Poet John Murillo at Woodstock Writers Festival

(At this year’s Woodstock Writers Festival Gretchen Primack will teach a workshop on Friday, April 20th and lead a panel discussion on Saturday, April 21st. Tickets are selling fast, so don’t hesitate. Here’s an introduction to John Murillo, who will appear on the panel.)

On John Murillo, By Gretchen Primack

There’s something unassuming about John Murillo’s beautiful poems. When it comes to political material, he’s more on the Joan Larkin side of things than the Alix Olson side. There’s a positioning that seems personal, but the more you read and think about the poems the more you see how far the poet’s looking outside of himself. “Sherman Ave. Love Poem” is a great example of that. What could appear more personal than a love poem? But John’s crafty. We’re a little thrown by the mention of a street sweeper to open a love poem, and then we’re a lot thrown by what happens next. But by the end, John has made us see that the sound of a broom on concrete and the sound of a page turning in a prison cell and the sound of a woman climbing over the railing of a slave ship are painfully, strikingly connected. And love? Well, see what you think….

Sherman Ave. Love Poem

A street sweeper rounds
          the corner, headlights
stretching a mans silhouette
          across the cool brick
of a brownstone. A window
          rattles, creaks, lifts open
from his rib, and a woman
          steps through, pushes

off the ledge. Doesn’t flail,
          doesn’t scream, or scratch
at passing brick. Mid-flight,
          she lies flat, spreads her
swollen shadow onto
          a fire hydrant. She is sure

as gravity. The man
          crossing the street, all rib
and open eye, clutches
          his Koran. Read in prison
how pregnant women
          would dive from slave ships.
Thought then, and believes
          Now more than ever: this is
the one true act.

Reprinted from Up Jump the Boogie, Cypher Press, 2010

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The Hudson Valley Poetry Blog is produced by Will Nixon, author of My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse and Love in the City of Grudges.

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