Laura McCullough has three other collections of poems, Speech Acts, What Men Want, and The Dancing Bear, and two chapbooks, Women and Other Hostages and Elephant Anger. She has been a fellow in both prose and poetry for the NJ State Arts Council and has an MFA in ﬁction from Goddard College. Visit her online at www.lauramccullough.weebly.com.
What the Lifeguard Wrote
PANIC January 2011
That day, the metal held the heat and when the children’s bare feet slapped the surface, the skin crisped against it, and they fell sideways over the edge to the mulch’s obnoxious embrace, small prints left behind and smoking with residue. This happened not once, but three times, each time the child’s parents calling to complain and request a sign be put up. He wrote a warning on the inside of a pizza box and staked it to the closest tree, though all he recalls of the events before the drowning is how he walked around the pool asking if anyone had a pen, how one of the mothers lent him her lipstick to write the word WARNING both large and red and how satisfied he felt both aroused and indicted.
Praise for Panic “Laura McCullough’s Panic is a news broadcast from the edge—literally, the shoreline, the coast where New Jersey’s towns give onto open water, and ﬁguratively, the nervous boundary of contemporary life, with its negligence and violence. McCullough seems to possess a sort of psychic hidden camera: a restless, obsessive eye looking deeper and deeper into occasions of disaster both personal and public. Somewhere between Edgar Lee Masters and C. P. Cavafy, these plain-spoken, character-ﬁlled poems will haunt readers with an unsettlingly familiar landscape: the swimming pools and boardwalks and shorelines of our darkest, most anxious American nights.” —Mark Doty “Lovely and vigilant poems lay bare those seen and unseen forces that expose us again and again to our own mortality, to our daily yearning for beauty and grace. Embracing the narrative range of a novelist, Laura McCullough writes with the razored scrutiny of the ﬁne poet she is, making Panic a timely and important book you simply must read.” —Andre Dubus III
Nicole Cooley grew up in New Orleans. Her third book of poems, Breach, about Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast, was published by LSU Press in April 2010. Her ﬁrst book, Resurrection, won the 1995 Walt Whitman Award and was published by LSU Press in 1996. Her second book, The Aﬄicted Girls (2004), was chosen as one of the best poetry books of the year by Library Journal. She also published a novel, Judy Garland, Ginger Love. She directs the MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College—City University of New York and lives outside of New York City with her husband and two young daughters.
November 2010 Triage Sonnet The self I tried to stamp out will come back, but I don’t know it yet. And I don’t know what’s next, in this white room, the door just cracked open enough to admit each long, low moan from the next bed. Someone else’s pain floods the hall like light. Now, for once, I don’t write it down, don’t step outside myself, brain releasing body, my mind letting go of everything but thought. Instead, I’m here, at the edge of the corridor of dark, praying out loud to no one, no one near: after her birth, when I am split apart, let she and I be one, bodies pressed together like the pages of a book, unwritten, open forever.
an interview with Nicole Cooley AJB recently asked Nicole Cooley some questions, and she was kind enought to humor us. In this interview, she gives us insight into her writing, her life, and her views on the state of contemporary poetry:
Alice James Books: Milk Dress seems to be, in many ways, a book of processes: the process of pregnancy, of motherhood, of coming to terms with the risk of danger and the unknown. What can you tell us about your process in writing this book, about its journey from manuscript to book? NICOLE COOLEY: My process of writing Milk Dress was one of interruption and fragments. I started writing the book when my first daughter, Meridian, was born in December 2000. By that I mean, I started throwing scraps of paper—envelopes, receipts, prescriptions, napkins—with pieces of language on them into a box, not trying to write a poem, just trying to get something down, as I entered the
strange and wonderful and difficult world of motherhood. In her essay, “A Wild Surmise: Motherhood and Poetry,” Alicia Ostriker had suggested that the first months of motherhood were a time for just recording. This liberated me—I am always looking for tricks to liberate me in my poems. I was teaching and I was taking care of my new baby. I couldn’t write a poem, but I could always write a fragment. AJB: Much of Milk Dress deals with the ways in which disaster (September 11th and Hurricane Katrina, specifically) influences one’s ideas about motherhood. Are there any references in the book that are specific to you? If so, will you please discuss how those experiences impacted your writing and ideas about writing? COOLEY: Yes, it was the two disasters I encountered in the early