April 16, 2011


by Amaranth Borsuk


A Valentine for Gertrude Stein

The redingote’s not for riding, not a bit, but a bit
revealing, the skirt’s shirring, a spur and a gathered
hem. A hem. A hem. A selvedge stiff
with wincing. So to divest you and also best you.
This is their mode.
Worsted weather and elsewhere
little spits and little spaces for sheen.

A dress of steam.
In the dress, a seam.
A seam and a self and a lustrous surface.
All this for seeming.
But a dress to address, I undress.
To address a dress, I digress, a digressive shudder,
a Dutch neck and a damask shoulder arrayed for gazing.
A ray of piping, a tailored taffeta possessed.
I pass passementerie, a fancy way of lying.
All this shows want of starching.

There is no shame in a drop skirt, there is yolk
and limning. Plain as poplin—a plaited pun
without any faggoting. There is jupe and jumping
and juniper bunting.
Of tiny shoes I can say nothing.
So I choose.
I choose Choos.
Now let us proceed with our notes on shopping.

Bio: Amaranth Borsuk is a poet, book artist, and scholar. She is the author of a chapbook, Tonal Saw (Song Cave, 2010), and the collaborative artist's book Between Page and Screen (www.betweenpageandscreen.com). Excess Exhibit, a book of conjoined poems written with performance artist and poet Kate Durbin, is forthcoming from ZG Press. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Field, Eleven Eleven, Colorado Review, Columbia Poetry Review, and Denver Quarterly, among other journals. She is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at MIT.


by Alexandra Marzella


My hand dresses my body.
My mind moves my hand.

My hand types black words on white pages.

Today I am not myself.
Today I am my most hated foe.

I lean against the partition we created for her.

So she would stay.
So she would design. So she would be happy.
So she would be proud.

Was it selfish.

Relating her, to me, to the clothing we’d make side by side.
To the poems we’d read and write.

Forever together in notion or specks.
She descended early. She fled before the fight even started.

Her body, so eccentrically adorned betrayed her.
Her wet legs and shredded shirts no longer protect her.
There is no hard exterior.
Her fashions exposed her. No black spandex, nylon, cotton to defend her.

Whether I write, or I draw, or I watch, or I stare.

I am not myself today.

The black replaces the blue.

The sheer floral curtains adorn her room.
They are the brightest light.

I can’t help but to smile.

Can’t help but to photograph them while the baby sleeps.
At her missing feet.

Healing in the city.

My words, my garbs, determine how far in a day I go The threads, led or fibers, hold us together.

They are one and another.

Each other.

Bio: Alexandra Marzella is an Apparel student at the Rhode Island School of Design. She is currently taking a contemporary poetry class and writing her final paper on fashion and poetry, or the intermixing of the two. She believes these art forms can and do go hand in hand. Her work aims to meld the two subjects together, cohesively, and eloquently. To her, there is no argument, or misunderstanding. It just is.

April 15, 2011


by Becky Peterson


Many things become unclear when you start talking about clogs
The difference between what’s practical and what’s fantastical

I am talking literally about clogs here, not representations of clogs, clogs as labor
or genitalia; the larger meaning of clogs and the purposes of clogs in fashion

When I go to Holland everyone is wearing cowboy boots
I learn that to wear clogs there is to evoke the farmer

A friend once told me clogs are not attractive to men
Though there could be a sea-change in special circumstances

What is ugliness anyway and being popular
I was born in the ‘70s in the face of utility

At times it seems like what is happening is this is a fantasy world
Where meaning lies in webbed shapes lying across the surface

Planks are there to prevent me from teetering off into the water
Clogs do the same--I mean, prevent water from coming in

Bio: Becky Peterson has published critical essays on the intersection of poetry and dress in Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literatures, Culture, and Theory, and in the forthcoming collection Habits of Being: Clothing and Identity (University of Minnesota Press), as well as an essay on film and fabric in Textile: A Journal of Cloth and Culture. Her poetry has appeared in POOL, The Indiana Review, 21 Stars Review, The Bedazzler, and Denver Syntax, and in the chapbook Metropolitan Bird Culture (Bigfan Press). She holds an MFA in poetry-writing from Mills College and a PhD in literature from the University of Minnesota.

April 12, 2011

I am an Institution of Shadows on a Street Black as Windows

by Kari Larsen

(Printers Devil)

I patterned shadow as a child using words. I only did portraits, fixedly, I loved faces in negative space, and the way faces drain and manipulate what surrounds them. I scrawled walls of text to form what wavered after faces. Text in art, I was taught, was expository, and in frustration I burned my work. Text demystified image: words could not be misleading, possess a unique efficacy, confront or distract, waltz out from behind a tree knowing everything, dressed in their hard black lines.

I dreamt of a suave omniscience under a nearby tree. His voice was stern and straightforward as a hand on my shoulder and replete with meaning betrayed as much by the innocence of syllables as Morse code is by the keening straight key. I wanted to be at all times slightly off camera with my reserved posture ready to step out and quantify, elegantly and ominously, what was hidden. To get to the bottom of the nature of fear and be so cool about it as to let my cigarette burn at my side: I wanted that in my voice. I wanted that to consume my scenery.

I wanted to be Rod Serling but I was not very literal-minded. My desire was addressing his affect; his image did not impose upon my effort. Clothes were the best place to start since that took less discipline. Discipline was integral. The outfit is an all-encroaching command: he taught me this.

I dress so words would waver after me. I dress so I will not forget what my mission was. I adopted a uniform: a black dress. In a black dress I obscure and insist. Like I am wrapped in thick, layered smoke. I derive pleasure from the limitation and what it forces me to transcend: I wear only what forces me back to my work. What frees my legs to explore corridors, does not misdirect by means of signage, what aligns itself with my personality with all the ease of natural authority.

The seduction of repetition, the creation of mystery by means of a lull, the suggestion of fixation and mania—I am riveted by this as I wear it around me, as I learn what to do with my words. I keep myself in a whir; I keep pushing myself out from behind the tree. Printer’s apprentices were called printer’s devils because they would turn infernally black with renegade ink. Until you know how to wield it, stay submerged in the fire.

Bio: Kari Larsen dwells on the banks of the mighty Susquehanna.

Ad Fontes

by Ingrid Pruss

I cannot explain the motivation but can certainly capture the glee of the late January morning I committed to purchasing a file of 50 designer fonts for Windows 2010. It was a snow day. Though I hate shopping, the pleasure of this online purchase was deeper and purer than the hot pink pashmina I dreamt of wrapping around my shoulders all winter long, having saved five dollars a week for the past eight months in the hopes of having it by Easter Sunday. But there was something more mysterious and tempting about the black shadowed letters with their tiny hooks of ALGERIAN, a quality infinitely more seductive than a cape could ever be, something that lent an erotic air of authority a soft, bright shawl could never confer.

I was enamored of 50 choice spices, fragrances, hues, fabrics, textures, moods, cloaks in which to watch my words parade across the page; it was like having my own private fashion show or a grown-up version of Barbie and Ken or, as I imagined it, Camille Claudel and Rodin whenever desire dictated.

Sitting at my desk, the font choices loaded on MS Word 2010 making me feel like the proud owner of the complete box of Crayola crayons–the one that-included-gold-and-silver-and-a-pencil-sharpener--the long, sleek, expensive box Mom said I didn’t need because I wasn’t really an artist. Having these fonts, however, I could confer the title artist upon myself and have the opportunity to live up to it.

Add to that the choice of colors from kelly to forest green and fuschia to lemon yellow, and I wondered if any piece of writing would ever be finished or if I’d defer the end so I could revel in the process of trying on as many outfits as possible on every single word, just to see how they looked – taking them off the hanger, zipping them and unzipping them, buttoning and unbuttoning them, and hanging them back up -- comforting myself with my mother’s false promises about ice cream, “the novelty will wear off” which has not happened yet.

The carefree confidence of capital letters in AR BERKLEY, extended my identity just as I imagined a coveted Mont Blanc fountain pen might; it gave me a wild but sane sensuality as if wearing a black felt fedora, with a large red ostrich feather perched on its brim, to run errands about town, looked respectably eccentric instead of brazenly crazed. There was something tucked-in yet laissez-faire about its boldness, a quality rather like Herrick’s kindled wantonness.

The scripted fonts set my language free, allowed the syllables to sound their way out of my body fearlessly, as if my words needed a costume for safety, a disguise for immunity, similar to an author’s nom de plume. Though this made no rational sense, it was liberating. How strange that a simple typeface could create such wind for my words to set sail on, but if you glanced at Vivaldi, you’d see the amplitude of its simplicity. So I pared down all the phrases I made as hiding places and stared down the small square of space that scared me – the truth of my place on this planet, even more miniscule in this galaxy, Perspective is everything, and when I saw it, I knew who I was, where I fit, and how everything would fall out of its place ultimately, so I sat and fleshed out my words, letter by letter in flagrant celebration of imperfection, homage a la vida mortale.

I wanted these 50 fonts more than a Renaissance-bell-sleeved velvet dress or over-the-knee red suede button-up-the-side boots. I wanted them more than sparkling rhinestone shoulder duster earrings or a Weiss aurora borealis headlight-style antique brooch. I would wear the fonts far more often than anything in my closets or drawers.

And these highly stylized files of ink could dazzle me into believing myself a member of the belletristic benevolent writerly aristocracy long enough to redeem even the most abject poems and prose from the depths of my own darkest censor.

(Photo by Barry Lipman)
Bio: Ingrid Pruss teaches English at WCSU (4/4), and has published in the JAISA, the George Herbert Journal, Violence Against Women, and Quay. She's been teaching 26 years, 22 at WCSU. While her specialty is 16th and 17th century British Poetry, her passion is to teach students to develop their own imaginations, to create their own de-familiarizing images. and to think for themselves. She asks all her classes to make multimedia projects with visual and verbal images in addition to writing papers.

Reticule & Armored

by Carrie Murphy


The poem is a navy blue leather purse that used to belong to your grandmother.
The poem is an embroidered tapestry-style satchel.
The poem is a vintage silver clutch with a Lucite handle.
The poem is a sow’s ear, a silk slipper bag, a bejeweled tampon case.

where do you put your poems/where do you keep

The poem is my purple L.L. Bean backpack with my initials in dingy white.
The poem is my Pucci-print jewelry pouch, tucked at the bottom of the suitcase.
The poem is my polyester pocket.
The poem is mine.

the poem on your arm/the poem in your hand/open the poem/inside the poem

The poem hanging from a gold zipper.
The poem’s tassels, swinging.
The poem closing with a click.
The poem snapping shut.

put it in the poem/the poem/white space/lipstick bathroom scrawl/
words sewn in the lining/mints&tobacco&aspirin/metaphor/metaphor/metaphor
poem as purse as dark wet cunt/compact mirror reflecting up


I’m wearing a gold signet ring so when I punch they’ll know who did it. I’m carrying an umbrella with a thick carved handle so I can poke back, hard, against the driving drops & the little rain-slickered ladies. Spike-heels are an obvious weapon, but I use them to pick seeds out of my teeth or to carve initials into the mahogany sideboard at the rest home. This rosary weighs three pounds. This turban will never topple; a ruby as big as your eye, velvet soft like the skin on the inside of your thigh. Sequinned scabs & a polka-dot trance. Silk that never stops rustling. I want to show you my rhinestones, I want you to lick my leather gloves to their tips. Feel the belt where it buckles. I can fit your moth balls into this cocktail ring; see how they sparkle in the light?

Bio: Carrie Murphy is from Baltimore, MD. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Maryland, College Park, and her MFA at New Mexico State University. Her poems have appeared in PANK, Keyhole, Prick of the Spindle, and other journals. Her chapbook, "Meet The Lavenders," is forthcoming in early summer 2011 from Birds of Lace.

April 10, 2011

Our Non-Angelic Halo: Psychic Connection via Time Travel via Fashion

by Gina Abelkop

Inspired by a 1962 photograph of Sylvia Plath, I began to wear my own hair in a Dutch crown braid. This type of braid is taught to me via youtube tutorial led by a lady with a British accent. Sisterhood is powerful, knowledge passed down. Who’s to say this knowledge is not important? A woman in another country helped me to feel closer to a poet whose words have licked at my innards since adolescence. Sometimes it is these small, seemingly insignificant visual cues- fashion cues- that make me feel connected to the words and women I love. I weave them on/into my head, repetitive patterned braiding, one thick red-palomino chunk of hair woven into the next until the circle is closed, a non-angelic halo.

Emily Dickinson is inside of my head often lately. I loved her as a child and she has come back to me in recent years. Recently I dreamed about her while reading the biography My Wars Are Laid Away in Books.

I dreamed about Emily last night
Oh yes I did I dreamed she came
to visit with her family In old-
fashioned clothes and brown hair
Her sister in tow I knew
it was a blind date I was meant
to romance her But Emily and I
were awkward with each
other We made small talk over
her family’s religion We met at
a tiny indiscriminate shop I didn’t
want to scare her She’d come from
the past Emily is not mine not mine
In the end I don’t recall how we split
ways Only that her dress was less
severe than I’d imagined it would be
Time travel seemed natural to me
at the time But I can’t seem to get it done now

In my dream her clothes were plain and brown; they sat easily on her, without the telltale constraint I always imagine in her era of fashion. What we think of now, in relation to Emily’s clothing, is her white dresses. In my love and obsession with Emily I find myself wearing white more often- seeking it out- strange for me, who loves magentas and oranges and greens and blues, new wave colors buzzing like busted chainsaws against each other. I mix the two- throw some calico in for good Willa Cather-esque measure, gravitate to lilys and roses, those markers of faith and love that Emily invokes in one of my favorite poems. I stroke the material of my few garments from the 19th century and try to feel for Emily’s world in them. I want to be closer, and I want to understand. Ever since we met in my dream I have been trying to step back into her world. In my sleep it came easy, but awake there are so many intrusions: cars, cell phones, the computer I write this on. But when I am reading I can begin to conjure it again, and a world gone past opens up inside of me, a universe of the veins. Blood memory, conjured with the help of rotting deep- decayed musty garments rubbing against my skin. I stink of it. Emily D. is close at hand.

I hold these women and their work to me by way of imitative, bastardized copy-catting. Fashion lords over this house of tribute with a bright and stealthy eye. I wake from 1883 and move forward to the closet: in wakefulness there is yet more conjuring to be done.

Photos: Susanna Troxler.

Gina Abelkop lives in Berkeley, CA where she wears floral print '40s frocks and romances Emily D. in her dreams. She also runs Birds of Lace, a feminist press.

No Las Olvidadas

by Rosebud Ben-Oni

It might seem I’ve turned my back you. That I’m deliberately trying not to blend. Make us target out in the open, where the murky, lazy waters of the Rio Grande sullied all but the bundle tightly wrapped of the dress I’ll wear in a land forbidden. I will walk with my head up, shoulders back, where day runs into night. I know how to tell time from patches in the ground. I will not lurk past la migra.

As a child I had slept like a comet. Laced up my exhaust. Awoken roaring-in-the-works, streak the late-night women who climbed into the late-night worn vans for their late-night shifts at the maquiladoras, our mothers among them. Do you remember how the women would cry out and accuse one another, pinch each other in return? Do you remember their sudden laughter ringing like church bells and the driver looking in the rear-view mirror, disapproving?

Now at the river’s edge, I am half-grown, with wild hair like mossy river plants, a woman who would fan this headdress to the dare the hurricanes to scatter her across oceans. La Migra has been tracking for sign for years. I will not be careful with my footprints. I lost my fear long ago.

I am not turning my back on you. I will not let the man with the big truck hide us between the seats like loose change, or start us as stolen from the beginning. Make us imitate the burlap in the corner. Beg to be broken in. My hair is still wet from the river, the air is a fine mist settling on my skin and the inches of this cotton. I bare my back, under an arch of gentle thunder and uncertain sky.

Follow me, and we will consume their quarreling torches, the hungry headlights that track us deep into every night and every storm. We’ll uproot the pitchforks in their hands with our unspoken secret that is older than language and grows on both sides of the river. It knows nothing of borders. Follow me and we’ll walk until we find eternal evergreens that hide every shadow, we will find the first primordial storms are unearthed from kettle drums, long buried in the vistas of the first desperadas who dared.


Rosebud Ben-Oni is a member of New Perspectives Theater, which produced her play Quimera on the Storm in September 2010. Her essay “On Writing Quimera and other Fears,” in which she explored the Mexican/Mexican-American relationship in wake of Arizona’s recent immigration policy, will be presented at "Practicing Theory”: The 2011 ASCA International Workshop in March 2011 in Amsterdam, and the PCAACA joint conference in April 2011, in San Antonio. In March 2011, “The Amaranthine Thread” dedicated to the late playwright Leah Ryan, will be part of Georgetown Theatre Company's SWAN Day 2011 Play Reading Marathon. Rosebud is also a co-editor for Her Kind at VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.