Followed by Automat cheeseburgers and vanilla milkshake.
The only black kid in the school picture,
Faraway swim look in the thread of his eye.
Japanese love Cool
White legs, black A-line, Fifth Avenue.
As demons douse metallic nodules
A stylus pins Cole Porter in a Pullman quarter.
What seems like a right hand with blue tabulae
Is actually Sonny Clark waking up from his vomit
When he sees what he’s leaving behind
Only the right chord is perfect labor
Everything with Sonny Clark is weakness.
He’s a city and a forest infolded quill
Tranquilized with black lung and tar black,
The most aristocratic color of all.
Mountainous Black Garden
“What good is
intelligence if you cannot discover a useful melancholy?”
Reading grapefruit, prey, and fake grief.
Put on “Fleurette Africaine” and her arm
Drapes onto steel fibers along nerves.
Her love fills the zinc bottle of its own body.
Peel me a woody bass, wick the piano away
From the sweet peak of Duke’s pomade.
Black can be quiet and contain the whole thing.
What is apart and not hard and hard and not apart?
About the Poet:
Sean Singer’s first book Discography won the Yale Series of
Younger Poets Prize, selected by W.S. Merwin, and the Norma Farber First Book
Award from the Poetry Society of America. He has also published two chapbooks, Passport and Keep Right On Playing Through the Mirror Over the Water, both with
Beard of Bees Press and is the recipient of a Fellowship from the National
Endowment for the Arts.
His work has recently appeared in Memorious, Pleiades, Souwester, Iowa Review,
New England Review, and Salmagundi.
He has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Rutgers-Newark. He lives in Harlem, New
As a pediatrician who believes her work experiences speak of truth and honor in poetry, Kelley J. White gives her patients a voice to tell their stories because everyone has one worth listening to. The following interview reveals how poetry has been an important part of her life, even through her medical practice years.
What interested you in poetry? Did you take writing courses when you were in college? Have you written anything else besides poems?
I’ve always loved books and libraries and have wanted to publish a book since I was nine years old. There was a book I checked out of the Gilford Public Library called, I believe, O Ye Jigs & Juleps!, that had a ten year old author [Virginia Cary Hudson], and I wanted to rise to that challenge. I also wanted to be a scientist, though, and thought perhaps I could do it all.
I spent a summer in college working for the U.S. Forest Service in biology research and realized that I had more contact with people than being in a lab or at a research station provided. I thought of medicine as combining science and human service. I continued writing, and in fact was honored with a fellowship for creative writing during my senior year at Dartmouth College (after completing all the pre-med science courses). I have, therefore, a ‘novel’ in a box in the bottom of my closet. I made a brief effort to find a literary agent the summer before I started medical school at Harvard then put away that part of life for about a decade, although I did keep a journal related to my experiences as a resident physician in pediatrics.
Why did you choose to pursue a career as a pediatrician?
I had planned to become an obstetrician/gynecologist but realized just before beginning my internship that I loved children and babies—that I drifted over to the newborns after their deliveries and didn't really want to read up on infertility or contraception. I was motivated to read about childhood illnesses and child development. For a year during residency training I made a commitment to write in depth about one patient each day. This came from the experience that as a physician (especially as a physician in training) we are privileged to participate intensely in the lives of children and families, often at times of the most extreme importance—birth, the diagnosis of serious illness, pain, or death—and then, oddly, we may never again see these people again. I wanted to honor these individuals. I wrote of them with respect and gratitude for their trust and teaching. A few poems have echoed those memories. I hope they have been honorable (of course names and details are changed).
How long did you work as poetry editor at The Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts? Were you working as a doctor and an editor at the same time?
I served as poetry editor for The Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts from about 2003 until I left Philadelphia to return to New Hampshire in 2008. The founding editor, Jim Marinell, a wonderful poet and kind, wise, human being accepted a few of my poems when I first began sending work out for consideration of publication. He was that rare editor who made a personal response to each submission including careful comments on each poem, comments that truly helped me shape poems. He was a guide and mentor to many writers. After Jim’s untimely death, in his honor, and with respect for Peter Krok, the current editor, I took on the title of poetry editor, though with a team of readers who read and ranked each submission without any author cover letter or other identification. It was a demanding process. I spent lots of time copying and collating work. I learned a great deal, though of course had less time to write.
And yes, I was, and still am, working full time as a pediatrician. Bill Wunder, the current poetry editor of SVJ does a fine job, with some assistance in reading, but has more editorial clout! A personal response from an editor is a rare and wonderful thing. I tried to be personal in my responses to submissions and to offer encouragement. As a new poet, I made a vow to write a grateful response to any editor who took the time to make a comment, even a negative blast or the single word, ‘sorry.’ I have often taken the short cut of sending postcards, but I do think even those quirky little bits of mail in my terrible doctor’s handwriting are appreciated. I also write to poets whose work I've come across and enjoyed or been moved by in my reading. I have quite a few correspondents around the world, of ages from nine to ninety, though, sadly, too many of my favorite editors and founders of small journals, like Jim Marinell, have passed away.
the character of the mother in Book 1. How does her bedtime story of the rabbit
and the lost meadow reflect the birth of the narrator and the family secret?
Discuss the symbolism of kettles in light of the coming of age theme.
chapter 7, Nora Jean claims that Margo’s loss of innocence is the cause of
Jeremy’s suicide. Do you agree? Is the narrator unreliable? Does your opinion matter?
seems unimportant in the secondary narrative of Aunt Virginia’s courtship.
Discuss 18th century cotton mills anyway.
book does not deal with religion or business ethics. Choose another book you
have read that does. Quote a specific page in this book. Note: you will be
judged on the accuracy of your recreation of specific sentences as well as the
spiritual principles you claim they espouse.
and contrast the Northern Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. Use at
least three specific examples of coal from the narrative to demonstrate your
understanding. Chose three minor characters and change their names.
2. Ifx=(t) x (m) and y= f (m) x (h-t) calculate
the price of coal.
maturity as it relates to your parents.
Choose your favorite food. Show how it undermines Jeremy’s suicidal intent and
ultimate choice of weapon.
another ending for Book 7. Prove how that ending would make Book 8 impossible.
the effect on the environment of John Doe’s execution by electric chair in
chapter eleven. Will utility rates rise or fall? Illustrate your answer with
specific bills your roommate has received.
the seventh word in the second paragraph of page 127.
many words are on page 246? Why? Can any of these words be eliminated?
synonym for charisma would improve your appreciation of the student seated in
the front row of yesterday’s lecture’s tattoo?
you think this class should have met before or after lunch? Why?
up a definition of ‘truth.’ Prove the error of this definition based on the
clothing worn by three of the girls in the class.
Tanner wrote her thesis on the influence of Moroccan tile on the fast food
industry. Why was she chosen to teach this course?
how the books in this course will enhance your likelihood of choosing a
supportive life partner? (alternate: explain why your parents chose poorly.)
Extra Credit: Write your own novel of intrigue and
sexual coercion. Get it published.