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About this poet

Born on May 10, 1968, and raised in the U.S. Army, Vanessa Place received a BA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an MFA from Antioch University, and a JD from Boston University.

Her books of poetry and conceptual writing include Dies: A Sentence (Les Figues, 2006), a 50,000-word, one-sentence novel in verse; La Medusa (Fiction Collective 2, 2008); and Statement of Facts (Insert Blanc Press, 2010), the first volume of her trilogy Tragodía, which repurposes legal prosecution and defense documents verbatim; among others.

With Robert Fitterman, she co-wrote Notes on Conceptualisms (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009), an exploration of contemporary conceptual writers and their work. She is also the author of The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law (Other Press, 2010), an analysis of the prosecution of sexual offenders.

About her texts, she says: "Authorship doesn't matter. Content doesn't matter. Form doesn't matter. Meter doesn't matter. All that matters is the trace of poetry. Put another way, I am a mouthpiece." Susan McCabe describes her poetry as "both humbling and beyond paraphrase, both mythic and contemporary."

In addition to her work as an appellate criminal defense attorney, she serves as co-director of Les Figues Press. Place currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Psalm

Vanessa Place, 1968

Argument

(S) Being a good people, if we were wrong, we would change.

(S) We would not change.


Proverbs

Without passion, no reason.

Without mind, no body.

Without body, your soul.

Without point, our purpose.

There must be an extraordinary.

There are contradictions.

A dog's skull is slightly thicker than our own.

We will have coffee, and, after breakfast, a short walk.

We will wear shaggy coats and carry sidearms. There will be a game of chance. We will lose. We will win. We will ascend to the throne and make apple fritters drenched in warm syrup.


Arise criminals!

We will find pockets of peat and hot cross buns.

If you have no daughters, marry your sons.

Oh, what lidless day, when they took my baby away.


Psalm

I do not intend to hurt anyone.

I did not intend to hurt anyone.

O Jerusalem, we gutless few delighting

sobre tierra de libres

In perspicacity

what you would see if you were not

drown'd in sound and sight

wooly-headed as a chrysanthemum

literal as the lamb.

What we could do as one in two,

our prayers made hand-in-hand

you are my voodoo chile


my voodoo chile

Were pity pure birthright

and charity simplicity;

Were babies born not guilty

and ladies told the truth

were human nature natural

and

catastrophes unmanned,

were people made of popsicles,

accliving the summer sun

were lidless pearls more decorous,

and all our battles won

were these the these which would us please

there'd be no need for Americans

for heart would will what it would want

and all of art be

damn'd.

Copyright © 2010 by Vanessa Place. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2010 by Vanessa Place. Used with permission of the author.

Vanessa Place

Vanessa Place

Vanessa Place's books of poetry and conceptual writing include Dies: A Sentence (Les Figues, 2006), a 50,000-word, one-sentence novel in verse.

by this poet

poem
Miss Scarlett, effen we kain git de doctah
w'en Miss Melly's time come, doan you bodder
Ah kin manage. Ah knows all 'bout birthin.
Ain' mah ma a midwife? Ain' she raise me
ter be a midwife, too? Jes' you leave it
ter me. She warn't dar. Well'm, Dey Cookie say
Miss Meade done got wud early dis mawnin'
dat young
poem
We must ask ourselves                         what purpose is
ultimately served by this                                 suspension of
all the accepted                                              unities
if, in the end, we return to                               the unities
that we pretended to question
poem

The maw that rends without tearing, the maggoty claw that serves you, what, my baby buttercup, prunes stewed softly in their own juices or a good slap in the face, there's no accounting for history in any event, even such a one as this one, O, we're knee-deep in this one, you and me, we're practically puppets,