July 31, 2020

Jacqueline Berger


Walking one evening 
with my husband in the park,
we hear moaning from the bathroom—
a girl on her knees 
clutching the toilet, 
a guy fucking her from behind.
Should we call the police?
Or yell to see if she needs help?
According to my husband
they’re just kids too drunk 
to care about the public 
setting of their sex. 

True, we didn’t see her struggle.
Do nothing, keep walking,
the cinderblocks darkening behind us.
A dozen years ago,
but I think of her sometimes. 

Girl on her knees, 
now nearing thirty,
does she remember 
that night, or is it lost
in a blur of bad
or semi-bad, or only messy
attempts at love?
Maybe she was dragged 
from the path 
and what looked like lack 
of struggle was betrayal,
her voice on mute and her body,
what could she do but abandon it?
My own voice
buried like a small animal
under a tree another animal
digs up and devours. 

from Rattle #68, Summer 2020


Jacqueline Berger: “I was riding my bike in Golden Gate Park, not far from where the event in this poem took place a decade earlier. Suddenly the whole moment rushed back into focus, and with it the persistent shame of having done nothing. I betrayed my instinct to act, but, too, my instinct to avoid was revealed. Into these impossible places of inner conflict, send poetry.” (web)

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September 15, 2019

We’re pleased to announce the following $10,000 Rattle Poetry Prize winner:

Matthew Dickman

Matthew Dickman
London, United Kingdom

Matthew Dickman was raised by his mother in the Lents neighborhood of Southeast Portland along with his sister Elizabeth and twin brother, the poet Michael Dickman. After studying at Portland Community College and the University of Oregon, he earned an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin’s Michener Center. He was the recipient of a 2009 Oregon Book Award and a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow. Dickman is the author of three full length collections, All American Poem, which won the 2008 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry, Mayakovsky’s Revolver (W.W. Norton & Co, 2012), and Wonderland (W.W. Norton & Co, 2017).Currently, Matthew teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts low-residency MFA program and writes advertisements for a living. He lives in London, United Kingdom, with his partner and two children. (web)

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Note: After subscriber vote, James Davis May was selected as winner of the Readers’ Choice Award. For more information and the full results, click here.

Punch Line
Kathleen Balma
New Orleans, LA

Susan Browne
Oakland, CA

Mother and Child
Barbara Crane
Somerville, MA

Maya Tevet Dayan
Hod Hasharon, Israel

Cathedrals: Ode to a Deported Uncle
Daniel Arias Gómez
Fresno, CA

The Never-Ending Serial
Red Hawk
Monticello, AR

Gender Studies
Sue Howell
Durham, NC

“From Oblivious Waters”
Kimberly Kemler
Baltimore, MD

Red in Tooth and Claw
James May
Macon, GA

Self-Portrait, Despite What They Say
Gabrielle Otero
Astoria, NY

These eleven poems will published in issue #66 of Rattle. Each of the Finalists are also eligible for the $2,000 Readers’ Choice Award, selected by subscriber vote in February.

An additional 8 poets were selected for standard publication, and offered a space in the open section of a future issue. These poets have been notified individually about details, but they are: Megan Alyse, Jacqueline Berger, Gregory Loselle, Laura Read, Jennifer Perrine, T.R. Poulson, Yaccaira Salvatierra, and Laura Tanenbaum.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the competition, which would not have been a success without your diverse and inspiring poems. This felt like the strongest year of entries by a wide margin, and we really enjoyed the opportunity to read. We received 3,606 entries and over 14,000 poems, and it was an honor to read each of them.

November 18, 2014

Jacqueline Berger


A woman in a poem wants to be raped
to have the third child
she and her husband have both agreed
they can’t handle or afford.
Doesn’t fantasize more money or help
but force, because we’re all sick
of our ledgers, pros to one side
cons to the other,
so being slammed against a wall,
having the wishbone of her legs pried apart,
though the poet doesn’t speak of this,
the strain of muscles that know
they’re going to lose, being slammed
has in our rational lives an appeal. 
We hire out our wild,
dress him in black, cram
his head into a ski mask,
who wraps a handful of our hair
in his fist, drives us to our knees.

We fondle the details,
infinite losses a body suffers—
aneurism, embolism. How many hours
or days unconscious before death
slips his gloved hand
over the mouth and nose,
ushers one in the dark
to her seat?
Easier to talk about
the leak than the plug,
what we didn’t intend to lose
and not how we wanted
to be filled. 

A friend around the table
tells a story: a woman
with a vicious desire—
coming made her angry—
died an hour after.
Odd word, stroke, the tenderness
of a hand running its length
over a surface. The opposite
of strike, a field of flaming poppies
rising on a cheek.

No one wants to die,
but no one wants to live forever,
so how not love the thief
who favors us with the end?
We don’t know our lives
face to face but from behind.
From a distance,
shape and meaning.
In the middle, the picture pulses,
pinwheels of color.
We’re showered, struck
and dumbstruck.

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014

[download audio]


Jacqueline Berger: “It’s kind of exciting, kind of shameful, the feeling we get looking at horrible images, so the theory of ruin porn goes. But expand the definition of arousal, and the pornographic becomes the poetic. We read poetry to be lured from the daily hypnosis by the startle of lyric. As for ruin—loss, grief in its infinite shadings—there’s nothing shameful about being compelled by that which we can’t avoid.” (website)

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September 15, 2013

Rattle is proud to announce the winner of the 2013 Rattle Poetry Prize:

Roberto Ascalon

“The Fire This Time”
Roberto Ascalon
Seattle, WA



“A Poem for Women Who Don’t Want Children”
Chanel Brenner
Santa Monica, CA

“My Mother Told Us Not to Have Children”
Rebecca Gayle Howell
Lubbock, TX

“Baby Love”
Courtney Kampa
New York, NY

“What He Must Have Seen”
Stephen Kampa
Daytona Beach, FL

“Man on Mad Anthony”
Bea Opengart
Cincinatti, OH

“Laundry List”
Michelle Ornat
Elma, NY

“Man on the Floor”
Jack Powers
Fairfield, CT

“Basic Standards Test”
Danez Smith
St. Paul, MN

“Who Breathed in Binders”
Patricia Smith
Howell, NJ

“Of You”
Wendy Videlock
Grand Junction, CO


These eleven poems will be published in the Winter issue of Rattle this December. Each of the Finalists are also eligible for the $1,000 Readers’ Choice Award, to be selected by entrant and subscriber vote (the voting period is December 1, 2013 – February 15, 2014).

Another nine poems were selected for standard publication, and offered a space in the open section of a future issue. These poets will be notified individually about details, but they are: Jacqueline Berger, Daniel Bohnhorst, Jackleen Holton, Sharon Kessler-Farchi, Michael Meyerhofer, Kathleen Nolan, Charlotte Pence, Sam Sax, and Timothy Schirmer.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the competition, which would not have been a success without your diverse and inspiring poems. We received a record 2,105 entries and well over 8,000 poems, and it was an honor to read each of them.

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January 1, 2001

Open Poetry

Conversation with
Juan Felipe Herrera


Rattle #44

Releasing in June, Rattle #44 is another entirely open issue. We simply chose our favorite 37 poems from the tens of thousands that had been submitted to us over the past year. It’s summer, and poetry has turned up the heat, it seems, with visits to strip clubs and topless swimming pools, and Kenny Tanemura’s brilliant “Ode to Short Shorts.” But it’s not all love and lust: These poems run the gamut of contemporary human experience, from churches to trust falls, suicide to salvation. The issue also features several long poems, including Lucas Crawford’s unforgettable indictment, “Your Fat Daughter Remembers What You Said.”

In the conversations section, Timothy Green discusses poetry and life in a lively conversation with California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.

Now Available!


Open Poetry

Audio Available Nic Alea River
Audio Available Jose Angel Araguz Abandoned Church
Andrew Bennett Spring, 1989
Audio Available Jacqueline Berger Ruin Porn
Daniel Bohnhorst The Butter Smells Funny
Kim Bridgford For the Female Suicides
T.L. Burns Fucking the Gap
Marty Cain Rat King
Audio Available David Cavanagh The Ice Man
J.P. Celia Before Riding West
Audio Available Teresa Mei Chuc I Took Nothing
Beth Copeland What I Remember as My Father …
Lucas Crawford Your Fat Daughter Remembers …
Audio Available J. Divina Erickson No Body
Alan Fox The River
Troy Jollimore The Cutting Room
Stephen Kampa Cardiac Concussion with Delay …
Audio Available Sharon Kessler Everything Is Broken
Marianne Kunkel I Guess
Britt Luttrell Topless Swimming Pool
Audio Available Michael Meyerhofer On My First Trip to a Strip Club
Audio Available Jeffrey Morgan Translation
Z. Mueller The Difference Between String and Spring
Audio Available Kathleen Diane Nolan Mars and Venus
JoLee G. Passerini Circumspect
Audio Available Robert Peake La Campagna, London, Friday Night
Charlotte Pence Among the Yellows, the Faces Slack
Audio Available Amy Plettner Church Bulletin
Doug Ramspeck Diaspora
Audio Available Sam Sax When Research Public Sex Theatres …
Rebecca Schumejda A Lobster’s Home
Janice D. Soderling The Diminishing Politics of Senator …
Taylor Supplee Clay
Kenny Tanemura Ode to Short Shorts
Audio Available Bruce Taylor Good News Bad News
William Trowbridge Battleground
Audio Available Paul Watsky Trust Fall


Juan Felipe Herrera


Sebastian Lauf

May 10, 2010

Review by Zara RaabEzekiel's Wheels by Shirley Kaufman

by Shirley Kaufman

Copper Canyon Press
PO Box 271
Port Townsend WA 98368
ISBN 978-1-55659-307
2009, 108 pp., $14.00

There is a scene in the 1981 movie Pennies from Heaven, set in depression era Chicago, in which a blind girl, played by Eliska Krupka, wanders into the shadowy, earth-packed space beneath a low bridge. She is murdered there by a tramp, but as much as the assault, it is her blind, lone wandering that disturbs us. Blindness, of both the figurative and literal kind, and accompanying states of disorientation and uncertainty, are themes for Shirley Kaufman’s since her first published poem, “Beetle on the Shasta Daylight,” in The New Yorker, April 2, 1966. In that early poem, it is a beetle that wanders blind to consequence across the floor of the swaying train. Forty years later, in the desert landscape of Israel, it is the poet herself.

In the long title poem of Kaufman’s new collection Ezekiel’s Wheels, the poet tells us about “the cloud/that covers my eye,” “my room. . . filled/with clouds/and the window//full of brightness//and the wheel . . . full of eyes/that spin in every/direction,” like the flashes of fire ascending and descending beside a chariot with wheels within wheels in the prophet Ezekiel’s visions of seraphim (literally, “burning angels”). A 6th Century B.C. prophet, Ezekiel was exiled along with other Israelites to Babylon, to the banks of the Chebar River in current day Iraq. In addition to the biblical references to Ezekiel and Samson and Delilah (including Milton’s Samson Agonistes eyeless in Gaza), the poem alludes to Monet’s water lilies as “blindness/seeps into/variables of light/changed by the hour”; Homer “blind as a bat”; Borges descending into blindness; James Weldon Johnson, lyricist of “E-ze-kiel cred, Dem Dry Bones” (“the leg bone connected to the knee bone. . ”.); and finally to Glousester in King Lear:

I remember thine eyes well

said the blind king

Artists both ancient and modern––including sci-fi fantasists––have rendered Ezekiel’s wheels, but for the book’s cover Kaufman has chosen, instead, a reproduction of the 19th Century French fabulist Odilon Redon’s “The Eye like a Strange Balloon Mounts toward Infinity,” an image Kaufman describes as an “eyeball travel[ing] up/ in a basket.” “The monster eye,” she writes, “won’t/leave me alone.”

Like Redon, expressing the terrors of fever-ridden dreams a century or more ago, Kaufman explores the internal feelings of her physical and mental decline with startling and brave honesty. Like Redon, Kaufman is representing the ghosts of her own mind. Prophets have a special kind of sight into the future and possibly life after death, but for Kaufman as she approaches her ninth decade, there’s mostly fear and uncertainty of the future, even in the certainty of death. Blind to the future, we cannot know what will happen, how it will happen, or when. Kaufman echoes her longing for prophets from her earlier Rivers of Salt (1993): “Let them/tell us what will come after.”

Whatever is coming “after” seems already to be approaching, slouching toward the poet like a ghost before one feverish and half-dreaming. The prologue, “Where Am I?” seems to disintegrate on the page:

I’m not sure

I don’t know where

I’m going anymore

Heading into the footlights

I had meant to say “front lights”

No I had not meant cars

But spots I mean

. . . . .

Speaking your lines

. . . . .

In the dark in the absence

Of what you’ve forgotten.

A poet of younger generation, say Jacqueline Berger, might not stand for this, might insist on enrolling in Circus School, for example, as the poet in Berger’s book does: “Make the body/climb a rope, and it finds a way./The body’s mind concerned with how,/not why” (The Gift That Arrives Broken, “Circus School”). Kaufman’s of a different age. And though she has lived in Jerusalem almost 40 years, carrying on a lively social and political dialogue, here the landscape is interior. Even less porous poems give lyrical expression to feeling of loss and fears of dying and death: “Now the space between sea/and memory grows wider./We’re part of the distance” (“Return from the Dead Sea”).

In “Unwinding,” she asks, “What is it that scares me?” as, in a dream, she dizzily rides a painted horse around a carousal, about to fall off, her grip uncertain. In “Piece by piece,” she wants “old scraps/to fasten my life down/like tent pins/to keep it/from blowing away.” Her disorientation regains its biblical proportions in “Gaps”: “What does anything matter/when I can’t keep up with the others//and don’t know where I’m headed anyway.”

Kaufman studied at San Francisco State with Kay Boyle, John Logan, Robert Duncan, and others in the Sixties Golden Age of West Coast poetry. Her contemporary, the poet Denise Levertov, selected Kaufman’s manuscript The Floor Keeps Turning (1970) for a First Book Award from the University of Pittsburgh. Of the many influences on Kaufman’s work, including the Israeli iconic figure Yehuda Amichai (whose work Kaufman has translated), echoes of Levertov remain. Kaufman’s “The word is/ too much not with me. . ” (“Bench”) echoes Levertov’s “O Taste and See”––“The world is/not with us enough./O taste and see”––as well as Wordsworth’s “the world is too much with us late and soon.” For Kaufman, now in her late eighties, Levertov’s call for sleepers to awaken to life comes too late.

In a poem of that title (“Too Late”), Kaufman returns with a kind of despair to a subject she explored in “Milk” in Rivers of Salt––her relationship with her daughter. As she did most famously in the anthologized poem “Mothers, Daughters,” here in this latest poem, she writes of visiting her daughter, where the poet is “[e]ach year more alien more peripheral/It’s always too late/pears rot wherever they drop and staked/in the garden tomatoes already too soft.” Kaufman has been heralded for her skill in depicting family relationships. Here, in “Letting It Out,” she catches just right the wife’s exasperation, as illness exacerbates what Levertov called “the ache of marriage”:

I don’t want you to stand

with your smile on and stare

at the lip of my wound.

The infection starts deeper.

. . . . .

I hide poems under my pillow

I don’t want you to tell me

to look for grammatical errors

and what about dinner.

Whether the poet is literally going blind or is blinded by the disorientation of failing health or fear of death, for Kaufman “Perhaps/the way out is always like this:/pressed through one’s blindness//into the terrible dawn of light” (“Circle”). Fortunately for her readers, this poet retains a vision marvelously expressed in Ezekiel’s Wheels. And perhaps she answers her own question about what’s next: “What do we have to/prepare ourselves/to survive./As if birth/itself were not/something we managed/bloody and screaming/but alive” (“Your Place”).


Zara Raab’s poems and literary journalism have appeared in Poetry Flash, West Branch, Arts & Letters, Nimrod, Spoon River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Her Book of Gretel was published in spring 2010, and her first full-length collection, Swimming the Eel, will come out next year. She lives and writes in San Francisco. She can be found at www.zararaab.com and http://www.californiapoems.blogspot.com.

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April 27, 2002

Postcard Poems

Conversation with
Paul E. Nelson

Rattle #68 cover, illustration of a train rolling by a river at duskThe Summer 2020 issue features a tribute to Postcard Poems, in a loose partnership with SPLAB’s August Postcard Poetry Festival, including 19 color postcards and the poems they inspired—or vice-versa. Many of the poets crafted their own visual art, while others focused on the act of spontaneous composition. Timothy Green talked to SPLAB founder Paul E. Nelson in a rangy conversation covering topics from Organic Poetry to bioregions to Buddhism.

In the open section, the poems themselves are as varied as always, with everything from experimental monologues to summer haiku.

The issue releases June 1st, and all subscribers will receive a copy of the 2020 Rattle Young Poets Anthology along with it. Visit our purchase page to subscribe for just $25/year.


Postcard Poems

Velid Beganovic Borjen What You Are Left With
Audio Available Tina Mozelle Braziel The Coast Starlight
Audio Available Victor Enns First Train. Boundary Creek Station.
Eugene Fairbanks Postcard from Paris
Where Is It?
Audio Available Sonia Feldman 5,000 Prostitutes of Erice
Laura Gamache What I Want to Tell You
Audio Available Rhonda Ganz The Hunger Games
Audio Available Donna Henderson Postcard from Kailua-Kona
Meghan Howard Perspective
Beverly Jackson Mother
Audio Available Sarah T. Jewell Death in His Robe
Laura R. McCullough You Are All the Pieces
Audio Available Paul E. Nelson Fender Rhodes Transmission
C.R. Resetarits We Never Were
Lindsay Shen Private Garden
Audio Available Jennifer Sheridan 3. À la Recherche du Temps Perdu
Anne Swannell Wheelbarrow Music
Martin Willitts, Jr. Greetings from Syracuse

Open Poetry

Audio Available Megan Alyse Like Waving Goodbye
Audio Available Melissa Andres Arrival
Deborah A. Bennett Five Haiku
Jacqueline Berger Women with Men
Audio Available Alejandro Escudé Bed Sheets (Moving Out After Separation)
Michelle Bonczek Evory Maxing Out
Audio Available Tom C. Hunley The Fact That There’s a Snake Tunneling …
Audio Available Lynne Knight Peeling Potatoes in Puerto Vallarta
Audio Available Gregory Loselle Laudamus
Audio Available Alison Luterman Pulling Weeds
Audio Available James Davis May Which Do You Value More?
Audio Available Jennifer Perrine Fur Baby
Audio Available T.R. Poulson How I Survive Without a Prime Membership
Audio Available Laura Read The Cheerleader
Audio Available Monica
Yaccaira Salvatierra Birdlands: Postales
Audio Available Tina Schumann Dear Morning Commuters
Penda Smith How We Became City Girls
Penda and the Burning Bush Responds …
Laura Tanenbaum An Incomplete List of Places I Have Breastfed …
Martin Vest Asterisks


Paul E. Nelson (web)

Cover Art

David Moore (web)