Unlost #31: My World Spins
on This Final Point
Use these arrows to move through the issue. Thanks.
One Big, Outrageous We
—a cento from Dodge Poetry Festival readings, 2022
I try to hide from knowing
that I am of a people of thieves
my own self, my quarry, terrified of luck.
I have the blood of survivors
coursing through my veins
undoing fault lines between
one generation and the next.
We make a game of our terrors
feel entitled to a spine
quixotic quaking in all our blind spots.
This is the city you lost.
Dizzying churn of days
turning the present into purgatory.
The light the dead sing
prayers they pretend to say.
sung to the applause of silence.
In the country of poetry
rain keeps falling in fourteen lines
rhymes internal and irregular.
The singer’s song fits into the mouth
purring its presence
the river stones are listening
water does all the laughing.
Look at the trees who suffer us to touch them.
I wear September on my face,
air heavy with waterfall.
I want to love more fluently—
it’s the only thing I ever wanted.
Source & Method: I attended the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival last fall (2022), and the cento is crafted from lines from the opening reading of over 20 poets.
Jodi Hottel’s most recent chapbook is Out of the Ashes from Pandemonium Press. Her previous chapbooks are Voyeur from WordTech Press in 2017 and Heart Mountain, winner of the 2012 Blue Light Press Poetry Prize.
Summer Grows Ripe
Source & Method: "Orchestra": watercolor & gel pen on paper, from Indigo by Marina Warner.
"Summer Grows Ripe": watercolor & gel pen on paper, from One Thousand Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, p.412.
Erasure poetry is a bit like meditation. Words jump out at me to form the beginnings of the poem I seek to uncover. I forage for them until I have the lines I need, then I'll glue the text down into my sketchbook and start filling in the background with whatever images come to mind. I often draw and paint these using ink, paint mediums, biro and gel pen, as well as non-traditional mediums such as food colouring and coffee.
Nina Nazir (she/her) is a British Pakistani artist, poet, and general creative bod based in Birmingham, UK. She's had work published in Free Verse Revolution, Messy Misfits Club, Ink Sweat & Tears, Unlost, Harana Poetry, and Visual Verse among others. When she's not teaching, she's making art or making poems. Other than that, she is never not reading. You can find her on Instagram: @nina.s.nazir and Twitter: @NusraNazir.
. . . if you could see the sun
leaf and beak
the fixed stars
splitting and binding
our missing hearts?
saints and strangers
believe the bird?
the compass flower.
A handful of stars
holy heathen rhapsody.
an immense world,
six of crows,
the tattooed lady in the garden?
What moves the dead?
Cave of bones
the names of birds—
a fatal grace.
All the wild and holy
we are meant to carry water?
how to fly in ten thousand easy lessons.
Miles to go—
the map of salt and stars.
Source & Method: Each line of this poem is the title of a book found on the shelves of a local bookstore or in my home; I applied the appropriate punctuation.
Janet Ruth is a New Mexico ornithologist. Her writing focuses on connections to the natural world, with recent poems in Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Tulip Tree Review, Ekphrastic Review, and Unknotting the Line: the Poetry in Prose.
3 found-word collages
Source & Method: I look through magazines for words that stack up accidentally to create new meaning, each roughly the equivalent of a poetic line, then spread them out on my desk until they start talking to each other.
J.I. Kleinberg is an artist, poet, and freelance writer, who lives, works, and tears up magazines in Bellingham, Washington, USA.
Source & Method: The sources for this piece are cut-outs from various articles and images taken from two National Geographic magazines: Vol. 165 (March 1984) and Vol. 208 (November 2005), which focus on laser technology and the nature of living long (respectively). The goal of this poem is to parallel the idea of underwater life and the alien nature of the sea against the predator-prey dynamic, glowing neons, and “the strange(r)” — perpetually present in big cities. For my method, I first cut up text and words, to make the poem, arranging them, then used the magazines’ images to create a collage-like background that represented the dark yet electric atmosphere of the text. Finally, I added a few details of my own using chalk markers.
Alison McFarlane (she/her) is a poet from Ontario, Canada, with a passion for all things creative — currently completing a dual degree in English Literature and Media Studies. Her first published poem, “Fowl Hen Song,” was printed in Trent U’s Absynthe Magazine in 2022.
Kristin W. Davis
2 found poems/art
Source & Method: Cutting, pasting, and assembling selected text from the following sources:
Chapter 25, Photos: Injuries in Public Hostage, Public Ransom: Ending Institutional America, 2021, by Dr. William Bronston. Dr. Bronston worked as a staff physician at Willowbrook State School from 1970 to 1972.
Judy Moiseff’s YouTube video “My Willowbrook Experience,” April 1, 2013. Before her death in 2020, Moiseff led disability awareness and sensitivity training throughout New York State.
Kristin W. Davis (kristinwdavis.com) earned an MFA in poetry in 2022 from the University of Southern Maine, Stonecoast. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Nimrod, The Banyan Review, Passager, and Cider Press Review, and on the Split this Rock blog and Maine Public Radio’s Poems from Here.
Kathryn de Leon
My World Spins on This Final Point
Clear night, thumb-top of a moon.
The moon is between places.
The edge is what I have.
I have gone out dreaming evil,
dangled between terror and valor,
the roads leading to a castle
that doesn’t exist.
I have wasted my life
in pursuit of some slippery pleasure.
This is the secret that silent Lazarus
would not reveal:
life slips by like a field mouse
not shaking the grass.
Meanwhile the world goes on,
each minute the last,
time torn off unused.
Source & Method: This is a cento with lines taken from the following poems in order: “90 North,” Randell Jarrell (title); “Clear Night,” Charles Wright; “Mountains,” Alice Oswald; “In a Dark Time,” Theodore Roethke; “Her Kind,” Ann Sexton; “Psalm,” Charles Simic; “Happiness,” Stephen Dunn; “Lying in a Hammock,” James Wright; “Sadness,” Stephen Dunn; “The Afterlife,” Billy Collins; “And the Days Are Not Full Enough,” Ezra Pound; “Wild Geese,” Mary Oliver; “Living,” Denise Levertov; “Aubade,” Philip Larkin.
Kathryn de Leon is from Los Angeles but has been living in England for 13 years. Her poems have appeared in several US magazines, including Black Fox, Lullwater Review, and Moria Literary Magazine, and in several UK magazines, including London Grip and The High Window, where she was the Featured American Poet.
—erasures from David Foster Wallace's "Everything is Green"
I am older and give you
every thing inside me
I have been keeping such things
you cannot even see
but now there is all of me
going out and coming back
whispering something true
I cannot feel what to believe
but I am all I got
I tried to make it
down the road and back
I got some time still
to try to feel how it does not matter
what I think anymore
her hair is up and she looks
like clean light through the wet window
and she is the taste of something
that has a name
Source & Method: These poems came together in response to a general curiosity about erasure poetry and then a deepening interest in the process of reading a text with an eye for extracting something ... else. Both of these come from "Everything is Green," a piece of “flash fiction” by David Foster Wallace. In the process of creating the first one, then going back through the text a few more times for the sake of revision, the second poem began to take shape on its own, a sort of alternative erasure.
Jon Lavieri holds an MFA from Western Michigan University. His poems have appeared in Anacapa Review, New York Quarterly, Ambit, and elsewhere. His new poems follow a long hiatus while living overseas and centering his focus on music. He currently lives in Rhode Island and teaches English and writing to immigrants.
Source & Method: Collage was produced in Photoshop; the images were found online. The sources for the text were online personal ads, which were then subject to erasure.
Richard Fox has contributed poetry and visual art to online and print literary journals. Swagger & Remorse, his book of poetry, was published in 2007. A poet and visual artist, Fox lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Source & Method: Part of a larger work in transforming an old hardback copy of a Thomas Wolfe novel, The Party at Jack's, into a book of erasure poetry and visual art. While each page is stand-alone, they are thematically thread together. The work is done directly on the book and includes collage and painting, mostly with acrylics. The overarching goal is to find or create rays of hope and beauty, particularly by subverting the text where it describes ennui or angst.
Amy Marques grew up between languages and places, and learned, from an early age, the multiplicity of narratives. She’s published in journals, including Streetcake Magazine, Bending Genres, and Chicago Quarterly Review. More at amybookwhisperer.wordpress.com.
2 erasures with art
Source & Method: These erasure poems are made by combing through existing text, in this case the short stories in James Joyce's Dubliners, one of my favorites of all time. I begin by choosing words that appeal to me and underlining. Then I go back and underline words that connect or contextualize. Finally, I reconstruct the shape and spacing of the remaining poem in Canva, often finding public domain images to work into the design. These poems are part of an erasure manuscript that will also include Dickens, Twain, and other classic writers who have passed into the public domain.
Justin Hamm's most recent book is Drinking Guinness With the Dead: Poems 2007-2021. His poems, stories, reviews, photographs, and artwork appear inside and on the cover of numerous literary magazines.
Conversation with Sue Mellinger, 11/7/2022
I met a man
for the first time
on a remote farmland
As he shook my hand
for the machete
in the other hand.
Source & Method: From a conversation with a friend. Edited, line breaks added to bring imagery and tone to the fore. Reuse of Sue's language used by permission.
Sara Eddy is the author of two chapbooks, Tell the Bees (A3 Press) and Full Mouth (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Threepenny Review, Pink Panther, and Raleigh Review. She is Assistant Director of the writing center at Smith College and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her full-length collection of poems, Ordinary Fissures, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books.
Unlost #31: My World Spins on This Final Point
Unlost is edited by Dale Wisely, Ken Chau, Howie Good, and Tom Fugalli. Roo Black is founding editor emeritus. Our staff pathologist/spiritual advisor is the Reverend Doctor Angus Q. Fillmore, D.D.S. Our thanks to the contributors to this issue and all who submitted their work.