There is a remarkable integrity at work in Stacy Szymaszek’s poetry. Perhaps it rises out of her attention to the call of the Midwest, where there are still pockets of humanistic working-class bookishness, far from the circuits of MFA programs and coastal poetry-history meccas. Born in Milwaukee in 1969, Szymaszek is from serial-killer country, and from the land of a cleaning lady named Lorine Niedecker. Like Niedecker, she has emerged to be a wickedly delightful minimalist avant-garde breath of fresh air. Let’s also call her a poet of the polis: she knows that the push and the pull of the social contract is at stake in writing, and she is quick to explore the complex interrelationships of people and the languages they use. Likewise, look for a clever candid libidinal impulse to rise up in the corners of the work. For as Szymaszek said in a recent interview, “All of my work is about the itch of desire that can never be scratched.” Her writing peeks into that world of desire with a fierce determination—desire for the beauty of language, desire for gnosis, desire for the emancipation of the human form from the less-than-perfect sociopolitical world. But don’t think that Szymaszek is all work and no play. Sonically sophisticated and beautifully deadpan, her poetry stations the reader squarely in the quotidian. Perhaps you’ll hear the edges of Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams, and the Objectivists here, but there emerges, too, an examination of the fundamental role of language in the era of the Patriot Act. Szymaszek delves into the states of “hyper glossia” that are so much a part of our lives, sorting through the words that flood over us, across the airwaves and from newsstands, and letting sing the voice that wells up deep inside.
Lisa Jarnot


from There Were Hostilities

not prerecorded

I’m up
to the
at the


no ahistorical fences


the neighbor woman
was good looking

they planted a strawberry
patch together

enjoying newfound
expanse of yard

then something happened and
a FUCK YOU FENCE went up

one house had to be sold
but that person returns

the Strawberry Plant Stealer



byways of the area
canvas and makings
of a motor :


     shell and pivot
hefty hipped


girl scout
jack knife

buzz of electric egg

freak tide

the cement


conditions exist

if it comes at night it will be too late

we recommend sleeping in the basement

if you hear a siren seek shelter

in a bathtub or a in a stairwell

anything that sounds like a freight train

is cause for alarm

open a window or close a window

and seek shelter under a doorway

or if you are in a car drive into a ditch

we will continue covering the possibilities


illegal florescent light

from a rocket shaped generator

seeps from boarded-up house

into fenced-in yard house



is what I have



when is the LAST

TIME I had sexual



new doctor reads

from my chart


mother’s name

father’s name

an emergency contact

gone away


from hyper glossia


he ceased

to exist as       a boy be-

came a man      whose appellation

has been      filed away       the hairs of a chin

hearsay of      hyper  glossia —

my eyes are dyed blue

my breast

plate protects

a spool      her nail was lodged

in my skull      his root      didn’t work

said the cook      changed the

valance                      spooked

panther ran —


panther           shoddy

investigation led to an utterance

even death   bypassed   an unstudied felon

in a composite   sketch   what a

chatterbox   I am —

he went to

a disputed region

and blended    I cosseted

the canopic jars      of his intestines

the doctor’s medicaments were

efficient    she whose nail

afflicted me    met  an

unluckier day



upon my

calcareous pillow my

brain    dreams another me

this one tongue-tied

with no writing



has taken a

wine bottle to his

shank    is visored in a scalded

tree   an inky burgeon

I dip my bruised

fibres into —




last name change not reported to authority”

speech.   so   who can say    they    love      m.e

wonder no — I mean ?no   I infect    inflect

my grammatical blunders?   ?    ?   damask rose was code

mathematically sound    as any control

what?   what      she likes ask?ing     — I mean,

no   some       other pronoun

this is      a bad day



I was once      a private person      before this

verbal hippopotamus

but it’s hard to shutt up

when you have certain information that isn’t clear
)though plump) and
you know

what he is doing but not why


at the grave
of a naval officer


while here
some novice
takes my dimensions