National Poetry Month Spotlight: Lisa Fay Coutley

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 Lisa Fay Coutley, who won the Fall 2009 Black River Chapbook Competition for In The Carnival of Breathing.
In the Carnival of Breathing
The Study of Lakes
We knew California would take it the hardest: losing
 …..palm trees is never easy. No one spoke
of the redwoods. As a community, we folded
 …..& unfolded our sweaters, packed night
bags with the last of our peaches. We waited.
 …..We breathed but thought of it only
when smoking. Eventually, the telephone poles
 …..couldn’t hold, & we called a desert
a desert again. No one blessed the faucets or prayed
 …..for hailstones to halve like human eyes,
so the baptism by thistle went unnoticed. It was easier
 …..that way—to say no one was watching.
The Nalgene bottles went fast & the flasks even
 …..faster, but by night we rediscovered energy
for attacking prey, for avoiding tattoos & brandings,
 …..surgical scissors, punches, & ropes. We trellised
mountains in groups, using fish bones for cairns, & when
 …..dirt stormed over us a second time, we hoped
for locusts. Once, a woman claimed she’d seen trumpet vine
 …..covered with golden husks in North Dakota.
We waited. But no one blessed her pocket. No one
 …..prayed for a stranger’s empty shell.
me and coffeeshopcatLisa Fay Coutley is the author of Errata (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award, and In the Carnival of Breathing (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for Arts, scholarships from Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, and an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize. Recent prose and poetry publications include Prairie Schooner, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, and Poets & Writers. At present, she is teaching at the University of Oregon as a Visiting Assistant Professor in Poetry Writing.