Archives for posts with tag: surrealism

How to Build a Lifeboat Out of Peanut Butter
by Kathryn Almy

First make a mold. Construct a mound at least twice the size of your body using whatever you have on hand: sand, driftwood, old clothes, a large boulder, or the bodies of your dead companions. Spread with peanut butter to an approximate depth of one-half inch and allow to dry in the sun for two weeks (three to four is better). Ideally you will have enough food, fresh water, and means to shelter yourself from the sun that you will survive until the peanut butter has cured. Pray it doesn’t rain. When the hull has dried, carefully lift it off the mold and fill in any cracks or holes with fresh peanut butter. Secure the hull to something buoyant such as a raft.

IMAGE: Double Mona Lisa (Peanut Butter and Jelly) (After Warhol) by Vik Muniz (1999).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this for a prose poetry workshop taught by Kathleen McGookey. The assignment was to write a surreal poem, and I was intrigued by the notion of apparently useful instructions that are in reality entirely useless.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Almy lives in Michigan and works in a public library when not sheltering in place. Her poetry and essays have appeared in various print and on-line publications, including  Panoply, The Offbeat, Star 82 Review, New Verse News, The 3288 Review, and previously on Silver Birch Press.

Hephaestus and Aphrodite
by Aretha Lemon

Anger hurled me from heaven,
the crack of my spine,
my first glimpse of her.

She rose from the sea, foam clinging
to olive skin, and her smile gleamed
like sun on a dagger. My heart beat
after it stopped.

Gentle wind blew her to shore,
shells dripping from her hair.
Eels circled in dark waters,
dancing with nymphs in her praise.

The world set her on a pedestal
of gold, gave flowers and feasts
and prayers and offerings and devotion.
She smiled, accepted their everything,
yet still searched
for greater gifts.

The King of Storms gave her to me,
a reward and repentance
I could only strive to deserve.

I gave my billows and my forge,
gave my craft and my world,
but kept my whispers.

My works shone brighter than all of Earth,
brighter than the Warrior’s armor:
pearls of mourning dipped in red.

Wind tore away Spring, until only tears,
blood, greed, desperation, lust
were left.
My fires burned hotter.
I held out scorched hands.
She smiled

and went to Ares’ arms.

IMAGE: “Apparition of the Visage of Aphrodite of Cnidos in a Landscape” by Salvador Dali (1981).

Aretha Lemon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Aretha Lemon lives in small-town Ohio, USA, and is a Creative Writing graduate from Bowling Green State University, just beginning the hard life as a writer. Her fascination with mythology of all kinds is rivaled only her love of dragons.

by Claude McKay

Far down, down through the city’s great gaunt gut
The gray train rushing bears the weary wind;
In the packed cars the fans the crowd’s breath cut,
Leaving the sick and heavy air behind.
And pale-cheeked children seek the upper door
To give their summer jackets to the breeze;
Their laugh is swallowed in the deafening roar
Of captive wind that moans for fields and seas;
Seas cooling warm where native schooners drift
Through sleepy waters, while gulls wheel and sweep,
Waiting for windy waves the keels to lift
Lightly among the islands of the deep;
Islands of lofy palm trees blooming white
That led their perfume to the tropic sea,
Where fields lie idle in the dew-drenched night,
And the Trades float above them fresh and free.

SOURCE:  “Subway Wind” appears in Claude McKay: Complete Poems (University of Illinois Press,  2008), available at

PAINTING: “Self Portrait at 14th Street Station” by Alfredo Arcia. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Festus Claudius “Claude” McKay (1889–1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet whose novels include Home to Harlem (1928), a bestseller that won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo (1929), and Banana Bottom (1933). McKay also authored collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, Gingertown (1932), and two autobiographical books, A Long Way from Home (1937) and My Green Hills of Jamaica (published posthumously). His 1922 poetry collection, Harlem Shadows, was among the first books published during the Harlem Renaissance.

by Douglas Goetsch

The self is a ship in a bottle.
You want to built it when you’re young
but if not, no matter, the self
will be the thing in you that’s sad
when the sun goes down. Ninety
percent of it you’ll never know
but there are worse thing to not know
like the rest of a song
the great Russian novels
or the way home.

SOURCE: “Short Song” appears in Douglas Goetsch‘s collection Nobody’s Hell (Hanging Loose Press, 1999), available at

IMAGE: “Homage to Magritte” by Enrico Ripamonti. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Douglas Goetsch is the author of three books of poems, most recently Nameless Boy (Orchises Press, 2015), and four prizewinning chapbooks. His work has appeared numerous magazines and anthologies, including The New Yorker, The American Scholar and Best American Poetry. He is a recipient of a National Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize, and is founding editor of Jane Street Press in New York City. His poem “Swimming to New Zealand” will appear in the Silver Birch Press Great Gatsby Anthology (April 2015). Visit him at

by Emily Dickinson

A Man may make a Remark—
In itself—a quiet thing
That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark
In dormant nature—lain—

Let us deport—with skill—
Let us discourse—with care—
Powder exists in Charcoal—
Before it exists in Fire.

IMAGE: “The Face of Mae West Which May Be Used as a Surrealist Apartment” by Salvador Dali (1935).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, and lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life. . While Dickinson was a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime. It was not until after her death when Lavinia, Dickinson’s younger sister, discovered her cache of poems and the breadth of Dickinson’s work became apparent. A complete collection of her poetry became available for the first time in 1955 when The Poems of Emily Dickinson was published by scholar Thomas H. Johnson. She is now considered one of the most important American poets.

By Michael Collier

One had feathers like a blood-streaked koi,

another a tail of color-coded wires.

One was a blackbird stretching orchid wings,

another a flicker with a wounded head.
All flew like leaves fluttering to escape,

bright, circulating in burning air,

and all returned when the air cleared.

One was a kingfisher trapped in its bower,
deep in the ground, miles from water.

Everything is real and everything isn’t.

Some had names and some didn’t.

Named and nameless shapes of birds,
at night my hand can touch your feathers

and then I wipe the vernix from your wings,

you who have made bright things from shadows, 

you who have crossed the distances to roost in me.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Collier is an American poet, teacher, creative writing program administrator and editor. He has published five books of original poetry, a translation of Euripedes‘ Medea, a book of prose pieces about poetry, and has edited three anthologies of poetry. From 2001 to 2004 he was the Poet Laureate of Maryland. As of 2011, he is the director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, a professor of creative writing at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the poetry editorial consultant for Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). (Read more at

Painting: ”L’Homme au Chapeau Melon” (1964) by René Magritte


“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”


Painting: “The False Mirror” (1928) by René Magritte

by Jim Harrison

A secret came a week ago though I already

knew it just beyond the bruised lips of consciousness.

The very alive souls of thirty-five hundred dead birds

are harbored in my body. It’s not uncomfortable.

I’m only temporary habitat for these not-quite –
weightless creatures. I offered a wordless invitation

and now they’re roosting within me, recalling

how I had watched them at night

in fall and spring passing across earth moons,

little clouds of black confetti, chattering and singing

on their way north or south. Now in my dreams 

I see from the air the rumpled green and beige,

the watery face of earth as if they’re carrying

me rather than me carrying them. Next winter

I’ll release them near the estuary west of Alvarado

and south of Veracruz. I can see them perching

on undiscovered Olmec heads. We’ll say goodbye

and I’ll return my dreams to earth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jim Harrison is the author of thirty books, including Legends of the Fall, Dalva, and Shape of the Journey. His work has been translated into two dozen languages and produced as four feature-length films. In 2007, Mr. Harrison was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He divides his time between Montana and southern Arizona.

Painting: ”L’Homme au Chapeau Melon” (1964) by René Magritte

by Alberto Rios

We live in secret cities
And we travel unmapped roads.

We speak words between us that we recognize
But which cannot be looked up.

They are our words.
They come from very far inside our mouths.

You and I, we are the secret citizens of the city
Inside us, and inside us

There go all the cars we have driven
And seen, there are all the people

We know and have known, there
Are all the places that are

But which used to be as well. This is where
They went. They did not disappear.

We each take a piece
Through the eye and through the ear.

It’s loud inside us, in there, and when we speak
In the outside world

We have to hope that some of that sound
Does not come out, that an arm

Not reach out
In place of the tongue.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alberto Alvaro Ríos was born in Nogales, Arizona, in 1952. He received a BA from the University of Arizona in 1974 and an MFA in Creative Writing from the same institution in 1979. His poetry collections include Dangerous Shirt (Copper Canyon Press, 2009); The Theater of Night (2007); The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body (2002), nominated for the National Book Award;Teodora Luna’s Two Kisses(1990); The Lime Orchard Woman (1988); Five Indiscretions(1985); and Whispering to Fool the Wind (1982), winner of the 1981 Walt Whitman Award. He has been honored with numerous awards, including six Pushcart Prizes, the Arizona Governor’s Arts Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Since 1994, he has served as Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University, where he has taught since 1982. In 2013, Ríos was named the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona.

ART: “Surreal City” by Phunke Pixie


I decided to paint the image of a locomotive . . . In order for its mystery to be evoked, [and] another immediately familiar image without mystery—the image of a dining room fireplace—was joined.” René Magritte

PAINTING: “Time Transfixed” by René Magritte (1898-1967), permanent collection, Art Institute of Chicago.