Reader Poem — Olga Garcia Echeverria

Olga Garcia Echeverria wrote this poem in response to the prompt “Burn Down the World.”

Burn Down the World

take it apart
piece by piece
like a jigsaw
like an erector set

Dump all the world’s trash
into the gutters
and then into the swollen gut
of the ocean–fuck it!

Watch the carcasses of fish float sideways
dull tattered scales
empty eye sockets
tiny fish mouths quivering
ceaselessly in the sea drift
(as if they were trying to say something)

Burn down the world you all
and then walk on the bones
of the salted and the charred
take a selfie with the powdery gray ashes
Post on Facebook
marvel at our survival and this conquest
that extends beyond the moon
and into the stars

Burn it all down like there’s no tomorrow
and then go to a march
any march
and march on towards Whatever

Laugh at the tag on the wall that says,
“If trees had guns, we’d all be dead”
and answer,
“But they don’t.
They don’t.
They don’t.”


August dis•articulations poem—Terry Wolverton

At the beginning of the month, Terry gave collaborating poet Sesshu Foster four writing prompts. Sesshu engaged in fevered writing with each of them and gave the results back to Terry, who then used the words from that fevered writing to create this dis•articulations poem.


A letter carrier in Koreatown
dreams of women, bodies dark as tobacco
dreams of resistance, of granite and flood.

The hour is apocalyptic.
Money and fire are killing us.

Union Station decaying, no train of thoughts
will leave this afternoon, no great distance will
be covered, now the terminal is burning.

We sought a damp, vacuous sleep.
We awakened to slavery.

In Mexico City, NY, LA— we’re
rolling through markets of the colonizers
surrounded by dead, Eurocentric thinkers.

Where do we exit this head space?
Where is the clock forgotten?

Across this continent females and males no
longer couple, busy themselves annexing
the lonely minutes, but there’s no where to park.

We no longer see the other
across canyons of sentiment.

Spanish broom rises over the mountains, but
we can’t drive there anymore, no vehicle,
no gas. No place not covered in black asphalt.

What is your vision worth to you,
already dispelling in clouds?

It’s the cumulus that leaves me furious.
Is this a prelude to light, or are we like
the thin dogs that wander the pitted highway?

We flit within parameters;
got a ticket but can’t take flight.

The letter carrier will not open this
hand-made letter to herself, delivered in
blue notes from her faded memory, her dreams.

August dis•articulations poem — Sesshu Foster

At the beginning of the month, Sesshu gave Terry four writing prompts. Terry engaged in fevered writing with each of them and gave the results back to Sesshu, who then used the words from that fevered writing to create this dis•articulations poem.

For Terry Wolverton

burn down the world, because the beer in front of you sweats in its glass
because of a hot pastrami sandwich, pastrami with mustard
because of the glasses, the cars, everyone rushing somewhere
because of a TV and the announcer’s voice
because of the cat locked in the bedroom, because of anything, because of the trees
because of so many in cars rushing in fading twilight, enamored of darkness
burn down the world,
burn down the world

outside the world, everyone is okay, doing things they imagine
outside of the world, you dragged your intellect to mass graves and prison
outside of the world, anything is prayer, nobody practices at childhood
outside the world, those who entered the glinting pain and came out
outside the trees, those who entered the green, you and nobody else
outside the world, those who entered the trees and disappeared
outside the world, you and nobody else
in front of you, you and nobody else

I cover the floor in salt,
there you will find yourself
next to anyone, next to many men who die themselves
I cover the floor in fading twilight,
there you will find yourself
like a crack in your hand, because you are convinced,
because you are certain, next to poets and many who answer the press of time
I cover the floor in similes,
like similes of wire and reason, there you will find yourself
next to the TV of childhood and the announcer’s voice
let these reasons remind you of a handful of names,
a handful of days

Reader Poem — Henry Medina

Henry Medina writes:
I was inspired by the CA Conrad (Soma)tic Poetry prompt, “Confetti Allegiance,” where one poet celebrates another. Specifically I enjoyed CAConrad’s poem “Love Letter to Jim Brodey.” In response, I wrote a poem to CAConrad.

Invitation to CA Conrad

Let’s say the obvious
so our lives
resemble art

In the crucible of our being
let’s create
and stories

Let’s create nothing
the things emerge
damp from our souls

Let’s tell our hearts
to unlearn fear
to recount yesterday

Let’s be
little rivers of water
the defects of our lives

Let’s change something
so its wave of effects
will lift us

Let’s wash
away with the present

find the ending first
before the beginning

August Fevered Writing — Terry Wolverton

Terry Wolverton produced this fevered writing  based on four prompts given her by this month’s collaborating poet, Sesshu Foster. Sesshu will be writing a new poem incorporating his choice of these words.

Deceased poet
When the dead poets come to dinner I cover the floor in peanut shells. I lock the cat in the bedroom because someone is certain to be allergic. I serve similes as hors d’oeuvres and the glasses of absinthe glint green in the fading twilight. I can’t seat a formalist next to a symbolist, or the LANGUAGE poets next to anyone. Everyone appreciates the strict meter of the main dish, but I find Whitman poking around in my kitchen cabinets, looking for the table salt.

What cannot be written are the names of all the dead, the ones disappeared, buried in mass graves, those who entered the prison and never came out, who swung from trees, were dragged behind cars, raped and raped by so many men until nothing was left. And the ones who mourn them, search for them, who travel to the capitol demanding answers, the ones who offer prayers, the ones who die themselves, never knowing. These names would set the page aflame, and burn down the world.

You are a medical scientist. You have devoted your life to a search for answers. You believe there are answers. You have placed your faith in reason, in the intellect, in progress. You are convinced that once answers are found, life will improve. Some days you find yourself just enamored with the idea of being the one to find the answers, you and nobody else. Some days you practice your acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in the bathroom mirror before heading out to the lab. You believe anything is okay in pursuit of answers.

Wire hangars on a bar in the closet. They’re like a group of men jostling elbows at a bar. The baseball game is on TV and the announcer’s voice reminds you of childhood. The beer in front of you is sweating in its glass and the darkness heals the pain of the outside world—everyone rushing somewhere, doing things they imagine are important but which really mean nothing in the press of time. You order a hot pastrami sandwich, douse it in mustard, grab a handful of peanuts in the shell and let them crack in your giant hand.

Readers who are contemplating writing your own poems may work with just the prompts or choose to use one or more passages of fevered writing to inspire your poems. Best Reader poem we receive in August will win a $25 prize.

August Fevered Writing — Sesshu Foster

This month’s collaborating poet, Sesshu Foster, produced this fevered writing  based on four prompts given by Terry Wolverton. Terry will be writing a new poem incorporating her choice of these words.

Hell’s Zip Code

Guadalupe to Union Station 7 pm great
white cumulus roiling cumulus upon cumulus
my little money tree
the student gave me, thanks! the idea that hell
hath a furious zip code: Kafkaesque letter carriers
scurrying to deliver dead letters
to some long dead forgotten LOS ANGELES
(Terminal Annex, of course) (of course)
open 24 hours like the gas station where the
woman set herself on fire, “I can’t take this shit anymore”
image that light—seen from a great distance—a burning
human (Ana Mendieta) like L.A. on fire 1992,
prelude to Katrina

Dreams Worth More Than Money

San Gabriels sleeping, yucca, creosote, Spanish broom, tobacco
sleeping, decayed granite asleep and clouds of dreams in the arroyos,
over the canyons, pitted, rugged, desiccated ravines of
consciousness that resists (therefore coupled to) Eurocentric
“thinkers” (Beaudrillard, Benjamin, Semiotexte, whatever)
resistance within parameters of colonization, the
resistance of colonizers against mestizaje, dark bodies,
the dreams of the Other, the Othering of dreams,
“to suggestion the European variant is lonely thinking
of sole thoughts

Slavery to Vegetables

Upstate NY’s blue mountains, they served us very (very)
nice home-made breads, scrumptious soups with barley in it,
like I said to somebody, “white people’s food,” but good!
Butter on fresh-baked breads, where do you get that?
I got a ticket driving south from the place on the wooded
highway— speeding, pulled over by female HP, “expired
registration,” it wasn’t my car! (I was to leave the vehicle
parked in the parking lot of the train station or airport,
whatever it was— its like a dream, faded ticket of a dream.)
Damp asphalt covered in leaves. Night flight across the

I’m No Longer Afraid

Mostly, they won’t try to kill you, mostly, the dead dog will not
lift its head to speak, you will not long wander through vacuous
spaces of warehouse-like Mexico City market places seeking the
exit and your people, Koreatown on a busy afternoon, the Metro
line station at Western, Jose Lozano people surrounding you,
“in a flood of humanity,” (black and white orchestral tones rising,
Charlie Chaplin’s clock flits by like a barracuda in the strait) any
minute now I gotta go, I’ll awaken, dispel the thin visions of poofy
memory, attendant sentiment and electric fan— Kerouac’s notion,
“we’re already dead,” the male apocalyptic self-indulgence of
themselves as apotheosis, not the woman attending to business,
doing the chores. No longer afraid.

Readers who are contemplating writing your own poems may work with just the prompts or choose to use one or more passages of fevered writing to inspire your poems. Best Reader poem we receive in August will win a $25 prize.

Further Reflections on the Process — Olga Garcia Echeverria


Olga Garcia Echeverria was our collaborating poet for July. She was so gracious to give this project a shout out in this article on La Bloga:

She offered these further reflections:

When I got to the “disarticulation” part of the process I was puzzled by how exactly to reconstruct. I tried just drawing words from your fevered writings onto a note pad, but that wasn’t working. I fantasized about breaking up the words in categories (by parts of speech) like I had seen in an example you sent me, but that didn’t happen. Finally, I enlarged the font of your fevered writings, double spaced, printed out, and then started to cut and cut. I ended up with strips. I was reminiscent of ESL sentence strips or magnet poetry. Then it was so much fun! It was like the puzzle on my kitchen table that I kept playing with.

Reader Poems — Henry Medina

Reader Henry Medina responded to a number of prompts with fevered writing. I’d like to challenge him to disarticulate these and write a poem!

Response to prompt:  Hell’s Zip Code (

The car hits me with an atrocious blow. In a thousand directions my scream flies. This instant, this pain is called hell. Ay Dios, I pray, Santificado, why is there more pain in the world than desire? For an instant I see the zip code on the blue plaque that reads the name of the street. Ay Dios, why is hell so close?

Response to prompt: Dreams Worth More than Money (album title, Meek Mill)

My head fell with the weight of the dollars that grew like hair. I was a green horse, tussling my mane of money. They offered me to run in the Kentucky Derby, but I said why if I already have more money than desire. I prance with airs, my tail of money sweeping the streets of the poor.

Response to prompt: Dreams Worth More than Money (album title, Meek Mill)

In the year 2002 I decided to desiccate myself like a mummy. My heart I donated to illusion, and the centimeters of my soul to profit. Without faith, without eyelids, I examine the world. The living dead, we recognize we each other. The scent of rotting dreams more alluring than money.

Response to prompt: Slavery to Vegetables (

In this garden celery rules with a whip of leather. Yes, it killed the cow to arm its tools of torture. The white owl that traversed the sky, it pierced it with the javelin of the TV antenna. The animals in terror hide themselves in their cages. Only I, naked and accustomed to slavery, serve under the shadow of the curly hair of the celery.

Response to prompt: “I’m No Longer Afraid” ( cut)

I’m no longer afraid, I told the saw that cut me in half. I no longer fear your jaw, I said touching the teeth of the mermaid who had torn me to shreds. On the beach there were many dead mermaids rustling like potato sacks in the breakers. To my questioning look, the fanged mermaid said, “We are cannibals.” The dead king could not offer me advice. His head went sliding in one direction, and the wind offered me passage in another direction.

Best Reader Poem we receive in August will be awarded a $25 prize. Poem can be in response to the August prompts, the fevered writing or the poems posted. We must receive it by midnight on August 31.

August Poetry Prompts

Prompts are drawn from the media—print, broadcast or social.

Terry Wolverton offered these prompts to collaborating poet Sesshu Foster:

Hell’s Zip Code (

Dreams Worth More than Money (album title, Meek Mill)

Slavery to Vegetables (

“I’m No Longer Afraid” ( cut)

Collaborating poet Sesshu Foster offered these prompts to Terry Wolverton:

CA Conrad (Soma)tic Poetry prompt: Pick any (soma)tic poetry prompt by CA, this was one I could find at

Confetti Allegiance
Is there a deceased poet who was alive in your lifetime but you never met, and you wish you had met? A poet you would LOVE to correspond with, but it’s too late? Take notes about this missed opportunity. What is your favorite poem by this poet? Write it on unlined paper by hand (no typing). If we were gods we wouldn’t need to invent beautiful poems, and that’s why our lives are more interesting, and that’s why the gods are always meddling in our affairs out of boredom. It’s like the fascination the rich have with the poor, as Alice Notley says, “the poor are more interesting than others, almost uniformly.” This poem was written by a human poet, and we humans love our poets, if we have any sense. Does something strike flint in you from the process of engaging your body to write this poem you know and love? Notes, notes, take notes.
The poet for me in doing this exercise is Jim Brodey and his poem “Little Light,” which he wrote in the bathtub while listening to the music of Eric Dolphy, masturbating in the middle of the poem, “while the soot-tinted noise of too-full streets echoes / and I pick up the quietly diminishing soap & do / myself again.” Take your handwritten version of the poem and cut it into tiny confetti. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and toss the confetti poem in. Add garlic, onion, parsnip, whatever you want, pepper it, salt it, serve it over noodles or rice. Eat the delicious poem with a nice glass of red wine, pausing to read it out loud and toast the poet, “MANY APOLOGIES FOR NOT TOASTING YOU WHEN YOU WERE ALIVE!” Take notes while slowly chewing the poem. Chew slowly so your saliva breaks the poem down before it slides into your belly to feed your blood and cells of your body. Gather your notes, write your poem.
Love Letter to Jim Brodey

  •                                                                         Dear Jim


    those whose

    acid trips were a success

    only twice

    I’ve met men who

    are high exactly

    as they are sober

    both became my lovers

    both died one like

    you died Jim he

    played music too

    loud at parties to

    gather us into a

    single frequency feel

    healed for the length

    of a song

    nothing works forever

    there was something in

    the air that year Jim

    and you put it there

    a rapt center in

    pivot looking

    to face

    love again

    learning to

    accept what’s offered

    without guilt

    to be reminded

    of nothing

    my favorite day not dragging

    the dead around

    they’re looking

    for Lorca in the Valley

    of the Fallen

    Franco’s thugs would understand

    “developing countries” means

    getting them ready for

    mining diamonds drilling oil

    teaching them to make a

    decent cup of coffee for

    visiting executives

    if I’m not going

    to live like this

    anymore I must will

    every cell to

    stand away

    the History of Madness

    725 pages is too much to

    not be normal

    scorn is very


    I’m vegetarian unless

    angels are on the

    menu mouth watering

    deep fried wings

    shove greasy bones in

    their trumpets

    the cost of

    scorn is

    often unexpected

    I see my fascist

    neighbor from downstairs

    “Did my boyfriend and

    I make too much

    noise last night?”

    his glare the

    YES that keeps

    me smiling

    1. a prompt from Bernadette Mayer’s famous list:

    * Write what cannot be written; for example, compose an index.

    1. a scientific one:

    Funding Medical Research

    • Role: medical scientist
    • Audience: prospective donors
    • Format: fundraising letter
    • Topic: contribute money for research
    • Strong Verb: persuade

    You are a medical scientist who is working to discover cures for different diseases. Your research requires special equipment and materials that are quite expensive. Write a fundraising letter to possible donors, persuading them to contribute money to your work.


    Greatest Scientist of All Time

    • Role: you
    • Audience: scientist from a past era
    • Format: written interview
    • Topic: the greatest contribution to science
    • Strong Verb: write and document

    You have the opportunity to travel in a time machine into any past era of history. Choose a date and place to meet the person who, in your opinion, has made the greatest contibution to science. Write out the interview questions you will ask this scientist and document his or her answers. You will publish your interiew when you return to the present.

    1. any prompt from jerome rothenberg’s Technician’s of the Sacred:

    (here’s one)

    Looking for a way to spark your writing with imagery? Here’s a great suggestion from Sheila Bender. Though the exercise is taken from her book Writing Personal Poetry, any writer can put it to use. Bender writes:

    Recently I was standing on a hillside I had looked at years ago from a window at a writers conference. At that conference, I learned a useful exercise from my teacher Robert Hass, who went on to become the United States poet laureate. At the time, he was studying various culture’s poetry using a book called Technicians of the Sacred. In Africa, he taught us, a tribe called the Bantu has an oral poetic tradition they exercise while working. One person says a line and, in the rhythm of the work, another answers with an assocaition that shows the likeness between two objects or perceptions. “An elephant’s tusk cracking” could get the response, “The voice of an angry man.” That day, I looked at the hillside, saw wind in the grass and wrote, “Wind through the grass,” and answered with the line, “I have the feeling you have written.” Here are two-line bantus that students of mine have written in response to this exercise:

    Wire hangers on a bar in the closet

    Wild geese walking by a lake

    Children in a circle on the floor

    The beaded necklace

    Lizard rustles the jasmine leaves

    Father turning pages of “The Sunday NY Times”

    The full moon at midnight

    China dinner plate in a dark kitchen

    Write your own bantus, as many as you can. Try to evoke experiences of sound, taste and smell as well as touch and sight. This exercise is very much like metaphor and simile, but you are free of the need to make images grammatically correct and the results can be haunting.

    We invite readers to write poems in response to one or more prompts (or the fevered writing that results from these prompts) and submit  in the Comments section. The best Reader Poem we receive by August 31 will be awarded a $25 prize.