Kelli Russell Agodon is an award-winning poet, writer, and editor from the Pacific Northwest. Her most recent collections are Hourglass Museum (published by White Pine Press and shortlisted for the 2015 Julie Suk Poetry Prize) and The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, which she coauthored with Martha Silano.
Her second collection, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room was chosen by Carl Dennis for the winner of the White Pine Press Book Prize, and was also the Winner of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year in Poetry as well as a Finalist for the Washington State Book Prize. Her other books include Small Knots, Geography, and Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry.
Kelli is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press and is a Co-Director of Poets on the Coast: A Retreat for Women Poets. She lives in a small seaside town where she is an avid paddleboarder, hiker, and mountain biker, who has a fondness for writing letters, desserts, and fedoras. www.agodon.com
Why I Write Poetry
I want to speak the undermusic in life; it’s the same
reason I look through the frozen ice of the pond
to see the orange fish swimming beneath.
It’s sort of like breathing except I can hold my breath
longer than I can hold my writing. One keeps me
walking in this hazy world and the other keeps me
hazy on this walk. It’s almost like dreaming except not.
It’s almost like that fall, when you thought I was falling
apart. I was writing then. Remember that summer I swore
I didn’t need to live my life as a writer? I was lying
in the sun thinking about a poem. I’m thankful you can’t
read my mind when you’re speaking or you would know
over your body the clouds go is a part of my soundtrack,
This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary.
You would know I’m only half-here
half of the time, the other moments I’m being escorted
through this world by ghosts, their ghost words
circling in the back of my mind. This is how I live, one
foot in reality and the rest of myself calypsoing in a crowd
of letters, sundown at midnight, a hopeful dive off a paper cliff
in a place where nothing ever freezes, everything just swims.
Note: Over your body the clouds go and This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary are from poems by Sylvia Plath.
Note Written During an Apocalypse
I have begun to understand disaster,
begun to hold catastrophe
in my lap and feed it cups of milk
each morning, each night.
I’ve washed the curtains, replaced
the tablecloth with a better tablecloth. Linen.
A touch of lace. I want to be ready
for the apocalypse.
I have a matching sugar bowl & creamer.
I have two teacups, but extra in the cupboard
in case the apocalypse brings friends.
Everyone is welcome
to our nuclear winter, to celebrate
the virus to end all viruses, to the surprise
party for the accidental bump of the missile
and the small-not-so-small explosion a mile
from my house.
I have biscotti.
I have fresh grapes from my neighbor’s vines,
though not his permission to pick them.
We will eat well and share generously.
We will carve miniature gravestones
out of cranberry shortbread.
We will choose our drink based on the alcohol
percentage on the side of the bottle.
I will wear sequins and sparkle
while we swallow a little more
haziness. I hope to be remembered
for my blue cocktail
jacket, not for my lack of preparedness,
remembered for my tiara and not
for my dread.