Sharon Mesmer

A Dream Upon Waking

— after Claudia Lars

How effortlessly the morning star
puts an end to an anxious night:
again, my dead have not killed me.

Courageous in the face of fear —
fear redeemed only by yielding —
I rise, take flight, wide with new light.

Between rising sun and setting moon,
I am absolute master of the sky,
unbroken by burdens of maternity,

the sticky embrace that hinders flight.
And when I glide, I glide like Hermes,
up from the underworld.

I neither ignore nor intoxicate
the faithful who seek my example, for I am familiar
with the Mother of Abomination:

the spider, the weaver
of the sap-threads of immobility
and despair.

And so I soar, breathing deeply,
dreaming of beating all sorrows
into beauty.

In Time’s Furrow

— after Julia de Burgos

This poem was not written by Sharon Mesmer,
whose name means “complainer of insomnia.”
This poem was written by me,
whose name means “my eyes are filled with the graves of stars,
and that’s why I can’t fly.”
Who am I?
I am you.
Don’t you know me?
Well, when God asked you
who you wanted to be,
and you said “someone who sleeps peacefully,”
God wrote down “insomniac,”
gave your mother amnesia,
and she pushed you out like a _____ pushes a _____ out of a _____.
You fill in the blanks.
I’ve already done all the work.
What, you don’t believe me?
Well, keep in mind that when Sharon Mesmer writes a line like
“I gambled everything to be who I am,”
I know she’s trying to sound like Mary Oliver.
And I know you have never written yourself
into a position involving career advancement
or happiness, because you are no mere witness
to inertia.
How do I know?
Because I know that Heaven kills
that which is delicate, ignorant,
and only pure sorrow transforms a witness to inertia into an embodied form of joy
for all eternity.
Besides, we both know who’s really doing the writing.
It’s me.
Not you.
I am the scaled fish who is writhing, still alive, in your hands,
my wild eyes pleading with you to _____.
You know what to do.
Start with feeling the constrictions
of my sticky wings.

I Grew Wings For You

— after Juana de Ibarbourou

“Crecí para ti
Florí para ti
Fluí para ti”

I never write.
I simply speak:

“Crecí para ti
Florí para ti
Fluí para ti”

And I repeat:

“ . . . para ti”

But only now
is my poem complete:

“Creci alas di
por ti”

When I speak
I bless the grief
loving you
brought me.

Mori por ti.



Crecí para ti — I grew for you
Florí para ti — I bloomed for you
Fluí para ti — I flowed for you
Creci alas por ti — I grew wings for you
Mori por ti — I died for you

(lines from the poem “El fuerte lazo” — “The Strong Bond”)

The three poems here are from a series I’ve been working on called “Even Living Makes Me Die.” The pieces are based on, and in conversation with, works by selected women poets of the Americas from the late 1800’s (i.e., Delmira Agustini, Alfonsina Storni, Juana de Ibarbourou) to the present time. Woven into the fabric of the collection are themes from each woman’s life and work: abandonment/recovery; flight/confinement; obscurity/fame; joy/despair; dependence/freedom. I began this project after doing an article for American Poetry Review on the late Costa Rican poet Eunice Odio — she died in 1974, her body undiscovered for days. In doing research on her, I had to really dig around for information. Odio’s work was almost unknown in this country until now — Tavern Books is publishing, in four volumes, her 400+ page epic poem, The Fire’s Journey. Most valuable to me were two books: Spanish American Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Source Book, edited by Diane Marting, and Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry, edited by Stephen Tapscott. I paired the bios and critical assessments from Marting’s book with the translated works in Tapscott’s book, for more complete pictures of these women. I also ordered available collections in English. The circumstances of some of these women’s lives were tragic: some struggled in obscurity and poverty; some were killed by husbands or lovers; some committed suicide; some, like Odio, died alone or under mysterious circumstances. One wonders: how many other women’s voices still remain unheard, because of poverty, illness, lack of opportunities, direct interference by the men in their lives, or just plain bad luck? A trope running through all the poems is “wings.”
Sharon Mesmer’s newest poetry collection, Greetings From My Girlie Leisure Place, from Bloof Books, was voted “Best of 2015” by Entropy. Previous poetry collections are Annoying Diabetic Bitch (Combo Books, 2008), The Virgin Formica (Hanging Loose Press, 2008), Vertigo Seeks Affinities (Belladonna Books, 2007), Half Angel, Half Lunch (Hard Press, 1998) and Crossing Second Avenue (ABJ Press, Tokyo, 1997). Four of her poems appear in Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology (second edition, 2013). Other anthology appearances include Poems for the Nation: Edited by Allen Ginsberg (Seven Stories Press, 2000) and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1999). Her fiction collections are Ma Vie à Yonago (Hachette Littératures, Paris, in French translation, 2005), In Ordinary Time (Hanging Loose Press, 2005) and The Empty Quarter (Hanging Loose Press, 2000). Her awards include a Fulbright Specialist grant, a Jerome Foundation/SASE award, and two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships. Her essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, and the Brooklyn Rail, among other places. She teaches in the undergraduate and graduate programs of New York University and The New School, and lives in Brooklyn.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 11)


Welcome to September, and to Posit 11!

It is a special thrill to introduce the masterful poetry and prose Bernd and I have gathered for this issue. Not only has another summer come and gone, but we are in the last stages (if not throes) of an American election cycle in which the complacency of most notions of “normalcy” have been shattered, giving rise to an appropriately pervasive anxiety about the depth and scope of the humanly possible. In its own provocative and evocative ways, the work in this issue addresses that anxiety, and even musters some degree of optimism. For tragedy rendered inseparable from the beauty of its vehicle, consider the stark profundity of new work by Michael Palmer and Fady Joudah; the disturbing resonance of two parables by Marvin Shackelford and Eric Wilson; or the tender melancholy of verse by Jeffrey Jullich, Stephen Massimilla, and Simon Perchik. For an inspiring balance of critique and optimism, take a look at Sharon Mesmer’s tragic yet emancipatory tributes to undervalued women poets, Sheila Murphy’s inimitable and ineffable pull-no-punches constructs, Sharon Dolin’s disciplined frolics, ambitiously braiding tribute and lampoon, or Anne Gorrick’s high-octane mash-ups of web-commerce parlance examined and re-examined to reveal rich veins of resonance. And on the brighter side, bask in Felino Soriano’s linguistically untethered odes to transformation.

Whether you are absorbed by the anxiety of our historical moment or weary of its seep, I hope you’ll take some moments to explore:

the tightly packed wit and wisdom of Sharon Dolin’s allusive riffs on Conceptismo, W. C. Williams’ So Much Depends, Niedecker’s ‘condensery,’ and the fraudulence of linguistic obscurantism;

the looping logic of Anne Gorrick’s expansive assemblages, artistic antidotes to our day-to-day “doses of forgetting” the “fine tunings built into” these rocking, rollicking litanies in which “invisible empires of products, fireflies and songs add to the beauty;”

Fady Joudah’s profound and miraculous condensations, with their masterfully chiseled, spare, and haunting visions of oppression and its internalization (“Election Year Dream”) sanctuary in the face of damage (“Monastery”) and the devastation of love (“Coda: A Fragment”);

Jeffrey Jullich’s grimly beautiful constructs, evoking the hazard, sorrow, and insignificance of existence as revealed by the “metamorphosis of seraphim,” “Nostradamus contradictions,” and “a cloud/hung between my life—and life itself” in which “intelligence is only – a fraction – a niche for omniscience;”

the mystery and beauty of Stephen Massimilla’s chiseled lyrics, gesturing towards the elusive and tragic lightness of love, loss, and existence itself, in which “so many little masks (marks, tasks) / make a life” until one is reluctant “to come down from the lightfastness / of this insomnia high;”

Sharon Mesmer’s lyrical tributes to women poets of the Americas which, by “beating all sorrows/into beauty” themselves fulfill the determination to be “no mere witness/to inertia” by evoking, among other notions of liberation, the freedom of radical departure — in what her fans will recognize as a masterful departure from the pyrotechnical virtuosity of her signature Flarfian poetics;

Sheila E. Murphy’s confidently quiet, powerfully enigmatic new works evoking the intimacies of existence anchored by “the palpable act of witness, witnessing” in which “pounce marks levitate a posse / of connect points” in our appreciation of her bracing linguistic montage;

the incomparable music of Michael Palmer’s austere and profound masterpieces of compression, sternly confronting us with the tragedy and horror of a world — our world — in which a child is “set afire / before blindered eyes / a world’s eyes” and authors “lost at sea / in a storm of words” stand idly by as their “books consume . . . the fire”;

Simon Perchik’s moving lyrics of love, loss, and memory, gently guiding us to “listen / the way all marble is crushed” and witness how “inside each embrace // the first thunderclap and shrug / no longer dries”;

Marvin Shackelford’s haunting parable of shipwreck, survival, and friendship, with its “reversed exploration” of the great parable, Before the Law, replacing Kafka’s eternally-withheld judgment with rescue, but, gratifyingly, perhaps not redemption;

Felino Soriano’s “relocated” lyrics, as musical as they are disjunctive, enacting the generative power of the transformations of which they sing; “alters” “of improvised becoming” in which the day is “a dangle of marbled light, an / algebra of sun” for the reader to gratefully absorb;

and the disturbingly resonant infinite regress powering Eric G. Wilson’s “Bowl,” ruled by the labyrinthine, archetypal, Escher-esque logic of nightmares.

Thank you, as always, for reading!

Susan Lewis


Welcome to the visual art of Posit 11!

Christopher Adams’ background in biology and science informs these environmental installations of ceramic sculpture. He creates small universes of hundreds of individual elements reminiscent of creatures from the biological world, as filtered through Adams’ imagination. Installed on walls painted in brilliant, deeply saturated colors, they seem to vibrate with energy, transporting us into another dimension.

Yura Adams works in a diverse vocabulary of forms united by her nuanced and thoughtful vision of the world. Based on both scientific and intuitive observation of the natural world, this work encompasses a lovely tension between loose drawing and complex patterning. Her use of rich and beautiful color reinforces this dynamic.

Kate Brown’s solidly painted compositions address one of the basic constructs of painting – the push and pull between positive and negative space. Using a carefully controlled palette of color, she has created an exploration of figure and ground that transcends the academic idea and emerges as glorious paintings. Big gestures are offset by architectural spaces. These works are luscious and bursting with energy.

In John Hundt’s hilarious and odd collage pieces, we see a world of biology and evolution gone strangely awry. Unlikely combinations of creatures are meticulously constructed from Hundt’s trove of imagery. Building upon the grand tradition of Surrealist collage, he has created a world of creatures found (hopefully) only in dreams.

With intricate and delicate etched lines, Renee Robbins explores the biology of the ocean. Her etchings, all based on actual creatures, evoke the undersea world caught in mid-motion. Her images are simultaneously scientific and dreamily ethereal. Rendered in softly psychedelic tones, they are like specimens on view through Robbins’ artistic microscope.

I hope you enjoy!

Melissa Stern