National Poetry Month Spotlight: Charlotte Pence

Welcome to National Poetry Month, 2015! We’re celebrating all month long. Each day we will bring you a poem we love–a selection from one of our published or forthcoming collections. In turn, the featured poets will introduce poems they love. Happy April!
Today’s featured poet is Charlotte Pence, author of The Branches, The Axe, The Missing and Many Small Fires.
Pence Cover - Many Small Fires
We didn’t understand what we were holding,
but knew both penis and vagina on the piglet
meant something. We answered its squeals
with clucks and shush. Took note of its moonish,
hard belly.  Sang “Twinkle, Twinkle” to distract
from the ear tag’s needle and punch. My body
was not the body the piglet longed for:
no mother’s teat, swollen and flabby, spritzing
milk; no fur slicked with manured hay to wallow
and warm. But song is song. Sailors, chain gangs,
boys with Corvettes and girls with Hondas—
we need song. I broke a flute once to get inside
the soft pads of each key. Found only metal and holes
and cold. That’s the way with searching, isn’t it?
We think we know before we know. In this world,
even babies hear their names before they’re born.
Charlotte has chosen to introduce “Oysters” by James Davis May.
She says: The poem quietly builds its tension through the detailed description of the commonplace—and the speaker’s willingness to indict himself.
Pence_Photo_ColorCharlotte Pence’s poetry merges the personal with the scientific by engaging with current evolutionary theory.  Her first full-length poetry collection, Many Small Fires (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) explores her father’s chronic homelessness while simultaneously detailing the physiological changes that enabled humans to form cities, communities, and households. A professor of English and creative writing at Eastern Illinois University, she is also the author of two award-winning poetry chapbooks and the editor of The Poetics of American Song Lyrics (University Press of Mississippi, 2012). New poetry has recently been published or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Denver Quarterly, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review.