Kristin Fitzsimmons, we joked, had invented a new literary genre. In my “Great Poems” seminar at the Unviersity of Chicago, we were reading poems by Apollinaire, Seferis, Holderlin, Paul Claudel (his wonderful ode, the first of the “Cinq Grandes Odes”), Elizabeth Bishop, Tadeusz Rozewicz, Paul Celan, Paul Valéry, and others. Over the three-hour course of each meeting, we managed to discuss two poems. I had a feeling that some of the students in the class were writing poetry themselves and only pretending to be perfectly scholarly in their approach to the poems we discussed. I was right as far as Kristin was concerned.

What was this new genre? A memoir of a year she had spent in Europe, followed by a sequence of poems to accompany the prose. I liked the interplay between the two and suggested to Kristin that she intersperse the poems throughout the memoir, as they wer emeant to be, rather than appending the m at the end as a separate entity. Actually, that’s not a new genre. It’s an old, dignified, prosimetrum; Dante’s La Vita Nuova is one example. Prose interrupted by poems.

Removed from her memoir, Kristin’s poems have a lightness, a playfulness that I like. For some younger American poets, playfulness is an ideology, a must, and therefore almost a chore. For Kristin, if I’m not wrong, the lightness of tone is just a way of speaking; she is young and she has a good sense of humor and that’s as good a place to speak from as any.

—Adam Zagajewski

Rural Voyeurism

There are no frames, no backlit windows. The night,
life without eyes, forces fingertips against tree bark     sometimes
the tongue involuntarily reaches out to moist air

a barn owl screams, the bark of a black cherry flakes
off into hands    the water is so loud it hurts the teeth.

Finally, light. The patterns of leaves, the fur
and bones of owl pellets. In the mud,
raccoons’ footprints resemble
tiny human hands.

Suppose Jacques Lacan is Human

In private, he calls himself détective,
or something concocted in German.
In his maddest moments,

M. le Détective has tea with Freud, together
they draw nebulous black spots on white paper
and make sexist jokes about Melanie Klein

sometimes he swaggers into lecture
after a glass of pastis and makes demands
in three languages. After all, he’s Lacan,

the Indiana Jones of psychoanalysis,
the crème de la crème de la crème
and he finds himself quite tasty.

What the students don’t know—
he keeps Das Ding in a pillbox
sewn into a pair of old trousers.

A Letter From Ernst to the Poet

Recently I came across a book of loose magazine
papers bound by string. In it, I found my name floating
around in your memories.

We only exist because of you.

Dear Ernst, it’s okay to miss me

a parcel arrived from Sara yester-
day. There was hagelslag and thee,
strawberry—or as you say—
aardbei, my favorite.

She has a Dutch boyfriend he’s
stereotypically tall and I wonder
how she funds
                              this love.

She lives her life in photographs,postcards
and foreign languages. I live mine
in moments of inane
                                          nostalgia. I keep lists

of things she doesn’t possess.

All this to fit in a thumbsize pocket—
dear Ernst, will it fit, dear Ernst, it’s okay

[Pablo Neruda was a rockstar]

Pablo Neruda was a rockstar. From the biography:
made out with a total stranger
in the lifeguard tower between courses
at a dinner party while Lorca stood guard.

Made out with a total stranger
vomited on her shoes
at a dinner party while Lorca stood guard

Vomited on her shoes
when no one was looking,
keeping an eye out for the next stranger.

When no one was looking,
Pablo Neruda stripped off his clothes
keeping an eye out for the next stranger
and jumped naked into the pool.

Pablo Neruda stripped off his clothes
in the lifeguard tower between courses
and jumped naked into the pool.
Pablo Neruda was a rockstar.

We Are Not Exceptional

The sky is falling, everything
is a trick of the light, a battered woman

approaches me, a police car parked
behind us, we exchange $5 in a hug, afraid

an interracial exchange of words
is suspicious in this Chicago

which dresses itself as Johannesburg
The Bonnie and Clyde of original sin, who,

in a moment of regret, killed. Their children
suffer crushing bouts of paranoia and refuse

to acknowledge a lack.