December 20, 2018

Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2018: Artist’s Choice


Eat Me by Nicolette Daskalakis

Image: “Eat Me” by Nicolette Daskalakis. “Placebo” was written by Jill M. Talbot for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2018, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Jill M. Talbot


Coffee for headache, grapefruit for heartache,
blue for the weather and red for forgiveness;
hopelessness–may I suggest a bubblegum flavor?
Not all nutrtional lists cover psychic benefit.
Jung prescribed lemon for neurosis;
psychosis requires a dash of red pepper.
Plug your nose and wear swimming goggles,
be sure to pose and photograph—
share on instagram. As for existential despair:
some things still need to be left to cats.
Thanks for shopping with McFuture.
May we suggest you use your plastic bag
as a face mask?

from Ekphrastic Challenge
November 2018, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Nicolette Daskalakis: “It was difficult to choose just one poem, but ultimately ‘Placebo’ stood out to me because it captured the tone, humour, and critique of commercial culture I had in mind while shooting ‘Eat Me.’ I love that the poet addresses the commodification of ‘cures’ and looks at how our society’s never-ending search for a silver bullet to its ailments has only been amplified by the social media age.”

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May 31, 2018

Ekphrastic Challenge, April 2018: Editor’s Choice


Through the Looking Glass by Melody Carr

Image: “Through the Looking Glass” by Melody Carr. “Your Favorite Writer Is Not Your Mother” was written by Jill M. Talbot for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, April 2018, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Jill M. Talbot


All writers are exiles wherever they live and their work is a lifelong journey towards the lost land.
—Janet Frame

Just because she looks
Like you, or looks like
Your mother, that does
Not make your favorite
Writer your mother. Just
Because she slept with
Bones, was misdiagnosed
With the same lucid
Dreams, or swallowed
The same blue pills.
Just because she lived
In little houses or had
Siblings die young, or
Finds odd things funny.
Just because she had
Unbearable hair and teeth.
Just because you planted
A turtle under a rock.
Just because there’s a photo
Of a hospital, of weeds
Growing out of eyes.
Just because you don’t have
A better half. Just because
You’re a quarter the way
Home. None of this
Makes your favorite writer
Your mother.
Just ask her.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
April 2018, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “Out of over 300 poems submitted to April’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Jill Talbot leaped the farthest from the literal. Propelled along by a strong rhythm, it’s a startling poem about refraction and resemblances, about the way relationships are stacked in our minds like layers in the double-image that inspired it. I’m not sure how she got to the door she opens for us, but it was the poem that woke me up into a new and unexpected space.”

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April 15, 2018

Jill M. Talbot


The pope is sorry, Mark
Zuckerberg is sorry, Starbucks
Is sorry. Hell, even Obama
Is sorry. The ocean’s sorry,
The sun is sorry, the polar
Bears are sorry, the otter
Living under your house is
Sorry. The hairdresser is
Sorry, the window cleaner
Is sorry. The spider who bit
You is sorry. Skeletons in
The desert are sorry. The NRA
Is sorry, the Titanic is sorry.
Justin Trudeau is sorry. The
Plastic surgeon is sorry,
Barbie is sorry. Killer
Robots are sorry.
The spider you
While you were
Is sorry.

from Poets Respond
April 15, 2018


Jill M. Talbot: “This is a response to the testimony of Mark Zuckerberg.” (web)

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March 18, 2018

Jill M. Talbot


Do you still believe it’s intelligent life we ought to avoid?

This is a silent poem. Every letter
is silent, every word is silent, every
line is silent, every stanza is silent.
Even the stanza breaks are silent.

Are poets as useless as philosophers?

This is a silent painting. Since you
don’t know what you could be missing,
you don’t know what you could see.
That’s what silence is.

Do black holes take library books?

Maybe they’ve taken all of the noise
from the silent letters. Maybe they’ve
taken the library books. Maybe they’ve
taken heaven from atheists.

Are atheists afraid of the dark?

This is a poem for people afraid of
the light, afraid of the silence of the dark.
Fairy tales were made to terrify, not

If a robot asks me out, do I say yes?

In the future there may be silent
roosters, and nobody will know
what they’re missing.

A silent man seems attractive,
in the meantime.

If the elephant in the room dies, do you have a funeral?

This is not a protest poem. It’s just
an image. It’s just the silence that
occurs between neurons firing,
putting what was upside-down
right-side up. You can only protest
death once it’s already in the room,
taking up all the silent space.

If we meet in heaven will you avoid me? Will you declare it all a bad dream or a good dream? Will we drink rum and coke or virtue?

Happily ever after was only
a mutation.

Will you take a look at my theory of nothing?

That’s okay, it was the silence
I was after.

from Poets Respond
March 18, 2018


Jill M. Talbot: “This is a response to the death of Stephen Hawking. I found much of what he had to say outside of his research interesting. His fear of intelligent robots and aliens, his demand that he not appear drunk on The Simpsons … but mainly the notion that heaven is a ‘fairy tale for people afraid of the dark.’ Hawking has also been critical of philosophers. I wondered where the arts appeared in all of this. If science offers Ativan and writers offer stories, I choose the latter. It is in death that we often turn to art, religion, and philosophy—not necessarily for comfort, but perhaps for something human. Nevertheless, Hawking was certainly an inspiring figure for scientists and non-scientists alike.” (web)

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September 13, 2017

Jill M. Talbot


Should I feel shame crossing off
the Caucasian box? White is the least 
honest color of all—I am not white—
I am shame. I am ashamed of
this box, this paint-by-numbers
diversity quiz. I could be a dyke?
Where’s the box for dead mother?
Where’s the box for adoption?

Identity confused: please call
Governor for report—where’s
the box for junkie—for warrior
gene? For should have been aborted?
Where’s the box for mentally unfit?
Where’s the box for asexual 
wannabe? Where’s the space 

for the time I got stitches and thought
it was the best thing that ever happened
to me—I was twelve. Stitches were
my identity. How they kept the white
out. Oozing red onto a dishcloth.

I thought I found God. 
She was white like me. 
I was twelve. 
I was twelve.
I was twelve.

I got a McFlurry 
with all of the flavors.
Just like my mother. 
White like me.
Dead like me.

from Rattle #56, Summer 2017
Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness

[download audio]


Jill M. Talbot: “I actually debated whether or not to submit here. There is no doubt about whether or not I have been diagnosed with mental illness—in fact, with several. Mood disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, substance use disorders … I have altered between conforming and fighting against labels. I would rather be called mad than ill. I refuse to believe that my personality is sick—but I believe I am strange, am odd, am mad as a mad hatter. I can submit because I no longer fight labels. If anyone has a borderline personality, I do. But writing has taught me that my eccentricities are something to be valued. Because of the high correlation between creativity and mental illness, I believe it is a sign that we should start rethinking illness, as we have done with sexual identities. From illness to simply different—unique—equally valid. I just want to be valid. This desire is at the root of much of my writing—to just be valid like anyone else. Sometimes this is covered with a bunch of other shit, but at the root, always the desire to be valid—to undo some of the traumas of my past—to have an Axis II label of: okay. Maybe okay people don’t get hospitalized in psych wards, but maybe the world is mad, and some of us are more sensitive to it than others. Some of us need poetry more than others.” (web)

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January 1, 2017

Jill M. Talbot


Listen up, it wasn’t that bad.
Nobody got cancer—
Nobody died of cancer—
Nobody died of cancer
While rollerskating on the moon.

Pedophiles were old news.
Santa came, didn’t he?
Somebody dressed as Santa came?
You know at that office party
We aren’t allowed to talk about?

Nobody got in bed with Putin
Without a marriage proposal.
Nobody said Stalin, Santa and Zenu
Were the three stooges.

Nobody coughed up a lung or sold a kidney
On an AirCanada flight to Saskatoon.
Nobody declared themselves a pervert
On BBC Channel 4. Nobody got the last laugh
First class. Nobody took a pee break
During the apocalypse movie.

Nobody tweeted their last words
In 140 characters full of auto-correct
Embarrassments. Nobody followed
The yellow brick road to Russia,
Or said all roads lead to WWII
Re-enactments. Nobody shared
Fake news, wrote fake poems,

Or dressed up as Hitler. Nobody
Dressed up fried chicken from the dumpster
To look like a Kardashian to sell to
Tiny Tim. Nobody did a documentary
On Scientology or gave Tom Cruise
A lobotomy. Nobody said Goodnight Moon
When they really meant sun.

Nobody said Jihad, nobody said
Jeopardy. Nobody said
What is Facebook? Nobody got
All distraught on Twitter.
Nobody remembered that
I see dead people kid.

Nobody had monsters under the bed.
Nobody had weapons of mass destruction.
Nobody had that adolescent existential moment—
The monster under the bed is us.

Nobody read Goodnight Moon
Like they really meant it. Nobody voted for
Somebody they’ll vote for again.
Nobody shared fake news, nobody
Wrote fake poems. Nobody said
2016 was a year to be remembered.
Nobody wrote poems.

Poets Respond
January 1, 2017

[download audio]


Jill M. Talbot: “This is a response to the often trite way we have of summarizing up a year with platitudes or lessons learned around this time. It is also a response to the increasingly fraudulent and bizarre news out there. 2016 will be remembered.” (link)

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July 21, 2016

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2016: Artist’s Choice


Photo by James Croal Jackson
Photograph: “Go Your Own Way” by James Croal Jackson. “I Don’t Understand Poetry” was written by Jill M. Talbot for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2016, and selected by Jackson as the Artist’s Choice winner.

[download broadside]


Jill M. Talbot


Where are these people walking?
They are walking in a poem.
But it is not my poem,
so I do not understand it.

And they are walking in twos,
so perhaps it’s not a poem.
A poem is ventured through alone.

I seen a sign, Smile if you masturbate,
so is that a poem?

Only if you smile?

Are you smiling?

Don’t worry, it’s just a poem.
I won’t tell.

If I lived in a poem it would be Ginsberg.
Because I hate Ginsberg.
And these people don’t know the half of it.
Walking, walking, walking.

If they get somewhere,
I guess it’s not a poem.
Unless they get to hell.

I may be overthinking this.
I never understood poetry.
I’m also stuck in a poem
paved by panhandlers.

I seen a sign. I seen too many.
I seen a white sky calling out
our less than good intentions.

But is that a poem?

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2016
Artist’s Choice Winner

[download audio]


Comment from the artist, James Croal Jackson , on his selection: “It was an honor reading through so many excellent poems inspired by my photograph, but this is the one that rattled in my head longest after reading—made me realize, you know, I really don’t understand poetry, and I don’t really understand this poem, but I ventured through it alone and now all I’m doing is walking, walking, walking through poems every day in the real world (maybe). I don’t know. This poem is meta and funny and philosophical and unexpected. It won’t leave my head. I had to choose it.” (website)

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