National Poetry Month Spotlight: Sarah Messer

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 Sarah Messer, author of the forthcoming collection Dress Made of Mice.
Messerc_webThe Nature of Emptiness
Striped woods, stirred berries and spoon collapsing
into forehead light – this was my contemplation interrupted
by the bear. The bear, bouldering into my cabin as I stirred
dried berries at the stove. Standing on my hind legs stirring when
the bear entered, a wall of fur, standing on his hind legs. I was married
to this bear. And so my husband entered with his bear-skin
cloak thrown over his eyes as his forehead touched mine, and
the forehead of the bear touched mine. And I saw
him for the first time. His forehead shined a flashlight into mine.
Luminous, even though I was shy and looking at the spoon.
The bear in his bearskin made the cabin collapse. And I was married
in his hair. Then an arm, a spoon reaching through me to the cabin
window where the striped woods collapsed and left me without
a bear-skin of my own. I wore a striped mattress. The woods
were filled with them. The bear said: you call that a parka?
The bear said: let’s strip this mattress down to particles and contemplate
that. Let’s contemplate, said the bear, the idea of the mattress
in its smallest form. And beyond that, the bear said, let’s imagine
that the mattress contemplators and the mattress itself
are empty.  Lets imagine our imagining is empty. Are you
gonna eat that? said the bear, because if you’re not, I’d love
to have it. Then what would there be? No mattress, no bear, no idea
of mattress, no idea of bear. No bear interrupting with his stomach
growling and reaching for the spoon. There’d only be
luminosity, said my husband, the flashlight in my head.
originally published in Radcliffe Quarterly
Sarah has chosen to introduce “Where My Body Has Been” by Regina DiPerna.
She says: I love the associate leaps this poem makes and the heartbreaking confession at the end. Everything seems to be leading to it, and yet it is still a surprise every time I read it. Full of honesty and beauty, this piece does what every poem should do, thrill us.
SarahMesserphoto.1Sarah Messer has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mellon Foundation, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Michigan Council for the Arts and others. She is the author of four books — two poetry collections, Bandit Letters (New Issues, 2001), Dress Made of Mice (Black Lawrence, 2015), a history/memoir Red House (Viking, 2004), and a book of translations, Having Once Paused, Poems of Zen Master Ikkyu (University of Michigan Press, 2015). In 2008-2009, she was a Poetry Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. For many years she taught in the MFA program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Currently she runs One Pause Poetry ( in Ann Arbor, Michigan and works at White Lotus Farms.