Regular Features Pages
African Poetry with Michael R. Burch
Sentimental Poetry with Anthony Watkins
Touching your face with my two hands at night,
like the last gesture love will ever make,
I sense you slipping, slipping out of sight
into the shadow from which none awake.
I wait for my own sleep, anticipation
fixed on the rumble of a distant train
until it arrives, rushing through the station,
mysterious windows flashing in my brain
a lifetime of looking, view after glancing view.
Beside me in the dark, your breathing slows.
And I pray to journey through the night with you,
in this or any sleep the spirit knows.
Barbara Loots is known in The Lyric, Measure, The Formalist, Plains Poetry Journal, Mezzo Cammin, and other places friendly to traditional verse. Her poems are collected in Road Trip (2014) and Windshift (2018) both from Kelsay Books.
Editor’ s Choice:
Free Verse Poetry
Down the Barrel
Staring down the barrel has me frozen
my heart is beating slow
my legs firm and relaxed.
He is watching me.
The smell of cold iron awaits
as the mechanized clicks of Smith
and the grains of Wesson running against my shoulder
are keeping time stopped in this place.
He expects me to be his way,
in a place that is supposed to be home.
Here the desert wind is a dry cold
and threatens to break blisters on my hands
that are covered in my father’s gun oil
smelling of fireworks
as I hope he might feel proud
Staring down the barrel
at targets of rusty metal and shattered cardboard
held by desert rocks and shifted sand.
The wind downdrafts the smell
of the targets right at me
taunting what lies in the chamber
from the other side of the range
to aim for my father’s heart
where I am supposed to rest.
I’m never fully home.
Staring down the barrel
just one bit of silence
One more round as I aim
guided by instinct passed down to me
Pull the trigger as I stare down the barrel
and hope this bullet reaches home.
He looks away
and says nothing.
I missed my target.
Shelby Anne Kruse is a fiction writer, musician, and works in ABA services in Riverside, California. She is currently working on a fantasy novel.
From Giovanni Quessep’s first book Being is not a fable (El ser no es una fábula 1968):
The Impure Clarity
It is also in our dream that time ignites
its fable-making denial. No one ever
forgets that dying is this impure
clarity. Like the sea between doves.
Who is to be deemed guilty? (Ah hope,
the matter of invented days.)
Our dreams get lost, someone utters words,
failures, founderings: ships, for our sakes,
fly on towards legend.
All is exile, all sea, all is its depth,
its rim, its never, its time it recounts to us.
La impura claridad by Giovanni Quesse
translated by Felipe Botero Quintana and Ranald Barnicot.
Original and more in Poetry Translations.
The Interview with A.E. Stallings
by Vera Ignatowitsch
A.E. Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia, in the previous millennium, and now lives in Athens, Greece. She has published four collections of poetry: Archaic Smile (University of Evansville Press), Hapax (TriQuarterly Books), Olives (TriQuarterly Books), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Like, recently out from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She has published a verse translation of Lucretius’s philosophical epic, The Nature of Things, and Hesiod's eighth century B.C. almanac, Works and Days, with Penguin Classics. An illustrated and annotated translation of the pseudo-Homeric poem “The Battle of the Frogs and the Mice” is forthcoming from Paul Dry books. Stallings has received a translation grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize, the 2008 Poets’ Prize, and the Benjamin H. Danks Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she was a 2011 Guggenheim fellow and a 2011 MacArthur fellow. She lives with the journalist John Psaropoulos and their two Argonauts, Jason and Atalanta.
BTS: You’ve said that you wanted to be an author since you were a small child. What led you to poetry?
AES: Initially, I thought I’d write in all the genres, I think. But I have always had a special relationship with poetry. While reading a novel, I’d get lost turning the pages, and lose track of time. But in reading a poem, I’d get lost in a single page, and time would stop.
BTS: Is there a ‘music’ or ‘rhythm’ you hear when writing formal poetry? How does it differ from the melodies of your free verse?
AES: Tricky—yes, but there are different musics or rhythms depending on what kind of meter, etc. Sometimes there is a quiet authority to a line that seems to come from outside of myself. (That is often iambic pentameter talking.)
BTS: Your poetry is known for mixing myth and voices from bygone eras with the modern, the now. Is this something you set out to do specifically?
AES: Short answer—yes. I wouldn’t like to arbitrarily rule out an archaic word or a slang word. I want them all to rub elbows.
Better Than Starbucks is delighted to announce publication of an epic Russian poem, MTSYRI by Mikhail Lermontov, translated into English by Don Mager. Visit our translations page for more information.
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