Ann Stephenson ~
The Poles

Ann Stephenson is surely talking "on the reg" to O'Hara's “Meditations in an Emergency” which her long poem The Poles sent me running to, excitedly making some connection in the way they both take a matter of fact tone against social death and other threats. But at this late Capitalism date, our narrator is a more menaced guide - a civic poet who warns “terrible things come to those who don’t listen.” The Poles is the epitome of a poem that susses out and then follows the graph of the mind moving. There are no bum lines. In fact, one could teach a master class on line breaks with this poem. Each pause creates suspension followed by a burst of multiple meanings, which, is one of the most generous acts of the poet and this poet’s craft. To any reader following the call to attention, this gesture expands life outside the structure of a bubble.

—Stacy Szymaszek

Ann Stephenson


Some books turn into other books
today the queen is in green
just enough netting to cover her eyes
give the slow opening tulip a drink

I lose time in numbers
winter is my time
nothing but ice crunching
of course things happen around the edges
those two houses drink from the same light
a row of bushes, bushels of beetroot
laundry wrapped with rope

I must work on my story
the end is divided, almost curtailed
by robbers and bawdy revelers
outbursts go unnoticed

Strike from the record
the feeling of helplessness
replace it with coarse salts
you are strange and beautiful
THE POLES — Ann Stephenson
Printed in an edition of 300 copies, 2017.


Ann Stephenson’s publications include Wirework (2006), Adventure Club (2013), and The Poles (2017). Some of her poems have appeared in Across the Margin, Brooklyn Rail, Delineator, Ladowich, The Recluse, and Sal Mimeo, as well as the anthology Like Musical Instruments: 83 Contemporary American Poets (2014). She is the founder and editor of Tent Editions. She received her MFA from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York in 2007, and curated the Ready Set Readings series at Whitespace Gallery in Atlanta in 2009–10. Stephenson is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Artists’ Fellowship in Poetry (2017). She was born and raised in Georgia and lives between New York City’s East Village and Fire Island.