Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Befallen by K. Alma Peterson

Befallen is a collection of poems that spin off from their creator, K. Alma Peterson, and evolve into new creatures, some exciting, some unnerving. A graduate from the MFA Program for writers at Warren Wilson College, K. Alma Peterson’s poems have appeared in journals such as Hayden’s Ferry Review, Skidrow Penthouse, and Wicked Alice, to name a few. Her poem “Between Us” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 1999. Below is a small sample from her collection, Befallen, published by Alternating Current:

Lost Poem

An insect insinuates the pleural wall rests a fraction
in the laurelled chamber of goldenrod stalk

a swelling in the stem how did you in your final silence
part the June and Needle grasses find the strap and lever
up the rubric door one hinge broken

your zippered leather pouch a sac of sorts
contains a crow call and a grainy field photo

duly referencing the gall an only chance to fumble
then fly forth

Turning a lost poem into a meandering insect is an interesting idea and evolves as the insect is personified in carrying odds and ends in a sac. The line breaks are interesting, as though the regular lines were separated with space rather than punctuation, that’s how I came to read it.

Acher With Grub and Earworm

Ingrained and firm the summer platitudes begin to rattle in
October’s broadleaved sheaves bring tasseled girls in early
from straight furrows their platinum silks dyed a bristled
horsetail brown they shiver pleasant rumors through maize
and up sleeves of crowpecked men wadded up in cornices
thumping tables for the milkweed to come mingle full sun my
eye introduce me to a purple thistle too pretty to do prickle
yet look away past ruts of crib and silo to lady slippers of hip
bible belts where late rains saunter in winter sobers enough
to muck and clot as they pick so shall they sell us roadside to
passerby in plaids who peel back our paper collars examine
for conformity our kernels gleaned by rote curled and rotting

I really enjoyed this poem/prose piece. It seems a little of both to me and I love the imagery, I immediately think of corn fields in Indiana. I see farmer’s daughters and wives picking the corn while gossiping “they shiver pleasant rumors through maize” and then the “crowpicked men” waiting for supper by thumping the tables. Finally, you realize that the poem has evolved so that “we” become the corn: “so shall they sell us roadside to/passerby n plaids who peel back our paper collars.” It’s an endlessly fascinating transition that happens so fast you hardly notice it until you think about what you’ve just read. Very clever indeed!

The Squid Reconsiders Its Approach

Inking up the ocean I advance dagger-eyed on a jet of
head-footed and a pulse forgetful I entertain a
fondness for the snail
squeezed and bearing up its whorled frame only a truss
embedded deep and out of mind remains of mine

I speak for all mollusks less advanced the grim calm
pried hard
would ask the knobbed whelk why the false mouth

your muscled foot will overbear you have a crude
tool to grate
on my resolve goad my flesh for weakness my
revealed doubly tender once my ropy ligaments relax

Maybe it’s the loose clasp of an inconspicuous hinge or
the symmetry
of simple bivalves that compels a predator to have at
as do the lightning and the frilly dogwhelk jag and

I like this poem quite a bit, too. A squid personified who then in turn personifies the mollusks. Here is another poem that evolves in a way that seems independent of the poet.

If you enjoyed this short sample of poems by K. Alma Peterson, you may purchase a copy of Befallen for $7 (plus $2 US Shipping or $3 out-of-US shipping) via check, cash, or money order by mail at:
Alternating Current
PO Box 398058
Cambridge, MA 02139

Or you may purchase a copy on-line at:

Thanks always for reading, please drop in tomorrow for more Poems Found by Poet Hound…

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