National Poetry Month and Art Zilleruelo

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Art Zilleruelo

April 4, 2015 – Art Zilleruelo

Art Zilleruelo holds a B.A. in Literature from Penn State Behrend, a Poetry M.F.A. from Wichita State University, and a Ph.D. in Literature from Northeastern University. His poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Pleiades, Western Humanities Review, James Dickey Review, Lake Effect, and other journals, as well as in Of a Monstrous Child: An Anthology of Creative Writing Relationships. His chapbook Weird Vocation is forthcoming from Kattywompus Press. His critical work has appeared in Joyce Studies Annual and The Canterbury Tales Revisited.


Ted Hughes

Pike, three inches long, perfect
Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold.
Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.
They dance on the surface among the flies.

Or move, stunned by their own grandeur,
Over a bed of emerald, silhouette
Of submarine delicacy and horror.
A hundred feet long in their world.

In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads-
Gloom of their stillness:
Logged on last year’s black leaves, watching upwards.
Or hung in an amber cavern of weeds

The jaws’ hooked clamp and fangs
Not to be changed at this date:
A life subdued to its instrument;
The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals.

Three we kept behind glass,
Jungled in weed: three inches, four,
And four and a half: fed fry to them-
Suddenly there were two. Finally one

With a sag belly and the grin it was born with.
And indeed they spare nobody.
Two, six pounds each, over two feet long
High and dry and dead in the willow-herb-

One jammed past its gills down the other’s gullet:
The outside eye stared: as a vice locks-
The same iron in this eye
Though its film shrank in death.

A pond I fished, fifty yards across,
Whose lilies and muscular tench
Had outlasted every visible stone
Of the monastery that planted them-

Stilled legendary depth:
It was as deep as England. It held
Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old
That past nightfall I dared not cast

But silently cast and fished
With the hair frozen on my head
For what might move, for what eye might move.
The still splashes on the dark pond,

Owls hushing the floating woods
Frail on my ear against the dream
Darkness beneath night’s darkness had freed,
That rose slowly toward me, watching.

from New Selected Poems 1957-1994

“My early encounters with nature poetry had little appreciable impact on my thinking or my writing. Most of these poems seemed to capitulate too readily to idealized conceptions of nature that reduced its sublime unknowability to something far less strange. Nature was represented as a nurturing mother, or as a spiritual hospital within which the individual alienated by industrialized society may convalesce. In other words, the poets seemed to see nature the same way everyone else did: as little more than an exploitable resource whose function was to satisfy human needs and desires. It was not until I discovered the poetry of Ted Hughes that I realized that the tropes and figures of poetic language could be used to defamiliarize and re-mythologize the nature that poets had troped and figured into something far too familiar—and far less authentic. Hughes’ unflinching commitment to defamiliarizing nature reminds us that we occupy a world populated by the inscrutable, often disturbingly alien, intelligences of fauna and agencies of flora. His poems make clear the full import of what it means to exit the domesticated confines of the home or city and to take an apparently innocuous walk through the woods, or to collar, leash, cage, or plant a representative of nonhuman nature in domestic space: to do so is to court communion with a living myth, as it writes itself in a language we may never find fully legible.”  -Art Zilleruelo

April 5, 2015 – Art Zilleruelo

Eating Cherries with Van Gogh

Todd Pierce

He preferred the nearly rotten ones,
the way they mushed about his gums,
to spit the pits straight up, and
catch them in his mouth for fun, then
spit them at the cat to make it leave
the sunflowers alone.

There is no redder red, he said, than
solemn flow from ripe to rotten,
no greyer sky than bloom on plums,
purple fog so long forgotten.

Contributor’s Note: This poem first appeared in Annapolis Underground, Summer 2014.

“I have long admired the seemingly intuitive ease with which my friend Todd Pierce captures deep, complicated truths about the human condition in deceptively sophisticated verse structures. “Eating Cherries with Van Gogh” functions as an echo chamber for a playful and painterly conversation between end-rhyme, internal rhyme, slant-rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and alternating passages of iambic propulsion and trochaic reflection. In combination with one another and with the poem’s speculatively biographical subject matter, these displays of craftsmanship elevate the poem to an exercise in synesthesia and a true feast for the senses: the reader hears, sees, and tastes the paint and the fruit, and the effects linger on the palate in complex waves of sweetness and astringency. The poem also flirts slyly with ekphrasis without ever succumbing fully to its overtures, employing rich imagery and erudite allusion to explore the disturbing proximity between maturity and decay, between the whispering muse of artistic creation and the looming specter of self-destruction. The same hand that pressed the brush to the canvas pressed the razor to the ear, and my friend’s poem makes me wonder why that fact surprises me.” -Art Zilleruelo

April 6, 2015 – Art Zilleruelo

Ghost Story

Art Zilleruelo

In a field near the lake
stands the ghost of a dead oak.
The ghost is black and very tall.
It never speaks or moves.
The sky wants to take it.
The earth wants to eat it.
But the ghost is strong, it does not want to move.
So it argues half its tongues into the dirt,
and grips hard against the sky’s glutton lung.
It whispers the other half into air,
and weathers the white earth’s thirst.
Like a frayed black suture it binds earth and sky together.
In this way the ghost stills its universe:
the sky can never rise nor the earth fall
out of their coupling’s grave jurisdiction.
The lake will breathe its atoms to the clouds,
the constellations will pageant
the lucky patterns of their composition
until they break and fade,
but the ghost will stand
contented with the silence,
with the snowfall,
with the stalemate of its own device.

Contributor’s Note: This poem first appeared in James Dickey Review 27.1, Fall 2010

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