Liz’s Weekend Poetry Series: The Readership

by lizard

(above painting, titled World’s Tallest Disaster, by Roger Brown)

Cate Marvin is a poet to keep your eye on. The poem for this weekend’s edition of LWPS is the last poem from her first book of poems, World’s Tallest Disaster. Get to know her a bit in this interview with Kathleen Rooney.



I suppose must have been orbiting all the time
I’ve spent bent at this desk, unaware of its presence
as those victims of alien abductions, who claim
they were taken on board, experimented upon,

and gently replaced to their beds. Or the readership
may be hovering, held in a flight pattern, endlessly
repeating figure-eights, everyone on board desperate
for the captain’s reassuring announcement

they’ll make their connecting flights. Or perhaps
it’s one of those massive sea vessels that looks
so grand from the shore, same as the ferry I saw
cutting its shape on the Mediterranean’s edge,

when I was young and traveled with a notebook.
When to follow a map was to learn a finger’s width
could mark the hours it’d take for us to get there.
Fellow passenger, companion, friend, perhaps when

you were sitting beside me your mind was really
on the readership. Maybe that could explain your
sudden disappearance: Mysterious as those lights
in late night skies no one can prove or identify.

Perhaps the readership prepares to land, and you
are among its passengers, presently ripping
at a bag of peanuts the flight attendants provide.
If this is so, I offer a goodly signal, words radiating

redness, radio towered. Much like a lighthouse
casts its warning to the morass of sea, I simply ask
that you heed me. Gentle barge, it does not matter
if you listen, it does not concern me. It’s too late

for you to put the book down, cancel the flight,
concede you were always terrible at planning.
When you arrive, hold fast to your belongings.
The purse slashers in my poems have more

than your money on their unsubtle minds. I’ll speak
for my life when I say I’m glad you have arrived.
I’ve waited like a starving country, arms heaped
with hand-worked goods I’ll sell you at a native’s price.

And if the readership does not exist? Perhaps
it’s only intriguing as a conspiracy theory—
how I want to believe in it, as if it will provide
the answer for everything that’s gone awry.

—Cate Marvin

  1. d.g.

    Thanks for giving poetry a place here. Confused by this poem’s first sentence; syntax and attribution reference for “its” (the readership or the desk?) Might try adding “as unaware as” and removing comma after “abductions”. Just a thought. Thanks.

  2. Ok, liz: i’m exposing myself here a little bit but want you to critique my dalliance into haiku. be gentle.

    wax the crescent moon
    on a new mexico night
    nurse donnamarie

    whose smile brings new swoon
    to a lonely heart pining
    sans halloween fright

    i search for your lips
    with red wine only to see
    one glass and no you

    as snow fills the gulch
    a man floats over the streets
    lost in a woman

    she climbs his mountain
    and her smile heats the boulders
    where she warms her hands

    he fills her vessel
    her long hair draws the curtains
    the peak is now theirs

    • lizard19

      well, i’m flattered you’d ask my advice larry. some folks might think haikus are easy poems to write, but they certainly aren’t, and i wouldn’t claim to be very adept myself.

      that said, one piece of advice i’d give for tinkering with any poem is reading it aloud, which is not something i did initially, but the more i read my stuff aloud, the better i could hear what needed work

      your first haiku is pretty damn tight, and there’s not anything i can think of that would improve it. i love the imagery and the echoes of sound you’ve created with wax/mex(ico) and moon/new.

      the second haiku, when read aloud, sounds like it could use a little work. the proximity of “new” next to “swoon” feels a bit clunky, and “smile” as a monosyllabic word stretches out the line, which sometimes can create good tension, but in this case it sort of comes off heavy.

      i like the 3rd and 4th haikus, but the 5th haiku has a syllabic deviation from the formula in the second line, and it’s imagery is basically just the last words in all three lines: mountain, boulders, hands. because the images end all the lines, it gives the haiku a thump, thump, thump effect, if that makes any sense.

      anyway, if you like haiku, you should check out the hybrid form Haibun, which is a combination of prose and haiku. Gary Snyder has some great examples in his book, Danger On Peaks.

  1. 1 Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: More Cate Marvin « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] I’ve featured a poem from Cate Marvin before, which you can read here. […]

  2. 2 An April Feast Of Poetry « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] The Readership […]

  3. 3 Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: Anticipating April | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] The Readership […]

  4. 4 152 Poetry Posts to Celebrate April, National Poetry Month | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] The Readership […]

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