America is the mother of all bombers, and if Trump continues his reckless abuse of military power another generation of fatherless children will curse her name 

Post-Truth Post

By Sebastian LaMontagne

The Mother Of All Bombs
On Thursday the 13th at 7pm local time, the U.S hit an ISIS tunnel complex in the district of Achin, part of the Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. They used a bomb known as a massive ordinance air blast weapon, GBU-34B, or the “mother of all bombs.” It was the first time the U.S had ever used it’s largest non-nuclear bomb in combat. The GBU-34B unleashed 11 tons of explosives, making it 0.073% as powerful as a nuclear weapon. In translation, the explosion it caused shook the earth miles away but was a spark in comparison to the house fire of Hiroshima.

Asked about the use of the bomb Trump explained with his habitual eloquence that, “what I do is I authorize my military. … We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and frankly that’s why they’ve been…

View original post 2,863 more words

2017 Mass Poetry Festival May 5-7!

1490731644920.png

Join me (and the stellar line-up above) at the 2017 Massachusetts Poetry Festival in downtown Salem, Mass May 5-7. This is the 9th annual Mass Poetry Festival, my third as a presenter/reader. Tickets/buttons can be purchased, and the schedule viewed, at the link above.

I’m taking part in two events this year:

May 6, 2-3 p.m. Massachusetts Cultural Council 2016 Fellowship Awardees Reading, Peabody Essex Museum. I’ll be reading work from my forthcoming collection, See the Wolf, slated for publication with CavanKerry Press in spring 2018. This event is scheduled at the same time as Kazim Ali’s reading so if you attend you could quite literally have our undivided attention. If you don’t come, I’m sneaking out to see Ali read:)

May 7, 1-2 p.m. ‘History’s Inspiration: Poetry Out of the Past’ reading and panel discussion with Andrea Stone and Ellen Dore Watson, Peabody Essex Museum. We’ll be discussing history as inspiration for poetry, reading from our own work, especially poetry that deals with the history of New England, and opening up for Q&A. I’ll read from my second collection Split the Crow

Early May in Salem isn’t exactly balmy but it’s better than early March in Salem! Plus, the festival is small enough that you could find yourself walking back to the Hawthorne Hotel behind Mark Doty and chatting with Marie Howe while she waits for an elevator in the lobby, both of which happened last year. There’s a great mix of poetry super stars and little guys (like me). The outdoor book fair will mess with your good intentions to leave with no more than three books. In short, the vibe is great and if AWP is too overwhelming for you, MaPo will probably be just right. This year, Louise Gluck is reading right after my last panel. My heart is already skipping beats, I’ve never heard her read!

Four Writing Prompts from Queen of Cups

8d699d8e-8f75-4cd4-8252-edaf2cc95761.jpg

One feature of my mini lit mag Queen of Cups is a weekly writing prompt. Sometimes I base the prompt on the week’s tarot card, other times I’m inspired by the featured writer, or I come up with something out of left field. As a poet, I’ve found prompts invaluable in generating new material. Here are four of my favorite from Queen of Cups back issues, all are accessible to poets and prose writers alike.

 

1. Write a piece that takes place in a structure, dwelling, or shelter. Think of Shirley Jackson who suffered from agoraphobia and wrote ghost stories and psychological thrillers where houses are not only haunted but become malevolent main characters imprisoning their inhabitants. Conversely, look to Rumer Godden who wrote at least five novels with the word ‘House’ appearing in the title. Godden’s dwellings also rise to character status but are more benevolent, becoming meaningful because of the accrual of inhabitants over the course of history. Like a beloved and ancient oak, Godden’s houses take on personalities of their own and tend to stand both within the passage of time and beyond it. Houses symbolize safety, nurture, and personal and family identity, but can also work in the opposite direction and quickly convey danger, imprisonment, and stultification. Your job is to write something with a physical structure in it, see where it takes you and what your structure reveals to you through the writing of your piece.

 

2. Write a piece titled “Grief Hallucinations” which incorporates the sentence: “You are a little soul carrying around a corpse.” (Epictetus)

 

3. The tradition of lachrymatory dates to Greek and Roman times, but was popular around the Civil War. Wives and sweethearts would collect their tears in small vials, called lachrymatories, in hopes of showing their returning soldiers how much they were missed. Lachrymatory was a common ritual in the elaborate Victorian mourning process which also included: ‘deep mourning’, ‘half mourning’, and, my favorite, ‘slighting the mourning’ the moment when scratchy crepe dress trimming could be removed. Mourning in dress was observed right down to the smallest detail: I own a small box of antique stick pins with black heads labelled ‘Mourning Pins’. Women collected tears shed over death into lachrymatory and would leave the uncorked vials on loved ones’ graves; uncorked so the tears would evaporate over time. Write a poem or prose piece where lachrymatory (or ritualistic mourning) appear.

 

4. Write a micro essay/story (about 500 words), or a prose poem about consciously throwing something special away, or about getting rid of something in a bizarre or unique way.

 

 

 

Reading at Smith College February 12

neilson.jpg

**This even has been cancelled due to snowy Sunday forecast**

I’ll be reading, along with fiction writer MB Caschetta, in the Gallery of Readers Series this Sunday, February 12th at 4 p.m. in the Neilson Library browsing room at Smith College.

I’ll read from my newest collection Split the Crow (Parlor Press 2015) which Eleven, Eleven reviewer Sabrina Barretto calls: “a book that wrenches and haunts.”

Poet Mary Biddinger writes: “Sousa’s  work picks up where conventional history has left off, giving voice to urgent testimonies. Split the Crow is a collection of tremendous magnitude that calls upon the past as a way to reconsider our present moment.”

Review of Split the Crow in the Journal Eleven, Eleven

Gsousa100-200x300.jpg

My thanks to Eleven, Eleven and reviewer Sabrina Barreto for the close read and this generous review of Split the Crow.

 

SPLIT THE CROW, BY SARAH SOUSA
Parlor Press, 2015
84 pp.

Reviewed by Sabrina Barreto

I’m swallowing a story
that ends with blood-stained snow.
I know how this looks.
It appears to be true.

So begins Sarah Sousa’s second volume of poetry, Split the Crow. The opening poem, “Her Moods Caused Owls,” serves as an immediate sine qua non of the book: history, and the individual human stories at its core, is not an issue of fallacy and truth. History is a matter of accountability, and stories are accumulated moments that pivot into cornerstones.

Just as history braids the threads of human lives, so Sousa gathers multiple voices into a chorus that rages and laments. Her chorus is a mingling of Native Americans and European colonizers, speaking initially from the Contact Period in 1600s New England, then traversing Midwest in the early 1900s. The brutality and subjugation that are mentioned as abstracts in American history textbooks return to their breathing, bleeding bodies in Sousa’s hands.

All are culpable, and it is Sousa’s unflinching stance toward her personae that gives her lyric-narratives power. In Part I, which features several accounts of archaeological observation, she excavates the burial grounds and personal effects of children, denoting how objects like the “left forepaw of a bear” (8) and a medicine pouch “Small as a tablespoon” (18) carry their emotional heft: “Sometimes love is expressed with a stone / heavier than what lies beneath it” (8).

Among interred bodies, foreign voices soon rise. The recurrent “Remove” poems, written from the perspective of captive Mary Rowlandson, provide visceral insight into the terrors experienced by settlers’ families seized and marched in raids: “Nine days on my knees. I leave / jelly-red bowls in the snow when I stand” (13). In her trademark forte, Sousa’s images subvert tenderness with violence: “I watched the goodwife, heavy with child, / stop and have a game of ring-a-roses / played with hatchets on her skull” (20).

But the most horrifying voices belong to the men who condemn: Puritan missionaries. Roger Williams’ hypocrisy appears first, succeeded by John Eliot’s pseudo-Algonquin Bible and his suggestive translation that “cleave is both / cut and cling to” (26), then cemented with a Christianized native’s confession “Satan makes me homesick… Reverend, I believe Satan is easier / with me” (29).

In comparison, the most captivating voices belong to liminal women: the native midwife complicit in infanticide, the native mother who bears a colonizer’s “mottled” stillborn (25), and, in Part II, a slave adopted by the Cherokee as “a gift given”(45) juxtaposed with a slave impregnated by a native and rejected by his tribe.

If Part I of Split the Crow was the Civil War, then Part II would be the Reconstruction. While the first half delves into decimation, the second half deals in “Survival and Other Skills” (56). No longer driven towards death, Native Americans live in death’s presence: the asphyxiation of their way of life. In response, tribal elders gather the living and ghosts alike, while they are caricatured against the “clever cowboy” in the “Indian Exhibit” (53) and their children are “Renamed at Boarding School” (54), where “Speaking Kiowa could get a boy thrown / across the room, collar bone snapped” (55).

Yet, in a longing for past rituals, there is more space for warmth in Part II: a “Courtship scene drawn on an envelope” (39), a lacemaker’s hodgepodge scrapbook of remedies and censuses, and daughters who still “cut hair, make light biscuits” (56) like their grandmothers. Sousa explores how memory is processed and contained not only in the body, but moreover through tradition – traditions that she draws upon from her female forbears in poetry.

In particular, there are four poets that inform Sousa’s work. There is Dickinson, with her crystalline diction, and Bishop, with her quiet details and narrative sequencing, but there is especially Plath and Glück. Sousa shares Glück’s sharpened sensitivity and intense adaptation of persona, and creates incantations reminiscent of the “Vesper” / “Matin” poems in Iris. Like Plath, Sousa streamlines fury, harnesses “quick and liquid” (26) sounds, and accentuates the energy of death, with a strong sense of fracture.

Split the Crow is a book that wrenches and haunts, “dark / and sweet as a raven’s wing” (19). In excavating the remains of a past life and culture’s lifeblood, Sousa’s reaffirms indigenous force, if not authority: “Sad because extinct but still / possessing mythical teeth, legs, claws” (6). History doesn’t slumber – it is couched in shadow, waiting to emerge from dust.

 

 

Sabrina Barreto is a Bay Area wordsmith and MFA Poetry candidate at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She is currently the International Editor and Poetry Coordinator of literary journal Eleven Eleven. She has received the Academy of American Poets Tamara Verga Prize, two consecutive Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prizes, and two Shipsey Poetry Prizes. Her work has appeared in The Bohemian, the Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, the Santa Clara Review, and explore Journal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wisdom of the Tarot’s Death Card at This Moment in History

fbb84a10-9dc3-4f97-bf51-ad7ff489cbd8.jpg

La Miseria by Cristobal Rojas, 1886

***The following reading of the Death card is excerpted from the mini lit mag Queen of Cups. This week’s issue can be read in entirety at the link. You can subscribe to Queen of Cups for free. Issues are delivered every Wednesday to your inbox. ***

 

 

 

2bb9686b-abd3-430a-b2d0-cc1ab046060d.jpeg

I don’t usually shuffle the deck and pick the weekly card feeling like I need some kind of guidance or a relevant message. I usually just shuffle and pick, take what we get and set to work. This week, however, I found myself shuffling slowly, heavily. After several stressful, anxious, angry, post-election days, a torpor, a complete lassitude, had settled over me. I shuffled absentmindedly and picked a card about three or four from the top of the deck, without much thought. I was surprised to see the Death card and immediately recognized it as appropriate and powerful. I’m not going to be able to help putting this card in the context of recent events. I would like QOC to be as much of a haven as possible, where we can all think about art, focus on art, read good literature, write a little and have some spiritual/philosophical fun with the tarot, a place to be introspective and centered. But….. Sometimes the complicated and challenging aspects of life intrude, and art can’t really be separated from life anyway, nor would we want it to. Many of us have been knocked off our centers and spiritually dislocated, come face to face with our own fear, anger, and helplessness, and, sometimes even more painfully, face to face with the fear, anger, helplessness and suffering of those around us who we love, respect, and wish to support. Although the appearance of the Death card in B films always portends doom, Death in the tarot doesn’t signify literal, physical death, but a powerful metaphor. Metaphor is another reason I love the tarot. The Death card can be read in both positive and negative ways depending on the context but also because the idea of death as change contains both positive and negative elements. Both readings see Death as an ending, an inexorable force which may feel overwhelming, a time of significant transition and transformation. If we accept this analogy, there is also likely to be struggle, fear and pain. The idea of denying death or forestalling it isn’t really relevant. Literal death is not swayed by either denial or reasoning. This card is certainly speaking to what many of us lived through on November 8th. The election of any new president and handing of power from one to the next is always a mini-death in the metaphorical sense. There’s trepidation as we watch this fragile construct called America enact its every four-year ritual. This year there’s a sense of dread in half the population, and the very fact that the population of our country is literally split in two over its beliefs, ideals and direction is heightening this dread. Half of us are mourning the impending loss of advocacy and care for our environment, health, education, religious freedoms, equal rights, tolerance, liberty, and moral fiber. Many of us feel afraid for ourselves and even more afraid for friends and family who, because of their skin color, or sexual orientation, are more vulnerable to being targeted when hate speech incites violence. I have taken comfort in friends telling friends ‘I’ve got your back’. Not a cliche in this context, but a real promise that’s not easy to make. I’ve got your back, as in: I will call out racism when I see or hear it. I’ve got your back, as in: I will call out misogyny and homophobia when I see or hear it, I’ve got your back as in: if a Muslim registry is established we will all register as Muslim, I’ve got your back: I will use my talents, my energy and resources in the fight against fundamental injustice, I’ve got your back: I will stand beside you because, as many of us know from experience, we’re stronger and safer in groups. We, writers and artists, are in a unique position to use our work on behalf of humanity, for equality, fairness, integrity. Art-making is truth-telling, which in itself is a powerful and subversive act. You don’t have to write activist or political poetry for a poem to send a profound message about the human condition. And it’s also desirable for art and craft to sometimes be a balm, an object of beauty, joy, and gratitude, that allows its viewer to breathe deeply and feel, for a moment at least, that life is going to be ok. It’s alright to feel that in the presence of death. We should offer each other, our readers, our viewers, and ourselves, that empathy. I felt this as I worked on the doll I donated to the Standing with Standing Rock fundraiser I told you all about last week. I created her in the days leading up to the election and half of election day itself. The blog post I wrote with photos of the process received a powerful response. People need art in dark times. They need to make art and interact with art. Some of the warmest, most genuine, and bonded groups I have spent time with were informal ones come together around art, craft and writing. We need to keep doing these things on small and large scales and count whatever good results as more light in the darkness. An ancient and enduring ritual of death is that of sitting vigil, from the Latin wakefulness. A loved one commits to sit, awake, beside the bed of the dying for comfort and to bear witness to the life and death of this one individual. It is a commitment to being present, seeing what has to be seen, feeling what has to be felt and staying put. Sitting vigil occurs in non fatal struggles too, as when we sit with a person severely depressed, heartbroken, in physical or emotional pain, the woman in labor, the loved one betrayed or spiritually bereft. It’s one of the hardest roles to fill and one of the most basic. It is a job that has often been taken-up by women. I have sat vigil in nearly all of these ways in my life. I like to think of sitting vigil as the act of space holding, one person holding a forcefield of safety and love around another who is too devoid of lifeforce, weak, or in pain to do this for herself, but also holding a space of reverence for the hard work of suffering, letting go, being human. I think this is what the Death card is calling us to do. There are days of action ahead, they’re knocking at the door, right now we take time to sit vigil for each other and for the loss of something greater.