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Welcome, Midwinter Constellation!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you the collaborative project Midwinter Constellation, due out in December.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 

 

 

The Authors

Midwinter Constellation was written by Stephanie Anderson, Hanna Andrews, Julia Bloch, Susan Briante, Lee Ann Brown, Laynie Browne, Shanna Compton, Mel Coyle, Marisa Crawford, Vanessa Jimenez Gabb, Arielle Greenberg, Jenny Gropp, Stefania Heim, MC Hyland, erica kaufman, Becca Klaver, Caolan Madden, Pattie McCarthy, Monica McClure, Jenn Marie Nunes, Danielle Pafunda, Maryam Ivette Parhizkar, Khadijah Queen, Linda Russo, Katie Jean Shinkle, Evie Shockley, Sara Jane Stoner, Dawn Sueoka, Bronwen Tate, Catherine Wagner, Elisabeth Workman, and Mia You.

 

 

On Writing Midwinter Constellation

On December 22, 2018, the 40th anniversary of Bernadette Mayer’s writing of her epic of dailiness, Midwinter Day, 31 women poets joined me in typing into Google Docs titled Dreams, Morning, Noontime, Afternoon, Evening, and Night, following the structure of Mayer’s book. We composed or copy-pasted alongside each other all day, dozens of cursors blinking in a virtual happening. 

—Becca Klaver

 

This collaboration finally seemed to impress on me in a way that reading articles and poems, even by many of these same writers, never had, how many of us make our intellectual and creative lives amidst the repetitive work of social reproduction and the bodily demands of our children. I felt a great tenderness for all of us thinking about technology, history, or desire while wiping noses and spreading peanut butter on toast.

—Bronwen Tate

 

Written in semi-quarantine with my two young daughters in 2018 … my contribution to this project was eerily predictive of how I and millions of other parents would experience the pandemic of 2020: alone with needy children, sick or tending the sick or fearing sickness, unable to find time to work or think, sleep broken, hands raw from washing, rage and frustration barely contained. But it also presaged the forms of virtual connection that we would find in spring 2020.

—Caolan Madden

 

When we let parts stand in for wholes, are we saying that we don’t need all the rest, or are we saying that the rest can remain unknowable, we’ll give it space to close in and to surprise us?

—Mia You

 

In 1980, Bernadette Mayer writes a letter to Alice Notley wondering what would have happened if William Carlos Williams and Gertrude Stein had married and given birth to their mothers.

—Julia Bloch

 

Maybe the uncanny at work is how Bernadette topples the enclosure (separating poetix from life) on behalf of love. Her projects invite us to different modes of consciousness via writing pre-autocorrectives of normative syntax and style, far away from striving in an MFA-way, foregrounding, as Rubinstine observes in his introduction to Memory, “archaic modes of representation” with fluidity between the “inner and outer,” as if the commons of Bernadette are of course the commons of everyone—GIVE EVERYBODY EVERYTHING.

—Elisabeth Workman

 

To be, as C.D. Wright wrote, “one with others”—is this what one must be, in one way or another, to be a poet? I think of how, if part of the genius of Midwinter Day is in its ongoing attention to what is happening, it is Mayer’s responsibility to others that often ties her to the concrete world

—Hanna Andrews

 

Two years later, re-reading our collaborative Midwinter Constellation I mis-recognize sections as my own. “People all around me / wondering what it is I write.” What day do we enter, together?

—Stefania Heim

 

The forgetting facilitates a story about process, but the story was really just a day, a day when I wrote some lines with others, a day I only really remember now through those lines.

—Stephanie Anderson

 

Excerpt from “Morning”

 


The alarm goes off, but I am the only one to hear it. Still mostly dark, even here, this close to the bottom of the night, at the edge of the country, false edge. I turn on the radio, listen to today’s disasters: “Most mornings I would be more or less insane” writes Rukeyser. Farid wants to sleep more. Gianna doesn’t move. In the back rooms Patti and Ariane, Farid’s cousins visiting from Paris, are awake because their bodies feel the day before ours. Patti showers. I make coffee but the milk is gone. Do we need more? If I pour myself over Farid like a blanket, in bed, buenos dias, bon jour. Gianna now up and Ariane and her pantomime across languages with the Christmas presents we let them open yesterday. I pour bowls of Cheerios, make more coffee. Nothing gets done before the second cup, Patty says. I pull towels from the linen closet. Pour water. Send Farid to get milk. Gianna listens to the Deathly Hallows audiobook. She’s heard the story a million times, but tells me the voices are like her friends. Friends in language. Friends in vowel and moan. The heat through the vents sounds like ghosts, my mind, more ghosts in my family this midwinter than ever before. Less family? It feels that way. Blood thins. Or “Your blood has thinned” is what my family used to say when one could not suffer the cold, but in my family suffering was a virtue.





Coco cries at the top of the stairs having found me
missing. I come up to bring her down and the now
mid-sleep practically ritualized trip to the bathroom
the interval event which seems to eat all dreams
turns into a meeting with the dog who must sit making
body-to-body contact and the new kitty who moves between the sink  
and the Christmas cactus precariously placed on the edge
of the tub by the block glass windows wet in blue light and
the pile of dirty clothes so significant in front of the radiator
it becomes an animal too.

In this meeting of everything more supernatural than otherwise
we decide to stay awake.
                                               Forecast as depicted: 7am cloud 8am cloud
9am cloud 10am cloud 11am cloud. My feelings read like vapor too
unlike B who suddenly with us is mock annoyed at being awoken.
Coffee oxymel water the green friends spin 18 times in front of the
morning committee fast. Good morning, high pockets. Cold O’s with
milk for the famished, one of whom is already costumed. Crystal Palace
vs. Manchester City—the green of the pitch otherworldly. Overdue:
Verlaine, Nadja, and Yeat’s catalog of human encounters
with faeries and the mountains and woods having their day, their day.


 
Aya climbs in bed between us, her morning ritual. At home she says
“Can I cuddle?” But here, in mystery light, in another time zone
says: “When is it going to be wake-up time?” She kisses my nose & the air
around my forehead. She sees me writing & says: “Why are you doing this?”
“I’m just writing things that happen—things that I am doing on a mid-
winter day” I mumble, sleepy-mouthed.  “You’re so cute,” she says.

I want to wash my hair & daydream of a long shower with the honey lemon
soap in my in-laws’ guest shower. & coffee in one of the small cream-colored
ceramic cups, which somehow makes the coffee taste better.

+

Good morning, screen glare. I’m working again because the University
can’t figure out its funding & I’m administrating & editing on top of my
full-time job. Logged feedback & grades for over 200 essays in the past
2 weeks, but no break yet—I’m combing HTML forums for good code
(varied column widths in WordPress) while my family eats huevos
rancheros upstairs. But Eryn brings down the coffee & it is just how
I like it.

+

Upstairs not a single light on in the house, but sun floods through
whole walls of glass, double beamed off 6 inches of snow on the
preserve. I miss monochrome Chicago winters through the small
studio window—gray lake, gray sky, the piles of graying snow
flattened filthy with bus tire tracks. I miss Northeast mornings,
cloudless sky white & holding, wood stove smoke charring the
air outside. Here, yesterday, the narrow streets crowded with
holiday skiers, the lifts cycling back & forth like an amusement
park ride. I’m thinking now at Aya’s delight in seeing her breath
in front of her.


 
coming out into morning breath
blown in my direction David greets
& talks about the cats who are so quiet.  
I know they listen for a change &
something comes. There it is. Balki cries
at the door & David gets up. I still try
to remember what I lost, catch
a goose  honk and a train in motion
planes sounds I thought as a kid
were clouds were in transit. I read
about the shutdown, steel slats
& think about how there is a nation
 who funds in droves architectures
 manifest of fear & want for a place
that makes––what. Their own sideways
Tower of Babel. Something to be closer
to––what––

How do you strike when the thing becomes lateral––
I look at other people’s pictures, Daisy
sharing a picture within a picture. Iris watching
Men in Tights. I go back to sleep
for a minute. it’s not what I want
take me to what I left––

I can’t go back. Callous as steel
slats. There is a testament I
have held like salt so long
on my mind. I remember
a comic book bible my mother
bought me & pictures of
the tower coming down
 & the story of Samson that does
not fit the other: the story of
a boy they try to humiliate
& the faces of the boys
on his side who only see
victory & the face of a blonde
who shears on behalf of face
I don’t yet see.

(Why don’t I get out of bed)

I listen as David
opens the bathroom door
listen as both cats cry
David locks them both
in the office
opens a can
opens the door
& out they rush
I don’t go back
don’t get up & watch
the clouds, try
to catch birds
 in my window, watch
& try to catch them
& say to
who knows:
“tonight will be
the longest night
of the year.”


 
We didn’t intend to harness technology to lie in bed longer noticing the day brightening with this kitten now purring on my chest, but the experiment is forgiving. The skylight is rimmed with crystalline ice and in the cold beyond bare branches of the walnut tree, the one limb limp where it snapped in a summer storm. The tea kettle is empty; the sink it is full. There is much I don’t remember but there is much not worth remembering and there is what I will remember today remembering as Bernadette remembers. This part is sponsored by kittens. This part is sponsored by government shutdown. This part is sponsored by friendship. This part is sponsored by screw your wall. This part is sponsored by the tree nursery that was last century.

We look out and see the solstice fire still smoldering, a trail of smoke rising from the center of the charred log. The magpies in the maples chirr and chatter, the grass a pale yellow under morning frost. I think about last night and its lessons, the importance of gathering, not what was said or what one remembers, but the importance of love. We make our coffees, old hands at this, your french press, my drip cone. At 9:48 a.m. welcome the Full Cold Moon.

You just need to go into the day believing that, whatever that task, you are there, despite how it blurs you.

I hear you in the kitchen, a quiet cough, another, dishes, I cook eggs, and toast, egg yolk yellow orange juice and a text from Pamela: prepare for mud and bring your favorite plant shears.




 
Three dried apricots. Fleshy baby feet. My brother has asked his girlfriend to be engaged to him. With my MeMaw’s old ring. But I thought I’d lost the ring in high school? Every week for 16 years I’ve felt guilty about that at least once. Who will make me a treasure. The ring doesn’t fit her ring finger, so she curled it over her pinky knuckle. I’m going for a run. Maybe I’m cursed. Now there’s only twenty minutes till my appointment. I’m not going on a run. I’m not eating. I’m not going to make it to my appointment on time.





Milwaukee, Abraham
asleep in the poet’s room
of our new home
and Laura asleep too
so I am the only one awake; I left
the dream imagining a sunbeam,
just its light, and very clearly,
without emotion, only wanting
to imagine light, and hinge
to a day as gray as I expected
when my eyes and telephone woke
meeting in light some might call false  
but in its generation I feel
truths and know moments later
from the weather app that outside
there’s a cold the same temperature as my age
and Abe’s gone through the front door,
scoots as he says to his grandmother’s
one hundred and first birthday party; how
could you even write 101st and believe
age, I can’t and am, I don’t think I’ll make it
there, and how delighted I was to learn
she still kicks his ass in cribbage every time
and I asked him if cribbage was her music,
as in most people age and forget
certain things, decorum or names, the location
of objects or their bodies,
but typically not music; the songs stay even
after the mind has emptied all but the scores
coming out of the mouth as notes,
and yes, Abe said, cribbage
for her was like that, and there’s a cake
the size of a car trunk waiting
with her name on it for the party,
and when he left the door swung back open
to let in the warmer light from the hall
and Laura said the cats are going out too
so she rose and closed it
and did not come back to bed.





No light today, sweet sun divided, sweet sun pulls back nutrients, impatient for spring such a touch of better mornings await me. How can I even know what’s there? Between thick sludge coffee and too sparkling of windows—how crystalis is what I crawl back to.