J. P. Dancing Bear is the author nine collections of poetry, most recently, Inner Cities of Gulls (Salmon Poetry, 2010). His poems have been published in DIAGRAM, No Tell Motel, Third Coast, New Orleans Review, Verse Daily and many other publications. He is editor of the American Poetry Journal and Dream Horse Press and hosts Out of Our Minds on public station KKUP. His tenth collection, Family of Marsupial Centaurs (and other birthday poems), will be released by Iris Publications in late 2010.
“Throughout Inner Cities of Gulls, whether penetrating the natural world or the historical one, whether in love poems or in poems that explore other ‘inner weather’ of the human heart, J. P. Dancing Bear reveals a certain kind of earned wisdom. Sometimes summoning the voices of mythical persons, sometimes raising his own powerful voice, this poet lends insight to our sometimes faulty assumptions about the way life should be lived. ‘I could change light/ and substance into any gift’, claims the speaker of ‘The Dark Current’. The poems in this compelling collection are themselves such a gift.”
– Andrea Hollander Budy
“J.P. Dancing Bear writes new myths for our times through a cornucopia of characters, from Prospero as a TV weatherman to Jesuses of the street. Inner Cities of Gulls contains powerfully moving poems that are restlessly inventive and always life affirming. They celebrate both the natural world and the trance of traffic, displaying his trademark range.”
– Pascale Petit
from Inner Cities of Gulls (Salmon Poetry, 2010):
Belief About a Barn and Silo
As if the river of sun-colored grass
laps against the barn and its silo
to listen to the field mice sing a hymn
to the darkness of a wooden sky—
Oh gracious God, our thanks for the gift
of hawkless air. But maybe the field
has come to reclaim its small brown bodies
taking them back to the belly of soil.
The mice are not without their skeptics,
those who question God
for providing a roof but bringing the devil
in the green eyes of feral cats.
The debate rages through generations
amongst the quiet farm equipment
which in another time would have kept
the field calmed into canals of tilled soil,
would have forced the mice to a moonlit
exodus into the woods of waiting owls.
All of this memory and lore forces the
congregation to believe everything
has a purpose: the field floods forward
with a reason; the tractor sleeps by God’s
design; the silo’s silent air must be
sacred; and a cat’s belly is surely hell.
I will give her a heron feather
pressed in the folds of a blank book
intended for the longest love poem.
In what language do I write
the words that fit her?
I am an uneducated man
feeling out the letters
of a new vocabulary.
I have come to learn
the lexicon of our open field
and speak the petals
of a shared wish,
the circling red tail of desire,
the stones of forgiveness.
I will learn a language
to ask for the wings
of her eyes to fly with me
to the tall grass of our new home.
from Family of Marsupial Centaurs (and other birthday poems)
(Iris Press, 2010):
Family of Marsupial Centaurs
for Patricia Helen Boldeo
you are recounting the Fable of Seahorse: everything is pouch light and sonograms: all day the sea and the land go back and forth: hoofprints in the sand: you’re not sure there’s enough sunblock to go around: the horseshoe crabs are singing for their lunch this afternoon: a child whispers a rumor of monsoons into the wings of butterflies: you’ve brought a pitcher of tempest ice-tea: someone has a romantic notion and brands it on your cheek: possible performance art piece—possible restraining order: there are forks in the road: even way out here: oh the terrible Fable of Mendel comes true: not all the children are born to hooves
Shall We . . .
for C.J. Sage
because there are only reds and yellows and all the tones they blend into: because you don’t need a dress: because I don’t need to know all the great smooth moves: to feel your dance: because small fires break out into other dancers: because I burned the moon—who needs the moon when I have your eyes to look into: because you spark off stars with every curvy move: because you hang on tight: because you trust me to dip you down low: because I never let go: because even in the deepest sleep I wake up with your hand resting over my heart
for Frank Depoole
you confess your sense of time is off: the clocktower lighthouse swings its anchor to 4 o’clock: your hand: your disembodied hand: like a swinging wrecking-ball pendulum: fumbles the final walls in a house of cards: sound of flip-clatter demolition: someone pronounces dramatically god loves a good flywheel!: then a spring shoots out of his chest: you’ve got the small birds of your scarf: catching the wind: like sails in the harbor: the rigging, the rigging: tangled up: in filigree: hot air balloons war against pendulums for the right way up: a pedigreed Anubis sits patiently: waiting for the aqueduct to come through: you time the rolling water: small boat in the canal: passing the markers: while you log their time: set free the chitter-chatting philosopher birds: who bobbed like caged metronomes: you have one checkered thing to say: in a world of moving parts the spider builds no web: the compass swivels and dots coordinates: you have your star maps: your charts: the diaries of old sea captains: who counted the minutes: in their fevered sleep: of far-off ports of call
Order Inner Cities of Gulls.
Visit Iris Press.
Visit J.P. Dancing Bear’s website.
Visit the American Poetry Journal.