Sunday, December 14, 2008

Revision ~ "The Instruction Aubade" ~ Charles

Begin to Live Alone

Wake slowly—bedroom window light shines slant with vertigo,
your arm half-bared touches its
                square pool of sun.

Pull a shirt and trousers like the closet’s
loose teeth, its savage, dark maw—
                Put them on.

Bathe—prepare breakfast—breathe air
stale with your own sterile scent—
                descend the stairway like a cloud—

Attend your job. Stroll from door to door,
form words. White noise like a fan’s
                rushing whirr says

everything you might imply. The day looms with its pendulum sun
swung slow back toward night. The hours
                mete out as ground glass—

At sunset, draw blinds. Your body
streaked with night takes on more weight—
                Sensible meal: choose salad;

skip dessert. Be strong. Be strong.
There’s no harm in looking good even when
                no one’s looking

Click here to read Charles's first draft.

From the fingertips of Charles Jensen:
My strategy for revision was to cull a form from the original piece, was was irregular. I also wanted to work toward more word economy and take out needless conjunctions and prepositions as I could. This poem needs more silence--more caesura--and it needed to be "harder." That said, I worked toward iambic meter but allowed some abrupt disruptions of it. I wanted the images to be more stark.

I don't know. I think it's still not done.

Normally I would not revise a poem this quickly. In my process work generally sits around a few months before I take a knife to it. I need to grow apart from it. But perhaps the austerity of this poem, its narrative distance ("you") makes it easier to work with.

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Everything Loosens in the Kitchen" by Guest Poet #2: Dana Guthrie Martin

Guest Poet #2 is Dana Guthrie Martin, and she has selected the words provided by Anne Haines.

Everything Loosens in the Kitchen

Broccoli florettes are jaundiced by their separation from the earth. The refrigerator kicks out a new batch of ice, a percussive interjection. We stopped talking long ago. "How long we are going to be here," I ask. You don't reply.


Winged ants emerge from gaps, move in unison along the grain of the floorboards before spreading, circling and backtracking. They smear like ink. They are the shadow of something we'll never see. No way to manage our infested lives. What finds its way in never makes it back out.


We set up a pool in the middle of the room. We wade, you in flippers, me in goulashes. We barter: no for yes, yes for maybe. I tell you I threw out my wedding dress three years ago. You tell me you didn't really lose your ring. We trade footwear. We hug. The water grows colder and colder.


The dining room table flaunts its legs suggestively, lustrous as the skin of an eggplant. The backs of my hands were once smooth. Your face never relaxes anymore. We ladle hopeful words into the air: respectable, insoluble, inexchangeable. "I thought we had a deal," you say.


The walls are pigmented with old arguments. Fixtures wash our faces in light, diminish our imperfections. Tomorrow, we agree to rise like bread. To nourish. We high five, though the game was lost long ago. We move off to the far corners of the house.

Anne's Words:
broccoli, respectable, diminish, infested, wade

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Revision! ~ "Drinking Song"

Drinking Song

bits of gin label salamander in
a Chinese screen minding their British sides.
I shouldn’t exist, or be alive. I fight

humor in my shot glass, my bitter pail.
I’m half corpse, complaint-filled, divorcing
emptiness shaped by a chilled rasp.

I make a living in alcoholic
forgetting. Body poured in pale swigs,
inescapable, but not whimpering.

from Guest Poet #1: Andrew Demcak
Click here to read Andrew's first draft.

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Drinking Song" by Guest Poet #1: Andrew Demcak

Guest Poet #1 is Andrew Demcak, and he has selected words provided by Justin Evans.

Drinking Song

the bits of wet paper
salamander within a Chinese screen
minding their labeled sides in a blown sky
I shouldn’t exist, stopped,
I fight humor my shot glass
my strength divorcing emptiness
my bitter pail
the surprise of my half-corpse
I scratched and didn’t sleep
I was careful, I bragged ahead
my waiting mouth covered with hope
the way I was complaint-filled
supported by alcoholic forgetting
entirely resentful
shaped by a chilled rasp
the superior body
poured in two pale versions
absolutely white
not to upset time regretfully
I might make a living
inescapable but not whimpering

Justin's Words:
salamander, fight, rasp, pale, pail

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"As A Child I Wanted To Be Reba McEntire" ~ Dustin

OK. I created Quarrel and its rules, and I am typically a rule following kind of guy; however, I am going against my norm. I've had a nasty case of writer's block that caused me to go almost two months without writing a poem, which is a crazy-long time for me. Two weeks is the longest period of time I've had to deal with writer's block. So, yes, I'm using writer's block as my excuse as to why I'm posting a poem that doesn't use five words supplied by readers. I feel like a cheat, so no bad-mouthing a rule breaker. My writer's block broke after I watched a Youtube video a week or two ago. This is the first draft of what came from the break of the block:

As A Child I Wanted To Be Reba McEntire

for my Grandmother

Because my grandmother loved to hear Reba sing,
to watch her in music videos, Fancy her favorite.

Because we watched the videos together
and thought her a fiery redhead who could do anything.

Because I wanted to be able to do anything
and everything and my grandmother told me I could.

Because Reba sang Fancy like it was her own story,
and it gave me hope that happy endings do exist.

Because after a song ended, my grandmother would tell me
stories about my mother's childhood, leaving in the dirt.

Because I sang Fancy to my grandmother so she would smile
when she was too sick to get out of bed.

Because when I think of Reba, I think of my grandmother,
and remember I can do can anything.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Time Again for "John McCain's Dementia" by Kate

At first, I wasn't thrilled when Kate gave the news you're about to read because I'm often a stickler for the rules; however, I do find it often makes for a good show when the rules are broken.

From the fingertips of Kate:

I'm already breaking the rules and not revising my poem. I'm not claiming it's perfect, but it is pretty tight. Sometimes poems come out that way (rarely for me because I'm usually a huge reviser). That can be a gift, or in the case of this poem, maybe that's a problem. It feels tight partly because it's written in rhymed couplets--and partly because it's a political poem. It's already dated since the election is over. I guess that means in a way it's a stagnant poem, and perhaps you can only revise a poem that's in motion.

The best thing I got out of writing this poem is "Change one letter and womb is bomb." It's the best way for me to express that my vagina disagrees with Palin's vagina. I just hope 4 years from now I won't have to have another vagina fight with her.

If anyone out there strongly disagrees with me and thinks the poem needs some work in a particular area, please comment, and I certainly will take your ideas into consideration.

I hope you are all thrilling on the Obama win. Perhaps my next poem will be about that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Revision! ~ "Autopsy" by Christopher


My slippery virgin heart is ripe,
ta-tumming in the circular gape
I carve. Up to elbow in tripe,

I grip my guts’ tentacles, bare-
handed, wrestle them from a mire
of the living, wavy hairs

that stick to my sides. In tears, I plumb
deeper, desperate to thumb
out the bleating organ (that damn

ta-tumming!), set it on a platter
surrounded by the seeds of cancer
a burlesque of eggs, boiled and bitter.

As the white of the worm
that eats through my sternum.
How empty the body’s become.

How hollowed by a flame.
I worship the flicker that lights the shame.
Hallowed be your name.

There is no heart in a pumpkin-
shaped boy who eats out his in-
sides only to suck on his sin.

Click here to read Christopher's first draft of "Autopsy"

Monday, October 20, 2008

"The Instruction Aubade" ~ Charles Jensen

Charles selected words provided by Joy. Thanks Joy!

The Instruction Aubade

Wake slowly. The light through your bedroom windows
Has a vertigo slant—your body alone in the bed
Has not a limb to cling to.

Bathe, prepare breakfast. Pull a shirt and trousers
Like loose teeth from the dark yawn of the closet.
Put them on.

Descend the stairway like a cloud—

Attend your job. Make things, move things.
Cradle and uncradle the phone if it speaks.
Place paper in envelopes, discuss television with colleagues.

Reduce your walking speed to a stroll:
You have no where urgent to be
And there's no one to anger with tardiness.

At sunset, draw the blinds. Your body, streaked with night,
Will be weary. Examine the television to prepare tomorrow's small talk.
Straighten the stack of magazines in their nest atop the coffee table.

If you plan to eat dinner,
Be sensible. Order salad. Skip dessert. There's no harm in looking good

Even if no one's looking.

Joy's Words:
salad, sunset, streaked, stroll, stairway

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Exciting News ~ Kate Evans

This week, Kate Evans was one of the keynote speakers at the Atlanta Queer Lit Festival. Kate started off her speech by sharing "John McCain's Dementia," which is poem created because of her involvement with Quarrel.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"John McCain's Dementia" ~ Kate ~ First Draft

Kate selected words provided by Dana. Thanks Dana!

John McCain’s Dementia

He experiences crimson catatonic
blips, tiny fiery confusions, sonic

gongs. The women at each elbow
know. Many, many others know.

Everyone’s holding their infamous breath,
dry in the mind, moist in the flesh.

No pharmacological brew can stop
the cameras, ominous, from capturing

my fellow prisoners substituted
for Americans. As if we haven’t prostituted

ourselves enough. As if any old blubber
can shove its belly into our heads and blabber.

As if any beauty contestant is to fawn
upon. Change one letter and womb is bomb.

Dana's Words:
blubber, catatonic, moist, pharmacology, womb

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Autopsy" ~ Christopher ~ First Draft

Christopher selected words provided by Julie Carter. Thanks Julie!


I am holding my own orange guts,
forced to scoop out with bare hands
the wet strings of muscly flesh
twisting, wavy hair
alive in my fingers.

And I am crying.

My hands are thick in slime,
and the oh-so- slight catch of flesh
pulling apart from the slippery walls
is enough to make me gag.

And then I do -- my throat
clogged with the stink.

Something in the gut
I still have inside me
quivers. It is a worm?

This hollow place I am up to
my elbow in looks like
home to worms and their
seeds slip in and out
of my fingers, an infestation
of their eggs, boiled white
as the white of the worm.

I am making a burlesque
of my own autopsy!
But they won't let me stop.

Someone is calling me
a little baby, someone is shaking
their head and someone
is shaking me:

Stop crying
It's only a pumpkin.

Julie's Words:
pumpkin, wavy, burlesque, clog, boiled

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Quarrel Begins!

OK. I had what I thought would be a crazy idea to start a blog where poets could share poems from the first-raw-sometimes scary-first-draft to the finished draft. I sent Kate Evans an email to test the waters, to see if she would email back telling me, "thanks, but no thanks because it sounds crazy;" however, what I got was the opposite. Before a day has passed Christopher Hennessy and Genevieve Lyons agreed to join Kate and me as full-time participants in Quarrel, and Charles Jensen joined on board as a part-time participant. I'm lucky to have these poets on board!

Thus, thanks to the title suggestion from Christopher, QUARREL is born!

(1) To get the drafting going we need some blogosphere participation. Please leave five words in a comment to this post--- please one set of words per person. We won't hesitate to let you know if we need more words.

(2) We are deciding amongst ourselves who will be the first victim, I mean poet, to start. The poet will have two weeks to write a first draft to share via the blog. After the first poet's draft is up, another poet will pick a set of words and have the same two week period to have a first draft in the blog.

(3) Poets will have one month from the day their first draft is posted to submit a second draft.

(4) The cycle keeps will repeat in this fashion. After the second draft is posted, poets are not restricted with a time deadline; however, they are encouraged highly to share drafts as soon as possible. :-)

Of course, we might change the rules at any given time to keep things lively. We also hope to bring in guest poets as we get the blog in high gear.

Feel free to email us

I hope you'll join us for the ride!