December 6, 2023

Shannon Connor Winward


after “Reupholstering a Chair” by Jenn Givhan

This used to be the tallest living thing
in the house without legs. What happened?
You can’t remember if it was over-water
under-light, death-by-cat—just that
you read somewhere the limbs, sleek and stiff, once 
damaged, would never recover. Best to amputate, make room
for the new. Your scissoring left only two fingers 
poking out, a desert of husks 
tiny and curled
on themselves as if flinching. You left them
by the sliding door—full afternoon sun—and you stayed
your lust, your watering can. You trusted
time would do its work. But then you touched one
and it broke. You watch the other, now
worried it too is illusion
that beneath that dry earth lies the loss
of the plant entirely, its leaves, majestic, green
as serpents rising to the ghost of a charm 
that you no longer possess. 

Prompt: “When my children were young, when I was tired and sick all the time and struggling to write, I felt Jennifer Givhan’s ‘Reupholsteringa Chair’ like an unvoiced scream. I tried to learn from what Givhan does with space, and the brutality of lines like ‘Your love will no longer / unclog drains or screw in light bulbs / or replace the hydrangeas you’ve suffered / death in the tiny plot you vowed to protect.’ I challenged myself to start with an ‘after’ to echo those invocations—the quiet desperation of trying to patch together chaos with a staple-gun—but from my own lived experience. That cutting voice of self-doubt became my inadvertent murder of the thing I was trying to save in the poem, and over time the scissoring of couplets became the undulating lines of that long-suffering plant that may or may not be dead in the corner of my kitchen.”

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023
Tribute to Prompt Poems


Shannon Connor Winward: “My creative process is a cycle of productive highs and lingering lows. Over a lifetime, I’ve learned ways to navigate a dry spell, such as the use of prompts to encourage words to start flowing again. When I am struggling to find my own voice, it often helps to engage with the voices of poets I admire. I might start with a poem that speaks to whatever it is I feel unable to say, looking closely not just at what the poet says, but how, and also what they leave out.”

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December 5, 2023

J.B. Penname


after Jamaica Baldwin

Whose bright idea was it to start tearing
out pages of poetry and wadding them up
to plug our wounds? The poems I like don’t
even come when you call them. As though
they’ve forgotten their masters, lost the sound
of their own names. They bear no antiseptics,
cannot cauterize you clean, but the way they
lick themselves is still good for a laugh. Is that
what I aspire to? Five years ago I nicked my finger
slicing a carrot. Five years and I can’t even watch my
father carve a turkey without getting second-hand
please-don’t-lose-your-goddamn-fingers syndrome.
But sure, when he’s done I can sit at the counter. In the
quiet of the kitchen, I can eat the turkey. Man what a turkey.

from Prompt Poem of the Month
November 2023


Prompt: Write a sonnet with the title “The End of _____ Is Not _____” after Jamaica Baldwin’s American sonnet, “The End of Sorrow Is Not Happiness.”

Note from the series editor, Katie Dozier: “As someone that has been plugging my wounds with poetry since childhood, I found the humor in J. B. Pename’s poem as refreshing as it is powerful. These fourteen lines have caused me to redefine what it is to heal. Man what a poem!”

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December 4, 2023

Paulette A. Pashibin


we have no need to know if we are loved 
or that love exists. 
No worry whether sky is blue or gray
or even sky.
We float in a darkened drum
tethered to echoes
No need of need 
nor dream of self.

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023


Paulette A. Pashibin: “I fell in love with poetry sometime between reading Noyes’ ‘The Highwayman’ and watching a televised Air Force recruitment ad that featured Magee’s ‘High Flight.’ I was young, bookish, and quite melancholy. I spent as much time at my grandmother’s as I could get away with and ‘High Flight’ always aired during the Fulton J. Sheen show, so it became the first poem I memorized. The internet makes it easy for me to read poetry every day, but I’m an undisciplined writer. Sometimes I toss words in my head for weeks before putting them to paper; other times they spill over the keyboard in a fever. Writing poems—no matter how they turn out—allows me still to ‘slip the surly bonds of earth and dance the skies.’ Like magic.”

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December 3, 2023

Dante Di Stefano


I wonder about the future poems
I will read, generated by AI,
the imperceptibly pixelated
tulips pushing through the rich soil in them,
the deepfake MFA bios attached
to them like deflated orange balloons,
the shining metaphors crowing from them
as I open the App of my eyelids
and scroll lithely from stanza to stanza.
I wonder if I’ll be able to notice
in their red wheelbarrows full of roses,
how a chatbot has damasked every stem.
I found the poem I’m writing now, tucked
in the galley of a tiny schooner
circumnavigating the four chambers
of my heart. It was wedged under a cask
of lime juice. It was written in the scrawl
of a mad captain hellbent on shipwreck
or treasure or unspecified glory.
It was found, it was wedged, it was written
to explain a flower growing in me,
a blue bonnet sprouting from my boot print,
gently stretching skyward to touch the stars,
but like all poems we humans fashion
from want and need and yes and must and what,
it ended up saying something else beyond
the arc of unsaying, something fevered
and cut, rizzed up against the scurvy dark.

from Poets Respond
December 3, 2023


Dante Di Stefano: “Often lately, I have been teaching and reading and thinking about generative AI. Despite all I’ve read about Sam Altman, ChatGPT, etc., it’s hard for me to imagine how this technology will transform our world. Reading the article about Meriam-Webster’s word of the year further confirmed how enmeshed we are in this transformation already. Authenticity is a fraught term in poetry anyway, so I think this poem wandered into some of the fraughtness and complexity that comes with the terrain of lyric saying. For me this is less a poem about AI than it is a poem about the ancient technology of poetic utterance in all its mystery. The word rizz that I use at the end of the poem is an internet neologism added to Meriam-Webster this year, meaning ‘romantic charm or appeal.’” (web)

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December 2, 2023

Megan Sexton


“The steady evolution of the language seems to favor union—two words eventually become one usually after a period of hyphenation.”
—Strunk & White

I remember that brief period of hyphenation.
When separate cups held each of our toothbrushes,
and they bowed to one another honorably from across the vanity.
Now they nuzzle bristle to bristle, germ to germ, in the same cup
like so many words, each one suitable enough on its own—take bed’s
monosyllabic brevity and slide it next to chamber’s Old French spookiness
to make bedchamber and suddenly I’m thinking of swains and maidens and
European linens with extreme thread counts
and you and me, way beyond hyphenation, fused under the bedclothes.

from Rattle #40, Summer 2013


Megan Sexton: “When Maira Kalman’s illustrated Elements of Style came out a few years ago, I was in ecstasy. One of the passages she chose to highlight led me to write ‘In Favor of Union’—I also was thinking about my friend Caroline’s comment from many years ago. She said that she knew that she and her boyfriend were going to last when she saw their underwear comingling on the hardwood floor. Writing poetry is so much fun; that’s one of the main reasons why I do it.”

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December 1, 2023

Haley Winans


and I ain’t afraid to use it. My therapist
says trauma is stored in the hips
and I replied that’s why I have this overflowing dump
truck. I’ll hit a stray
parking-lot-abandoned grocery cart with my hip
into the metal corral cuz ya’ll don’t have the juicy gluts
to walk ten feet. I bless you with a smörgåsbord
when I strut by on the street. My mom packed this
delicacy in my puberty’s
lunchbox to make all the bitches jealous
of my non-tradable treats.
This three-Michelin-star feast.
She always asks if I’m in a movie
theater cuz I keep picking my seat. Not my fault
this monster ass always needs to eat like Michael Phelps
before a swim meet. Gordon Ramsey screamed
my beef wellington booty is raw as in undercooked
underloved underseared by the singe
of eyes the size of sauté pans. But I’d rather be sashimi
than well-done and sent back to the kitchen
of mediocre missionary fuckboys. Does it confuse you?
How I stick to my pythons and nude
nylons like superglue? I don’t need a hollow hand
puppet of a lover that gaslights like a candle
in a power outage. Yes my earthquake ass snaps
all the telephone poles and bridges like toothpicks. Yes I snuff
his chode of a flame with my gorilla
grip’s downpour. Yes I cause car crashes like Pokemon
Go when they hydroplane on this pussy
in search of a jiggly puff
to sing them to sleep. I’m done
being treated like chopped liver
when I’m wagyu beef, massaged by grief
and loves that leave me in the pasture of solitary relief.  

Prompt: “Write a poem about something we love about ourselves.”

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023
Tribute to Prompt Poems


Haley Winans: “I love writing prompt poems because they pull you out of your familiar trajectories of composing poems and plop you into another headspace where it almost feels like an unpressured task or goal to achieve. Prompts grant you the off-putting space to create poems you don’t intrinsically think about producing. It’s a Russian roulette of prompt interpretation.” (web)

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November 30, 2023

Shadowland by Arthur Lawrence, painting of shadowy bird-like figures flying toward a mountain or volcano

Image: “Shadowland” by Arthur Lawrence. “Pilgrims of the Mound” was written by Conal Abatangelo for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2023, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Conal Abatangelo


after Genbakukuyōtō

By the riverbank, where the herons
no longer fed, for lack of food
and lack of herons, they pulled bodies
from the water until the days began
to drop low in the horizon. If the sky
cleared, the cloud remained, and near
to the ground, the sun bloomed
dimmer than all the summers
before. There came a rain like night
which swallowed all colors, painting
in ash where ash had not been. Exhumed,
exhausted, returned to the land. The workers,
even as they buried, began too to drop
dead. In the coming weeks, the months,
the long years, a whole people became
a vault, a chapel, then the mound.
The line of ghosts unburying itself
each time a bomb speaks, even if no one will
listen for it.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
October 2023, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the series editor, Megan O’Reilly: “I found the poet’s use of language so unexpected as to be mesmerizing–I kept rereading phrases to savor them, and to marvel at how artfully and accurately they capture aspects of Arthur Lawrence’s ‘Shadowland.’ The rich but muted hues of the image are reflected in the phrase ‘a rain like night / which swallowed all the colors,’ and I was moved by the description ‘a line of ghosts unburying itself’ in relation to the crowd of figures in ‘Shadowland.’ I think the phrase ‘a bomb speaks’ is the one which will haunt me most–the idea of a bomb having a voice and something to say is an unsettling truth. Truth is something neither poem nor image shy away from, and I think that’s why they create such a resonant harmony.”

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