The Jaguars of Southtown

By Amos Jasper Wright IV

Featured Image: “The Repast of the Lion” by Henri Rousseau

Forty days passed without landing a sale. For a while, I felt sorry for myself, and then self-pity shifted gears and boiled into a rage that curdled everything   I touched. The BP spill down in the Gulf had put a damper on auto sales. The economy in general was in shambles, but this town hadn’t prospered much since the Red Mountain cut. Meanwhile, we’re dumping good, hard-earned USD into foreign countries and our Harvard-educated Kenyan president was doing all  of jackshit about it. Instead of buying new cars, people just drive them longer. Used to I could sell forty cars in a month. You don’t need a Harvard degree to do that.

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Trust

By Liz Kingsley

Featured Image: “Pattern from L’ornoment Polychrome” by Albert Racinet

First he slept with someone else and later while he was busy sleeping, she slept
with someone else. No, before he slept with someone else, she slept with the
lawyer across the street who gave good oral argument. She did not tell him
about the lawyer. Their time together was privileged and she knew her rights.

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The Farm

By Spencer Wise

Featured Image: “Poppy Fields near Argenteuil” by Claude Monet

We’re on our way to meet Charlene’s family for the first time, listening to Townes Van Zandt in the car, and Charlene’s saying, “‘Pancho and Lefty’ is me and my Daddy’s song,” when I suddenly smell fire. All along Highway 33, the smell of wood burning. She laughs. “Don’t laugh,” I say, “might be a forest fire.” She says, “First time south of the Mason-Dixon, and now you’re Woodsy Owl.”

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When People Watch You

By Nathan Anderson

Featured Image: “Tingletangle” by Edvard Munch

I’m not like those crazy people.
The people that watch me
are real. I can see them.

Never mind the mailman. That blue coat
nearly swallows him. You never know
what’s under there—and he’s, well,
rather strange looking,

like a boy with a bald spot
bent over thick black shoes
and that bag he cradles

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Stupid Sandwich

By Nathan Anderson

Featured Image: “The Grocer’s Encyclopedia” by an unknown artist

So yeah, we all have these moments that suck
because what they mean
is like a mystery, like the Mariners last year
good a team as any, traded
what’s-his-name, the fat one, for that Puerto Rican dude
with a wicked right arm
and didn’t even make the playoffs.

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Intervention

By Shannon Robinson

Featured Image: “The Card Players (Les Joureurs de Cartes)” by Paul Cézanne

I called my mother and told her about my plan. My brother, Christopher, was visiting Ottawa for just a few weeks from Berlin, where he’d lived for the past ten years. He rarely visited, and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for us to talk to him, as a family, about his drinking problem. I explained how we would each write a letter beforehand, expressing our concerns, and then read them out loud to Christopher, one by one.

“Okay, dear,” she said. “That sounds fine.”

I was reading students’ workshop fiction when the phone rang. It was my older sister, Leigh.

“So Mum called me. She was really confused. She says she doesn’t know what you were talking about.”

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Opening the Cottage

By Christina Cook

Featured Image: “Houses and Figure” by Vincent Van Gogh

Jays scrap in the maple
while I sit with my absence
of sound, and a bottle
of last summer’s wine.

I should be bleaching
the mouse-scat floor,
scraping their fur
from the spaces

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Remembered Grace

By Jim Daniels

My mother rolls her walker through the rug
like pushing a dull reel mower through high grass.
She cannot see, so maybe the simile should be sound instead—
like bad jokes from a dull boor. The brittle thread of escape
snapped long ago, sewing kit trashed, needles only and constant
from pain—knee/back/hip. Blurry edges of God rim
her miraged vision. She burns a sandwich on the grill
but not herself—thrill enough to earn a pill. Today
she’s skipping church, and it’s just next door. She calls me
from the kitchen to carry her cup back to her chair—no free
hands. She must watch where she lands when it’s all freefall
and whiffs of Jesus not happy with her. I’m a tourist
with a bad map. She’s a local with time. She waves her hand
as she talks, one graceful thing. She flirts with air.

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Speed of Light

By Mark Irwin

Featured Image: “Blossoming Cherry on a Moonlit Night” by Ohara Koson

Married in Beijing, they had their names carved on
a grain of rice. Mai wore a yellow silk gown. He wore
a black suit. Embraced in the photo turned sideways
they resemble a tiger scrambling through strewn mums.
That evening they ate salted mango and shrimp. He
can still taste that, see the tortoise-shell clip sun-
splintered in her hair. That evening continues, stalled
like the sea-filled drapes in their room. For twenty
years he worked at a lab that accelerated protons. Here
are photographs of their two girls on Lake Michigan,
then in Zermatt, standing before the Matterhorn,
whose moraines, cirques, and ravines resemble those
through two names magnified on a grain of rice, or
of that shadow looming through the CAT scan of her brain.


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Everything Equal

By Joseph Holt

Featured Image: “Vintage European Style Key” by Paul Poiré

NOTE: When “Everything Equal” was posted to the NOR archives in Spring 2021, the author requested to revise and resubmit it to correct some issues of vulgarity and biased gender politics. His revision, titled “Futon Life,” appears below the original.

Three summers ago Ted Dexter flew standby to San Francisco with the vague intention of getting even with his ex-girlfriend. He and this girl, in only a couple months together, had argued, lied, cheated, had proven themselves in every way incompatible. Their final argument initiated with the most mundane of subjects—that he had worn “hideous, unstylish” carpenter jeans to the bars on a Saturday night—and escalated into a blowout that saw them thrown into the Cedar-Riverside streets, stumbling and shouting. At the sound of nearby sirens, Ted beat it back to his apartment and soon passed out drunk on his futon. He slept. The next morning he woke to find that sometime in the night this girl had come and gathered her belongings, most notably the blanket with which he had been covering himself. Sitting at the edge of his futon, slowly regaining his wits, he realized she had also gathered many of his belongings—his PlayStation, his baseball cards, his toaster, even the few bottles of Grain Belt from his crisper drawer. Also gone: his car. It would turn up several days later in Fargo, empty of gas and stripped of its stereo.

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Should I Take it as a Sign

By Sue D. Burton

Featured Image: “Ancient of Days Setting a Compass to the Earth” by William Blake

that the Don’t Bore God note taped
to my desk just fell to the floor,
that I dreamt you gave me
a sandwich wrapped in a glove
& I ate the glove,
that I was mortified even
in my dream?

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The Suggestion Box

By Billy Collins

Featured Image: “Cupid Inspiring Plants with Love from The Temple of Flora” by Robert John Thornton

It all began fairly early in the day
at the coffee shop as it turned out
when the usual waitress said
I’ll bet you’re going to write a poem about this
after she had knocked a cup of coffee into my lap.

Then later in the morning I was told
by a student that I should write a poem
about the fire drill that was going on
as we all stood on the lawn outside our building.

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Collaboration

By Billy Collins

Featured Image: “The Past and the Present, or Philosophical Thought” by Henri Rousseau

The fox collaborates with the chicken.
The motorcycle collaborates with the tree.
The knife collaborates with the throat,
and you want to collaborate with me.

Your watercolors and my poems,
side by side for all to see.
You say it will be interesting and fun.
There you stand, ready to collaborate with me.

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Preface to Making It Up

By Ron Padgett

Featured Image: “Antique Illustration from The Grammar of Ornament” by Owen Jones

I don’t remember who suggested the idea of an evening of spontaneous poetry collaborations by Allen Ginsberg and Kenneth Koch, but I think it came up during a taxi ride the three of us took, six or so months before the event, in which Allen and Kenneth started joking about and even parodying each other’s work. This playful conversation culminated in their public performance of Wednesday evening, May 9, 1979, at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project.

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Some Remarks on Collaboration

By Tom Whalen

Featured Image: “Capucine” by Maurice Pillard Verneuil

  • I’m trying to think what isn’t a collaboration, but when nothing comes to mind, I wander about my Arbeitszimmer, scanning the shelves, lost in thought, before returning to my remarks concerning activities requiring, if not a multitude, at least one other mind.
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Collaboration Queens (Or How the Chapbook, ABBA: The Poems, Came to Be)

By Denise Duhamel and Amy Lemmon

Featured Image: “The Seasons” by Alphonse Maria Mucha

As we wrote “Class Action,” our first poem together (alternating one line at a time, on email), Amy noticed we were writing in abba rhyme, which gave her the idea of writing tangentially about ABBA, the pop group. This lucky association led us to begin a series of poems with two constraints: the stanzas had to be written in abba rhyme, with a mandatory mention of ABBA, the singing group, in each. As we built up our confidence, we sometimes added a third constraint. In one poem, each line had to end in a long “o” sound; and in another, each line had to contain a palindrome, as ABBA is a palindrome. Although we stuck with the rhyme scheme (with allowances for occasional, or more-than-occasional, slant rhymes), we liberated ourselves from metrical restrictions. While Denise is comfortable in the prose poem and free verse, Amy tends to write almost unconsciously in a loose iambic pentameter or tetrameter. But we didn’t insist on uniformity of rhythm. This gave us the leeway to go with the flow, quoting lyrics or song titles, creating dialogue between characters, and injecting other bits of pop culture into the poems.

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Changing the Record: A Poetry Collaboration in the ’70s and ’80s

By Ron Horning and David Lehman

Featured Image: “Four Crowned Cockatoos” by Samuel Jessurun de Masquita

We met late in 1972, when we lived two blocks from each other on Riverside Drive. Though Ron’s room in his apartment was easily quieter than David’s room in “The Barracks,” thus named because of the decibel levels achieved by the inhabitants (David’s roommates were a jazz disc jockey and poet, a veteran of the Marine Corps just back from Vietnam, and a TV-watching, football-twirling specialist in East Asian studies) and their many guests, Ron’s room was also less private, more subject to interruption, and did not have its own bathroom. The first poem we wrote together was written at the Barracks, and so were most of the others in 1973 and 1974. From almost the beginning, the idea was to write a book of poems, but the book never really gelled, either because there were too many other things to think about or because we didn’t know what, if anything, the poems and lines we were typing and writing added up to. We had a working title, or at least we toyed with some candidates. (A Phone of One’s Own captured David’s fancy for a time.) Many poems we started were left unfinished, and even the attempt to write poetry together stopped abruptly in 1975, when we both married for the first time, David in January, Ron in July.

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The Story Behind “Penguins”

By Patty Mitchell

Featured Image: “Little Penguin” by Elizabeth Gould

Located in Athens, Ohio, Passion Works Studio supports collaborations be- tween artists with and without developmental disabilities. The studio began as an experiment in 1996: what would happen if I set up a collaborative art studio within a sheltered workshop, a supported work place for people with develop- mental disabilities? A grant from the Ohio Arts Council allowed us to put the idea in motion, and through additional grants and sales a second professional artist was added to the staff, Wendy Minor. Wendy and I brought to the table our understanding of materials and our art process; the participating individuals brought with them their unique way of experiencing the world and a natural ability of fearlessly jumping into art-making. For fifteen years now, Passion Works has offered a relaxed and informative environment for people to collaborate and investigate ideas. The synergy of excitement and discovery is conveyed in the resulting artwork: playful, vibrant, unpredictable.

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Where the Path Leads: Collaboration, Revision, and Friendship

By Lawrence Raab

Featured Image: “Path Through the Fields from Momoyogusa-Flowers of a Hundred Generations” by Kamisaka Sekka

Many years ago—and I really don’t want to remember exactly how young we were—Stephen Dunn, a friend but not yet a collaborator, was traveling from New Jersey to Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. He stopped for the night at our house. During the course of the evening I recall bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t written a poem—maybe not even tried to write one—in over a year. I had writer’s block, I announced, as if it were an identifiable disease. I had not yet learned the wisdom of William Stafford’s famous—or infamous—remark that there is no such thing as writer’s block; all you have to do is lower your standards.

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