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Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House celebrates Tin HouseMagazine's commitment to publishing innovative contemporary poetry by both established and emerging poets.
Tin House has established itself as one of the most exciting, eclectic, and popular literary magazines in America. The Village Voice declared that Tin House "may very well represent the future of literary magazines."
This collection features work by Rae Armantrout, Frank Bidart, Billy Collins, Bei Dao, Olena Kalytiak Davis, Mark Doty, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Nick Flynn, Matthea Harvey, Terrance Hayes, Seamus Heaney, Lucia Perillo, D.A. Powell, Bin Ramke, Charles Simic, Wislawa Szymborska, C.K. Williams, and others.
Brenda Shaughnessy is the author of Interior with Sudden Joy and the forthcoming Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008). She is the recent recipient of the prestigious James Laughlin award. She teaches at Columbia University and at Eugene Lang College of the New School University. She is the poetry editor at Tin House magazine and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
CJ Evans is the associate poetry editor of Tin House and works for the Academy of American Poets. His poetry has most recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in journals such as AGNI Online, American Letters & Commentary, Chelsea, CutBank, LIT, and Nimrod. He was a semifinalist for the 2007 Discovery/The Nation Prize. He received his MFA from Columbia University and lives in New York City.
"In this beautiful anthology, the poetry editors of the literary journal Tin House have cherry-picked from the magazine's past contributors. . . Also adhering to the magazine's dictum to showcase both the very well known beside up and comers, this book gathers poems that are never self-indulgent, occasionally political, often intimate and in many cases timely, both universal and approachable. . ."
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"...an enticing anthology of contemporary poetry."
—Elisa Gabbert, Open Letters
"...some of the most touching, raw, hilarious, and best poetry that has graced [Tin House]...A very well-put-together collection of exceptional poetry, Satellite Convulsions shows what Tin House is all about."
—Sacramento Book Review
"An amazing anthology of poems that have appeared in Tin House! The range of poets—and the variety of styles—included is fantastic."
—Sacramento News & Reviews
"Tin House has become one of America's leading literary journals, and a good portion of its reputation comes form the quality of the poetry it publishes. Satellite Convulsions, its first poetry anthology, gathers some of the finest poets representing several generations of writing...an impressive legacy for such a young publication."
words & sounds that build bridges toward a new tongue
within the vortex of cadences, magic weaves there
a mystery, syncopating music rising from breath of the young,
the syllables spraying forward like some cloud or mist hung
around the day, evening, under street lamps, yeasting air, where
words & sounds that build bridges toward a new tongue
gather, lace the language like fireflies stitching the night's lungs,
rhythms of new speech reinventing themselves with a flair,
a mystery, syncopating music, rising from breath of the young,
where the need for invention at the tongue's edge, high-strung,
at the edge of the cliff, becomes a risk-taking poet who shares
words & sounds that build bridges toward a new tongue,
full of wind & sun, breath feeds poetry from art's aqualungs,
under a blue sea that is sky language threads itself through air
a mystery, syncopating music, rising from breath of the young,
is a solo snatched from the throat of pure utterance, sung,
or wordsmiths bluesing cadences, weaving lines into prayers,
words & sounds that build bridges toward a new tongue—
a mystery, syncopating music, rising from breath of the young
Late at night when the house is silent
I'll put down my book and quarter an apple
or put a few slivers of cheese on a piece
of flatbread, and it must be the poverty
of those meals which makes me think
of the departed, like the old German
who used to walk hunched every afternoon
past my window when I was very small
and wave to me, his walrus moustache
yellowed by cigars (back then all the old
men smoked and they lived forever)
which he held in an amber mouthpiece.
No one in my house knew him, but he waved
just the same, and tapped his cane toward
the corner where the cop stood directing
traffic, but stopped long enough to
tip his cap to the old man, as though
it were a Bing Crosby movie and not
a lousy corner in Queens on an eight-lane
boulevard. And I think again of Fat Charley,
his huge head—thin black hair parted down
the middle—floating above his beer stein,
and his terrible jokes—every 4th of July:
"the blessings of liberty for ourselves
and our posteriors"—and again of my father
walking dark tenement streets in Brooklyn,
collecting crumpled bills from the poor
for their small policies, life & casualty.
I'm sick of pity because it's
always self-referential. This morning,
this warm day in March 500 miles from that
corner in the city, I listened to the birds
in the hawthorn—such singing, and snow is
expected—such difficult lives. One chickadee
came close to inspect me, hopping from
branch to branch to get a better view, until
I could see her carpet-tack beak as she
studied me, cool and fearless, this creature
that weighs an ounce, with her merciless
black-bead reptilian eye.
God is the cloud that
travels with my caravan,
Bessie Smith is in my living room
singing "Do Your Duty," and
I may look like a gas station attendant
but my name is Jackson Pollock
and I'm the Big Bang Professor
of theoretical physics
at Southern Comfort University,
and as a good citizen
of this fading century
whose rules of sexual engagement
were laid down by the Marquis de Sade
I know I am responsible for all I see
which I have organized
into cities and chambers
as one might organize the sea
THE WAR IS OVER
Not an acquiescence of surrender,
the bra hung from the flagpole.
The bra is black & there is no wind for once.
For once there is no wind & a spark that is a bird
brings a straw to an empty C-cup. A spark
that is a spark. That is the sun on the steel pole.
That is the oldest thing & then is gone; like the war,
whose trench is gone, because it is full of
red iron-clot soil, because there are lawnchairs
reclined on top of it (empty, but warm, still warm,
sweat-wet & stretched-out) & a white plastic table
with a pitcher of dark iced tea upon it.
The ice is half melted. Clear water waits near the brim.
The wasp waving in it annoys a piece of dust so minute
it might not be there. In its head is only enough space
for a split second of a song it heard the third of July, a trombone
muted with a pink plunger-head. The war was over again,
the parade began hitchless, history was history, a refugee
pinned a Purple Heart on a brave bomb & a drop of brown
blood rolled down its chest like a tumbling tumbleweed
as the saints came marching in in white fur hats, in white plastic
shoes, in tuxedoes matching the color-scheme of decrepit glory,
glockenspieled, anacondad in sousaphones, a trombone
with a wasp on its brass bell resting its wings.
It is pausing on my reflection, mid-tone, in the center of my stain.
Then there is snapshot of the sky departing generously,
perhaps forever. Appropriately dark, we finally see the "grand finale"
& realize it is only the preceeding parts pushed closely together
& we think we are all a bit relieved,
although we are afraid to admit even this.
the rules, a Ptolemaniac with stars & suns circling me; I keep
missing my cues, can't arrange the particles moments are made of—
and it's all good!—because when I bend seriously back & peep
at the satellite convulsions I am a sluiceway for night rain. If I love
at least I love aptly, terminally, like a man who loves his dinner until
he's done with it, then settles to the couch to easy pixilated dreams
(bounced off, yes, satellites, & beamed into a pale dish). And still,
even unfettered by history or hope, the world does not seem
shocking—simply something to fly a canvas balloon around, to
dig a hole in. To climb into. To allow to fill with water, perhaps
it is raining, perhaps you dig below the watertable; it gushes through
the dirt; your bath is drawn & in it are drawn (sputniks & stars) maps
& charts with which to constellate your body. Connect the dots.
A little ladle with four handles—a tiny light strobes in the cup, in hot
convulsions of distance, bleats of temporal ignorance, synapse of
but no code, blood but no pulse, the stream but no mouth or source.
When I bend back to gaze at the satellite convulsions, I
am an aqueduct for twilit rain. Quite literally I stand
in the littoral zone: a lens—no, an aqueous humor, my
feet on the land below the high watermark, my hand
a glazed waver: hello light-purple lights, hello red spots,
you've beaten the stars out tonight but you're struggling with the
atmosphere aren't you? Over centuries the river became not
a river: Lethe's ends crept together—self-scavenging sea
snake—& the middle filled with water—morphology dubbed it
a lake & now the moon swims in it & the moon orbits it &
the moon tidally tugs on it. The moon is a satellite in a fit
of paroxysm. One minute past, I emptied an aluminum can
of dull opiate to the drains to wash down my antipsychotics
& then Lethe-wards slunk I. There must be this wire shaking
loose in my mind, an unattended firehose, a spasmodic
filament attempting to cool the baby planet but lacerating
precious gray matters. Thought leaves no vacancy for memory—
I forget & forget the rules, the thirst an auger; rain only whetting
it, I bend & lap some lake up, tongue it, suck the silty mammary
right where a light from the firmament meets it. I keep forgetting
even in the dark.
until you slip
but not about us—
For a long time
in the trees.
ON THE HEARTH OF
THE BROKEN HOME
Slowly fitting my pinky-tip down
into the wild eggshell fallen
from inside the chimney, I feel as if I'm like
a teenage boy in love, allowed
into the beloved's body, like my father
with the girl he loved, who loved him. If he
had married her . . . I lift it up
close to my eye, the coracle dome
hung with ashes, rivered with flicks
of chint, robes of the unknown—only
a sojourner, in our home, where love
was sparrow-netted to make its own
cage, jessed with its jesses, limed
with its radiant lime. And above the tiny
tossed-off cloak of the swift, in the deep
reaches of the old dutch oven, on a bed
of sprung traps, the mice in them
long gone to meltdown, and to maggotmeal,
and wet dust, and dry dust,
there lies another topped shell, smaller,
next to it its doffed skull
tressed with spinneret sludge, speckled with
flue-mash flecks, or the morse of a species,
when I lift it up, its yolk drops out, hard
amber, light coming through it, fringed
in a tonsure of mold and soot. If I ever
dreamed, as a child, of everlasting
love, these were its shoes: one dew-licked
kicked-off slipper of a being now flying, one
sunrise-milk-green boot of the dead,
which I wore, as I dreamed.
When early July's
Arrival quieted the spring's black flies,
We spent green afternoons
Stretched on the moss
Beside dark Eagle Pond, and heard across
Its distances the calling of the loons.
The days swam by,
Lazy with slow content and the hawk's cry.
We lost ambition's rage,
Forgot it all,
Forgot Jane Kenyon, forgot Donald Hall,
And sleepily half-glanced at a bright page.
Day after day
We crossed the flaking railroad tracks and lay
In the slant August sun
To nap and read
Beneath an oak, by the pond's pickerelweed.
Then acorns fell: These days were almost done.