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Erin Belieu

1967–

Erin Belieu was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on September 25, 1967, and received a BFA from the University of Nebraska, an MFA from Ohio State University, and an MA from Boston University.

Belieu is the author of four poetry collections: Slant Six (Copper Canyon Press, 2014); Black Box (Copper Canyon Press, 2006); One Above and One Below (Copper Canyon Press, 2000), winner of the Ohioana Book Award and the Society of Midland Authors Award; and Infanta (Copper Canyon Press, 1995), which was selected by Hayden Carruth for the National Poetry Series.

According to the New York Times review of Slant Six, “Her gifts—for clarity, consolidation, humor and moments of hard-earned feeling—are old-fashioned ones. She’s a comedian of the human spirit, in league with poets from Frank O’Hara through Deborah Garrison and Tony Hoagland.” Using a conversational voice that’s unabashedly critical, ironic, and frank, Belieu’s poems address the contradictions, absurdities, and social injustices of modern American life—as well as her takes on feminist issues, history, sexuality, and love—with witty quips and biting satire.

A recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Award, Belieu has taught at Boston University, Kenyon College, Ohio University, and Washington University, and is the former managing editor of AGNI. She is the cofounder and codirector, with poet Cate Marvin, of VIDA: Women In Literary Arts, an organization whose mission is to “increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing as well as further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture.” Belieu currently teaches at Florida State University. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida.


Bibliography

Slant Six (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)
Black Box (Copper Canyon Press, 2006)
One Above and One Below (Copper Canyon Press, 2000)
Infanta (Copper Canyon Press, 1995)

Erin Belieu
Photo credit: Gesi Schlling

By This Poet

5

Against Writing about Children

When I think of the many people
who privately despise children,
I can't say I'm completely shocked,

having been one. I was not
exceptional, uncomfortable as that is
to admit, and most children are not

exceptional. The particulars of 
cruelty, sizes Large and X-Large, 
memory gnawing it like

a fat dog, are ordinary: Mean Miss
Smigelsky from the sixth grade;
the orthodontist who 

slapped you for crying out. Children
frighten us, other people's and 
our own. They reflect

the virused figures in which failure
began. We feel accosted by their
vulnerable natures. Each child turns

into a problematic ocean, a mirrored
body growing denser and more
difficult to navigate until

sunlight merely bounces
off the surface. They become impossible
to sound. Like us, but even weaker.

Field

Field is pause   field is plot   field is red chigger bump where

the larvae feed   corn wig curled in your ear. Field cares not

a fig for your resistance   though kindly   gently   lay your

head down   girl   lay it down.
   When ready   storm   when

summer   kilned smoothly as a cake. Awake! Awake and

wide is field. And viral. Biotic. Field of patience   of percolation

and policy. Your human energy. Come again? What for? In

field   there is no time at all   no use   a relief   the effort done

which is   thank you   finally   the very lack of you.   Lay your

head down   girl   lay it down.
   In field   which has waited since

you first ascended to the raw end of your squared off world and

gazed upon your subjects:   congery of rat snake   corn snake

of all the low ribbons bandaging the stalks. Progress in field

foot sliding in matter   slick chaff in fall.   And always   field’s oboe

this sawing   a wind   that is drawing its nocturne through the 23rd

mansion of the moon. Field   is Requiel’s music and the Wild Hunt

of offer. In field   they are waiting   you are sounding. Go home.
 

Another Poem for Mothers

Mother, I'm trying
to write
a poem to you—


which is how most
poems to mothers must
begin—or, What I've wanted
to say, Mother.
..but we
as children of mothers,
even when mothers ourselves,

cannot bear our poems
to them. Poems to
mothers make us feel

little again. How to describe
that world that mothers spin
and consume and trap

and love us in, that spreads
for years and men and miles?
Those particular hands that could

smooth anything: butter on bread,
cool sheets or weather. It's
the wonder of them, good or bad,

those mother-hands that pet
and shape and slap,
that sew you together
the pieces of a better house
or life in which you'll try
to live. Mother,

I've done no better
than the others, but for now,
here is your clever failure.

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