Welcome Back, Kristy Bowen!

This month we are featuring the poets and writers who have signed with us in the past twelve months—all writers who submitted work during one of our two annual open reading periods.

Today we bring you Kirsty Bowen whose poetry collection Salvage will be her second with Black Lawrence Press.


The Author

A writer and visual artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of several book, chapbook, and zine projects, including the recent major characters in minor films (Sundress Publications), girl show (Black Lawrence Press), and the shared properties of water and stars (Noctuary Press). She lives in Chicago, where she runs dancing girl press & studio.


The Book

Salvage is book about mermaids, sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically, but they’re there nonetheless.   It’s one of my obsessions, which surfaces again and again in my own writing, the things I publish, the work by other’s that I love. I always tell other people that admitting you are a “poet” is sometimes like telling people in the non-creative world that you are a mermaid. Or maybe it’s my spirit animal, the sort of ordinary life you lead in the real world up top of and a little bit of the magical under the surface.

The Workspace



Shipwrecks of Lake Michigan


It’s like everything, but everything in miniature,
the tiny sleepy boats floating the surface.
But more that sound travels differently across water,

faster, but thicker and more enticing. How song coated
the ear canals of sailors like honey, the intricate
clicking parts, the smallest bones in their bodies.

Light also carries differently through water, that slight
refraction about an inch to the left of memory.
I say I write too much about it, but there it is

everyday, a pure expanse of blue out my bus window.
I have this thing about architecture, how some
of it is terrifying, all chrome and glass

and impossible lines. I imagine losing my parents,
my legs in some horrible accident, my sight or
my fingers. Everything that we love inspires fear.

And in its losing, even more. I have dreams
where I get lost in the city at night and none
of the tricks I’ve learned pan out, this place

a tidy system of grid work and horizon
suddenly gone black and askew. My voice carries
differently across asphalt, and I keep spilling

my drink, my purse, my affections in the laps
of strangers. Everything we love is moving away from us,
some small dark point that may or may not be a ship.

from The Care and Feeding of Mermaids
You must begin with white, but it’s a dirty sort of white. Like the sound left after birds have alighted from the beach in a rush of feathers and noise. Sea glass is nice, something small and heart shaped, tiny enough to fit in the box under the bed. Never mind the whining and weaving she’ll do with anything she can find: fishing line, seaweed, the plastic rings from soda cans. It’s all very picturesque and quaint. Soon, the body will open with the slightest prodding, the scales glimmering in the sun. You must begin with language, but a dirty sort of language. Get her used to cunt and fuck. Soon she’ll say them without the whisper. Soon you’ll pull them from her throat like a string of pearls. Picture a water color in a turbine. What it’s like for her on the inside. Leaking seascapes and an impossible father. It is foolish to love that which has freed you. Or that which you save. We know this, and yet, again we turn off the radio. Excite at the heft, the slightest shimmer in the net.


In winter, the fruit goes bad too fast on the counter.
I’m all loose sheets and trailing edges. Too much
fabric and static rubbing up against things.

If what we touch touches us, I’ve ruined more dresses
than you can imagine. By now the lake is dusted with snow
and grey light. I’m weary, whiskey-tongued, everything

underwater like a circus or a ballet where everyone
is wearing the wrong shoes. If what we touch touches us,
I’m the ship in the bottle but sometimes the bottle

inside the ship. Leaden with sunken pianos and broken crockery.
Despite what people say, you can still see most of the stars,
the constellations, the entire galaxy carved across the sky.

If you stand close enough, you can hear desire conducting
itself along my nervous system, the blue sparks at the surface
of skin. If you stand closer, you can smell the tiniest

bit of Atlantic on my breath. The brine in the way I say
words like water or bottom or love.