Hollis Robbins

"The view of a beautiful bird will illustrate"

Contemplating beauty Burke proposed
That pleasurable bodies are not composed
Of angular parts. Behold, he said, the dove,
Whose acquiescent breast so gently swells,
The velvet beating reminiscent of
A subtle rhapsody of muffled bells.
Peaceful the idea of beauty melts
Into the air, not seen or heard but felt.
But brooding nature in her bosom knows
Woe to those unschooled in combat arts.
The pleasant Columba of which he speaks,
All quivering and shoulderblades and beaks
Who claws her bars with slaughter in her heart,
Is not as docile as he might suppose.


Perhaps the old brigand had it right
Resisting individuality
Of height. Speaking now poetically,
Consider length. Fit is often tight,
Requiring amputation ne'er polite,
Unless one smiths imaginatively,
Swaging feet to tenuous degree
Till sense succumbs to structure's greater might.
Every poem bears scars of this dispute.
All poets keep a rack and handsaw near.
Not only must each line be cut to suit
But rhyme conform as well to eye or ear.
Each claim that verse comes from the poet's heart
Denies the role of iron cots in art.


Sometimes I imagine that I'm Freud's
Grandson throwing toys across the floor,
Uttering that philosophic roar,
That o-o-o of oneness with the void,
Passing hours pleasurably employed,
Searching every crack and every drawer,
Attentive, tense, but reasonably sure
That they'll be found and I'll be overjoyed.
He would sometimes play it with a string
Tied around a little wooden reel
He'd toss away and then would reel back in.
Isn't it an extraordinary thing?
A little boy can teach himself to feel,
Yet I can't help but feel myself lacking?


Sometimes I imagine I'm a toy--
The reel thrown out of bed by the boy--
A string attached to keep me close at hand.
It wouldn't do to have me veer away.
The child's brilliant cultural achievement
Was, according to the theory, his command
In mastering the art of delay
By circumscribing where the object went.
But while Freud was seeking thanatos
Hugo Ball was writing Karawane.
A movement was already underway
To cast off meaning in a single toss.
I mastered long ago the art of loss:
No strings attached, my deference slips away.


Hollis Robbins teaches literature, poetry, and aesthetics at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. Her poetry has appeared recently in Per Contra, Boston Literary Magazine, Mastodon Dentist, and Bridges, a Jewish Feminist Journal. Her most recent scholarly article is a study of census politics in William Wordsworth's "We are Seven" (1798), published in English Language Notes 48.2. She is the editor of the Penguin Classics edition of the poet Frances E.W. Harper's 1892 novel Iola Leroy (2010). She is at work on long project entitled Sonnets of Imprisonment.


Taylor Altman
Sarah Busse
Nicole Caruso Garcia
Brittany Hill
Lisa Huffaker
Jean Kreiling
Barbara Loots
Charlotte Mandel
Annabelle Moseley
Angela Alaimo O'Donnell
Ann Walker Phillips
Carolyn Raphael
Jennifer Reeser
Hollis Robbins
Catherine Tufariello
Doris Watts
Joyce Wilson
Marly Youmans

Fifth-Anniversary MC Reading
West Chester University Poetry Conference
Friday, June 10
8:15 AM
Alice Mizrachi: Growing up in New York, I have been immersed in a culture that is constantly growing. Throughout my work you can feel the influence the city has had on me, the never-ending desire to grow and flow. One common thread in my work is the texture--rhythm and layers. I love to incorporate tactile surfaces that compel the audience to approach and feel it. Timeless and universal, my images evoke a raw feminine energy that leaves you feeling nurtured. My art is a vehicle to express to the world my journey as a NYC female artist in the past, present and future. I am logging my time here. After completing a residency in Paris during 2010, I am focusing on residencies in other cities with the intention of spreading my art globally.
32 Poems
The Academy of American Poets
The Atlantic
The Christian Science Monitor
The Cortland Review
Favorite Poem Project
The Frost Place
The Iowa Review
Light Quarterly
Modern American Poetry
The Poem Tree
Poetry Daily
Poetry Society of America
Poets House
Raintown Review
String Poet
Valparaiso Poetry Review
Verse Daily
Women's Poetry Listserv
The Yale Review

Bread Loaf
Poetry by the Sea


Barefoot Muse Press
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