You Make the Culture

With the permission of the author, Amy King, I am re-posting this wonderful (not in the trite sense, but in the sense of provoking genuine wonder), challenging, and very thought-provoking poem that was distributed by in their Poem-a-Day daily e-mail.


You Make the Culture

Amy King


The words became librarians, custodians of people

I looked for on the bridge.

I forgot my own face.

I read the book backwards, and

I painted your name in lace

(I drink only the milk of script as beer).

I dislocate all gallery aesthetics,

I carry keys for Baltimore and

Go where no one is my name.

I wish I could sculpt a healing street

from a blanket of guns. The way the sun drops

behind a onearmed

cop & we default

to believing in voices. This is the trough of sleep

we draw from. Even gravity works at night.

If I pull your speech on the carpet of impossibility,

will you speak this immediate need for movement?

The immediate need of not drowning in public?

I will walk with the sharks of our pigments

if that’s what inconclusive data requires,

until we leave rooms that hold us apart.

What you see as a small minority, I see

as closer to liberatory. Nothing comes from the center

that doesn’t break most everything in parts.

I break bread with the handwriting of words.

Nothing of appearance is always an illusion.

Lend me your book when you finish

writing it. I’ll be the first to fill in its spaces.


For those of you unfamiliar with Amy King’s work, here is the biographical note that she has provided to the Poetry Foundation:

Amy King

Raised in Baltimore and Georgia, Amy King earned a BS in English and women’s studies from Towson University, an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College, and an MA in poetics from SUNY Buffalo. Her writing, which shows elements of Language poetry, has been influenced by her work with Charles Bernstein and Susan Howein Buffalo, although she is also drawn to confessional and New York School poets. She has cited César Vallejo,Gertrude Stein, Laura (Riding) Jackson, and John Ashbery as her current influences. While applying pressure to the boundaries of “queer” poetry, King also finds inspiration in pop culture, science, social taxonomies, and other questions of gender, ontology, and culture.

King’s forthcoming book, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. John Ashbery described her poems in I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press, 2011) as bringing “abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living.” The book was named one of the Boston Globe’s Best Poetry Books of 2011. King is also the author of the poetry collections Slaves to do These Things (Blazevox, 2009), I’m the Man Who Loves You (Blazevox, 2007), and Antidotes for an Alibi (Blazevox, 2005). Her chapbooks include Kiss Me with the Mouth of Your Country (Dusie Press, 2007), The Good Campaign (2006), The Citizen’s Dilemma (2003), and The People Instruments (Pavement Saw Press, 2002). Her poems have been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and her essays have appeared in Boston ReviewPoetry, and The Rumpus.

In 2015, King received the WNBA Award from the Women’s National Book Association, joining the ranks of Ann Patchett, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, and Pearl S. Buck. She was also honored by the Feminist Press as one of the “40 Under 40: The Future of Feminism” awardees, and she received the 2012 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

King serves on the executive board of VIDA: Woman in Literary Arts and is. She also moderates the Women’s Poetry Listserv (WOMPO) and for many years she moderated the Poetics List, sponsored by the Electronic Poetry Center. She also founded and curated the Brooklyn-based reading series, The Stain of Poetry, from 2006 to 2010.

King co-edited Poets for Living Waters.



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