Marilyn Kallet is the author of sixteen books, including Packing Light: New and Selected Poems, Black Widow Press, 2009. Her translations of The Big Game, by Benjamin Péret, 2011, and Last Love Poems of Paul Eluard, 2006, were also published by Black Widow Press.
Kallet is the Nancy Moore Goslee Professor of English at the University of Tennessee, where she directs the Creative Writing Program. She also teaches poetry for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Auvillar, France.
Kallet has been awarded the Tennessee Arts Commission Literary Fellowship in Poetry, and she was inducted into the East Tennessee Literary Hall of Fame in Poetry, 2005. She has performed her poetry internationally, as well as in theaters and on campuses across the United States.
This collection of love poems was inspired by Dante’s Inferno, Rimbaud’s relationship with Verlaine, and by Orpheus and Eurydice. These days Beatrice and Dante find themselves in France, Indiana, and in East Tennessee, bickering over Nascar. Love is the unifying factor, song is the vehicle, descent is a constant, with re-emergence thankfully part of the narrative. Surrealist humor abounds as Benjamin Péret bursts some Romantic bubbles with his exclamations. This sensual and resonant collection offers hints of heaven in the love lyrics and touches upon a range of forms, from traditional pantoums to experimental verse.
“Brash and sassy, Kallet roars in, pulling in her wake Baudelaire, Dante, old lovers, dead parents, Eurydice, Beatrice—a whole cast and chorus. Embracing myth, the holocaust, both hemispheres, and Charles Darwin with a headache, this is one big book. What can’t she do? The tone: Funny, dead serious, and everything in between. Her advice? ‘Tell your words/ to put their cards/ on the table/ and on the desk/ and on the forest paths”. Why not. ‘I’m Marilyn/ of Tennessee’ she announces in her irrepressible voice. You better believe it!”
– Alice Friman
“The Love That Moves Me is Marilyn Kallet’s passionate homage to Baudelaire and also to Dante … and a billet-doux to Auvillar, France, where she teaches every summer, to Hawaii and Mount St. Francis in Indiana.”
– Marge Piercy
“Kallet’s poems are like a huge box of fine chocolates, both light and dark, to be savored one by one. They are exuberant and urgent. The ones wrapped in gold foil are hilarious.”
– Bobbie Ann Mason
What Would Baudelaire Do?
He’d gulp stars
prowl the allée
beg her thighs’
for a price
pray with his tongue
on her cat-tongue
his flesh not his breath
on the bureau
bottled lure, chanson
vert et blanc:
“Poet, I am not
behind the eyes
out of this
Note: The last three stanzas revisit Baudelaire’s ‘Enivrez-vous’, from Le Spleen de Paris, 1869. My poem also refers to another Baudelaire prose poem, ‘Any Where Out of the World – N’importe où hors du monde’, Baudelaire: Oeuvres completes, Gallimard, 2012; 1975; 227; 356–57.
Previously published in Blue Fifth Review.
I am playing André Breton
to your Joyce Mansour,
by the book this time.
No sampling the goods,
though mourning doves in the garden
Unlike André I am not scandalisé
by mechanical toys—au contraire!
You’re working me and I know it,
gaming and scheming,
André and J might have felt this way,
yearning their loyal companion
as they toured the Loire Valley,
haunting the marvelous.
Not in the skin,
no, love was all lines,
Just as well, Puritans
tossing vibrators into the incinerator.
Where’s Eluard when we girls
Artaud’s burning at the stake, Desnos
nods at the wheel, and no matter how
I fudge the verbs en français, mix
hours, years, heures, années, we’ll never
arrive together, baby,
not even manually.
Note: ‘Playing André’ refers to Surrealist André Breton and his younger friend, writer Joyce Mansour. Mansour inspired Breton, and they traveled together, but remained platonic. In his later years, Breton wanted to protect his marriage, according to Mark Polizzoti’s biography, Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton, Black Widow Press.
Previously published in New South.
Annoying and Winged on the Garonne
They sound off like tugboats, mais non!
Blaring, they’re turtledoves,
tourterelles, honking like mad taxis.
They’d be taken down in Manhattan.
Blaring like whacked-out cabs,
they’d be blasted downtown, sautéed
in Chelsea. They couldn’t hack
Avenue B, street-grade wings,
con chiles. Buttered in Chelsea.
Fried quicker than jacked-up taxis,
these birds wouldn’t last a beat on B.
They’d give poets and drunks a migraine.
Downed, beer-battered, not tugs.
So that’s what they are, news
from the Caribbean.
If we call them wild canaries,
they don’t care. They bob,
lively corks untroubled
by mad love or mortality.
They have their own
trees, vacuums sucking up rushes.
Still they don’t live like humans,
bickering and tormenting one another.
Osama means nothing to them.
With a whistle, they float
away from the thrum of
lawnmowers working the monster
hotels. Like poets they dream
strong currents of air.
from The Love That Moves Me (Black Widow Press, 2013).