Monday, July 22, 2024

Celebrate National Poetry Month with poet Lisa Dordal

Launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month reminds the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture, and that poetry matters.

Over the years, National Poetry Month has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and—of course—poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives.  

On April 1st Lisa Dordal’s second collection of poetry Water Lessons was released by Black Lawrence Press. To support the launch of the book, Lisa will be appearing in NYC, Nashville, Minneapolis, Charlottesville, Asheville, Austin, Denver, and Chicago. EVENTS listed here.

Through deeply personal and culturally grounded narratives, Water Lessons explores the relationship between reality and imagination, faith and doubt, presence and absence, as the speaker grapples with multiple dimensions of grief arising from her mother’s alcoholism and eventual death; her father’s deepening dementia; and her own childlessness. Against the backdrop of these personal griefs, the speaker scrutinizes the patriarchal underpinnings of the world she grew up in as well as her complicity in systemic racism as a white girl growing up in the ’70s and ’80s. Woven throughout the book are the speaker’s meditations on a divine presence that, for her, is both keenly felt and necessarily elusive, mirroring the speaker’s ultimate celebration of her unborn daughter as a “lovely fiction” who is both here and not here.

Please enjoy an excerpt from Water Lessons here:

I Love
I love how my wife says operators are standing by, whenever I’m out of town and she wants to chat. 
I love that birds can see stars and that even fruit flies need sleep. 
I love that an African grey parrot learned how to use 100 words and that his last words were: Be good and I love you.
I love how Jesus stopped a crowd of men from stoning a woman just by writing in the sand.
I love that an octopus has three hearts. 
I love that Mother Theresa only heard from God one time, and it was enough.
I love that some birds mate for life—and that after one dies, the survivor sings both parts of their song. 
I love that our brains are mostly water. 
I love that some people believe in heaven. And some don’t.
I love that an owl visited my wife in a dream and that my wife said hello and asked: Are you the kind of owl that people refer to as a barred owl?
I love that what saves one person is not the same as what saves someone else. 
I love how the word cranium sounds like the name of a flower. 
I love that my mother keeps wanting to show me her garden.
I love that the owl answered back.

There will be days when the word mother will burst out of you 
like the black smoke of a squid, a fire deep inside water. Anyone can become 
animal or a flicker of light. Remember infinity 
means unfinished, and time doesn’t move 
at the same speed for everyone.Remember mother 
contains not just the sea but the darkness of the sea. 
And there is no such thing as a half-life for grief. 
Even oceans contain waterfalls and your mother is inside 
everything that you write—sometimes as melody, 
sometimes as mountain or bone. Every time 
you hear the word, you become something else.

About the Author

Lisa Dordal (M.Div., M.F.A.) teaches in the English Department at Vanderbilt University and is the author of Mosaic of the Dark, which was a finalist for the 2019 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry, and Water Lessons (April 2022), which was a finalist for the Poets Out Loud Prize from Fordham University Press. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize (judged by Phillis Levin), the Robert Watson Poetry Prize (from the Greensboro Review), and the Betty Gabehart Poetry Prize from the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals including The Sun, Narrative, RHINO, New Ohio Review, The Greensboro Review, Best New Poets, Ninth Letter, CALYX, and Vinyl. For more information, please visit her website

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