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Featured Poet: Stephanie M. Pruitt – The Feminist Wire

Featured Poet: Stephanie M. Pruitt

Ode to the Hyphen ____________

No dash, minus sign or broken line, you fill /
and make continuous until there is no pause /
for breath or thought between otherwise well-spaced words. /
Oh, the way you change man eating shark to man-eating-shark. /
I see you in anti-intellectual working to keep those ‘I’s from merging /
into a diphthong and there in syl-lab-i-fi-ca-tion. /
You compound-modifying, line-wrapping wonder, /
under your influence, adjectival phrases flourish
like bubble-gum-flavored or spine-tinglingly-sensational.
Then you turn mister into m-i-s-t-e-r-(period).
I have never mulled over you between x and ray,
first and class, or out and of and body. Yet now, here you are
in the signature I practice within the margins
of my poems, as if there is this fracture in need of bracing
with surgical grade stainless steel, holding bone to bone
until it fuses.

 

Burning, Looping, Patching

For now, it is ’63, again,
there will be bombs and dogs,
another fire hose let loose
on ideas.

Suits starched, pressed, sweat
marinated, marching for a yes
or okay, you may…,
arm-linked chains stand against veins
throbbing with acidic no’s.

The front line is full
of women ….and men who know battles
at home and abroad, as in across town.

I made it to womanhood

Again, it is before the ‘70s and Kumbaya
and s’mores. Only smoldering
demands fanned by domestic winds. They will
burn and burn brightly.

Those flames barrel through
leaving a trail of absence
all rising out from beneath a kitchen table classroom.

I have no words here,
only finger painted lines. But later, as in now, I will manage
…..to compose
…………..a symphony
of scraps
………………a collage
……of memory, lilacs and bones.

There is something to be made of rubble.

I made it to womanhood

Bible Study class memory verses echo
in hollowed spaces where we thought
Sunday mornings were for renewal,
not sorting
through shattered cinder blocks
for Addie Mae, Carole, Denise and Cynthia.

The men found them,
still stockinged or lace socked
with patent leather purses and hymnals nearby.

Yes, Papa-Uncle-Brother-Sir will pray
and stand
in pulpits holding four pictures,
or sit
in back rooms in closed sessions
for the drawing of plans, debates over philosophies,
the plotting of routes.

Well I was at the breakfast table Monday morning,
back then there, where ladies passed brew-filled cups,
rocked in chairs and wrapped arms around themselves.
Me, steeped in their voices,
……….fuck the Movement, we want
……….our babies back.

vinegar-fed words, never to leave the room.
My throat burned when Auntie-Sister-Ma’am tucked
blouses into skirts and scattered
down the street home.

I made it to womanhood.
……….(untucked)

I am still on the street
where streams of stories
renew smoke between us,
all the us’s,
still fanning embers,
not knowing
the circumference of our flames.

“Burning, Looping, Patching” owes much to Alice Randall’s Rebel Yell.


Photo by Lillian Bertram

Stephanie Pruitt is a Cave Canem Fellow and member of the Affrilachian Poets. She received the 2010 Academy of American Poets Prize and the 2009 Sedberry Prize. Essence Magazine selected her as one of their “40 Favorite Poets” in 2010. Stephanie is the author of I Am: A Poetic Journey Towards Self Definition and a chapbook entitled Life on Lay-a-way in addition to a spoken word CD, Choice Words. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Vanderbilt University and is currently the Poet-in-Residence at the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy. Stephanie is a Lecturer in Vanderbilt University’s English Department in Nashville, TN.

12 Comments

  1. Hortense Spillers

    July 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I think my first commentary must have gotten lost in cyberspace! This is what it said: those four little girls, had they made it to womanhood, could not have a more moving memorial than "Burning, Looping, Patching." I'd also add that the hyphen and dash will not be the same for me now! Many thanks for these!

    HJS

    • Howard M. Romaine

      July 28, 2011 at 1:40 am

      boom boom boom the bombs ring
      out still in stephanie's words
      still they kill with their white
      bombed out blank s.baptist minds

      turning their slavebuilt theologies
      (thanks to Steve Haynes – Presbyterian 2)
      into 21st century no's, no's, no's to Obama's
      hopes to grow America with grace and forgiveness

      let's go back to the 'fundamentalist business'
      let's print Bibles in English the way Jesus spoke
      let's limit love in ways it doesn't talk it swears
      (thanx to Bob Dylan here)
      Did you know on the first of August he's here

      at the Ryman, doing his rhymin
      hope I get to hear him..Howard Romaine

  2. Hortense Spillers

    July 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I think my first commentary must have gotten lost in cyberspace! This is what it said: those four little girls, had they made it to womanhood, could not have a more moving memorial than "Burning, Looping, Patching." I'd also add that the hyphen and dash will not be the same for me now! Many thanks for these!

    HJS

    • Howard M. Romaine

      July 28, 2011 at 1:40 am

      boom boom boom the bombs ring
      out still in stephanie's words
      still they kill with their white
      bombed out blank s.baptist minds

      turning their slavebuilt theologies
      (thanks to Steve Haynes – Presbyterian 2)
      into 21st century no's, no's, no's to Obama's
      hopes to grow America with grace and forgiveness

      let's go back to the 'fundamentalist business'
      let's print Bibles in English the way Jesus spoke
      let's limit love in ways it doesn't talk it swears
      (thanx to Bob Dylan here)
      Did you know on the first of August he's here

      at the Ryman, doing his rhymin
      hope I get to hear him..Howard Romaine

  3. Hortense Spillers

    July 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I think my first commentary must have gotten lost in cyberspace! This is what it said: those four little girls, had they made it to womanhood, could not have a more moving memorial than "Burning, Looping, Patching." I'd also add that the hyphen and dash will not be the same for me now! Many thanks for these!

    HJS

    • Howard M. Romaine

      July 28, 2011 at 1:40 am

      boom boom boom the bombs ring
      out still in stephanie's words
      still they kill with their white
      bombed out blank s.baptist minds

      turning their slavebuilt theologies
      (thanks to Steve Haynes – Presbyterian 2)
      into 21st century no's, no's, no's to Obama's
      hopes to grow America with grace and forgiveness

      let's go back to the 'fundamentalist business'
      let's print Bibles in English the way Jesus spoke
      let's limit love in ways it doesn't talk it swears
      (thanx to Bob Dylan here)
      Did you know on the first of August he's here

      at the Ryman, doing his rhymin
      hope I get to hear him..Howard Romaine

  4. Hortense Spillers

    July 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I think my first commentary must have gotten lost in cyberspace! This is what it said: those four little girls, had they made it to womanhood, could not have a more moving memorial than "Burning, Looping, Patching." I'd also add that the hyphen and dash will not be the same for me now! Many thanks for these!

    HJS

    • Howard M. Romaine

      July 28, 2011 at 1:40 am

      boom boom boom the bombs ring
      out still in stephanie's words
      still they kill with their white
      bombed out blank s.baptist minds

      turning their slavebuilt theologies
      (thanks to Steve Haynes – Presbyterian 2)
      into 21st century no's, no's, no's to Obama's
      hopes to grow America with grace and forgiveness

      let's go back to the 'fundamentalist business'
      let's print Bibles in English the way Jesus spoke
      let's limit love in ways it doesn't talk it swears
      (thanx to Bob Dylan here)
      Did you know on the first of August he's here

      at the Ryman, doing his rhymin
      hope I get to hear him..Howard Romaine

  5. Reber Boult

    August 3, 2011 at 6:19 am

    A handful of hyphens

    I've been anxiously awaiting commentary on the hyphen epidemic. My theory: Some time in the last ten years people who wrote things, anything from a text message to a treatise, took up a strange practice; where it came from or why, I have no idea. Whenever they finish a page they grab a handful of hyphens and throw them at the page. Then they mash a few words together without even benefit of random hyphen. Et voila, finished!

    Actually, I do have some idea where, grammatically, it started. That's with the new practice (I don't know the origin of this, either) of putting a hyphen between the verb and its prepositional phrase or short adverb–(I don't share Ms. Pruitt's aversion to the dash) "sign-up," "check-out," etc.

  6. Reber Boult

    August 3, 2011 at 6:19 am

    A handful of hyphens

    I've been anxiously awaiting commentary on the hyphen epidemic. My theory: Some time in the last ten years people who wrote things, anything from a text message to a treatise, took up a strange practice; where it came from or why, I have no idea. Whenever they finish a page they grab a handful of hyphens and throw them at the page. Then they mash a few words together without even benefit of random hyphen. Et voila, finished!

    Actually, I do have some idea where, grammatically, it started. That's with the new practice (I don't know the origin of this, either) of putting a hyphen between the verb and its prepositional phrase or short adverb–(I don't share Ms. Pruitt's aversion to the dash) "sign-up," "check-out," etc.

  7. Reber Boult

    August 3, 2011 at 6:19 am

    A handful of hyphens

    I've been anxiously awaiting commentary on the hyphen epidemic. My theory: Some time in the last ten years people who wrote things, anything from a text message to a treatise, took up a strange practice; where it came from or why, I have no idea. Whenever they finish a page they grab a handful of hyphens and throw them at the page. Then they mash a few words together without even benefit of random hyphen. Et voila, finished!

    Actually, I do have some idea where, grammatically, it started. That's with the new practice (I don't know the origin of this, either) of putting a hyphen between the verb and its prepositional phrase or short adverb–(I don't share Ms. Pruitt's aversion to the dash) "sign-up," "check-out," etc.

  8. Reber Boult

    August 3, 2011 at 6:19 am

    A handful of hyphens

    I've been anxiously awaiting commentary on the hyphen epidemic. My theory: Some time in the last ten years people who wrote things, anything from a text message to a treatise, took up a strange practice; where it came from or why, I have no idea. Whenever they finish a page they grab a handful of hyphens and throw them at the page. Then they mash a few words together without even benefit of random hyphen. Et voila, finished!

    Actually, I do have some idea where, grammatically, it started. That's with the new practice (I don't know the origin of this, either) of putting a hyphen between the verb and its prepositional phrase or short adverb–(I don't share Ms. Pruitt's aversion to the dash) "sign-up," "check-out," etc.