Seattle Pacific University can proudly lay claim to both these poets, and both of them have brought new books into the world. Jennifer Maier, a professor of English at the university and associate editor of the arts quarterly Image, recently published Now, Now with the Pitt Poetry Series at the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her first collection, Dark Alphabet, published by Southern Illinois University Press, won the Crab Orchard Review Series in Poetry First Book Award and was named one of the Ten Remarkable Books of 2006 by the Academy of American Poets. Here’s a sampling from her latest collection—
Whenever we listen to the loamy contralto
of Virginia Rodrigues, singing of blackness and exile
and the warm seas of Bahia, the neighbor’s dog and I
stare at the speakers, full of sadness and desire.
Bruno is an Italian greyhound; we are mostly white;
we live in city apartments and do not speak Portuguese.
Still, something in the singer’s ineluctable rhythms,
her long vowels like a beautiful howling, seems familiar,
and I know the way Bruno feels when I turn to address him,
his eyes fixed in anxious concentration, as though English
were a language he has inexplicably forgotten,
but will recover, as soon as he remembers how to fold
his long tongue into a ship that will ferry him out
of the taut wedge of a body in which he has been detained,
back to his native land. There, from the corporeal lap
of the sofa, whose back is the green coast of Salvadór,
whose arms, the beautiful, burdened arms of Africa,
he will reply, “Is the samba not proof that all possible
worlds are united in this one?” Oh sim, certamente,
I’ll say, the music swelling around us like the slow
respiring sea, that is here and there, then and now,
and has been singing to everyone forever.
Hannah Faith Notess came to Seattle to serve as a Milton Fellow at Seattle Pacific University, hosted by Image journal, and now works as the managing editor for the university‘s Response magazine. Her collection of poems, Ghost House, received the 2013 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award and was published that year by the press.
Below we’ve shared a poem from the volume—
TO THE FORMER SELF IN ART CLASS
You didn’t know the boy who sat next to you
in Watercolor 101 was going to shut himself
in the car, stop breathing. Let’s be honest.
His cones and cylinders were as lopsided
as everyone else’s cones and cylinders.
When you hear the news two years later,
you search your own tatty portfolio
for clues, sigh If only I had known—
but I want to shake you and say, You didn’t,
and anyway that phrase is a stupider knife
even than Ockham’s old razor. If you went back,
with your grey lens of knowledge, you’d still be painting
the same burnt-out cathedral under burnt-orange
blood dripping from the sky, collaged with quotations
from The Waste Land. You thought it meant
you were losing your faith; but look, there you are
sitting in church, five years in the future,
and wondering (like a good Protestant) why
you want so much to pray for the souls of the dead.
In fact, you could go back and forth enough
times to wear a rut in the floor of time,
but your awkward brushstrokes would still paint
the same cathedral that lists to the left. You’d still
stay up all night worrying about the alchemical
substance of the soul. Your grand attempts
at pthalo yellow sunrises would still turn murky,
while the same boy sat silent beside you,
washing the globe of an apple with quinacridone
gold, shading it with Payne’s grey,
the same dark worm asleep on his heart.