Shining Rock Poetry Anthology

A Conversation Between Fleda Brown and Rebecca McClanahan

A Conversation Between Fleda Brown and Rebecca McClanahan (Please see their poems, included at the end of this discussion.)

When I first opened The Woods Are on Fire: New & Selected Poems and saw the epigraph from the Buddha that begins "All things, oh priests, are on fire," I thought what a perfect choice. Not only for this book but for all your work, which I've admired for decades, Fleda.

Reading your poems, I sense a mind so combustible, it can ignite "all things" into flame by the sheer force of its attention and focus. No life form is overlooked--lovers, parents, worms, Elvis, mother-of-the-bride dresses, king-sized beds, black holes, talk radio, scalpels, cedar waxwings. Oh, and I can't forget the wild turkeys you equate with Eleanor Roosevelt and Lyle Lovett! The ordinary and the extraordinary, the tiny and the massive, the private and the global, all receive that "absolutely unmixed attention" that Simon Weil once wrote of. She called that attention a form of prayer, which is another way of looking at your work. I know that you have been practicing meditation for many years. Maybe that practice helps shape the sense of spark, ignition, combustibility in your work?

Well, I suspect my meditation practice for all these years has been a response to the combustible nature of my mind. I was pretty sure I needed to hold still, simply watch it combust, rather than letting it blow me up in the process! When I turn to Deep Light, your earlier New & Selected poems, I feel a similar intensity. The poems are always "Trying to Escape Autobiography," as you title one poem. We both resolutely remain within the cauldron of our families, our personal narratives, where, it seems, both of us prefer to come face to face with what's immediate and seething with fire. The Bodhisattva vow is to "be with all things." This is how I might put it. You put it this way, in the poem "She Wanted to Leave a Great Emptiness Behind: "Truth is the strange cat outside our door/ that will not come in lest we name him/ and soften his color with our cream." You allow the strange cats of Truth to remain themselves--an infant death, cancer, marriage breakup, affairs, a lost child--not softening with self-conscious trope, but hearing the poetry in what's there.

Then I wonder what I mean when I say "the poetry of what's there"? What are your assumptions /proclivities about the nature of poetry? We both have a large enough body of work that our readers might be able to form some thoughts about that. If you were assessing your own work over time, what would you say?

I don't know if I can assess my body of work, though I have written some craft essays about what my poems and essays might be trying to teach me. At this point in my writing life--in both prose and poetry--I am trying to access rather than to assess. (Fleda, I know you're a word junkie like I am, so you probably see the "ass" in that word, too. I'm smiling now.)

But I do know, having come to this understanding over the past thirty-plus years of writing and publishing, that the magnetic center of my work has always been a question: Where do I leave off and others begin? Almost everything I've written is like an iron filing drawn to that magnetic question. How important are our personal and global connections and relationships--to lovers, spouses, family members, friends, members of our larger communities? When does individuality trump relationship, and vice versa.

I love your choice of "cauldron" and its connection to "seething with fire"--the fire of love, family, connection, difficulty, and redemption. Aren't cauldrons those kettles that contain the boiling mixture? Maybe our poetry--both of ours--is a kind of cauldron. Oh dear, now I'm thinking of witchcraft. Okay, I'll go with that: bewitching? Poetry as a form of beguilement, magic, enrapture.

How would I answer that question myself? I am definitely enraptured (your word) by the way the mind works, the way things and events arise and are shaped by the mind. Looking at my poems over time--of course the New & Selected caused me to do that--I see that the early poems seem more event-driven, and the later ones seem to hold more still, to examine from all sides.

Yes, I sense that movement in The Woods Are On Fire, from more event-driven, highly-peopled narrative poems in the earlier books to those in which the speaker either holds still, as if in meditation, or moves so freely in time and space that we want to move with her to see where the mind journey will take us. I sense this movement strongly in "Knife," the long, segmented prose poem that comes at its subject from so many angles that I think of it as a hybrid: poem-novella-meditation-lyric essay-memoir. Talk about a poem being on fire! This one, by itself, could ignite a forest.

Yet in the center of all that moment is a still event: the poet sitting with her sister after the sister's brain surgery, wanting to "carve for you out of the dark a bright cradle of words upon which you can be carried." So, even though the speaker of "Knife" departs from the narrative line (of the surgery) in various ways throughout the poem, the hospital moment is still the "moment suspended like a plumb line." Or, for me, the moment opens like an accordion--another metaphor for the various, flexible uses of narrative.

I think of a poem of yours I love, "The Invention of Zero":  "All along we knew something was missing  We had no idea/ it was nothing        We knew only that we lacked/ a place to place       the sum of our subtractions" is the first stanza.  You don't lose your connection with narrative entirely, but you hold it in a kind of suspension, "somewhere between plus and minus," back to before the first division of cells that made us.

When I say that you don't lose your connection with narrative entirely, my aesthetics consider this a compliment. I think things are always fastened together by narrative, even when we don't notice right away. When they aren't fastened together, who can be there with us? Where are we? We can move around, let our minds travel from one thought to the next, but, as Tony Hoagland said, not to complete that thought is to abandon commitment to the material, and to the life in the material. I also remember Louise Glück calling the choice between using the fragment or the non sequitur in poetry basically a moral choice. The fragment she associates with lazy, incomplete thinking. The non sequitur, she calls a "more complicated maneuver, lively, volatile, skirmishing, suggesting simultaneity or multiplicity, loosing a flurry of questions."

Glück's quote reminds me of your poem "Mouse," all the lively, volatile maneuvers the little mouse makes as the speaker watches him, thinking of how the mouse is like a poem, "going straight for the goods, / around the barrier of our thoughts." I laughed aloud at this poem, and at several others as well. Though you write, in one poem "The way I am / . . . I see all the possibilities for loss," the speaker of many of these poems is often able to see the humor in even the darkest events or situations. Are you surprised when readers comment on the humor in your poems? Is humor something that you admire in other poems or poets?

I always thought my sisters were the witty ones, but people have said my poems are funny. Mostly not funny, as ha-ha, I'd say. More like seeing the crazy irony of things, being amused. Yes, I am a huge fan of laughter. I watch Colbert or SNL openings when I feel down. Laughter is the other side of tears, and both can coexist in the same poem.

It seems to me, Rebecca, you write the laugher/tears coexistence with an enviably light touch. Your "Autobiography of the Cab Driver Who Picked Me Up at a Phoenix Hotel to Catch a Four A.M. Flight and Began to Speak in (Almost) Rhyming Couplets" makes me smile starting with the title. The cab driver defends his life and the climate--"you don't have to shovel / a heat wave." Also, I think "All the Grandmothers of All the Poets Show Up at a Reading" is riotously funny--the dead grandmothers hearing their grown grandchildren read those poems about them, "relieved to be lost / among goddesses, cosmic eggs. . . . ."

And when there's suffering, you have the same light touch. Your poem "Demons" isn't funny, for sure. You say, "My only nourishment, the small bone / of pain I chewed to the marrow." Yet the poem nears the end with this line: "Suffering could spill / over me and I wouldn't collect a drop." In all your poems there's an emerging lightness of heart. Suffering in your poems is not just to be borne, but to be cherished as a necessary intensity.

Was a balance of moods something you thought about as you organized the poems in Deep Light? Unlike my New & Selected, you put together a whole new thing, not arranging poems in the chronology of their publication. Why did you make this decision?

I don't think I consciously tried to balance the moods or voices in the book. And I'm not sure when or how I decided on the unconventional organization of Deep Light. Probably about the time I discovered the central metaphor of deep light, that mysterious undersea glow. As I revisited my previous poetry collections as well as the book of lectures containing some of the poems I included, I noticed the recurrence of light/shadow imagery, along with other recurrences of subjects and images we've already talked about in this conversation.

Stanley Kunitz, in one of his interviews, named these recurrences (well, maybe for me they are obsessions) a poet's "constellation of images." Once I discovered the light/shadow constellation emerging and reemerging, I began to imagine the various ways in which this theme moved in and out of my previous--and current--work. Those various ways became the five divisions of the book.

My goal was to organize the poems so that they formed, as much as possible, a single utterance. Once I arrived at the first poem in the book, a poem about my parents, I paid attention to its last line, "the coiled shell of their lives," and then placed the next poem ("The Life I Will Be Born Into") imagining it as a continuation of that first poem. I continued this way throughout the book--well, as closely as it was possible to do so. This organization was very different from the kind I used in the individual books, but it felt right for this one.

What about your process of creating The Woods Are On Fire, Fleda? You were selecting and ordering poems from seven of your eight previous books, plus you had nearly fifty new poems! My goodness, how did you make decisions about which poems to include, or, perhaps equally important, which to exclude?

When you arrange the way you did, the book itself becomes a poem. I like that. But the model Ted Kooser gave me--the previous books in his series--were chronological, so I followed suit. I think of the book as a retrospective, kind of an historical document: this is where I began, this is where I am now. He suggested I choose about 20 poems from each previous book, plus new poems.

Oh, but I already had a new single collection ready! I'd spent weeks arranging it. And had started sending it out. In his experience, he said, two books in the same year seems to hurt sales and interest in both. He encouraged me to put as many of the new poems as I wanted into this volume. After a sleepless night--I'd worked so hard on arranging the new collection--I chose 48 new poems, almost the whole thing, and put them into the New & Selected.

I tried to fit in the poems from The Devil's Child, but just couldn't. They're too dark, they create a narrative line that seems necessary to follow. So I left them out. Reluctantly, since I think this is one of my best books. But even in a chronological structure, there is a sense of a whole, and some poems can violate it.

And too, I was looking at each group of approximately 20 poems as a mini-book. I chose poems I like, the ones that seem to me to be the best ones. At the same time, I was keeping in mind how the 20 fit together. I hated to leave some poems out, but at least a New & Selected gives a lot of poems a new life.

Speaking of a new life, the collection felt to me a little like an obituary. Here's my life. Between covers. Gradually I seem to have returned like Lazarus from the dead, but there was that feeling. And also the feeling of "Who wrote those poems?" So long ago. In many ways I'm not the same person. I'm wondering if you felt any of that, yourself.

Oh yes. "Who wrote those poems?" is definitely the question that came to me. Looking back over one's life--or one's life as experienced through poetry--is definitely a form of retrospective, as you said earlier. By choosing certain poems and not including others, and by arranging them in a particular pattern, we are acting in effect as our own biographers, the creators of, as you said, historical documents.

But I'm not talking here about documenting the events of our lives or even of any one-on-one autobiographical correspondence to the poems themselves. Poetry is never autobiography. It is a made thing, an object that we hope will be in some way beautiful, right? Or at least artful. To create something artful from the stuff of our lives, we must move past the given. Or under it, or around it, or through it, whatever movement will help us access the deepest mysteries.

The poem, like the memoir, must deconstruct the life--"blow the mother up!" as William Matthews once said to me--in order to see it anew. You've accomplished that deconstruction so beautifully throughout The Woods Are On Fire: through persona poems, formal structures, meter, the music of line breaks, brilliant non sequiturs, prose sequences, scientific and mathematical information, and on and on.

But you also deconstruct by looking back at yourself as a multitude of different, always changing selves. In "Refrigerator," one of my favorites in your book, you say "History has hold of the situation / and will not alter a bit of it; I see myself /in heroic terms, separated / from myself by the gulf of regret, / the refrigerator keeping its small light / to spill into the darkness / at intervals." Those intervals of light, it seems to me, are the poems. So perhaps the arrangement of a New & Selected is also a process of inviting all our selves to come to the table, to talk back and forth with one another?

One of the best examples of deconstruction and re-organizing, as well as one of the most beautiful and tender poems in your book, is "A Definition." You've placed it near the end, since it carries the energy of the entire collection. It begins, "Love, you once told me, / means you could give your wife / an enema if it came to that. /  You say the sweetest things, I thought."

Right there is everything that matters most in your poems, love in its particularly familial setting: the humor of it, and then the follow up, which includes a collation of past marriage, a child of an earlier marriage, a wild gander and its mate, the husband's mother's cancer, the way his father took care of her, an anniversary dinner after which she, naked, throws up in the night and he, naked, holds a washcloth on her head. The poem ends by looking to the future in which "one of us" will be holding "one of us."

I don't want to miss pointing out, also, "A Telling," placed second to last in the book. In it, the mother can't remember her childhood, so the daughter picks up the thread and invents it for her. That is the essence, it seems to me, of your work, writing out of love and the need to keep the language of living going.

So it is how we keep going, I think. We have a built-in need to say how it was, but we, as artists, as poets, find ourselves moving past the given, as you say, or in whatever direction we need to go to create access to the deepest mysteries. I'm just quoting you here, because I can't say it any better. 

Five Poems by Fleda Brown


I have returned to the refrigerator of my youth,
the one that droops
its shoulders. A small thing,
just noticed, humming in the corner
of my mind. It wears its white lab coat
and shuts at the end of each meal
with a definitive snap, unlike the casual
sighings of the new ones. The old one remembers
the ice pick, the tongs,
it knows its mortality, its vulnerability
to the electrical cord. 
It has nothing in its door but door.

It lives in the place rooted in dream
that will not change.
I have returned to my brother after a long time,
because of the refrigerator
that held his medicines, his juice, on wire racks.
I have not told my chiropractor
why my spine is rigid with history, 
It is rigid with my brother's spine,
seizing, arms thrown forward, trembling. 
My spine knows not when or where
this might occur
again.  It is an animal exposed,
a fish eaten down to its Christmas tree.
It is 1949 at my grandmother's
nervous house, with the bubble lights
and the refrigerator in the pantry
and the men's bourbon there,
and my brother hushed up so no one will
worry. History has hold of the situation
and will not alter a bit of it;   I see myself
in heroic terms, separated
from myself by the gulf of regret,
the refrigerator keeping its small light
to spill into the darkness
at intervals.


You could almost as easily get a look
at the Holy Ghost as at the box jellyfish,
95 percent water drifting around in 100
percent water, so devoted to the will of
its environment--a virtual flower of Eden--
it doesn't have to have a brain.
It can kill you in four minutes.
Imagine it going from its usual lambency
to flashing along at five feet per second.
You can barely tell it's there, then
you're dead, or scarred for life.
The man and woman across from me
could be on their honeymoon.
They are having a drink and suddenly he
looks through her and is all over
another woman at the end of the bar,
and then he is back, barely a shudder.
Not just the man, but any of us could be
the source of the pain, if we knew more
about it. Even our own bodies hurt
themselves, arthritis, and so on.
It is no good reading Job,
because the wreck of his life
has already been explained in the prologue,
God and Satan having separate power issues.
Surfers sometimes wear two pair
of pantyhose to protect themselves
from jellyfish, one pair for the legs,
one for the arms. They cut a hole
in the crotch of the one to go over
the head. Since the stingers are too short
to get through nylon, we may not be looking
for a gross solution. It may be
so delicate we can just close our eyes
and stand around like blind people
until we feel it brush against us.

The Sex Life of Anacondas

We are sitting by my dying mother's bed. My father
is reading aloud from National Geographic,
"The Sex Life of Anacondas." He describes the males
wadded around one female into a breeding ball 
that can last four weeks. Who knows how
she lives with it? Happily, she is much larger
than the males. They know by her heft which one
she is. My mother is in a coma and likely
cannot hear about the anacondas, although hearing
is the last to go.  She has had all of that she can stand,
already. The one lamp is just enough for the magazine.
I get up and lean over her twilit bed. I smooth
her hair, which has almost no gray. I think how
gray is an absence, whereas brown is still fair game.
I lean into her face and shout, "I love you,"
the way the nurses said to do. They say
to her, "I'm going to aspirate your throat now,
Mrs. Brown, so you can breathe better," even though
she keeps on with her soft gasping. Our minds
keep piling on the same old facts, same
old guesswork. Sometimes a spark of recognition
can come at the end. I would like that: some
gathering up of loose threads, some compensation.
                                         In the funeral car,
my father describes how a rotary brake works,
using his middle finger to point as he has for years
since his forefinger tendon was severed by a broken dish--
the gesture with its tinge of sexuality, its up-yours,
that he at other times slyly acknowledges. Our driver
looks straight ahead. To speak of love is hard,
here, the way it's hidden in the mechanism
as if one word's as good as the other.


What is that sound
like the memory of a foghorn?
Was that you, snoring, here
in this roomful of others tethered
in their recliners by transparent tubes
dripping chemicals? What quiet suffering
have you intruded upon, what fragile,
joyful thought have you disrupted?

            You keep saying "you" because
even the you you know is some distance
from what must be a truer you, the one
others know, maybe, or the one
in the mirror, reversed--you'll never
know her. Or the one faltering
across the room, now, dragging her
pedestal stand, headed for the bathroom
with her swinging bags and tubes.

The others are watching. You want do 
even this faltering gracefully--
a little beauty where it can be had.
What does anyone want but a beautiful
world? Even the Boston Bombers,
what did they want but some kind
of beauty they could understand?
And then the young one, hiding bleeding
in the boat. Did he think how he might
make his exit worthy of the end
of the world? Did the officer lifting him
gently out, half-dead, know how much
the two of them resembled the Pieta?
No, it was you who thought that,
seeing how valuable the load, so once
beautiful, so fraught with anguish,
so unaware at that moment
of the clamor he caused
around him, its long echo.


I admire the way mouse dashes across the top bracket
of the blinds while we're reading in bed. I admire the tiny whip

of its tail at the exact second my husband tries to grab it.
I admire the way it disappears into our house and shreds various

elements. I admire the way it selects the secret corridors
behind cupboards and drawers, the way it remains on the reverse

side of our lives. The mouse is what I think of when I think of
a poem, or of music, going straight for the goods, around

the barrier of our thoughts. It leaves droppings, pretending to be
not entirely substantial, falling apart a little here and there.

Clearly, it has evolved perfect attention to detail. I wish it would
concentrate on the morning news, pass the dreadfulness out

in little pellets. Yesterday I found a nest of toilet paper and
thought I'd like to climb onto that frayed little cloud. I would like

to become the disciple of that mouse and sing "Wooly Bully"
in a tiny little voice in the middle of the night while the dangerous

political machines are all asleep. I would like to have a tail
for an antenna. But, I thought, also, how it must be to live alone

among the canyons of cabinets, to pay that price, to look foolish
and trembling in daylight. Who would willingly choose to be

the small persistent difficulty? So I put out a spoonful of peanut butter
for the mouse, and the morning felt more decent, the government

more fair. I put on my jeans and black shirt, trying not to make 
mistakes yet, because it seemed like a miracle that anyone tries at all.

Four Poems by Rebecca McClanahan

Watching My Parents Sleeping Beside an Open Window Near the Sea

Needing them still, I come
when I can, this time to the sea
where we share a room: their double bed,
my single. Morning fog paints the pale
scene even paler. Lace curtains breathing,
the chenille spread folded back,
my father's feet white sails furled
at the edge of blue pajamas.
Every child's dream, a parent
in each hand, though this child is fifty.
Their bodies fit easily, with room
to spare. When did they grow
so small? Grow so small--
as if it were possible to swell
backwards into an earlier self.
On the bureau, their toys
and trinkets. His shaving brush
and pink heart pills, her gardenia
sachet. The tiny spindle that pricks
the daily bubble of blood, her sweet
chemistry. Above our heads
a smoke alarm pulses, its red eye beating.
One more year, I ask the silence.
Last night to launch myself
into sleep I counted their breaths, the tidal
rise and fall I now put my ear to,
the coiled shell of their lives.

A Definition

Love, you once told me,
means you could give your wife
an enema if it came to that.

You say the sweetest things, I thought.
I was young and childless and could not
imagine allowing anyone that much access.
When we met, you were already a father.
I married you partly for that. My mother
always said every man wants a son,
and yours was so conveniently there,
courtesy of a first wife I knew only
through the signatures on the backs
of child support checks. Tonight
we talk of your mother's cancer
which once in a letter I misread as career,
and it might as well have been,
she gave so much to it. Now that it is done,
it is not the memory of her pain
that breaks you, but the unnatural tilt of the wig
and the sound of your old bicycle horn
which she retrieved from the attic
and carried with her to the bathroom
so your father could hear
if she got stranded, the way a wild gander
hears the distant honk of his mate
and swoops down to answer.

Last night after an expensive dinner
we made anniversary love
in a bed so crowded with years
I once told you I don't want to know
who else is in here with us,
all the lives and loves confused.
Hours later, the veal turned to poison,
sweat slid off my nakedness
as I shivered in the bathroom--
my head in the waste can--and called out,
amazed to see you suddenly there,
naked in the blue fluorescence.
And then, in some remembered gesture,
you placed a washcloth on my forehead.
When I was finally emptied, I looked up
into the mirror, saw our future,
your father hurrying through the door:
then one of us holding one of us.

All the Grandmothers of All the Poets Show Up at a Reading

They've heard that their names will be bandied about,
their exploits swollen to inhuman proportions--black
matriarchs, Jewish bubbies, Catholic grandmothers bearing
rosaries, Norwegian grandmothers passing platters
of lutefisk and lefse. The room smells of talcum
and moth balls, dresses aired for the occasion, gardenia
sachets and cow pies, layer after layer of womanly sweat.
Some have come straight from the fields of the past, bent
like oxen over some mean task. One is up to her elbows in milk.
One is scrubbing her nails. My father's mother materializes
in the fuchsia dress she was buried in--even then,
she refused black. My mother's mother stuffs an apron
into the big brown pocketbook she accompanied for decades.
She doesn't understand the flimsy purses slung
over the poets' shoulders or strapped to their flat bellies.
A good pocketbook should last a lifetime.

A Pentecostal grandmother dead for years
lands with a whoosh on the front row. She's accustomed
to strange tongues; this is just one more
the audience keeps nodding to. Could that be Billy
up there at the podium, the one with the white beard? 
The last time she saw him . . . but no, what yellow dog
is he talking about, and for sure she never slapped him.
Maybe that once, but why make a federal case out of it? 
She keeps waiting to hear love, but he never says it plain.
Now he's on to the diary she kept meaning to burn.
Whispers begin at the back of the room, secrets
clicking, chain stitches, not a single one dropped
before it reaches her ear. She should have taken care
of things--the letters and photographs. Well, he's done now,
and another taking his place, a slip of a thing
with eyes like burnt raisins: My grandmother was a cave,
she begins. An exhalation of wings from the balcony,    
where those who have grown to myth and beyond
hover, fanning their powdered faces, relieved to be lost
among goddesses, cosmic eggs, hollow horns
of cornucopia, latticed honeycombs, their names
a mere mention at the front of some thin book: In memory
of my grandmother. Rose Ellen. Beatrice. Marie.

She Wanted to Leave a Great Emptiness Behind

In the house she would leave all the fullness
she could stir: sauces bubbling, white tents
of bread rising in the pan. Peonies perfect
in the vase, and below, the polished oak.
Cushions plumped, his brandy poured, coating
the petalled glass. And she would leave
her garden in all its wildness: fence vines
climbing the difficult ascent, purple
tangle of morning glory, so it might seem
it all thrived greener where her hands had been.

Then in the swell of the moment she would be gone,
leaving the great emptiness. And regret
would pile deep in his lap as plums.
And when he steered mourners through the halls
bare with her absence, he would mumble
but when she was here, and then would nod.

Do not question why she wanted this.
Truth is the strange cat outside our door
that will not come in lest we name him
and soften his color with our cream.
That is the way with truth, our mouths
on the thermos cannot see, only taste
the sweet or bitter when blind it enters
our throats. To spill is to waste its secret.
And departure wears its own perfume, aging
as it is born: doilies yellowed at the edge,
peonies bowing, fine talcum of dust.
Even the white mites fluttering the blossoms
could be her kiss. Together perhaps they wrote
this ending. Or some other hand floating
the spaces between. It could be worse.
Recall the warm socket when a tooth is gone.
You tongue the bruise, remembering.
So in the garden finally he might know her
as he sits alone on the marble bench.
Moss on the cherubs weaves a shawl,
and even the smallest rose dying
leaves a cavern rain hollows out,
where roots once made their bed.

Fleda Brown's The Woods Are On Fire: New & Selected Poems, was chosen by Ted Kooser for his University of Nebraska poetry series in 2017. Professor Emerita at University of Delaware and former poet laureate of Delaware, Brown has published nine previous collections of poems and two memoirs.

Rebecca McClanahan has published ten books of poetry, nonfiction, essays, and writing instruction, most recently a multi-generational memoir, The Tribal Knot, and a revised edition of Word Painting. She teaches in the MFA programs of Queens University and Rainier Writing Workshop.


"Refrigerator," "Protection," The Sex Life of Anacondas," and "Snoring" are reproduced from The Woods Are On Fire: New and Selected Poems by Fleda Brown by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 2017 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.

"Mouse" appears in Reunion by Fleda Brown. Copyright 2007 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Reproduced courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Press.

"Watching My Parents Sleeping Beside an Open Window Near the Sea," "A Definition," "All the Grandmothers of All the Poets Show Up at a Reading," and "She Wanted to Leave a Great Emptiness Behind" appear in Deep Light: New And Selected Poems by Rebecca McClanahan, Copyright 2007. Reproduced by permission of Iris Press.

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