Friday, August 20, 2010

Poetry Friday: Sierra Nelson - Sine Qua Non

Sierra Nelson in Rome 2010 - Photo by Rebecca Hoogs

For Poetry Friday today, I offer you a poem by Sierra Nelson, who is the sweetest Force-to-Be-Reckoned-With that I've ever met. I've known her since graduate school, where a mutual professor of ours, Richard Kenney, encouraged a long look at the weirdness and delight of nursery rhymes, curses, blessings, riddles and proverbs. So here's a jump-rope-rhyme-ish poem for you, pure Sierra-style, with a concluding couplet that absolutely shines. The poem first appeared in the literary journal CRANKY:


You said, “It makes you wonder,”
And I knew just what you meant.
The waitress had a shiner.
You had one more cigarette.

Someone said, “In Wichita,”
And the guy in the kitchen laughed.
The toast had extra butter.
I stacked the half-n-halfs.

Plate of pancakes, plate of eggs,
Water, coffee, poured in rounds.
You had a watch but we’d lost track –
“Why don’t we skip town?”

But we did nothing of the kind.
Cherry.  Jelly.  Valentine.

When I know I'm going to see new work by Sierra, I'm delighted, because I can't predict what it will be like - her work is always fresh, full of heart but not sentimental, always slightly quirky. And she has energy to spare: She writes for the Kenyon Review blog, she co-founded the performance groups The Typing Explosion and The Vis-a-Vis Society (video link - not to be missed) and she teaches classes in creative writing - if you live in the Seattle area you should not miss opportunities to hear her read or to study with her. Here are links to some upcoming events and classes:

Fall Course at Hugo House:"Exploring the Esoteric: Borrowing from Everything to Write New Work"

Performance at Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival with Vis-a-Vis.

Reading for the PLOP Literary Series. Note from Sierra: "Free delicious pie"!

Oh - one more accomplishment worth mentioning: Sierra is one of the organizers of the Seattle Cephalopod Appreciation Society. Just what it sounds like. They work to increase the appreciation of squid, octopuses, chambered nautiluses and cuttlefish. Their last meeting was on June 13th, but I'm sure they'll have another in the fall - definitely attend. These are occasions for cephalopod-themed celebration - recitations, songs, and (sometimes slightly eerie) octopus movies.

Sierra Lighting a Candle in Rome 2010 - Photo by Rebecca Hoogs

Poetry Friday today is being hosted by Laura Evans at Read Poetry K-12. Definitely head over there to see what other people have posted.


  1. An excellent first thing to read on a Friday morning! (Excellent, except for the fact that it makes me miss you all: the blogger, the featured poet, the Rome-stationed photographer.) Hugs to all -- Cody

  2. Thanks for introducing me to a talented poet. I can't wait to check out all the links you shared. I am quite enamored with this poem of hers. It's brilliantly simple at first glance, but so full of nuance and it really puts a vivid image in my mind as I read it. It's one of those I find myself wanting to read over and over to discover things I missed the previous times.

  3. Totally awesome video of Sierra Nelson. Thanks for calling attention to her.

    Laura Evans
    all things poetry

  4. So excited to hear about Sierra! I do love her freshness and quirkiness. What a beautiful spirit she is. :)

  5. I was sitting at the table in the diner with her! How did she do that with just short phrases and snapshots?!? I agree: TALENT.