Archives for posts with tag: Dance

Megamorph Ka-pow
by Joan Jobe Smith

I didn’t just metamorph
doo-dah diptera
I megamorphed, jumped over, pole-vaulted
from pupa stage to scutterfly
after that man left me with three kids and a fine-toothed comb and I
wearied into that go-go bar wearing my beige wedding suit just like
Doris Day wore in Pillow Talk and I
asked for a go-go girl job because I couldn’t take shorthand or type

and all shook up I expected the go-go bar owner to be a leering lech
smoking a Havana cigar who’d ask me to show him my legs
but it was the woman bookkeeper, mother of the bad-ass
bouncer in charge that day who hired me and said I had “class”
didn’t even notice my skinny kneecaps
peeking out of my nervous skirt, she viewed
I was a Girl Next Door type with that dorky hairdo
not even mascara on my eyelashes and she told me I didn’t have to
wear a French bikini, let it all hang out, unless I wanted to
a leotard was okay and she didn’t even see that my hips were too
scrawny to show off anything but pelvic bones

and so I went to work 8 days a week
Good Girl once taught to do what she ought to
pupa housewife who baked cookies, changed diapers
morphed overnight
no cocoon phase into a go-go girl ka-pow
but fascinated with all the fluorescent glow and beer flow
and those crazed runaway girls, those poor butterflies
who’d flutterfly-fled rotten stepdads who did bad things in the night
after Mom turned on the light on daughters gone blind
to megamorph into belly-buttoned sexpots in French bikinis
but it took me 2 years to morph brave enough to be seen
baring and bearing red sequins
and by then it was time to megamorph ka-pow again: quantum leap
surpass, bypass my taxonomic rank and specie
to a mightier deracination blast
toward the sky, moon, Mars and stars
and maybe the gods
to become a poet
and a writer.
     Oh, my.

IMAGE: The author as a go-go dancer in 1967.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Jobe Smith, founding editor of Pearl and Bukowski Review, worked for seven years as a go-go dancer before receiving her BA from CSULB and MFA from University of California, Irvine. A Pushcart Honoree, her award-winning work has appeared internationally in more than five hundred publications, including Outlaw Bible, Ambit, Beat Scene, Wormwood Review, and Nerve Cowboy—and she has published twenty collections, including Jehovah Jukebox (Event Horizon Press, US) and The Pow Wow Cafe (The Poetry Business, UK), a finalist for the UK 1999 Forward Prize. In July 2012, with her husband, poet Fred Voss, she did her sixth reading tour of England (debuting at the 1991 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival), featured at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull. She is the author of the literary memoir Charles Bukowski Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me) (Silver Birch Press, 2012). Her writing is featured in LADYLAND, an anthology of writing by American women (13e note Éditions, Paris, 2014). Her poem “Uncle Ray on New Year’s Day . . .” won the 2012 Philadelphia Poets John Petracca Prize. Her latest book is Tales of an Ancient Go-Go Girl.

I Was Trained
by Eileen Wesson

I was trained
by the people in my house
to forget what I saw
to forget what happened
to forget my stories.

Invisible strings
made me dance
for the amusement
of the people in my house,
big people
controlled my strings.

A hollow tree became my mother
her crackled skin branches
cradled me while I slept
her leaves flattened
to weave me a blanket.

I talked to the Earth
through the palms of my hands.
She was my guardian
My protector
I was the princess of her skies
braided weeds were my crown.

Angels and flying horses
healed my bruised body
they took me far away
away from the pain
away the tugging strings
they freed me
To run fast and strong
to hide away
to live in my dreams.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: Here I am in my first ballet recital at age 5. I loved to dance and would practice at home in front of the bathroom mirror every day. But because we didn’t stay in one place very long, I had to stop taking ballet lessons. We moved over a dozen times when I was young. I attended more than seven schools before I graduated from the eighth grade. My mother was a nightclub singer, so when she applied my makeup it was thick heavy pan stick and way too much lipstick and eye shadow for a little girl. When I got to the recital hall, I was the only one wearing makeup. Even so, I was so happy I got to dance.

NOTE FROM AUTHOR: The little me is my doorway to understanding my past and how it shaped my life. She is the keeper of a library of continuous unfolding stories. As an actor, I reclaimed my emotional life and tell the richness of all my feelings. Now, as a writer, I can give voice to all the parts of me, big and small, light and dark. I ask them to sit with me and tell me who they are. A reunion of Self. Writing continuously feeds my soul.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eileen Wesson is a member of the LA Collective. Her prose and poetry have appeared in FRE&D and CG Magazine.

dancerina dolls in san francisco: a lamentation
by Teri Elam

especially at daybreak when I am silent
a bevy of ballerinas tiptoe-glide
creaking inn floors allegro en pointe
chattering about cute boys or girls —
like odette betrayal not yet released
they spin fair-haired grins from lavender
leotards long pink-opaque-legs
masking blister-toed-danskins;

these free-flowing teenaged swans
nimble-limbed not immutable like the dancerina
doll left under our stark aluminum tree when i was 6
her pale-haired blue-painted-eyes point-toe
hands bent in permanent position hard-plastic torso
stuffed in harsh fuchsia tutu hard to hold
her pink crown spinning spinning spinning —
my pony boy cap gun holster-vest
missing beneath the tree;

these young ballerinas raw-grace
not awkward like me at 6 begging to quit dance
my mother bemused missing my pleas my please
for sulfur-smoke-smelling red bang caps
slow-rolling my feet after a good round
spinning faux-pearl-handled silver toy gun back
holster-hanging right hip smooth like heath barkley
on big valley — wild afro puffs my daddy’s smile
not a ballerina i was a cowboy;

at midnight on the bus i spy the teenaged swans
flaxen hair hanging giants caps side-cocked
beats their new jewelry black tee over skinny-jeans
blister-bejeweled feet in chuck taylors rapping
cute boys or girls — at mission street they get off
hip hop bass rock shouts their greeting — a lamentation
they slow-lift into the crowd spinning spinning spinning —
hushed i watch them i watch them vanish
i watch them vanish into a mist of pink glitter dust.

PHOTO: The author as a child in an outfit she preferred over leotards.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was six, my parents enrolled me in a ballet class, and, being a quiet child, I did not protest. Luckily, after the first recital, they must have realized that I would not be making the cut for The Nutcracker. Many moons later, I shared space with several young ballerinas for a couple of weeks. In observing them, I realized how my six-year-old self still lived on via my many subsequent encounters with awkwardness (sometime humorous) and/or silence/silences since.

teri elam

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teri Elam resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and has had poems published in Chemistry of Color, Dismantle, Electronic Corpse, and The Ringing Ear. She started her poem one summer when she shared space with some ballerinas while attending the VONA/Voices Writers Workshop.


by Susan Mahan

According to certain African beliefs,
the limbo dance reflects the whole cycle of life.

The dancers move under a pole that is gradually lowered
from chest level and they emerge on the other side
as their heads clear the pole.

This symbolizes the triumph of life over death

I am in limbo
as I wait for the results of a biopsy

I hope to God my head clears the pole.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Mahan has been writing poetry since her husband died in 1997. She had wanted to be a writer as a kid, but life got in the way. She has subsequently written over 350 poems and many of them have been published, including on the Silver Birch Press blog.

You say tomato, I say tomato…Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sing “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” (music  by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin) in the 1937 movie Shall We Dance. In this clip, Fred and Ginger not only sing, but also dance on roller skates. A classic!

by Mitch Roberson

It begins with the lewd macarena
each of us performs in the shower,
then the modified twist we are hip to
with that ever-absorbent partner, the towel,

and on to the funky chicken of stepping into underwear,
the shimmy of stretching into hose.
There is no music, none that anyone
can hear, yet no one can escape the boogie.

Outside beneath the disco ball of the Sun
no one is a wallflower, not even the two lugs
in the crosswalk lugging a huge mirror,
one at either end pressing his cheek

into the cheek of his own reflection, arm
extended, hand clasping his own hand in a tango
more about control than passion, one couple
leading himself forward, the other slide-stepping

backwards across the intersection made double
by the infinite burden they shoulder together.
At the entrances of buildings even those afflicted
with two left feet find grace with a stranger

in a revolving door, where, regardless of gender,
we share a pause and glance to communicate
who will lead, who will follow,
close to each other but never quite touching.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mitch Roberson majored in English and political science at the University of Tennessee and holds an MFA from Vermont College.

SOURCE: Poetry (February 2003)

IMAGE: “Icarus,” by Henri Matisse (1944)


The Diction of Dance (Excerpt)

by Wendy Lesser

…Like poetry, choreography speaks to us about the familiar, but in a way that makes us see it anew. The materials, in both cases, are part of everyday life (speech, movement), but these materials need to be transformed in a way that makes them more than merely documentary. So a certain level of stylization (whereby the real gets stripped of its excess, turned into something clearer and sharper and more shaped) is required in both art forms for them to be art forms. At the same time, the ever-present danger is that stylization may interfere with feeling—may get between the artist’s expression of something and the audience’s reception of it.

To combat this danger, poets and choreographers remain eternally alert to the sensibilities of their own times. Just as Wordsworth revolutionized the poetic diction of his time by bringing it closer to ordinary speech, choreographers must continually replenish their known storehouse of stage gesture with movements that they observe in life: on the street, at home, in offices and playgrounds and parks. Yet to abandon the languages and gestures of the past entirely would be not only silly but impossible. Poetry and choreography both derive from all the work that has gone before them, even as each maker tries something new and special with the form…

MORE: Read “The Diction of Dance” by Wendy Lesser in its entirety at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wendy Lesser is an American critic, novelist, and editor based in Berkeley, California. Lesser did her undergraduate work at Harvard College and her graduate work at University of California, Berkeley, with time in between at King’s College, Cambridge. She is the founding editor of the arts journal The Threepenny Review, and author of ten books, including one novel, The Pagoda in the Garden (Other Press, 2005), and her latest nonfiction book, Why I Read (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014). She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Dedalus Foundation, and the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, among other places.

IMAGE: “Fred and Ginger” by Mel Thompson. Prints available at

by Cornelius Eady

My friends,
As it has been proven in the laboratory,
An empty pair of dance shoes
Will sit on the floor like a wart
Until it is given a reason to move.

Those of us who study inertia
(Those of us covered with wild hair and sleep)
Can state this without fear:
The energy in a pair of shoes at rest
Is about the same as that of a clown

Knocked flat by a sandbag.
This you can tell your friends with certainty:
A clown, flat on his back,
Is a lot like an empty pair of
dancing shoes.

An empty pair of dancing shoes
Is also a lot like a leaf
Pressed in a book.
And now you know a simple truth:
A leaf pressed in, say, The Colossus
by Sylvia Plath,
Is no different from an empty pair of dance shoes

Even if those shoes are in the middle of the Stardust Ballroom
With all the lights on, and hot music shakes the windows
up and down the block.
This is the secret of inertia:
The shoes run on their own sense of the world.
They are in sympathy with the rock the kid skips
over the lake
After it settles to the mud.
Not with the ripples,
But with the rock.

A practical and personal application of inertia
Can be found in the question:
Whose Turn Is It
To Take Out The Garbage?
An empty pair of dance shoes
Is a lot like the answer to this question,
As well as book-length poems
Set in the Midwest.

To sum up:
An empty pair of dance shoes
Is a lot like the sand the 98-pound weakling
brushes from his cheeks
As the bully tows away his girlfriend.

When he spies the coupon at the back of the comic book,
He is about to act upon a different set of scientific principles.
He is ready to dance.

SOURCE: “The Empty Dance Shoes” appears in Cornelius Eady’s collection Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1997), available at

IMAGE: “Dance” by John Crothers. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Poet and cofounder of Cave Canem, Cornelius Eady has published more than half a dozen volumes of poetry, among them Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1985), winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; The Gathering of My Name (1991), nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and Brutal Imagination (2001), a National Book Award finalist. Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems appeared in 2008.

by Philip Bryant

I heard the
locomotion behind
the album by Monk my father
was playing.
The finely tuned
machine humming like
a top, purring like a kitten.
The first time I
saw the Santa Fe “Super Chief”
at Union Station in Chicago,
gleaming as a silver bullet
carrying the blue uniformed
conductor who gave a low whistle
and “All Aboard” for places as far away as Kansas,
Laredo, Tucson, Las Vegas, Palm Springs.
At that point
I knew it all had
something to do with jazz music.
The slow hiss of
the engine, the steam
let out by the jowls of the locomotive,
and the massive, muscular wheels turning
slowly counterclockwise to the engine’s beat
Come on Baby Do the Locomotion
Come on Baby Do the Locomotion With Me
heading out onto the open tracks,
that smoke-blown phrase repeated
over and over in my head through the years,
as miles of the real American landscape
began, slowly, to unfold.

Photo: ”Santa Fe Super Chief at Chicago’s Dearborn Station”  (closed in 1971) by Harold A. Edmonson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Music mentioned “Locomotive” by Philip Bryant: “Locomotive” byThelonius Monk – from his album Straight, No Chaster (1967) – listen to “Locomotive” here“The Loco-Motion” (1962) written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King led to a dance craze of the same name — watch Little Eva perform “The Loco-Motion” at this link.

[Yesterday, the sunshine made the air glow] (Excerpt)
by Jimmy Santiago Baca 

Yesterday, the sunshine made the air glow
pushing me like a sixteen-year-old
to toss my shirt off, and run along the river shore,
splashing in the water, wading out to the reeds,
my heart an ancient Yaki drum
and I believed,
more than believed,
the air beneath trees was female blue dancers
I approached, and there in the dry leaves, in the crisp twigs,
I turned softly as if dancing with a blue woman made of air,
in shrub-weed skirts.
I knew the dance that would please the Gods,
I knew the dance that would make the river water
smile glistening ever silvering,
I knew the dance steps that praised my ancestors…

…Read “Yesterday…” by Jimmy Santiago Baca in its entirety at

IMAGE: “Dance” by Gun Legler. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in 1952 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, of Chicano and Apache descent, Jimmy Santiago Baca was abandoned by his parents and at 13 ran away from the orphanage where his grandmother had placed him. He was convicted on drug charges in 1973 and spent five years in prison. There, he learned to read and began writing poetry. His semiautobiographical novel in verse, Martin and Meditations on the South Valley (1987), received the 1988 Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award in 1989. In addition to over a dozen books of poetry, he has published memoirs, essays, stories, and a screenplay, Bound by Honor (1993), which was made into a feature-length film directed by Taylor Hackford. Baca’s poetry titles include Healing Earthquakes (2001), C-Train & 13 Mexicans (2002), Winter Poems Along the Rio Grande (2004), and Spring Poems Along the Rio Grande (2007). Baca has received a Pushcart Prize and the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature. His memoir, A Place to Stand (2001), garnered the International Prize. In 2006, Baca was awarded the Cornelius P. Turner Award, which honors GED graduates who have made “outstanding contributions” in areas such as education, justice, and social welfare. For more than 30 years, Baca has conducted writing workshops in prisons, libraries, and universities across the country. In 2004, he launched Cedar Tree, a literary nonprofit designed to provide writing workshops, training, and outreach programs for at-risk youth, prisoners and ex-prisoners, and disadvantaged communities. Baca holds a BA in English and an honorary PhD in literature from the University of New Mexico.