Tuesday, September 11, 2012


By Molly Meacham

I had never been small
until I heard how evil I am
for being a teacher. With the lie levels
rising in newspapers, emails,
interviews, announcements,
the steady flood of anti-
teacher propaganda
dissolves dignity
past patience
until I am in-
visible and
taste of

the frightening muse of room 202
is this incredible

I’ve often told students to absorb
environment and squeeze it
into writing, but I, hypocrite, cannot
check my mail without earplugs
and blinders now. There is always a top
story that burns my cheeks ashen,
and I am scattered by breath.

But there’s no headline for me
or for colleagues who’ve sold houses,
who’ve taken on loans and grey-streaked temples
to brace for the fight.

These headlines are about these politicians,
their pockets, and their pride. Articles
full of double speak and forked tongue
hissing. The mayor and the board deal students
as playing cards in stacked decks.

They know nothing of the kids themselves:
Her grammar jokes, his zombie impression. That he’s afraid his father
is never getting out of jail and his mom has breast cancer.
That she is the first in her family to go to college
and got a full ride. That he came out of the closet, and his mother is praying
for evil to cease its possession. That she reinvents the world
on the page and then stages it. These kids swirl
in cutbacks, media overload, starved affections, and poetry.
They swear and swagger and smile metal.

The fact these kids are alive and breathing knowledge
in deadly communities is more miracle
than Lazarus rising. And they do—they baptize
their papers in ink and wash drafts clean
with red. They highlight, spotlight, moonwalk. I mean,

they are teenagers…there are mad dashes through
the halls, too many tardies and dress code violations.
But they are green and sprouting: dandelions
and dahlias, ivy, wisteria, and willows.

I am a simple gardener, tilling
with words, preparing the ground—
loam, sand, silt, clay. The clay models itself
into familiarity. Into the expression
of understanding that’s unique to each child.

The board wants me to see only numbers,
to measure the kids with percentages,
to see them as payment and value-added.
But I am an English teacher.
Numbers have never been my thing.

I see that their learning is the shape of a yellow raft
on a green river. We are the river dwellers.
There is no salt in our water.

It feels wrong to hate politicians who have never met me,
but they made us feel miniscule—buzzing winged
things like gnats or mosquitoes—for being teachers.
It makes me hunger for Biblical
retribution. So I will be an insect…
in a plague of cicadas. We will be dressed as
a river of blood, a torrent of chant and noise.

There is no poem for this fight, for watching
the mild mannered lose their voices
from screaming chants, feet raw with marching.
Hands, callused for chalk, will be rubbed with new blisters
from holding signs.

If we are faceless, let us be the drought, the blight,
the salt in this freshwater city
so our students will not be nameless, faceless scores
in a city that hunts them for statistics.

We will be living the politics.
Not writing a poem.
I invite you (and ask you) to stand with me,
for them.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

"All oppression creates a state of war." Simone de Beauvoir

Sunday, June 03, 2012

We are still in the French Open, and I love anything French though it all started with Proust:

And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom , my aunt LĂ©onie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the meantime, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks' windows, that their image had dissociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the shapes of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness. But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.

And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine. And as in the game wherein the Japanese amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water and steeping in it little pieces of paper which until then are without character or form, but, the moment they become wet, stretch and twist and take on colour and distinctive shape, become flowers or houses or people, solid and recognizable, so in that moment all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann's park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.

from Swann's Way, Remembrance of Things Past (Vol 1)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Demeter to Persephone by Alicia Suskin Ostriker

I watched you walking up out of that hole

All day it had been raining
in that field in Southern Italy

rain beating down making puddles in the mud
hissing down on rocks from a sky enraged

I waited and was patient
finally you emerged and were immediately soaked

you stared at me without love in your large eyes
that were filled with black sex and white powder

but this is what I expected when I embraced you
Your firm little breasts against my amplitude

Get in the car I said
and then it was spring

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Indigo Ink Press Launch Party for Paper Covers Rock, Oct. 21

Here's the video I made for the launch party. I read two poems from Paper Covers Rock: "Poland" & "Forty." My first self-made video that I also uploaded on You Tube today.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Latest Chapbook of Poetry

September 30: Official Launching of My Chapbook: Paper Covers Rock

Indigo Ink


Dave Bonta's Videocast

Reviews of Paper Covers Rock 

“A dazzle and a delight, Chella Courington’s poetry will carry you through the brave discoveries of adolescent sex, then turn around and chill you with what she knows of being a grown woman, then turn again and fill you with compassion for human distress. Travel with her on these journeys and you’ll be going with beauty all the way.”
Alicia Ostriker, author of The Book of Seventy

“Crisp narrative lines filled with energy, indignation, and fierce beauty. The images can take your breath away, and the title poem is one I’ll never forget.”
Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire & editor of Brevity

“In Paper Covers Rock, Courington narrates familiar poetic scenarios— adolescent girls exploring their sexuality; a poet/teacher observing her students in a prison—but always with bright, surprising details: one girl doesn’t just kiss the other, she ‘uncloses my eyes with her tongue,’ and a confident, authoritative tone that brings readers back ‘to the point of mooring.’ In this collection, loss is described with ‘words / like sour tree roots’ and trouble becomes so appealing, one can’t help but wonder ‘if Satan’s the hero’ in her story.”
Sara Tracey, author of Flood Year

“Chella Courington’s voice of quiet reflection leads us through sensual memories of youth, struggles for affirmation and the middle-aged acknowledgment of frailty. These poems together form a tight weave of body-knowledge, experienced through time and the pull of first relationships.”
Jen Pearson, reviewer, PoetryLog  (www.poetrylog.wordpress.com)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tom Waits on Being Called a Poet

Inebreational Travelogue: Tom Waits on Being Called a Poet

Nancy Smith wrote a review at The Rumpus that celebrates Tom Waits and the book Tom Waits on Tom Waits. In said book Waits weighs in on the many things he’s been called over the years, namely “poet.”
It’s almost impossible to write an apt description of Waits, but every journalist in this collection makes a worthy attempt. Some of my favorites: “A mumbling sot on stage.” “A collector and researcher of bawdy stories.” “A half-buzzed derelict with the voice of a bulldozer.” “A gruff-voiced romanticizer of the seamy side of urban life.” “A practitioner of the fine art of conversation” “A Depression-Era hobo ridin’ the rails toward some unforsaken land.” “The teacher we wished we had.” “The greatest entertainer on Planet Earth.”
However he is described, Waits’s magnetic stage presence draws people to him. His live shows take on a theatrical quality, complete with spoken-word ramblings, chain-smoking, dramatic movements, and a lot of jokes. Waits is often referred to as a poet, a term he was quick to toss off in the early days.
“Poetry is a very dangerous word,” says Waits, “It’s very misused. Most people when they hear the word ‘poetry’ think of being chained to a desk, memorizing ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn.’ When somebody says that they’re going to read me a poem, I can think of any number of things that I’d rather be doing. I don’t like the stigma that comes with being called a poet—so I call what I’m doing an improvisational adventure, or an inebriational travelogue, and all of a sudden it takes on a whole new form and meaning. If I’m tied down and have to call myself something, I prefer ‘storyteller.’”
Then, a bit on his process:
For a long time, Waits admits, he was in danger of being overtaken by the low life he wrote about. He drank too much. He made bad friends. “I wanted to experience what it was like to be on the road the way I imagined it would be for the old-timers that I loved, so I would stay in these down joints because I was absorbing all the atmosphere in those places; the ghosts in the room. You want to be where the stories grow, and you think if you live in those places they’ll come up through the sidewalks and out of the cracks in the wall—and they do. But you have to be very clear about who you are and who it is you’re projecting, and there was a time when I was very unclear about who I was and I became a caricature of myself.”
Over time, Waits’s persona becomes both clearer and even more difficult to define. It’s a strange contradiction. Each of his albums are so profoundly different, it’s as if we learn about a new side of Waits with every album. Some of the most interesting interviews include insight into his creative process:
“The creative process is imagination, memories, nightmares, and dismantling certain aspects of this world and putting them back together in the dark. Songs aren’t necessarily verbatim chronicles or necessarily journal entries, they’re like smoke, it’s like it’s made out of smoke.”
from The Poetry Foundation
original interview in The Rumpus 9/26/11