of poetry,

you need to wear
control-top
pantyhose.

Without those
terminal
constraints

language
would be
liquid wasp:

a head devoured
by milky synapses
and need.

Joanna Fuhrman is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Year of Yellow Butterflies (Hanging Loose Press 2015) and Pageant (Alice James Books 2009). She teaches poetry at Rutgers University, Sarah Lawerence Writers’ Village for teens, and in private workshops for adults.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 14)

 
If you have ever scored an especially amazing present which was difficult (if not downright painful) not to prematurely reveal, then you know how my team and I have felt while assembling the current issue of Posit! So it is with great excitement — and no small bit of relief — that we offer the masterful works of poetry and prose by this issue’s distinguished roster of contributors. Perhaps it is not such a surprise, in light of the current geopolitical climate, that certain themes recur in a number of these works. I’m thinking, for instance, of the psychology of questionable celebrity (via Lydia Davis and Joe Milazzo), the breadth and violence of domestic and global injustice (Tongo Eisen-Martin, Rajiv Mohabir, Sarah Riggs), and the toxic confluence of fraudulence with power (Joanna Fuhrman). But here you will also find a robust literature of love and hope — for instance, in the tender yet powerful work of Maureen Seaton, Rajiv Mohabir, Lynn Schmeidler, Debasis Mukhopadhyay, Tongo Eisen-Martin, and Sarah Riggs. In other words, the literature in this issue casts a penetrating light on our critical collective ills — and on how they might yet be transcended.

So don’t miss:

Stephanie Berger’s lyric explorations of relation on both the personal and the global scale, entailing and enacting the “ethereal chasing the unspeakable” to an end which “isn’t the point & yet . . . is indispensable;”

The brilliance and precision of Lydia Davis’s Five More Claims to Fame, as sharp as a laser and as probing, bringing her profound but subtle humor to bear on human vanity and the inescapable distortions of subjectivity;

Tongo Eisen-Martin’s virtuosic convocations of voices from the besieged, indomitable heart of American urban reality, in which “the start of mass destruction / Begins and ends /in restaurant bathrooms / That some people use /And other people clean” — viewed with wisdom, musicality, and love by this “conductor of minds / In a city-wide symphony / waving souls to sing;”

Joanna Fuhrman’s witty and chiseled reimaginings of received mythoi of poetic authenticity and presidential honor, in which we learn that “before George, there was another / first president,” although, resonantly, “when the rivers voted for him, / the earth cratered in shame;”

Kevin McLellan’s spare and resonating koan-like meditations on reality, perception, identity, and existence, which is “not unlike the uncertainty // behind these open bulkhead / doors” in which one is “put into motion // from falling and stilled by / the thought of crawling;”

Joe Milazzo’s exploration of the psychology of minor celebrity, the porosity of its self-love and self-loathing, “bold shame free-styling / out towards air taken with itself,” as well as the breathless virtuosity of Palindromes Are the Fascistic Imagination’s Anagrams, its “limp exercise trailing / the mad pudge of gesticulations / tracing / the glutinous curl;”

Rajiv Mohabir’s lush and generous yet precisely turned paens to love and life and survival in the face of “beetles worm[ing] from the mouths of saints, / words rotting in books” and “the fires all about telling me / a mass extinction looms / and I should drop my flowers / and run;”

Debasis Mukhopadhyay’s love songs to poetry, polarity, and “the rainstorms behind the kites, the pantomime in the trammels, the trampoline behind the rampages,” laying his “bare hands on the whispering rivet” of the sweepstakes of the imagination;

Sarah Riggs’s HEARD (Crisis), balanced, along with our endangered planet, on the edge of hope and alarm, struggling with delicate wisdom and poetic alchemy to engage these uneasy times in which “freedoms / crash[ ] together into one giant globe-wreck” so as to avoid “render[ing] the time a point / of contention rather than a beautiful /mingling of constantly translating spaces;”

Maureen Seaton’s lyric riffs on the eternal themes of love, mortality, poetic heritage, and the very fabric of reality, via the pared-down, unvarnished magic of her beautifully turned phrases (“I’m still / in bed with my life and death and / destruction”), and potent imagery (“The way these / electrons come together, you’d think I was real;” “The mountaintops are rippling. I can’t hold back the gods”);

Lynn Schmeidler’s arresting lyric examinations of the tension and complexity of the way things are, as opposed to how we wish they were — treated with grace, originality, and the optimism that “it’s still early in the world of tomorrow and each new word is a machine;”

and the litanistic intonations of Stu Watson’s Kleptomaniac Thomas Hardy Wedding, nimbly juggling startling collisions of image and meaning like a “fraternal knot dry heaved out from [the] earth” with the musicality of rhyming couplets “floating by on a river of glee | flowing freely from a guilting mob.”

Happy reading!

Susan Lewis

positInkSpash131210.small

Welcome to the visual art of Posit 14!

The political and aesthetic maps generated by the fertile imagination Malala Andrialavidrazana tell intricate stories of the history of colonization. Taking Africa as her focal point, these works marry the history of continents and cultures with a distinctively contemporary sensibility expressed via intricate layers of image, both descriptive and decorative.

The sculptural installations of Lorrie Fredette refer to the multiplicity of organisms, the elegant architecture of natural forms, and the phenomenon of reproduction. She uses a critical mass of objects to completely transform and interior space. Each installation relates directly to the site in which it is installed, creating magical worlds of form and shadow.

To view Brenda’s Goodman’s paintings is to witness an intensive dance between intellect and intuition. Her work is a passionate exploration of form, figure, color, and narrative. Every painting tells a story, be it abstract or literal. These narratives are fiercely personal, yet contain the power to reach out of the canvas and connect with each viewer. They are both beautiful and substantive — a powerful combination.

Ruben Natal-San Miguel travels the five boroughs of New York City documenting the eccentric and beautiful people that he meets along the way. A self-taught photographer, he has an unerring instinct for how to engage and capture that perfect moment in street photography. His subjects, carefully posed for the camera, reveal humor and pathos.

And Jill Parisi’s work delights in the vagaries of nature. Her installations dance across walls like swarms of beautiful critters. The single objects ask us to focus on the patterns and delights of the natural world. Her mastery of the art of printmaking is revealed in the fluidity with which she moves between materials and techniques.

I hope you enjoy!

Melissa Stern

Posit featured at Boog City Small Presses Night

Posit at Boog City Small Presses Night

Posit at Boog City Small Presses Night

 

Boog City Small Presses Night

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
6:30 PM
Sidewalk Cafe
94 Avenue A
NYC

Featuring:

Martine Bellen
Joanna Fuhrman
Joe Pan
Leah Umansky

Hosted by Susan Lewis

Editors’ notes

Welcome to Posit 1!

It is with the greatest pleasure that I present this inaugural issue. From now on, whenever I am asked what kind of writing Posit is looking for, I will point to the work in this volume, which shares a quality I hope to make Posit’s hallmark: its combination of homo- and heterogeneity. Homogeneously excellent, by which I mean both original and accomplished. Yet heterogeneous in form and style. Diverse, as well, in origin, harking from Ottawa, Toronto, Rockhampton, Australia, New York, Kentucky, California, San Antonio, and Olympia, Washington. I believe that re-contextualization gives rise to re-conception – that a luminous energy emerges from the cross-talk sparked by the juxtaposition of voices as divergent as the ones assembled here.

I hope you agree, and that you enjoy the great Michael Boughn’s Whitmanesque “City II.2.iv – Flirtations of light,” singing the promise and dread of urban life in this masterful and tantalizing excerpt; Mary Kasimor’s dazzling sampler of rigorous, lapidary explorations of lyric’s cerebral and aesthetic potential, crafted and turned to frameworks of implication as sharp and graceful as razor-wire lace; the grave entertainment of Amy King’s intellectual joy-ride of verbal pyrotechnics, warning and pleasing us at once, offering treats and lifelines to help “make sense of the contagion/we call today;” Travis and JenMarie MacDonald’s playful yet probing lyric departures from Dr. Who, as grave and light of touch as the Doctor himself, and, like the Tardis, improbably expansive; rob mclennan’s entries from his Glossary of Musical Terms, whose intensity of encapsulation and fragmentation shatters preconceived ideas of word and note, generating an energetic lexicon for new connections; Bernd Sauermann’s compressed, delicate, chiseled blocks of verbal and intellectual alchemy, as quietly shocking as a “revelation making its way like mad current up my arm;” R.L. Swihart’s spare, incantatory, verbal fragments taken up and dropped like stitches connecting our shared experience of the dread unspoken; Rob Talbert’s deceptively plain-spoken, unflinching perspicacity, hiding twist after brilliant turn in plain sight, working the seam between heart and mind, lament and appreciation, elegy and critique; Brad Vogler’s meditations on what cannot, will not, or need not be said, magically drawing our quieted attention to the syntax and typography of stillness itself; Mark Young’s deliciously understated verbal artifacts, turning our expectations of allusion and ekphrasis, realism and surrealism, artifice and nature, art and commerce on their heads via splashes of “Frankendolling,” the “sonnets of Michelangelo,” and other inversions; and finally, Joanna Fuhrman and Toni Simon’s spare, precise, and gravely playful “The Ruler of Rusted Knees,” deftly uniting the verbal and the visual.

Finally, a few appreciations.

To the accomplished and celebrated contributors who so generously entrusted their work to this fledgling publication: my deepest gratitude.

To those contributors who are editors as well: Joanna Fuhrman (Ping Pong), Travis and JenMarie MacDonald (Fact-Simile), rob mclennan (Chaudiere Books, above/ground books,etc.),  Brad Vogler (Opon), and Mark Young (Otoliths): the excellence you bring to both endeavors is my inspiration for this undertaking.

To the talented artist and website designer Nathan Gwirtz: thank you for converting my ideas into (virtual) reality.

And to my friend and collaborator, Arts Editor Melissa Stern, thank you for joining me in this venture!

But perhaps most importantly, to you, dear reader: thank you for visiting Posit 1. I hope you are glad you did.

Prosit!

Susan Lewis

* * * * *

Beginning with this, our inaugural issue, Posit will showcase a variety of visual artists working in all mediums, whose work we find thoughtful, provocative, funny, dangerous, or just plain beautiful. Each issue will bring together galleries by three to six artists whose work presents a vision that is both individually and collectively unique.

I am honored that Susan Lewis has chosen me to accompany her on this voyage, and hope that you will join us from issue to issue.

For Posit 1, it is my pleasure to present the work of three artists whose work shares a sense of elegance and grace. In these galleries, Michael Janis creates sublime narratives of extraordinary depth and dimensionality through the laborious fusing of layer upon layer of laminated glass, bringing precision and construct to a parallel universe where science and reason adhere to their own logic; while Leah Oates’ gentle layers of image and tone build mysterious photographic journeys through countryside and city; a theme taken up by Kyle Gallup’s celebration of the past and possibility of New York, from Coney Island to old theater marquees, alternately documenting a world long-gone and fashioning a fantasy of what it might have been.

Happy viewing!

Melissa Stern

Joanna Fuhrman and Toni Simon

The Ruler of Rusted Knees

THE RULER OF RUSTED KNEES

You were the king of all the abandoned bathtubs  and I was the king of air/ space/ time/ questions unlucky fuzzy key chains and speech.  Were you jealous? Um, sorry (?)  I'm was never  actually kidding. You were the king of all the abandoned bathtubs

and I was the king of air/space/ time/ questions

unlucky fuzzy key chains and speech.

Were you jealous?

Um, sorry (?)

I was never / actually kidding.

thoth3

In the beginning, we made birds chirps translated into the language of broken chairs.

No one exactly understood us, so they called us wise.

This was before the bloody fedoras,

before the arrival of floating leaf territory.

rustedknees4

Try to balance
like an idea,

like a balanced
idea, like the idea

of balance like
an idea balanced

on another idea,
on balanced ideas

on many ideas
balancing.

rustedknees5

Back then—you were
the ruler of plastic wrap,

lost words and
radiators.

I was the ruler
of disobedient vowels,

folded origami-style
guidebooks.

rustedknees6

A man with double eights
in his halo is lucky.

A man without a head and double eights
in his halo is unlucky.

Can a man have a halo without a head?
Can a haloed man be unlucky?

If a man is lucky and unlucky at once,
he is doubly unlucky and doubly lucky.

If you try to be lucky,
you’re unlucky.

If want to be unlucky,
you’re in luck!

thoth7

In the beginning, we didn’t need to be friends with all the parts of ourselves.

It was enough to listen to the wind tear the world to pieces.

Later, the wind swallowed parts of ourselves we had no name for

but missed terribly.

rustedknees8

We had happened in many
different somewheres,

and everywheres,
and were here now.

Like the taste of teeth
is here, or the migrating

space around a loose flag.

rustedkness9

You can be the king
of whatever–the-hell

you believe
you are the king of.

Take light,
for example.

If you whispered to the light,
no one would

say you were
wrong to believe

its flashing was a product
of your will.

Artists’ Statement

In our mixed-media literary project, Egyptian gods, stripped of their context and role, wander various New York City neighborhoods trying to figure out where they belong, how to make sense of what they have lost, and how to get along with one another.

In the first step of our project, Toni Simon constructs three-dimensional, small-scale figurines out of paper, modeled on Egyptian gods. She then paints them with abstract, graphic details. We then take the little gods out into different neighborhoods and take hundreds of photographs of them. We select eight to ten images, which become the basis for a series of poems written by Joanna Fuhrman.

So far, we have created picture/poem serial combinations in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Chinatown, the Reversible Destiny Studio, Red Hook and Gowanus (featured here). Parts of the project have appeared online in paperbag and Talisman and in print in the 100th issue of Hanging Loose.

Toni Simon is a multimedia artist living in Brooklyn. Her illustrated book of prose poetry “Earth After Earth” was published by Lunar Chandelier Press in 2012. Over 80 of her illustrations appear in “Contradicta: Aphorisms” (Green Integer, 2010) by Nick Piombino. She has exhibited her drawings at the Drawing Center and at the AIR Gallery in NYC. http://tonisimonart.blogspot.com

Joanna Fuhrman is the author of four books of poetry, most recently “Pageant” (Alice James Books 2009) and “Moraine” (Hanging Loose Press 2006), as well as the chapbook “The Emotive Function” (Least Weasel Press 2011). She teaches poetry writing at Rutgers University and through Teachers & Writers Collaborative. Other sections of her project with Toni appear online at paperbag and Tailsman and in print in the journal Hanging Loose. For more see: Joannafuhrman.com