We've got a special Valentine-y guest post today from Jerry Williams, who edited (and wrote the introduction for!) IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME: THE POETRY OF BREAKUP. If you're looking for a fun activity for this evening that won't involve underwhelming prix-fixe menus and "he went to Jared," stop by KGB Bar (85 E. 4th St., NYC) at 7 p.m. to hear Jerry (with Donna Masini, David Lehman, and Kenneth Hart) wax poetic. Hope to see you there!
Happy Valentines Day, everyone. I was thinking about calling the internet to find out where the apostrophe goes in Valentines, but I’m going to restrain myself. That’s not to say the apostrophe isn’t an incredible piece of punctuation, especially on V-Day, although it does imply possession—e.g. Tim’s television, Shelby’s apartment, Jerry’s old typewriter. No one should own anyone in a relationship. Yes, this seems like a pretty obvious directive, but who among us has not witnessed instances of what I call Interpersonal Colonization: one person lording it over another for reasons known only to the couple? I’ve been waiting years to use this terminology, but I could never find the context—until now, as they say in movie trailers and infomercials. That said, tonight you should attend an anti-V-Day poetry reading triggered by my anthology, It’s Not You, It’s Me: The Poetry of Breakup, featuring David Lehman, Donna Masini, Kenneth Hart, and yours truly. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Yours truly. Who says that? Anyway, the reading is at KGB Bar at 85 E. 4th Street at 7 p.m. Since you’ll probably hear a lot of very negative material about romantic love, I thought I would offer up an Anti-Anti Saint Valentine’s Day (I looked it up) poem that I wrote a couple years ago. Up to that point, rest assured, I was just like you, suffering through one relationship debacle after another—boom! boom! boom! like a relationship blitzkrieg. So here’s that poem. For my wife, Shelby. On Valentine’s Day.
Bed, Bath, and Beyond
Days, maybe weeks, before the first
whole night together,
I ventured down Second Avenue
to buy a new pillowcase for the optional
third pillow, your pillow.
In the past, there had been
a maroon pillowcase
and a navy blue pillowcase
and a bottle-green pillowcase.
One refused to accept bribes;
one pretended to drink holy water;
one took a full-time job crying.
According to the packaging,
your pillowcase is oyster, obliterates
the selfishness of regret,
and looks like a fresh sheet of paper
against your brown skin,
your brown skin that seems
so crucial and complementary
against my white skin
in the warm, reflective dark.
Now that my body feels like a pulpit,
and I am my body's messenger,
I will keep this life.
Jerry Williams teaches creative writing at Marymount Manhattan College. In 2003, Carnegie Mellon University Press published his collection of poems, Casino of the Sun, and a new collection, Admission. His poetry and nonfiction have appeared in American Poetry Review, Tin House, Pleiades, and many other journals. He lives in New York City.
Praise for It's Not You, It's Me
“A fine new anthology…featuring terrific poets…Williams is as good a prose writer as he is a poet. Get hold of this guy’s stuff and read it.” -- Entertainment Weekly
“Jerry Williams, has had some experience with romantic disappointment, as he details in his slightly painful introduction…This collection is split into three sections — ‘One Foot Out the Door,’ ‘In the Middle of the Storm’ and ‘The Aftermath’ — and it gathers many of the poems that have helped Williams (a poet himself, with two books to his name) through his rooms of anguish over the years. Happily, they’re pretty great.” – PaperCuts
“In It's Not You, It's Me: The Poetry of Breakup today's big contemporary poets make breaking up and even divorce sound painfully beautiful. You'll want to read with a box of tissues, a pint of chocolate ice cream and sappy love songs playing in the background.” – Lemondrop