Categories » Poetry


NER CLASSICS | Preparations for August | Cate Marvin

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry

Cate Marvin‘s poem, “Preparations for August,” appeared in NER 22.2:








Like drinking perfume, or chewing anise tablets,
I pour within myself a fragrance, so my breath
may smell of rose, my skin like pale citrus.
It is an act of doing, of pre-doing, what is called

preparation. No need for the silken dress, or green
beads of glass studding the neckline. To breathe
another’s breathing, all that’s done is to inhale.
What youth was to me was thrown away with

the porcelain cat whose neck, once broken, was
squiggled with a line of crack and glue. I may have
thrown it out, but I return my mind to it, just as
I return to you in thought. The briefest letter breathes

warm breath on my neck. I am tempted to call
the airlines to make reservations I’ll never afford.
What I want is for someone to come at my calling,
no matter the cost. I require desperation, sweat, and loss.

It’s a bird-feathered room, a silky-walled space
where we ought to meet. Likely it’ll be blank walls in a hotel room
I’ll remember as extravagantly green-hued.
I have always been jealous of anyone who wants you.

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NER Classics | Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red | Khaled Mattawa

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry

Khaled Mattawa‘s poem, “Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red,” appeared in NER 16.4 (1994). 

Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red


I was crossing a street
when a bus driver
gave me the finger.
I wasn’t driving
just crossing a street
with trees, leaves bright
yellow & ketch red,
when a low ranking employee
of a small town bureaucracy
in an insignificant state
gave me the finger.
Did my face foretell
seven years of drought?
Was I scheming to bring ack
the Monkees and the Cold War?
As usual I was lost
between the stuffed tomatoes
of my youth and a future
that says tick tick tock
boom boom. … 

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NER Classics | Big Bang | George Bilgere

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry

George Bilgere’s poem, Big Bang, was published in NER 16.2:

Madison Boulder - Aaron Draper Shattuck
We slept naked on a wide bed

under the sighing swamp cooler.
We strawberried in Michigan woods
with our fat nanny, and in spring
we gathered sand dollars on Daytona ,
passed smiling into Kodachrome.
On the path to the grammar school
she bumped along behind me, burdened
with my black, funeral trombone case,
my books and sack lunch. I pushed her
into thorn bushes, eyed her coldly
as she played jacks at recess
with colored girls. When wine
put our mother in her all-day coma
she made our dinner, and when
I felt like it I smacked her.
I walked at night in exile
far from that fatherless house
of sobbing women while she
did dishes at the steaming sink.

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New Poetry from Ocean Vuong | NER 36.1

Categories: Poetry

To My Father / To My Unborn Son | Ocean Vuong

“The stars are not hereditary.”—Emily Dickinson

There was a door & then a door
surrounded by a forest.
Look, my eyes are not
your eyes.
You move through me like rain heard
from another country.
Yes, you have a country.
Someday, they will find it
while searching for lost ships . . .
Once, I fell in love
during a slow-motion car crash.
We looked so peaceful, the cigarette floating from his lips
as our heads whip-lashed back
into the dream & all
was forgiven.

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Ocean Vuong is the author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press, 2016). A 2014 Ruth Lilly fellow, he has received honors from Kundiman, Poets House, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets, as well as a 2014 Pushcart Prize. His poems appear in the New Yorker, Poetry, the Nation, Boston Review, Best New Poets 2014, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the 2012 Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. He lives in Queens, New York.

New Poetry from Emilia Phillips | NER 36.1

Categories: Poetry

Supine Body in Full-Length Mirror, Hotel Room, Upper West Side | Emilia Phillips

“All is seen.”—Dante’s Virgil, Inferno, Canto XXXIV

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What startles first is that it’s there.
After long hours in the car
when thought seemed
seamless with forward
motion, & the body,
a home you left that morning—
& now it’s naked & unyielding,
a narrative,
if you’ll have it
that the scars know more
about your past
than you choose to remember—

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Emilia Phillips is the author of two collections of poetry, Signaletics (2013) and Groundspeed (forthcoming), both from the University of Akron Press, and three chapbooks. Her poetry appears in Agni, Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s the recipient of fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, US Poets in Mexico, and Vermont Studio Center; the 2012 Poetry Prize from the Journal; and the 2013–2014 Emerging Writer Lectureship from Gettysburg College. She serves as a staff member of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and as a prose editor of 32 Poems. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.

New Poetry from Ela Harrison in NER 35.4

Categories: Poetry

Lithium | Ela Harrison

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third element of the Periodic Table; adjectival derivative of Greek lithos (rock); “made of rock”

Sisyphus with his tumblr_ngotb0IzPM1sfie3io1_1280rock knows
about same. Same rock. Same
journey forcing him into
same self. And now I too
have my daily rock
pushing me up against
a samer self.

What did you lose, Sisyphus?

Myself, I first lost the sense
of myself as lit fuse
stepping on detonators;
my old nickname, “Volcano.”

You lost far more than the yen
to rustle cattle. I’m sure of it.

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Ela Harrison is a scholar of classical languages and literatures, and of linguistics and philology, as well as being a translator and editor, writer and researcher. Her writing has appeared in Cirque Journal and F Magazine, and her poem “Legion” was runner-up in the Fairbanks Arts Association’s 2012 poetry competition.

New Poetry from Richard Siken in NER 35.4

Categories: Poetry

Still Life with Skulls and Bacon | Richard Siken

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A thing and a thing and a thing held still—Steve Richey
you have to hold something still to find the other
things. This is speculation. You will die in your
sleep and leave everything unfinished. This is
also speculation. I had obligations: hope, but hope
negates the experience. I owe myself nothing.
I cut off my head and threw it on the ground.
I walked away. This is how we measure, walking
away. We carve up the world into feet and minutes,
to know how far from home, how many hogs
in the yard. My head just sat there. Fair enough.

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Richard Siken’s poetry collection Crush (Yale University Press, 2005) won the 2004 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and the Thom Gunn Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, two Arizona Commission on the Arts grants, two Lannan Residencies, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His second poetry collection, War of the Foxes, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2015.

Poetry from Brigit Pegeen Kelly in NER 35.3

Categories: Poetry

The Dragon | Brigit Pegeen Kelly

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The bees came out of the junipers, two small swarms
The size of melons; and golden, too, like melons,
They hung next to each other, at the height of a deer’s breast
Above the wet black compost. And because
The light was very bright it was hard to see them,
And harder still to see what hung between them.

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Poetry from Debora Greger in NER 35.3

Categories: Poetry


Head, Perhaps of an Angel | Debora Greger

limestone, with traces of polychromy, c. 1200

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Point Dume was the point,
he said, but we never came close,
no matter how far we walked the shale
broken from California.
Someone’s garden
had slipped, hanging itself by a vine
from the cliffs of some new Babylon
past Malibu.

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Poetry from Carl Phillips | NER 35.3

Categories: Poetry

Parable | Carl Phillips


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There was a saint once,
he had but to ring across
water a small bell, all

manner of fish
rose, as answer, he was
that holy, persuasive,

both, or the fish
perhaps merely
hungry, their bodies

a-shimmer with
that hope especially that
hunger brings, whatever

the reason, the fish
coming unassigned, in
schools coming

into the saint’s hand and,
instead of getting,
becoming food.

I have thought, since, of
your body—as I first came
to know it, how it still

can be, with mine,
sometimes. I think on
that immediate and last gesture

of the fish leaving water
for flesh, for guarantee
they will die, and I cannot

rest on what to call it.
Not generosity, or
a blindness, trust, brute

stupidity. Not the soul
distracted from its natural
prayer, which is attention,

for in the story they are
paying attention. They
lose themselves eyes open.

 (1998, Volume 19.3)

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Carl Phillips’s thirteenth book of poems, Reconnaissance, will be out from FSG in 2015. In 2014, Graywolf published his book of prose, The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination.