Tag Archives: Marilyn Kallet poems

Marilyn Kallet’s The Love That Moves Me

Marilyn Kallet 
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.
The Love That Moves Me 
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
& forgetting

prowl the allée
beg her thighs’

for a price

pray with his tongue
on her cat-tongue

spill cream
she’d lap

then smoke
inhaling long

his flesh     not his breath

her perfume
on the bureau

bottled lure, chanson
vert et blanc:

“Poet, I am not
all poison

drink my

behind the eyes
starburst of

& yes

out of this

world with

poetry or
virtue, curled

in your
dark hair.”
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.
Playing André
I am playing André Breton
to your Joyce Mansour,

by the book this time.
No sampling the goods,

though mourning doves in the garden
coo throatily.

Unlike André I am not scandalisé
by mechanical toys—au contraire!

You’re working me and I know it,
gaming and scheming,

never enough.
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,
literary passion.

Just as well, Puritans
tossing vibrators into the incinerator.

Where’s Eluard when we girls
need him?

Artaud’s burning at the stake, Desnos
nods at the wheel, and no matter how

I fudge the verbs en français, mix
hours, years, heuresannées, 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.
Saffron Finches
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
bulldozers chomping
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
of warbling,
strong currents of air.
from The Love That Moves Me (Black Widow Press, 2013).

Order The Love That Moves Me.
Visit Marilyn’s website.
Read more of Marilyn’s poems.
Read poems from Benjamin Péret’s The Big Game
(Black Widow Press, 2011). 

Marilyn Kallet: Four Poems

Marilyn Kallet

Marilyn Kallet is the author of 14 books, including Packing Light: New and Selected Poems (Black Widow Press, 2009). She directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Tennessee, and teaches poetry workshops for the Virginia Center in Auvillar, France.
Lines I Can’t Cross
When I don’t enter the lava tube,
I’m my father, stalled
at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel,
sweating and praying,
my Grandma Anna
locked in steerage, then in her airless apartment
on Coney Island, yellow paint peeling,
dreading Cossacks.
When I don’t enter the lava tube,
I’m me, December 28, 1946.
They took me from my mother.
My bassinette, a hospital drawer.
There are lines I can’t cross.
Kapu, Hawaiians say,
when the Marchers of the Dead
press in.
When I don’t put on kneepads
and a helmet,
when I don’t crawl back in,
when I don’t enter the dark tube,
I’m still closed in.
God of spaces open and
narrow, God of desert
sun, sunless places,
help me be less narrow.
Let my daughter
live more fearlessly
than me. Keep her
resilient like the o´hia
first to grow back out of lava,
waving red blooms
over the shoulders of ghosts.
The neighbor’s baby goats wail like human infants,
bawl for milk, sound off
when they’re afraid, when I run by.
They can’t see their mother.
Louder, they bawl for milk, sound off
as I jog by the wooly sirens.
When they can’t see their mother,
these babies freak out. I’m their Godzilla.
As I jog by the wooly sirens,
my nipples tingle, hot
with milk-needles. I freak out—I’m 62.
Can’t be! But this is summer, Hawai’i-nei!
When they can’t see their mama, I’m Godzilla.
Neighbor goats wail like my long-ago baby girl.
At Red Cinder
“The only man in the house
      is Mr. Coffee!” the director says.
We women laugh with her.
At sixty-two, we think,
    “That’s okay.” Or pretend to.
Here on the Island women’s
    bodies hold sway.
Pele appears barefoot at
    the geologic station,
disappears when
helicopters try to rescue her
from eruptions.
Reasonable men
    have seen her move
in murals, have given
a white-haired woman a lift
    on the loop road. Her hair
    brushes against bodies
in the tropical air, her dreaming
    wafts through screen doors.
Young boys
    fix their eyes on her.
Not that they want to
    sleep with their mothers, no—
they speak a language of respect,
    “Tutu” “Nani,”
Dear, Beautiful.
Silver-haired dancers
    let down thick waves
       in the presence
of loved ones, enter the
    hula, calling with bodies,
       their hands echo
full hips in play.
The old men with ukuleles
    croon to American women
    someone is dreaming of us, too
    We are kin to undulant
pines in the trades,
    to green, white, black sand,
to Pele, who one day
will take back not only night
but morning,
    the land that is hers,
    shacks and houses with good bones,
        the red cinder road,
            on her way back to Namaka,
                Ocean Sister.
Pele is dreaming back,
    before men invented her jealous war
    with the sea,
dreaming of Women’s Time,
    sisters draw stick families in sand
and laugh like shore birds,
    call dream visions
in the spirit of hula, weightless,
    fragrant as plumeria.
Even the wild boars lie down drunkenly
    on banana leaves.
Here fire is for roasting
and warmth. In the Dreaming World,
         before the descent beckoned.
Pele’s sister Kapo possessed a detachable vagina,
unlike us. We can’t distract
wild boars by flinging decoys. In high school, though,
I dated a guy with ADD, bristles, and pig eyes.
Unlike ours, Kapo’s twat was detachable.
She could fling it like a Frisbee. Kamapua’a, the pig-eyed god,
never caught on. I dated a guy like that, dumb, bristles
on his back. One day he was buying me a charm bracelet,
the next, snorting, boring, pig-eyed and dirty.
I’m not saying he was a gigantic eight-eyed hog like
Kamapua’a, but those black bristles down his back,
mood-swings and his rooting around my pants, marked him,
son of a pig. At South Side High, boys grunted like wild boars.
Lucky Kapo, unlike us, she possessed a detachable vagina.
Visit Marilyn’s website.
Visit Marilyn’s Red Room blog.
Order Packing Light: New and Selected Poems
(Black Widow Press, 2009).
Read Marilyn’s ‘Fireflies’ at American Life in Poetry.