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IR Editors Tell All: Favorite Gabrielle Calvocoressi Poem

From February 1st to March 31st, Indiana Review is accepting submissions for the 2018 Poetry Prize. Send up to three poems with $20 to enter and recieve a year-long subscription to Indiana Review. The winner will recieve $1000 and publication in the next edition of Indiana Review.

This year, our Poetry Prize Judge is Gabrielle Calvocoressi, whose first book, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, was shortlisted for the Northern California Book Award and won the 2006 Connecticut Book Award in Poetry. Her second collection, Apocalyptic Swing, was a finalist for the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her awards and honors include a Stegner Fellowship, a Jones Lectureship at Stanford University, and a Rona Jaffe Women Writers’ Award. Her poem “Circus Fire, 1944” received The Paris Review’s Bernard F. Connors Prize. She teaches at the MFA programs at California College of Arts in San Francisco and at Warren Wilson College. She also runs the sports desk for the Best American Poetry Blog.

We asked our editors to share their favorite Calvocoressi poem. This is what they said:

Associate Editor Essence London

from “Backdrop,” published in The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart

And what if the town never existed?
Outside of my mind it never existed.

Here is the house long since shuttered from view:
striped ribcage of birds that never existed.

What vowel filled the space the square once hugged
like open-mouthed girls who never existed.

And every street I ever walked down gone.
No sailor, no hushed ‘She never existed.’

There’s something so beautiful to me about a speaker pointing at a thing they plan to erase right after I’ve seen it. And isn’t the ghazal the perfect place to explore both intimacy and distance?

Poetry Editor Anni Liu

Captain Lovell, [“My eyes are shaky and glimmer like the stars”]

This poem, part of a series all addressed to the NASA captain Jim Novell, is pure magic. In it, other kids make fun of the speaker for being “stupid and not like them,” and this is the speaker’s response: “But I know how the grass sounds / when the locusts come, like a spaceship / taking off,” and, “I can feel how much // I want to shake and let myself go loose / and double like a cloud of mayflies on the lake.” The speaker’s perspective is so capacious and readily transformed in relation to the world around them that I am also called and invited into that shapeshifting doubleness.

Web Editor Hannah Thompson

[’s really beautiful. When ’s standing in the trees]

In this poem, and many like it from Rocket Fantastic, Calvocoressi swings between referring to the you as whose and . Last fall, I had the pleasure of hearing Calvocoressi read this poem aloud. In the beginning of Rocket Fantastic, they explain that  is pronounced as a sharp intake of breath. Though I had read the entire book, speaking each  poem aloud, trying out the sound in various ways–I was blown away by Calvocoressi’s reading. Their sharp inhales made the poem feel breathless, rushed, though they didn’t rush through the lines. The effect was inhuman, or posthuman, or supernatural–which is so fitting for a piece about a creature who exists outside of our society’s conception of gender, outside our society’s conception of relationship.

Editor-in-chief Tessa Yang

At Last the New Arriving

This poem envisions a loving future and wills it into existence. It blends together so much unlikely imagery–a boxer’s swollen eye, Easter bread, a grandmother’s hands, clattering bones–shaping the varied textures of the speaker’s life into a celebratory incantation: This happiness will be yours.


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