DC PLACES ISSUE
VOLUME SEVEN, NUMBER THREE
Guest Co-Editor: Andrea Carter Brown
Where so much is symbol, as it is in Washington DC, the
ordinary comes freighted with history, and public usurps private wherever
you look. For poets, this presents a particular challenge.
Every city has its history, but for no other American
city is the struggle between its local identity and national role so
acute. I was struck by this issue in every poem we received. The burden
of giving voice to it, however, as I came to realize, also offers opportunities,
which the poems that follow amply demonstrate. The task of negotiating
this duality informs every poem in this issue.
Weiner’s “National Pastime,” a Little
League team is invited to play a one-inning game on the South Lawn against
the President and Vice-President, with unintended ironic, and devastating,
results. A popsicle known as the “Bomb Pop,” one of my favorites
as a kid, takes on new meaning in Kathi
Morrison-Taylor’s poem when purchased near the White
House. In “The Fifth Fact” by Sarah
Browning, a mother helping her child learn about Harriet
Tubman for a school project suddenly finds herself imagining Lincoln
and Whitman passing through her neighborhood. In these poems, the personal
In other poems, the public becomes private. The descendent of German
immigrants fortifies himself with matzo ball soup at the Holocaust Museum
before braving the exhibits in Peter
Desmond’s “At the Museum Café.”
Two girls, learning the ropes of racism to see Rudolph Valentino in
The Sheik, survive a bombing in Elizabeth
Alexander’s “Early Cinema.” The same
public monuments which thrilled me when I first visited D.C. as a Girl
Scout in ninth grade serve as the ocassion for a personal epiphany in
Pastan’s “At the Air and Space Museum,”
and also as the backdrop for an ordinary holiday in Fleda
Brown’s “Christmas Day in Washington.”
Present and past co-mingle throughout these poems, the war dead with
vibrant street life, urban violence with healing, both of body and mind.
Music, dancing, and art abound. Faith comes with scepticism, despair
and grief with unexpected, sometimes shocking, occasions for redemption.
Work, community, love; politics, of course, and the corruption of power:
the city is, as William
Carlos Williams writes, “a living coral.” Against
this human drama, nature takes a back seat, and what there is has been
humanized: rivers notable for the bridges that span them or the neighborhoods
and parks that bear their names; buffalo transformed into sculpture
and birds into commuters, the famous cherry blossoms flowering into
Over all, the spirit of Whitman resides, informs, and presides –
from the first poem, Patricia
Gray’s “Washington Days,” inspired by
“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” to the next to last, Kathleen
O’Toole’s “Lectio: Leaves at
150,” a lyrical meditation on the power of words. In Philip
Dacey’s spare but eloquent poem, “Whitman:
The Wall,” past and present, the still living and the loved dead,
public memorial and private memory come together in a moving whole.
It’s been a great pleasure to co-edit this issue with Kim Roberts,
whose love and knowledge of Washington is the inspiration for this special
issue. I thank her for allowing me to share in the bounty which came
to us and for the fun we had shaping it.
Both of us would especially like to thank our prodigious mapmaker, Emery
Pajer. To see more of his exciting work, please visit his website
Most of all, though, Kim and I would like to thank the poets who sent
us their work and, in doing so, enriched our appreciation of and affection
for a place we both love. May we all be, in the words of May
Miller, “possessed of this city.”
Andrea Carter Brown
Andrea Carter Brown’s collection, The Disheveled
Bed, was published by CavanKerry Press in March, 2006. She is also
the author of a chapbook, Brook & Rainbow, which won the
Sow’s Ear Press Competition, and her work has appeared in The
Gettysburg Review, Five Points, Ploughshares,
The North American Review, and the Mississippi Review,
among many others. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2005, her poetry
has received awards from the Poetry Society of America, the Writer’s
Voice, Thin Air, River Oak Review, and The MacGuffin.
In 2004 she won the River Styx Poetry Prize for her double
sonnet crown “September 12.” A longtime resident of New
York City, she now lives in Los Angeles, where she is Managing Editor
of The Emily Dickinson Journal and teaches creative writing
at Pomona College.
Read more by this author:
Carter Brown on Mona Van Duyn: Profiles Issue
Brown: Tenth Anniversary Issue
Andrea Carter Brown on M.L. Rosenthal: Poetic Ancestors Issue
Table of Contents
I. A Living Coral
Williams: "It Is a Living Coral"
"July in Washington"
"The Fifth Fact"
Miller: "Elizabeth Keckley: 30 Years a Slave and 4 Years in
the White House"
"Whitman: The Wall"
"Dignity at 'Trumpets'"
"At the Air and Space Museum"
Morrison-Taylor: "Bomb Pop"
Sterling A. Brown:
"Glory, Glory "
"The Burghers of Calais"
"Pay Phone at the Bottom of Rock Creek"
"Bullet Fragments, Mount Pleasant"
"Visits to St. Elizabeths "
"At the Museum Cafe"
"Mrs. Wei on Governments"
Crossing Key Bridge"
Alexander: "Early Cinema"
Karren A. Alenier:
"Against the Wall"
"Ladies Room, National Archives, Washington DC"
"I'm in Love with the Morton Salt Girl"
"Jack in the Pulput No. 4 "
Ghebremichael: "For Coretta"
"Christmas Day in Washington"
"Stopping at the Mayflower"
Mary Ann Larkin:
"Labor Day at the Shrine of Our Lady"
IV. Playing Ahead of the Beat
Ellis: "Tambourine Tommy"
"The Tecata Dances on Park Road"
"Song for Anacostia"
"The Fortune Cookie"
"billy ekstein comes to washington d.c. (for gaston neal)"
"Turning Over the Corpse"
"Over Arlington Cemetery"
"The Slow Passage to Anacostia"
"The Cormorants are Diving"
V. Possessed of This City
"John Hicks at Twin Lounge"
"Big Ben's Liquors"
"Once, the Buffalo"
"Santa Rosa Restaurant"
Miles David Moore:
"Full Moon on K Street"
"Lectio: Leaves at 150"