The Editors Write: We’ve had the pleasure of a front-row seat to Stevie Edwards’ writing for pretty much the entirety of her publishing career – Radius’ predecessor, The November 3rd Club, being among the first journals to publish her. And it’s been a remarkable thing to watch, as this poet continues to put forth poem after poem that are razor-sharp, surprisingly delicate and packed to near-exploding with emotional content. Edwards is fearless in the face of language, and doesn’t flinch as she brings the straightrazor of her poems right up to the reader’s neck. But what’s perhaps most startling about Edwards is the sense that she’s really just getting started, and that there are still miles and poems ahead of her. Frankly, we’re always excited to see what she does next.
By Stevie Edwards
I need a new story. I want a daughter:
Let it be said that the girl in the prey pose
knew so much of her beauty
she roared the baseball player’s ears deaf
before biting the right one off Mike Tyson style.
Let it be said that upon losing music
the man wept himself into
a drowned boy—
and the girl, seeing his ache
was its own ocean, dredged
his limp behind back to shore.
Let it be said that when the man rose
unchanged by mercy,
the girl’s incisors were filed sharp as shanks
as her mother had told her best suited ladies
in the wilds of home team nights.
Let it be said that her mother
was a butcher. That she knew how
to gut a mammal without waste.
That she never looked back.
Love Letter to Rachel McKibbens, from Stevie Edwards: Rachel, I asked if we could feature “Letter from My Heart to My Brain” and “Letter from My Brain to My Heart” because you performed these pieces the first time I saw you, which was at Columbia College — Chicago in Spring 2010. I remember weeping quietly in the audience, your litany of “It’s okays” giving me permission to be — to be a woman who struggles with mental illness but is not solely defined by it, to love myself both despite and because of it, to write truths even when they’re ugly, to find beauty in wounds. Above all, Rachel, your poems have taught me relentless self-acceptance and bravery. In 2011, when I emailed asking you to be a reader for my first book, Good Grief, I thought, no way is this phenomenal poet going to be willing to look at my measly manuscript. But you said yes. In fact, throughout the past four years of my getting to know you better as poet, friend, and mentor, you’ve given me dozens of yeses, of chances, that I expected to be shut doors. What I admire most about you as a poet is how your poems give so many women writers permission to be fierce and fucked up and unshakably beautiful. What I admire most about you as a mentor is how you go to bat for women poets. When I think of the type of legacy I want to create in the poetry community, I think of your example. Who else could have not just the vision for the Pink Door Women’s Writing Retreat and Good Idea Summit, but also the generosity of spirit to make it happen with limited resources? What you have given the community is a series of unlocked doors, let’s say they are pink, for women to walk through in sequins or sweats and speak with power. What you have given me is myself. Rachel, you are an important person and your writing is so necessary.
Letter From My Heart To My Brain
By Rachel McKibbens
Its okay to hang upside-down like a bat,
to swim into the deep end of silence,
to swallow every key so you can’t get out.
It’s okay to hear the ocean calling your fevered name
to say your sorrow is an opera of snakes,
to flirt with sharp and heartless things.
It’s okay to write, I deserve everything,
to bow down to this rotten thing
that understands you, to adore the red
and ugly queen of it, to admire
her calm and steady rowing.
It’s okay to lock yourself in the medicine cabinet,
to drink all the wine, to do what it takes to stay
without staying. Its okay to hate God today
to change his name to yours, to want to ruin all that ruined you.
It’s okay to feel like only a photograph of yourself,
to need a stranger to pull your hair and pin you down,
it’s okay to want your mother as you lie alone in bed.
It’s okay to brick to fuck to flame to church to crush to knife
to rock to rock to rock to rock to rock and rock.
It’s okay to wave good-bye to yourself in the mirror.
To write, I don’t want anything.
It’s okay to despise what you have inherited,
to feel dead in a city of pulses. It’s okay
to be the whale that never comes up for air,
to love best the taste of your own blood.
Letter From My Brain To My Heart
By Rachel McKibbens
This house is dirty, but comfortable.
Behind each crooked door
waits the angry weather of a forgiveless child.
I cannot help but admire this horrible
power of mine, how each small thing
can become a death: the lost house key. A spoiled egg.
A howling dog. There is no prayer or pill for this.
It is a ruthless botany; I might as well
be buried in the yard. I have no one to blame.
Not the mother who sang to an empty cradle.
Not the Dog of Spite who bit my hand,
just this long-legged sorrow
who trails my every joy like a dark perfume.
You have my permission not to love me;
I am a cathedral of deadbolts
and I’d rather burn myself down
than change the locks.
Love Letter to Emily O’Neill, from Stevie Edwards: At the end of the 2013 Pink Door Women’s Writing Retreat and Good Idea Summit, Rachel McKibbens arranged a ceremony, where we all got to tell partners the following words, “You’re an important person and your writing is necessary.” You were my partner. Telling you these words was easy; they were true. But hearing them back from you forced me to stare the need for my own writing in the face, to accept worthiness. We held each other; I think that’s what our poems can do for one another. When I think of your poem “Conditional,” beyond being beautifully crafted with a mastery of language far beyond your years, it holds a space open for me to face the female body, complex feelings about motherhood, the grief of miscarriage—all without shame. I want to write you room after room where shame has no currency, rooms to be brave in, rooms to love yourself fiercely in, rooms to survive in, rooms Rachel has unlocked the doors to. This is how we can hold each other in poems: by being generously and generatively disruptive enough to make rooms for each other’s work, by knowing these rooms are holy and worth making noise for. Emily, you are an important person and your writing is so necessary.
By Emily O’Neill
At twenty I miscarried a child.
He would be school-aged now,
a terror on your hip. Instead
he dissolved like a clot kissed with aspirin.
I blame the brandy and the wine. Not
foolish enough to call it miracle,
I would’ve kept the bastard in my bed
if he had grown beyond a seedling. I’d be wrong
to think my recklessness a rescue. My boy
full of loose teeth. I won’t call it relief
when liquor stings the cut. He could’ve been aspirin,
a foolish kiss. He could’ve been
a rich meal slumped and stirring
in my stomach. Not three bloodless months
I paid no mind. Not a rosary of weeks
I thought my choices still immaculate.
He could’ve grown up a monster. Could’ve been bad
as the bastard who never knew I bled his baby.
I won’t talk about my future like that. Conditionally. I won’t worry
my wishing with a name I chose before I knew
what I’d be losing.