August 31, 2021

Michael Meyerhofer

GIANT TORTOISE FILMED ATTACKING AND EATING BABY BIRD

I still remember reading how
sailors used to flip giant tortoises
onto their shells and stack them

like living TV dinners
in their dank ship-bellies for weeks,
months, butchered as needed.

We ask so much of stomachs.
We want our knives to stay sharp
but conscionable in their cutting,

noble somehow as they slice
clean through all that red under-silk.
In one story, Christ transforms

the sea into a graveyard
just to feed people who forgot
to pack a sack lunch.

A tern chick takes a tumble,
meets a solar eclipse with teeth.
Sometimes, it hurts to be here.

from Poets Respond
August 31, 2021

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Michael Meyerhofer: “This ended up not making it into the poem but when I read about this, I immediately flashed back to another story from nearly twenty years ago about Kumunyak (‘Blessed One’), a Kenyan lioness praised in newspapers for adopting and safeguarding baby antelope. Specifically, I remember the consternation the article’s author felt when one particular baby antelope died (presumably of natural causes) and the lioness who had previously been protecting it immediately changed gears and ate it (hunger is hunger, after all). If horror and beauty are the two seemingly opposite threads from which nature is woven, those threads crisscross constantly. Maybe that’s true of society, too.” (web)

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April 25, 2021

Michael Meyerhofer

WATCHING LIONS SPARE A TURTLE ON THE SAME DAY THAT DEREK CHAUVIN WAS FOUND GUILTY OF MURDER

My friend sends me the video:
lions kneeling at a watering hole,

chins speckled in blood,
just trying to rinse it all down

beneath a sun that whitens
anything it can’t burn.

Then this turtle paddles up
and starts licking their beards,

their jaws, like it can’t stop
tasting another’s hunger.

For a moment, tongues wrestle.
Then, somehow, it happens:

the terrapin swims clear,
lions exit on claws like triggers,

and it costs us nothing to forget
what graffities the dry grass—

the zebra with its torn flanks,
the sentence of bleached bones.

from Poets Respond
April 25, 2021

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Michael Meyerhofer: “Like countless other Americans, I was struggling to wrap my mind around everything associated with George Floyd’s death and the Derek Chauvin trial—all the outrage, the sadness, the history, the nuance—when totally out of nowhere, I had one of those weird moments where you encounter a completely unrelated story and they kind of blend together, clarifying each other in a way that’s almost impossible to put into words except through poetry. Once I felt that connection, the trick was trying to shove my own ego off its soapbox and just let the poem do what it wanted, since this seems like one of those moments where it’s more important to be a camera than a commentator.” (web)

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May 9, 2020

Michael Meyerhofer

FOR AHMAUD ARBERY, AN UNARMED BLACK JOGGER KILLED FOR ALLEGEDLY LOOKING IN THE WINDOW OF A HOUSE UNDER CONSTRUCTION

I was twenty-two, white, in love
that day I wasn’t shot for trespassing.

It happened nearly two decades ago.
We started out in the backseat

of her parents’ oxblood Subaru,
heading back from the country club

with bellies full of prime rib
and vegetables I could not name.

Then her father touched the brake,
pointed to a mansion being built

beyond a phalanx of dogwoods,
timbers stacked like wine-washed

bones on a generous plot of Iowa soil.
The crews had already gone home,

just some golden tape left behind.
So we pulled over, got out, explored—

her father darkly pinstriped, her mother
sporting a heavy rosary of pearls.

Before long, neighbors spotted us
and waved, smiling from their houses.

Unfazed, my girlfriend and I
slipped away and touched primally

in what might have been a stranger’s
future bedroom, its walls unmade.

After a great while, we reunited
beside half a staircase. Her parents

forgave our absence with a shrug
and the suggestion of frozen yogurt.

On the way back, I could smell her
on my fingers, which made her blush.

Meanwhile, her parents shared
daydreams of their own mansion

with taller floors and windows,
thicker drapes to block the sunset.

from Poets Respond
May 9, 2020

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Michael Meyerhofer: “When I read about Ahmaud Arbery, murdered for supposedly looking in the window of a house still under construction, I immediately flashed back to a time when I’d done something similar (though actually a lot more obtrusive) without suffering any consequences whatsoever. There were four of us that day: my girlfriend and me, plus her parents. However, because all of us were white, and her parents also happened to be wealthy (as evidenced by their clean new car and formal attire), no one in the neighborhood batted an eyelash. To be honest, I might never even have given that incident a second thought if I hadn’t read about the circumstances behind Arbery’s murder. Given my own impoverished childhood, I admit that I sometimes chafe at the notion that I’ve benefited from white privilege. That’s the biggest hallmark of white privilege, though: those who benefit from it rarely even know it’s there, until something happens that makes the double standard impossible to deny.” (web)

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November 24, 2019

Michael Meyerhofer

SILVER-BACKED CHEVROTAIN, WITH FANGS AND HOOVES, PHOTOGRAPHED IN WILD FOR FIRST TIME

Schoolkids all over the country
keep pace with TV cameras

by practicing a new word—impeach
even as a dozen time zones

from the leaning pillars of democracy,
unseen for decades, a silver-

splashed deer with fangs
tiptoes out of the undergrowth

and presses his nose to the lens,
two unlit moons kissing

in the wild gaps between rivers.
Why should these days matter?

Bones are just the bones
of whatever else came before:

a quickening of dust into rock,
into fire, into blood, then

a softening of God into rain.
See how each drop opens

like luggage, how a heart can only
be a heart if it dies screaming?

Meanwhile, the chevrotain
moves about on hooves

so thin, the mind recalls
the ankles of a ballet dancer,

the stick-limbs of a cave painting.
Even those fangs, used

to fight over mates, only led
to a thickening of muscles

around the throat. We repeat
what we know. Each generation

an untamed refrain you need
not sing, unless you want to.

from Poets Respond
November 24, 2019

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Michael Meyerhofer: “This poem came about after interrupting a long day of watching political analysis videos by reading about an extremely rare animal photographed in the wild for the first time, and those events seeming strangely related in a way I couldn’t logically articulate.” (web)

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October 9, 2019

Sunday, September 19th

When we moved our reading series online, we promised we would still have local events from time to time, and our first poetry day since the start of the pandemic is the next installment. We’ll feature a reading in Wrightwood by two of our favorite poets, and each of them will be holding a writing workshop beforehand.

11 a.m. – 1 p.m.| Writing Workshops with Kathleen McClung & Michael Meyerhofer

1 p.m. – 2 p.m. | Lunch Break
No food is provided; bring your own lunch or walk to one of the local restaurants!

2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. | Poetry Reading & Open Mic
Featuring Kathleen McClung & Michael Meyerhofer, open mic sign-up at the door. (free & open to the public)

Note: Workshops will be held at the Wrightwood Arts Center and the Wrightwood Community Building, and the reading will be at the Wrightwood Community Building. The arts center is on a second floor, and there is no elevator. Please let us know if you have special needs when you register, and we will adjust the workshops accordingly. We will also be following county health guidelines regarding Covid-19, which means masks and social distancing may be required. An email with more information will be sent a few days before the event.

Wrightwood Arts Center
6020 Park Drive #5
Wrightwood, CA (map)

Wrightwood Community Building
1275 Hwy 2
Wrightwood, CA (map)

Winner of the 2020 Rattle Chapbook Prize for A Juror Must Fold in on HerselfKathleen McClung is also the author of Temporary KinThe Typists Play Monopoly, and Almost the Rowboat. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she is the winner of the Rita Dove, Morton Marr, Shirley McClure, and Maria W. Faust national poetry prizes. Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies, including Fire & Rain: Ecopoetry of CaliforniaRaising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the WorkspaceAtlanta ReviewConnecticut River ReviewSouthwest Review, and others. Kathleen lives in San Francisco and teaches at The Writing Salon and Skyline College, where she served for ten years as director of the annual Women on Writing conference. She is associate director and sonnet judge for the Soul-Making Keats literary competition. In 2018-19 she was a writer-in-residence at Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. For more information, (visit her website).

Workshop: “Looking Around, Looking Within: Witness as Meditation in Poetry”

Poets have always closely observed both our outer and inner worlds. As we emerge this year from long lockdowns, we may now see with an even more penetrating vision. In this small, intimate workshop we’ll read, discuss and write short narrative poems that balance mystery and clarity, the startling and the soothing. We’ll focus on artfully combining imagery, language and musing to generate free and formal verse. New and seasoned poets welcome!

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Michael Meyerhofer is a poet and fantasy author who believes those two genres genuinely can get along. His fifth poetry book, Ragged Eden, was published by Glass Lyre Press. His fourth, What To Do If You’re Buried Alive, was published by Split Lip Press. In addition to his poetry books, he has published two fantasy trilogies. His debut fantasy novel, Wytchfire (Book I in the Dragonkin Trilogy), was published by Red Adept Publishing, and went on to win the Whirling Prize and a Readers Choice nomination from Big Al’s Books and Pals. Michael has won the Marjorie J. Wilson Best Poem Contest, the Laureate Prize for Poetry, the James Wright Poetry Award, and the Annie Finch Prize for Poetry. He received his BA from the University of Iowa and his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. An avid weightlifter, medieval weapons collector, and unabashed history nerd, he currently lives, teaches, and inhabits various coffee shops around Fresno, CA. For more information, (visit his website).

Workshop: “Pulling Up the Floorboards: Two Radical Approaches to Revising Poems”

Every cathedral, every temple, every watchtower begins by placing the first brick. But what happens if you’re halfway through construction and realize your project is coming out a bit crooked? Do you tear it all down and start over? Luckily, in writing, even the most radical reconstruction can be done a lot more easily than you think (and with significantly less cuts and bruises). In this class, poet and editor Michael Meyerhofer discusses two radical revision techniques that can be used either to repair a poem that isn’t quite working, or else completely revamp it into an entirely new piece. These techniques can also be helpful for pieces you enjoy because they’ll help you notice and become more mindful of your own aesthetic (or even help you establish an aesthetic, if you haven’t yet).

Register for Either Morning Workshop through the Wrightwood Arts Center:

(click here to register)

August 21, 2015

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2015: Editor’s Choice

 

Photograph by Aparna Pathak

[download broadside]

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Michael Meyerhofer

CRUELEST OF ALL ARE THE GODS WHO NEVER FROWN

I am tired of goats walking on ledges—
how calmly they disregard their own peril,
how even those nubby little horns
seem less like swirls of keratin
than middle fingers poised above faces
that have evolved into wide, permanent grins.
Maybe it’s our ancestors’ fault
for wanting smiles on their milk cartons
instead of missing children.
Did you know that goats sometimes
get their heads stuck in fences and have to wait
until a farmer comes by to free them?
It’s the horns. To remove them
is called disbudding. It takes a tool
like an Inquisitor’s pliers, castration bands
that resemble swollen wedding rings,
and a big glass of water to soak them in.

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2015
Editor’s Choice Winner

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Comment from the editor, Timothy Green, on his selection: “Part of the fun in making this selection after the artist’s choice is highlighting a poem that’s very different from the other winner. While this month’s image filled many poets with either anxiety or awe, no one but Michael Meyerhofer responded this way—with disdain. Coupled with a voice as sure-footed as these goats on the ledge themselves, the effect is transformative—what were once faces of casual confidence suddenly become smug and menacing. That’s no easy feat, and makes for a truly memorable poem.”

For more on Michael Meyerhofer, visit his website.

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December 15, 2014

Michael Meyerhofer

ON MY FIRST TRIP TO A STRIP CLUB

You’d better jack off first
one of my friends advised the night
before my eighteenth birthday,
the group planning
to drive me up to Davenport
where the treatment for birthday boys
was a lap dance on stage
while their friends cheered—
the implication being it wouldn’t do
to get too excited over
the proximity of all those fake breasts
and press-on nails, bad hip-hop
twisting out of the speakers,
the regulars using this as an excuse
to step out back for a smoke.
I remember the lead dancer had
a gap between her teeth
and no one raised their eyebrows
when they smiled. Later,
a brunette with roots like fools’ gold
talked me out of fifty bucks
in a back room where I made
too much eye contact while she opened
like a desert highway. I remember
thinking how all of this seemed
a little related to the rape
reenactments they showed us
in Health Class, Susie and Brian
struggling in some cardboard room
full of bottles with the labels turned away,
interrupted only by a narrator
as far removed as that
announcer from The Twilight Zone
who breezed in with his gray jacket and tie
and told us what we’d just seen
and what to think and how to feel.

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014

[download audio]

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Michael Meyerhofer: “There’s a passage in J.D. Salinger’s Seymour: An Introduction that describes writing as religion. That was probably the truest thing I’ve ever read, even twenty-odd years later. Sometimes, writing is a monastery on a hill, surrounded by dogwoods; more often, though, it’s a bottom-of-the-valley shack full of snakes and loud music.” (website)

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