National Poetry Month Spotlight: Claudia Cortese

Welcome to National Poetry Month, 2016! 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.

Today’s featured poet is Claudia Cortese. Her collection Wasp Queen will be published in late 2016.

Lucy Mad Lib

She hates herself because ________ (proper noun). Each time Lucy looks in the ________ (Not mirror: what else reflects), she thinks ________, ________, ________ (expletives). She remembers watching ________ (suburban nature image: Note, the pastoral. Note, white flight. Note, mother stands in lamp-glow she sees her at the window. Note, dog blood darkens) and feeling ________ (sentimental noun) and ________ (violent noun because sincerity terrifies). She combed ________’s (girl name) hair, she washed ________’s (girl name) power-pink jeans; they ________ (sexual verb) and ________ (verb of your choosing): don’t tell. She tears hair-roots, sticks marbles where she pees because ________ (i.e., basement water). The why again: ________ (what she can’t forget). Lucy chews her scab, lets go the handlebars, b-b guns a bunny, kicks the fat boy, writes “Bobby sucks big dicks” on his desk, crowbars a pet turtle from its shell, safety pins her thumb-skin because ________ (you know the answer).

selfie in B&B mirrorClaudia Cortese’s first full-length book, Wasp Queen, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2016. Cortese is also the author of two chapbooks: Blood Medals (Thrush Poetry Press, 2015), a collection of prose poems, and The Red Essay and Other Histories (Horse Less Press, 2015), a book of lyric essays. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets 2011, Blackbird, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast Online, and Sixth Finch, among others. The daughter of Neapolitan immigrants, Cortese grew up in Ohio and lives in New Jersey, where she teaches at Montclair State University.