Monthly Archive for June, 2013

Poems by Emily Lake Hansen

For My Son, Who Is Not Allergic to Eggs

I am learning to cook eggs: crack

them open against the pan, dispose

of the shells, wash my hands fast

under hot water, scramble together

the little round yolk and the clear junk

you say is called whites. For years,

I let you do the cooking, the messy

part, while I sat on the kitchen counter

silent, leafing through dusty cookbooks.


The first time I ate eggs, scrambled little

yellow things served with ketchup,

I broke out in hives, my whole body

suddenly covered in red, round welts.

My mother had to rush me to the hospital,

spent her first Mother’s Day sitting in the ER,

running her fingers back and forth

across the new landscape of my legs.


For two years, I refused to serve our son eggs,

convinced that our casual weekend breakfast

would turn his body into a field of tiny, red hills.

When you finally fed him his first bite,

a fuzzy-edged square of your omelette,

I had to close my eyes. I watched

the welts pop up and grow, the red spreading

across his limbs, spearing his torso, crawling up

his neck like the ants that invade

his plastic picnic table every summer.


Three hours later, he is still fine, skin

white and smooth, milky as ever.

The welts just an invention, a connection

I’ve imagined and reimagined between us,

wanting to give him things I can’t:

the lazy right eye I got from my father,

the lazy left ovary I got from my mother,

bodily things about us that can’t belong to him,

bodily things about him that can’t belong to us.


The Self and Others


I say to my students every semester,

there is importance in the self.

I care about you, I preach to them,

because I care about me, about the capital I

we write with in English.


What happens then when self secedes to others?

When I choose you over me. My bathroom counter

is covered with antacids and Old Spice, my living room

floor is littered with matchbox cars, my dining room table

holds the mail. For a period of time, I wrote in the closet,

laptop on my knees, coats hanging behind my head.



I struggle with where self erases,

but every day I choose this life:

my toothbrush, your toothbrush, his toothbrush

all alike on the counter, bristles gnawed, handles

touching. We touch each other and self

crumbles. He asks for just one more kiss

and I bow down and give it, pat his round

toddler belly and huddle over him like a bee

over a flower. I give and he gives. You give.

In the new house, you gave me an office.



My students sit and I stand. They give

me papers. I give back scribbles, judgments,

the impression that my ideas are greater than theirs.

By the nature of the classroom, my I is bigger

than their I. My desk at the front of the room,

my loopy, white letters on the board.


There, you and he are just a little red dot, blinking

at the top of my phone. I pace the classroom and self

ascends, bullies the others. But even then,

I can’t just turn you off. Once you blinked six times

and I could feel self retreat, crawl back down

into my stomach and sit crosslegged.


I resent it sometimes – the freedom of other

selves – the way any new parent suddenly

understands her dog is not a child, or how

any newlywed learns there are two ways to load the dishwasher.

But the but that follows is just as true.


I don’t know how to explain

that this is a love poem.


Emily Lake Hansen is a third year MFA student at Georgia College & State University.  She was the poet of the month at Atticus Review in January.  Her work has previously been a finalist at the Agnes Scott Writer’s Festival competition.

An Interview with Poet Alice Catherine Jennings

I recently had the pleasure of discussing the Tudors, Mexico, and poetry writing with the poet Alice Jennings.  Below is our conversation.  Enjoy!


These poems  (five we published earlier at The Fertile Source) are part of a larger collection of Tudor poems.  How did your interest in the Tudors emerge?  What led you to envision this historical period through poetry?  Could you share with us a bit about the relationship between research, history, and imagination in these poems?

My fascination with the Tudors emerged in an unexpected way.  I live part time in Oaxaca, Mexico and a year or so ago while I was there working on a series of poems inspired by my experiences as an expat, I turned on the TV and watched the 1998 movie Elizabeth, a film about Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I found Elizabeth’s story so compelling that I began to read more about the Elizabethan Age which led me back to Elizabeth’s mother, her sister and all of Henry’s wives. I began keeping notes on things of interest. After awhile I had binders and binders of notes. Well, one thing led to another and first one poem emerged and then another and another and before I knew it, I had the beginnings of a collection of poems about the Tudors.

Because of my research, the narrative arc of my collection is based on actual facts although the content of the poems is a mixture of truth, myth, and imagination.  For example, it is true that Anne Boleyn had several miscarriages and/or stillbirths after the birth of Princess Elizabeth but the exact number is unknown. In my poems, “The Still Birth” and “The Miscarriage,” the dates of these events are real but the remainder is my invention.

One thing that fascinates me about your work is the braiding of history (reimagined in poems) and lines from other Shakespearean and Anglo-Saxon phrases.  Could you tell us about this interplay?

This braiding of text from other writers is another curious consequence of my life in Oaxaca. In my Spanish class, I was introduced to the book of short stories entitled Bestiario (Bestiary) by the Mexican writer Juan José Arreola.  This led to an interest in medieval bestiaries at the same time I was working on my poems about the Tudors.  One of the principal building blocks of a bestiary is the link between the behavior of an animal or beast and the stories of the Old and New Testaments, or intertextuality.  In the case of the scribes of medieval bestiaries, this linkage to the sacred texts was a way to impart moral values. I decided that a variation of this type of linkage would be an interesting concept to use within the context of this period when “morality” was often bended for personal gain.

In the selection of poems appearing in The Fertile Source, I “borrowed” text from Shakespeare and an Anglo-Saxon poet; other poems in my collection incorporate the words of writers from other countries and periods of time. For example, I have poems that include lines from classical Chinese poets such as Han Yu and Wei Ying Wu while other poems pull from contemporary writers such as Dana Gioia and Beth Ann Fennelly. I felt this mixture of culture and styles seemed to emphasize the timelessness of the themes of fertility/infertility, religious conflict and persecution, power and opulence, etc.

You cover wide ground in terms of form — a theatrical scene, a prose poem, more formal arrangements.  Could you share with us some insight into your poetic process?

This is a terrific question because it addresses how my process evolved as I was writing these poems. Initially, I was drawn to traditional forms such as the triolet and sonnet because they seemed to replicate the formality of the Tudor Court. (Coincidentally, Sir Thomas Wyatt introduced the sonnet form to English during the reign of King Henry VIII.) However, as this period of time was a time of great turbulence and transition with Henry’s break from the Holy Catholic Church in Rome, I gave myself permission to explore modernist and even experimental poetry. In the end, this collection became for me a sketchbook of poetic craft.

Who and what are you reading now?  Do you have any writing mentors?

Currently I am reading Henry VIII by William Shakespeare and The Winter Queen by Jane Stevenson. The Winter Queen is a fictional account of Elizabeth Stuart, the ninth great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.

I am an MFA student in the Creative Writing Program at Spalding University and my mentor last year was Molly Peacock. She was great fun to work with and encouraged me to keep writing more poems. I also belong to an online writers’ group, which has seen me through this project from beginning to end.

How has the experience of writing as an expatriate shaped your work?

While I was writing these poems and researching Tudor England, I felt as if I were entering foreign territory, which mirrored my expat experience. That sense of uneasiness navigating everyday life amidst different rules, language and culture opened up a pathway into the material.

Alice Portrait copy

Alice Catherine Jennings

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