Welcome Back, Valerie Bandura!

This month we are featuring the poets and writers who have signed with us since last summer—all writers who submitted work during one of our two annual open reading periods.
Today we bring you Valerie Bandura whose poetry collection Human Interest will be her second with Black Lawrence Press.

The Author

Born in the former Soviet Union, Valerie Bandura’s first book, Freak Show, was a 2014 Patterson Poetry Prize Finalist. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, ZYZZYVA, Alaska Quarterly Review, Crazyhorse, Mid-Atlantic Review, Third Coast, Prairie Schooner, River Styx, Beloit Poetry Review, Best New Poets, and many others. She was the recipient of fellowships and scholarships from the Vermont Studio Center and Bread Load Writer’s Conference. She teaches creative writing at Arizona State University where she lives with her husband, fiction writer Patrick Michael Finn, and their son.

The Book

Where did you write the book?

I finished with the help of a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship.


What is your favorite memory from working on this manuscript?
Lattes. Lots and lots of lattes. And this:
Bandura BPL Blog
How did you know that the book was done and ready to send out?
Finished? It’s unfortunately never finished, I’m still working on it!
What’s on your reading list for this summer?
Here’s the stack:
Bandura BPL Blog summer reading image


One girl says to another, Dude,
which is a problem of gender,
I only give head to get head,
which is a problem of justice,
a song and a dance sung and danced
by women I’m sure they never saw
in the Virginia Slims ads from the 70s
who had me fooled that We’ve come
a long way, baby, as long as
the answer I got about sex
from my mother, her potato slicer
stunned into a stillness so terrifying
I gave up and walked out
and into a time two decades later
when my friend said, With your hand
make the sign for Okay
and into the hole slide his shaft
and with the fingers
nestle his balls, and I said,
Who’s going to nestle my balls,
who’s going to make a hole
where my frailty can hide,
which is the song and dance
of both justice and gender
I’m noticing more girls perform
with their bracelets, the ones
twelve year-olds wear,
the pink and orange ones
like candy around their little wrists
saying how far they’ll go
so everyone knows in advance, so it’s clear
where everyone stands when we’re singing
and where when we’re dancing,
so we don’t mix up
who’s doing who
and for what.
JC Loves the Gays
I didn’t call my father on Father’s Day,
but I did see the JC Penney ad
with the two gay dads
wrestling with their kids
on a wool slash rayon blend sofa and accent pillows,
the kids shrieking, No no, but not really
since who wants dad to let go?
The last word I said to my father was Time,
as in, Keep it to yourself next time, after he
across a table as wide as America
at a dinner meant to give thanks
to a bounty forged by enemies, said
he’s glad my son didn’t turn out gay
because at school a kid punched my son
and my son told the teacher
and I said, Good job, and my father
said, If that were my kid,
I’d teach him to hit back. Screw you,
wrote username iammad
online in response to the ad
while PerfectWorld wrote Fags are people, too.
It’s about Time, how much it takes
to change and how little we have. Maybe
if I buy my dad some throw pillows
from a department store named after a god
of forgiveness, he and I
could beat each other with them
until I’d sing help help
and he’d chuckle, Oh, no you don’t.
There’s Always a Gunman
There’s always a gunman
in the plane, at the movies, at your daughter’s school,
and someone’s crying, Help, or, He’s got a gun, or, Fire!
It’s not funny—the gun
is real, and he
means business. Yesterday,
an attendant unlocked the double doors
to let me out of the intake room
which she unlocked into the hallway, then
more locks to the lobby, until
in the parking lot, I threw into my trunk
the duffle with your coiled belt
and turned to see a face in the glass
that looked not unlike my husband’s
who looked up carbon monoxide and garage, then
took the time to find the link
to erase the online history
and made the choice to hide from me
what you had planned. I shouldn’t be
in this place, was what my sister said
when they put her in the hospital,
and, I was never like any of them,
when she got out. Nobody’s crazy.
And everyone is. Last night,
I crept out of bed
so as not to wake our son asleep in mine,
his lips parted to a darker knowledge,
took half a pill to help me sleep,
then another after that, until
I had so many, I woke in his bed,
the curtains drawn, lights on, past noon,
our son by then naked in the yard.
There is a gunman,
is what I think our son would say
had he the words of this poem
with which to speak.
He’ll do what it takes
to shoot the whole town down.