Thursday, 26 May 2016

A poem by Leila K. Norako

Teaching on a Gun-Friendly Campus: A Brief Guide*

Be guarded and careful
when tempted to speak
of guns.

Refrain from posting cute
signs that read:
“Gun-free classroom.”

Ask none of your students
if they are armed.

Avoid meeting with students
outside of posted office hours, but

            you cannot refuse to hold them altogether
            a $10k fine awaits you if you do
            students must be allowed to bring their guns, but
            you can probably opt to meet in public spaces.

Take care as well when
you attempt to speak
of hard things.
It actually might be best—
since you no longer can afford
to risk outrage or anger—
simply to strike
controversial topics
like the following
from the syllabus:

Huckleberry Finn
bell hooks
Ferguson and Flint
the torture of detainees
Queer Theory
embryonic screening
Confederate flags
Joan of Arc
dystopian fiction
global warming
the fabliaux
voting rights
Kent State
a living wage
organic farming
the Rwandan Genocide
physician-assisted suicide
the war in Iraq
stem cell research
universal health care
young millennials
and zoos.

Try as well to avoid
in class assignments
that risk chafing those
already irritable.
For instance,
Stage no debates,
and do not ask
students to write sestinas
or diagram sentences.
Require no timed
math tests,
and certainly refrain
from any titrations
or dissections
in the lab.

If you must speak
of Darwin,
postcolonial theory,
or Margaret Atwood
you might consider
wearing Kevlar.
And if you must lecture
on the speech of Aristophanes,
do so from the confines
of your personal tank.

You just can’t be too careful. 

And before we forget:
try as best you can
to ignore
that swelling sound
in the distance.
It’s merely the death rattle
of education
as you know it.

*Some of the phrases in the first few stanzas are paraphrased versions of ones found in a PowerPoint presentation recently delivered to the University of Houston’s Faculty Senate.

I would like to thank Asa Mittman for helping to inspire the final stanza of the poem, and David Perry for discovering the PowerPoint and bringing it to the attention of the general public.

Leila K. Norako is a scholar of medieval English literature and a poet who currently calls the San Francisco Bay Area home. She is fast at work on two poetry projects at present: a chapbook of poems about Iceland, and a series of poems that meditate on loss and its aftershocks. She currently serves as a postdoctoral fellow in Stanford's Thinking Matters Program, and starting this Fall she will be an Assistant Professor of English at The University of Washington. She writes about the intersections of medieval and modern cultures on her blog, In Romaunce as We Rede, and also makes occasional appearances on Twitter (@Na_Pomaikai). 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A poem by Sanjeev Sethi


Sublingual secrets are minacious:
Of them glissading
as scuttlebutt is imminent.
Never dread the locus
of your confidentialness.
Be on the qui vive for palsy-walsy
carriers of the gravamen.
It’s always the squealer’s failing,
specious to censure provocateurs.

The recently released, This Summer and That Summer, (Bloomsbury) is Sanjeev Sethi’s third book of poems. His work includes well-received volumes, Nine Summers Later and Suddenly For Someone. His poems have found a home in The London Magazine, The Fortnightly Review, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Solstice Literary Magazine, Off the Coast Literary Journal, Hamilton Stone Review, Literary Orphans, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, The Peregrine Muse, Otoliths, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Section 8 Magazine, and elsewhere. Poems are forthcoming in Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Ink Sweat & Tears, First Literary Review-East, Meniscus, The Open Mouse and Drunk Monkeys. He lives in Mumbai, India.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Two poems by Myra Schneider


The silk spun from a worm,
the sea’s forget-me-not blue, a newly
born human unmarked by the world,
the word queening a hoarding
and slyly inserted in the caption underneath:
A Life of Pure Style and Indulgence.
                                                        To whet
the appetite a photo of a room juts into sky.
I note the polished floor, slender-legged lamps,                                
faux leather furniture, insistent wall screen,
picture window – no welcoming pet,
pot plant, teapot, open book.
                                   What’s pure,
I ask the paving stones, about stirring up desire
to wine and dine expensively while watching
pulp TV in a room concocted in an office
by a designer who knows exactly
how to tempt today’s buyers?
                                             What’s pure,
I ask a litter bin, about a set of apartments
opposite a car park that’s next to a station fronted
by a pull-in for buses, a set of apartments
which rubs shoulders with the rail track and faces
a street where vehicles queue to join
a manic motorway?
                                         What’s pure
I ask a lamp post about twisting the meaning
out of yet another word? Think: nice, pretty,
awesome, devastating, precisely, each lifeless
as a mouse the cat’s finished with.
                                                      Pure! the word
tolls as I leave the judder in the main road
and trot down to the park, rest my eyes
on trees offering the froth of blossom,
stare at the clot of log, plastic wrappers,
wire coils, chucked cans and lumps of paper
which are jamming the Brook.

'Pure' is taken from Myra's upcoming collection - 'Persephone Finsbury Park' which is due in June 2016.

Myra Schneider’s most recent poetry publications are The Door to Colour (Enitharmon 2014) and What Women Want (Second Light Publications 2012). She was shortlisted for a Forward Prize in 2007. Other books include Writing My Way Through Cancer (Jessica Kingsley 2003), and with John Killick Writing Your Self (Continuum 2009). She tutors for The Poetry School in London, is consultant to the Second Light Network of Women Poets and has co-edited anthologies of work by contemporary women poets. The most recent is Her Wings of Glass (Second Light Publications 2014).


Previously published poem (03/02/2014)

Mambo Dims

It started in the usual territory – I had to organize 
an event involving clumps of people whose clobber
was stranded in difficult locations. The moment

I set out I slipped into a mangrove swamp 
so I hadn’t a hope in hell of finding my notebook 
and working out a sensible plan of action.

The end was absurd: a windowless room 
full of slatted racks like those my father packed 
with apples which crinkled over winter. 

These held mounds of biscuits. I’d just tasted one
which was mouldy when women started leaping 
from the highest shelf. Each made a perfect flight

until my friend Sheena landed twisting a foot. 
She brushed me aside: no worries I’m wearing
my mambo dims. Then everything melted

but through my sleepiness I could still see 
those slip-ons – their feather-lightness
had saved her from harm. And I was amazed

that my brain without consulting me had picked
on a dance I imagine as orange syncopated  
with hot scarlet, to slipper feet smaller,

more slender than mine. Mambo dims, I mouthed 
and my jaws unclamped. And whenever I whisper
mambo dims, mangroves unravel, days untrap me.

Monday, 9 May 2016

A poem by Richard Manly Heiman


Dreams that wake you are vivid.
You remember them too
like ghosts in the attic
they’re always there
just waiting to be shouted down
wrapping their skinny bloodless arms
squeezing your brainstem.

You invite them to breakfast
Serve them French toast, coffee
that goes right through them and—
though they're always silent, never
read the paper, sneeze, or pet the cat
before they head back through the
ceiling, still somehow
you sense their gratitude.

Richard Manly (Rick) Heiman lives in the California "Gold Country" where there is little gold left and no water from which to pan it. He rides horses occasionally when he can find one lethargic enough to mount up. Rick works as a substitute teacher and writes evenings, weekends and when the kids are at recess. He is pursuing an MFA with Lindenwood U. Rick's work has appeared, or will, in Mulberry Fork Review, Pilgrim, Bop Dead City, Rust & Moth, and more. His website URL is

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A poem by Deonte Osayande

Terminal Ethnicity

Being diagnosed with terminal
ethnicity prevents many students

from completing their assignments
on time since
they are serving
time                 customers                    their country

and everyone thinks they can see everything
they need to know from their
record              clothes             skin                  name

instead of how they are tested
            in class             outside of class 
                        at work            at home
                                    with friends     with family.

Everyone assesses how
            threatening      talented           intelligent
                        old                   young
these students will be before they die. I would know

seeing as alternative medicine now embraces
the curative powers
            of death           of quarantine 
                        in a cell

and I've been avoiding being
            assimilated      assassinated
by a public who would have their country
vaccinated in this genocidal way.

Deonte Osayande is a former track and field sprinter turned writer from Detroit, Mi. He writes nonfiction essays and his poems have been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology, a Pushcart Prize and published in numerous publications. He has represented Detroit at multiple National Poetry Slam competitions. He's currently a professor of English at Wayne County Community College, and teaching youth through the Inside Out Detroit Literary Arts Program.

Monday, 2 May 2016

A poem by Al Ortolani

Girls’ Choir

A dark haired girl sits in the center of the choir room pecking out songs on the piano. Her classmates are giggling through study hall. Some lounge on the floor texting, studying their phone screens. Another has isolated herself and connects dots in an AP English assignment. The girl at the piano returns to a fragment of a song which is reminiscent of McCartney’s “Golden Slumbers.” She plays around the melody. Maybe her song is something else, something more modern. Nevertheless, the energy in the room settles, girl linked to girl at 10 a.m.

slits of sunlight

through winter blinds, dancing

blue fingernails

Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared, or are forthcoming, in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, and the New York Quarterly. He has published six collections of poetry. His Waving Mustard in Surrender (NYQ Books) was short-listed for the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award from Binghampton Univesity in New York. A seventh collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released by New York Quarterly Books in April of 2016. He teaches English in the Kansas City area. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.