Monday, February 28, 2011

Continental Drift

Continental Drift

Destruction is also a method of learning.
We break things apart to see how they are made.

Hand the little boy an object. Watch him
smash it into ground, bring it down fast, a comet

plummeting. Watch the girl stacking blocks,
how she shrieks, delighted, when the pillar teeters,

encourages the collapse with a swatting palm.
Every shattered thing presents us with an opportunity:

to know that matter holds tight to itself only
if we want it to. That gravity will do its job whenever

we ask, anywhere on dry land. Pottery shards,
bones released of their organization, continental drift:

our falling and scattering sends our voices
spiraling into the far future, civilizational tea leaves.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Process Video: Dissonance

I'm especially excited to share this Process Video with you! For a while now, I've been admiring artists' process videos (like this one from Chris Piascik or this one from Robert Josiah Bingaman).

I wanted to create one just like theirs, and show how I write poems (because I always want to know how other writers create). So while writing "Dissonance," I recorded my desktop (using Quicktime--surprisingly easy). It was easy to forget that it was recording--this video represents an extremely typical way that I write. When I sat down to write, the only thing I knew was that I wanted to use artist Toc Fetch's work, which I had bookmarked earlier, as I usually do.

It took 50 minutes and 4 seconds to write this poem, and this video shows the process condensed to about 5 minutes. It was a struggle to upload this video successfully (it turned out very blurry in YouTube, every way that I tried), but in Vimeo it turned out a bit more clearly. The words are still not extremely clear (next time I do this, I'll use a larger font). It was strange to watch this video---maybe the pacing surprised me a little. You may wish to view it full screen to get that whole "I'm Hannah typing frenetically away at her computer" experience (for best results, have coffee nearby, and a cat on your lap).

I'd love to hear your thoughts on process--is this how you work, too? Do you type or write longhand? Do you listen to music (you saw me on Grooveshark and iTunes--at the end of the video, I list the artists I was listening to). It feels a bit like I'm inviting you into my brain...welcome! Come on in.

Process Video: Dissonance (poem) from Hannah Stephenson on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 24, 2011



Not the same sounds,
but close, elbowing each other
to reach the ear, jostling.

A collection of notes can cause
discomfort, a pang
at the mess of them jutting

out at you, a long
ladder and steel pipes tied
to the truck in front

of you with thin yellow twine.
Humans possess
a limited tolerance for tension

between what we
expect and produce. My first
piano lesson, right

thumb smashed onto middle C,
left hand unable
to find its footing, slipping

here and there
over black keys. So disappointing,
my inability to bring

beauty into the room. I clawed
at the smooth enamel,
I was desperate to generate

melody, as we all
are, sitting before a gleaming
instrument that

only waits for us. And what is
it that we play
when we fold the keyboard’s lid

back into itself:
chopsticks. The right hand part
we plink out with

both hands high up on the keys,
scraping notes
together, hoping for someone

to play the lower
part, steady chords nudging us
toward resolution.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011



Crafts, cobbled-together
popsicle sticks and string,

googly-eyed pine cones,
glob of glue for optic nerve,

sequins and macaroni
and buttons. Anything with

an opening can be knotted
together, hung around

the neck of a person
that we love, the wreath

we wrap around a horse’s
shoulders for winning.

We fashion these objects
in homage to the things

that fill up the world.
The less obvious things,

the beings that stand still
or hide so we can use them

and forget their strangeness:
a table, a purse, one shoe,

two. A window, a hole
punched through the wall

and the glass sitting in it,
how it moves up and down

to let in air, light. The three
steps leading to the house,

and the small hand rail
to the left, yes, just where

your hand rests as you
raise your foot. We have

not made these objects
that we have. They came

to us because we selected
them. We needed them

to do something for us,
to answer the deficiency

that keeps presenting
itself within us.

Monday, February 21, 2011



A bed in a bag,
kitchen in a box,
breakfast in bed
in a basket.

Experience can
be packaged up,
places bottled.
The pieces

equal the thing,
the first steps
are embedded
with Eureka!

Rose essence
and elderflower
cordial stopped
up in vessels.

Smell like a
garden, like you’ve
been genetically

Cookies in a jar,
just add the wet
Stir and heat.

Enjoy. So
wholesome, this

Friday, February 18, 2011

Video: In Sink

Happy Multimedia Friday, dear readers! Hope your week was fantastic.

My video this week is for yesterday's poem, "In Sink." Once I starting punning, I couldn't stop (my apologies). But I do think it is fascinating that describing love involves language of earth-shifting, astronomical proportions. Have a lava-ly weekend, and hope you enjoy the video (and my laundry, and my umbrella).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In Sink

In Sink

In sink with one another.
In black hole. A vortext,

a message spun of shards
and the air to carry them.

A doppler radar map
bouquet, red in the center,

green at the edges, Venus
fly trap’s clamp and gulp.

In vertigo. In mudslide.
In bear hug of the blender.

In nuclear fusion with
each other, in supernova.

How did you meteorite.
Was it lava at first sight.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011



We yearn to feel comfortable,
to imagine that the world babies us.

We baby the word, swaddle it
in down blankets, coo comfy into

the fleeced sheets. Discomfort
is temporary, we learn as infants,

as children, but even as adults
we pretend that comfort, fullness,

warmth will never lapse. Why
is this happening, we cry out

when it does, as the tabletop
inches out from under our hands,

place settings rattling in front
of us, knives and spoons clanking,

and then it is ripped away
from us, the floorboards, too, flaking

and splintering as they fall
into the windy, cavernous darkness.

Just as we locate our center
of gravity, the chaos fairy visits at night,

loops lead weights around
our limbs, ties balloons to our hearts.

In the morning, we wrap
ourselves in blankets, close our eyes.

Just five more minutes,
we implore our consciousness.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011



On flags. Hoisted above homes,
a country’s bar code. Shutters
and venetian blinds, light blazing
from between the slats and then
diminishing. A heating vent
that we stand over in the winter,
instep eased over the metal.
Worn near the face to signify rank
and response. Button downs and
t-shirts, ties and ribbon, suggestion
of warfare and ease and sport,
of youth. Plowed fields viewed
from overhead, a carpet streaked
from the vacuum’s grasp, one
direction and then the other.
Saturated life spliced with absence,
an order we impose and label
as playful. Background muddled
with applied design, alternating
so that we cannot sort which
color and texture was there first,
a pattern not organic, but pleasing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Shore

The Shore

Here, look at their bodies. Even clothed,
their skin is near to the surface, Jwoww’s
powerful breasts, Mike’s self-exposed
abs. Every part is eventually eased out

for us to see by heat, the beach, shots
ten to a tray, bright blue, for free.
New and nameless lovers. Curls, squats,
the treadmill. Gym, tanning, the laundry:

each day, they control how they are seen.
We love them for it, hair extensions
and fake nails whipping across the screen.
Their dedication to pleasure stuns

us, and how easily they announce
their needs. I’ve gotta get it in tonight,
they say, and go to Karma, flounce
across the dance floor, pull a human tight

against them, and breathe into their neck,
Wanna see the house? We do, we look
on as they destroy the place, they wreck
it. After, we’re surprised how long it took.

Thursday, February 10, 2011



You have hit the nail
on the hammer,

have crammed the universe
into a speech bubble.

You have cured
the common cold,

have slid the manhole’s lid
aside to reveal a hole,

the earth’s mouth fallen
open, impressed.

You made gravity.
You found it. You founded it.

You scribbled a shape on a napkin,
a bison, an animal

cracker with one leg
missing, and called it a country.

You pointed at some shore
you had not seen before,

and dragged your boat to it
that you might walk

through the sand of a new
land, you discovered it.

We knew you had it
in you all along, we say,

a switch in the cavity
of your body

that just had to be
nudged up.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011



Beware! You have been infected with spyware!
Every image you have looked at is still there,
there for all to see out in the internet.
Their monitors are periscopes.

Your account information! It is strung out
like sheets stretched their full wingspan
on a clothesline, backlit by sun.
Your numbers are showing!

It is there on every page you have seen,
infecting you! Anyone you’ve emailed
is at risk: your boss, children,
your third grade teacher.

Click here to remove any threat! Click here
now! This software will destroy your
information, your memory.
It could break your life.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cut Once

Cut Once

Pick up your saws, your scissors, your swords,
for today we cut.

Decisions are incisions. Moving forward and
pulling away from.

The painter’s tape is hugging the woodwork,
a bandage, blue frosting.

Paint on the brush, brush on the wall. Go.
Pound the hammer

like a gavel, put the nail inside the plaster.
This pomegranate,

this avocado, this pineapple. Slice it in half
and eat. You won’t

get it wrong, you can’t. Order the entree that
you cannot pronounce.

Out with the stitches. Send it. Call them. Ask
for the thing you want

most, you know you want to. Admit it. Say
what you did not say

even if you say it to the dog, to yourself alone
in the car, driving.

Thursday, February 3, 2011



Shall I represent you.
Who is in need of a spokesperson.

I will speak on your behalf.
You will never want for words.

Carry me on your back.
I’ll cling to you, call out your needs

ahead of you, from over
your shoulder. I can assist you with

the most challenging tasks:
what to say in departures, how to go

away knowing you will not
return, will never see any of this.

Both parties share awareness
when somebody leaves. I will wrap

my arms around you from
the back, lean forward and tell you,

softly so that only you
will hear, They will be fine, and they

will remember. And then
my job, your public voice, I’ll yell,

Farewell, friends! Big smile
from me, and you will be facially

free to process this scene
however you like. My declarations

are steady, you can trust
that in me. I will be truthful for you,

but aware of who we speak
to, and what they need. Of all blizzards,

this one has been my favorite,
for example. Or, Please pardon this viral

infection, I am not quite myself,
when you are ill, coughing for hours,

stomach sore from the work.
In silence, you will feel so much more.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I Could Care Less

I Could Care Less

I could care less,
I could,
but instead, I care
so much,
so phenomenally.
It happens
when we look, this
range-sized adoration
welling up
inside us in response
to all that
is present alongside
us, and all
that existed before
the human
thumb squeezed
the top of
the common era’s
The seven holes in our
heads help
us to take in what we
can of the
ever-altering wilderness
here for us,
with us. How is this not

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Get Your Bearings

Get Your Bearings

Get your bearings here,
select them from this bin,
little and silver. Confront
their smallness. Roll them
around in your hand, cold,
molecular. Hardware is
everywhere, tucked as
unobtrusively in joints
as grammar in your mother
tongue. Get your bearings,
no, not those, those are
spoken for. By me. My
bearings won’t be much
help to you. What are you
attracted to here, in parts,
I mean, what gets your gears
spinning. Would you look
at your reflection in these,
have you ever seen yourself
look more capable or radiant.
The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.