Poet Joanie Mackowski: “red pebbles dropped in the brain’s grey pool”

Joanie Mackowski, the author of View From a Temporary Window and The Zoo, was the second visiting writer in this spring’s Writers’ Series.  She came wearing a bird’s nest of consciousness “woven of twigs and tinsel,” and after hearing her, I found a few of those bright strands stuck in my own mind.

Mackowski, above all, celebrates the beauty of language, promoting the idea that poetry is written to be enjoyed, not analyzed.  Her nonsense poems such as “Little Song” are wild as Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” but balanced with a careful structure of meter and slant rhyme.

It is clear that Mackowski loves the cadence, textures, and blending of words.  She often uses scientific terminology, revealing a grace in it that is missing from research papers.  Branching out even farther, many of her newest poems are written from the point of view of a protozoan colony writing its first life instruction manual.  It’s amazing that textbooks can make science dry.

“Self-Portrait, Double Exposure” is an excellent example of her passion for scientific language.  It begins:


ing skull heavy with brains

of pale prunes,

the eyeballs’ continual dual eclipses,

cochlear snails coiled below

the skin, ellipses


of moles

trailing off mid-sentence


Hearing her “definition poems” is like watching her turn an object over and over in her hands, experiencing it in ways I would never have thought of.  “Consciousness” was my favorite, with lines like:

“red pebbles dropped / in the brain’s grey pool”

or: “Our compacted galaxy, its constellations / trembling like flies caught in a spider web”

You can read the entire poem here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/243358


Overall, Mackowski comes to poetry with a joyful freshness.  Although she did not share “Unusual Cloud Formations” during her reading, its opening lines exemplify this:

Fish bones and bowlers hang over the mountains,

and people below think, “The world’s too mundane.”

They dream lavish things. “But nothing’s so lovely

as your hand,” thinks the dog who’s troubled by fleas.


For more of Joanie Mackowski, you can find her poems at many wonderful online poetry sites or Brewer Bookstore.

-Ally T.


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