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Maureen Seaton

Maureen Seaton was born in 1947 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and received an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College. Her debut book of poetry, The Sea Among the Cupboards (New Rivers, 1992), was awarded the Capricorn Poetry Prize and the Society of Midland Authors Award.

She is the author of five additional poetry collections, including Cave of the Yellow Volkswagen (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2009); Little Ice Age (Invisible Cities Press, 2001), which was nominated for a National Book Award; and Furious Cooking (University of Iowa Press, 1996), winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize and the Lambda Literary Award.

On writing and teaching, Seaton says, “I love poems born of chaos and into hybridism. I love popular culture, subversive styles, feminizing and queering traditional form; but I’m equally at home in the middle of a lesson on the terza rima or ancient Japanese court poetry.”

Seaton is also the author of Sex Talks to Girls (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008), winner of the Lambda Literary Award for lesbian memoir. Among her numerous honors and awards are the Iowa Poetry Prize, the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council. She currently teaches at the University of Miami and lives in Florida.


Bibliography

Poetry
Cave of the Yellow Volkswagen (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2009)
Venus Examines Her Breast (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2004
Little Ice Age (Invisible Cities Press, 2001
Furious Cooking (University of Iowa Press, 1996)
Fear of Subways (Eighth Mountain, 1991)
The Sea Among the Cupboards (New Rivers, 1992)

Prose
Sex Talks to Girls (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008)

By This Poet

2

Etta's Elegy

for Etta Silver (1913–2013)		
	

This is where the poem holds its breath,
where the usable truth sways, sorrowing,

and the people sway with the truth of it,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where the book closes and the clock 
opens and the clock closes and the book 

opens to song so the snow geese murmur 
and the coyote swaggers along the aspens.

This is where the geese fly unabashedly out, 
and the sky turns white and wild with sound.

This is where tumult, this is where prophecy.
This is where the poem repents of language.

This is where the poem enters silence,
where the child holds the book in her lap  

whose pages are aflame with life, whose 
song sways with a usable truth, sorrowing.

And this is where the poem holds its breath, 
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where it leaps wild about the child,
where the snow geese seize the seamless sky

and the universe splits open for one poem—
the way a life lived calls on us to praise it.

Fiddleheads

The first time I saw hundreds of fiddlehead ferns boiling in an enormous pot I realized
what an odd person I must be to hear tiny cries from the mouths of cooking vegetables.

Similarly, when you hurt me, I curled like a mouse behind my third eye. I realize what an
odd thing it is to believe as I do in my third eye and the mouse behind it that furls like a fern

and whimpers like a fern being boiled on a monster stove beside its brothers and sisters.
Poor mouse. The things that make a person odd are odd themselves. Think of DNA,

the way it resembles the rope Jack climbed to secure his future and that of his aging Mom.
Or the way a sudden wave can drag a child under, that addiction to adrenalin, her

siblings farther away and more powerless than she ever imagined, the pure and ecstatic
irreversibility of undertow. It’s odd to come back to life, as they say, she came bacto life.

I think I’ll come back to life now. It’s odd to think of something so big we could miss
the elephant we’re living on, like this planet Earth, is she alive and we’re her brain cells,

each one of us flickering, going out, coming back to life? Even Chicago looks poignant
from the top of the Hancock, organized and sincere. Think if we were photographing

Earth, how dear she would be, how we’d watch her shimmer in the shimmering black soup
of the firmament, how alone she’d look and how we’d long to protect her, the way it feels

to protect a woman at the height of orgasm, the liquid giving, the seawater slide of coming
back to life. When you hurt me, I evolved like a backboned sea creature, translucent

nervous system sparking along in the meanest deep where I was small enough to not care
and my passions ran to swimming, gulping, spitting bubbles back into new oceans.

Once when you hurt me I slept at a Red Roof Inn. I double-locked the door and tried to
watch talk shows to keep my mind off sounds like someone suffocating someone

in the next room. I thought I saw blood on the box spring and imagined needles and bulgy
veins, there’s something odd, I thought, about someone whose imagination runs this wild.

So often I dream you’re here and I wake in the middle of a prayer from my muzzled
childhood. Jesus Mary and Joseph, I say, appalled that I’m stuck in 1955 when I need

something profane to see me through. Serrano’s submerged cross. Ginger tea.
The idea that we’re moving between horizons and the Earth is so wise she sends us

Winter and red-tailed hawks when we least expect them. I can do this, I say,
and the planet shifts imperceptibly. From a great distance she appears to be at peace.