poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Born on May 10, 1968, and raised in the U.S. Army, Vanessa Place received a BA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an MFA from Antioch University, and a JD from Boston University.

Her books of poetry and conceptual writing include Dies: A Sentence (Les Figues, 2006), a 50,000-word, one-sentence novel in verse; La Medusa (Fiction Collective 2, 2008); and Statement of Facts (Insert Blanc Press, 2010), the first volume of her trilogy Tragodía, which repurposes legal prosecution and defense documents verbatim; among others.

With Robert Fitterman, she co-wrote Notes on Conceptualisms (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009), an exploration of contemporary conceptual writers and their work. She is also the author of The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law (Other Press, 2010), an analysis of the prosecution of sexual offenders.

About her texts, she says: "Authorship doesn't matter. Content doesn't matter. Form doesn't matter. Meter doesn't matter. All that matters is the trace of poetry. Put another way, I am a mouthpiece." Susan McCabe describes her poetry as "both humbling and beyond paraphrase, both mythic and contemporary."

In addition to her work as an appellate criminal defense attorney, she serves as co-director of Les Figues Press. Place currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

from Dies: A Sentence

Vanessa Place, 1968

The maw that rends without tearing, the maggoty claw that serves you, what, my baby buttercup, prunes stewed softly in their own juices or a good slap in the face, there's no accounting for history in any event, even such a one as this one, O, we're knee-deep in this one, you and me, we're practically puppets, making all sorts of fingers dance above us, what do you say, shall we give it another whirl, we can go naked, I suppose, there's nothing to stop us and everything points in that direction, do you think there will be much music later and of what variety, we've that, at least, now that there's plenty of pieces to be gathered by the wool-coated orphans and their musty mums, they'll put us in warm wicker baskets, cover us with a cozy blanket of snow, and carry us home, walking carefully through the rubble and around the landmines, or visa versa, poor little laddy's lost his daddy, pauvre unminted lamb, you'd give him a chuck on the chin if you still had arms, sure as I'd pitch myself into a highland fling for the sake of the neighbors, but they say or at least said once and if we're very quiet we might hear them again, that all of us will reune with all of us when the time comes, our bits and pieces will cling-a-ling to our cores like fillings rag a magnet, think how big we'll be then, we'll spread from sea to see, sky's the limit for philomel and firmament, and there will be Indians and buffalo and a hero's welcome, I've always wanted a hero's welcome, it's due, said the capitulate archduke, doubtless they'll put us in long black cars and someone's sure to have a picnic, that's the beauty of it, someone's always sure to have a picnic, and we'll laugh when they salt and pepper their hard eggs and be glad to lend our long bones for rude goalposts, what's that, that sound, nothing, you say, right again, nothing walks heavily, nothing stomps about, the big turd, carding its beard with a baleen comb, and lovingly licking the mirror in the eggcup, it fixes red-hot ingots to its ears and pirouettes in a pineneedle shawl, showing itself off to one and all, it's a braggart and a pimp, this nothing, ups the short hairs nonetheless, doesn't it, but that's all right, continue making your stew, sun's swallowed and we've plenty of hours to morn, assuming there's to be another dawn, I'm keeping the faith on that one, my friend, my comrade, my comparison, why I'd light a candle and pray, if I weren't afraid of snipers, still, a campfire seems safe enough, at least for cooking, no one'd be so mean as to shoot a man before his supper, what's the sport in that, better to let a body leisure and sup, knowing there's no time to digest, for it's utter contempt you're after, that and the absolute beauty of wasted sweet butter, it was important that the last bite taste better, though saltless, we've St. Maladroit to clap for that, the silvertongued one, he who proved birds traitors for singing what must be sung, thoughtless, dolce, thoughtless, still, perhaps the next one will use a beer batter, make a nice soda bread, slather it with the whitest spread, that's good shooting, my darling, right between hiccoughs, speaking of which, how's your arm, you complained earlier, though quietly, you didn't want to disturb my concentration, I was squeezing oranges into cans and setting up camp, there's so much to do before a battle, don't you agree, put shoes into trees and try our hair in different styles, I thoughtfully chalked some names and addresses on our backs to facilitate false identification of our remains, unfortunately it makes us better targets...

Reprinted from Dies: A Sentence, published by Les Figues Press. Copyright © 2005 by Vanessa Place. Used with permission of the author.

Reprinted from Dies: A Sentence, published by Les Figues Press. Copyright © 2005 by Vanessa Place. Used with permission of the author.

Vanessa Place

Vanessa Place

Vanessa Place's books of poetry and conceptual writing include Dies: A Sentence (Les Figues, 2006), a 50,000-word, one-sentence novel in verse.

by this poet

poem
We must ask ourselves                         what purpose is
ultimately served by this                                 suspension of
all the accepted                                              unities
if, in the end, we return to                               the unities
that we pretended to question
poem

Argument

(S) Being a good people, if we were wrong, we would change.

(S) We would not change.


Proverbs

Without passion, no reason.

Without mind, no body.

Without body, your soul.

Without point, our

poem
Miss Scarlett, effen we kain git de doctah
w'en Miss Melly's time come, doan you bodder
Ah kin manage. Ah knows all 'bout birthin.
Ain' mah ma a midwife? Ain' she raise me
ter be a midwife, too? Jes' you leave it
ter me. She warn't dar. Well'm, Dey Cookie say
Miss Meade done got wud early dis mawnin'
dat young