Featured Poet: Michele Battiste

I met Michele Battiste in a hotel bar.

It was my first writing conference, the Nimrod conference in Tulsa, where I had never been before. It was probably 2002. I was writing poetry almost exclusively at the time. I was alone and terrified and had no idea what to expect, but they had asked me to come and be a guest editor at the conference, and I was going to sit next to Edward Hirsch at dinner, and wasn’t it really time I got myself in gear for graduate school anyway?

So I had arrived in Tulsa late that Friday evening. The airport was nearly deserted, but I found a cab to the hotel. Apparently when it hits 9:00 there, they roll up the sidewalks, so if I wanted anything resembling dinner, the hotel bar was my only option, so there I went. I hunkered down with a plate of something mediocre, a a hot chocolate, and my GRE English Literature test study tome.

The only other people even close to my age were a cheerful sounding trio, two men and a woman, whose conversation (which I couldn’t have ignored if I’d tried) indicated they were here for the conference, too. Mustering up every bit of aversion to studying for the GRE that I could to bolster my scant self-confidence around strangers, I introduced myself to them and mentioned Nimrod. They were friendly and fun and let me sit with them, and my night was salvaged. The next afternoon, I heard the woman read one of her poems, “Precita Park, April 22,” at a reading where we were both sharing our work, and I loved it. That woman was Michele Battiste, who in the years since has gone on to do excellent things.

Here is another one of her poems.

***

Man Up

It was wrong – after dark and the coyotes and all that. We can’t go
on if we can’t be responsible.

And all that is
is facing the inevitability of death and at least building
traps that work, for God’s sake, if we can’t be
responsible.

It’s like we’re children. Or cowards.

It’s not like the coyotes own the moon, or something.
It’s not like they are the only creatures that experience time as cyclical.
It’s not like we are not all compost.

We could conduct a controlled burn.
That would be something, at least.
That would be a choice.

***

Michele Battiste is the author of Uprising (2014) and Ink for an Odd Cartography (2009), both published by Black Lawrence Press.  She was a finalist for the 2013 National Poetry Series and is the author of five chapbooks, the most recent of which is Left: Letters to Strangers (Grey Book Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review,Anti-, The Awl, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and Mid-American Review, among others. She lives in Colorado where she raises funds for organizations undoing corporate evil.

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