National Poetry Month Celebration 2015
BIO: JEANANN VERLEE is an author, performance poet, editor, and former punk rocker who collects tattoos and wears polka dots. She is author of Said the Manic to the Muse and Racing Hummingbirds, winner of the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal in poetry. She has also been awarded the Third Coast Poetry Prize and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in The New York Quarterly, Rattle, failbetter, and PANK, among others. Verlee holds a number of local and national poetry slam titles and has represented New York City ten times under both NYC-Urbana and NYC-louderARTS at the National Poetry Slam, Individual World Poetry Slam, and Women of the World Poetry Slam. She lives in New York City with her husband and their rescue pup, Aulë. She believes in you. Learn more at jeanannverlee.com.
1. Where do you draw your inspiration from to write poetry?
I write what uproots me—whether personally or as witness.
2. What advice do you have for someone that is threatened by poetry?
Read more poetry.
3. What is an interesting fact about you?
I used to have a fire engine-red mohawk.
4. Where are you from/Where do you live?
Denver, CO / New York City
5. Who is your favorite poet?
This is an impossible question. The list is immense and shifts with mood.
Today, I feel like saying Adam Falkner. He is outrageously brilliant.
Jezebel Revisits the Book of Kings
by Jeanann Verlee
after Roger Bonair-Agard
“For the whole house of Ahab shall perish...and the dogs shall eat Jezebel”
—Book of Kings 2.9, King James Bible
I wouldn't go out frayed and bleating.
Refused to racket or wail. I was a holy woman of Ba’al.
I faced the end in silk and jewels. Posture. Purple.
For this, my name means whore. Means raggedy-dance.
Means black jasmine, means sweat, stamen, ovary. Means pearl
in the wet lap of oysters. My name means ruby-lipped.
I lived in a time of men. I lived in the time of Ahab.
I am a mother of kings. I was born of hurricane and pomegranate.
Fed on the breast, I was maker of milk. I passed the stream
and the nightflowers bent to kiss me. I was evoker of hail.
Windstorm. I prodded the gods and they came. Feasted
at my table. Crowned my husband. Mine is a story of love.
Women who survive the hate of men are named harlot, witch,
Jezebel. (I still hear the dogs.) In a different century, they’d have
burned me. They’d have pressed my body to the river’s floor.
I was a burning fish. Silver flakes trailed in my wake.
I was silkdance and flutter. Maker of tides. Of thorns.
Girls cowered and men flocked. I led armies
on the soft hull of my back. (A powerful woman
is simply one who has not yet died.) Flanked on all sides
by men made furious with envy. Men gone mad.
I did it for Ahab. He came to Ba’al for me.
There is nothing I wouldn’t do. He wanted the castle,
I mortgaged my wrists. He asked for the crown, I slayed
the soldiers. He sought a dynasty, I gave him the globe.
Nothing less than a man would do. (Remember Helen.)
I was ear to the Prophets. Ahab’s wife. Mother to Ahaziah and Jehoram.
Men raised on woman’s sugar tit. Phoenicians with mouths of gold.
I was a woman with hunger. Prophecy.
Scholars name me corrupt. Name me concubine. Hussy.
Charlatan. Tainter of men. My name means wicked. Unholy.
Ahab was my only. His tongue, my tongue. His flesh, my flesh.
I was a woman in love.
They robbed me first of Ahab’s breath. Then my sons.
I wasn't thrown into the pit of dogs.
Originally published in Third Coast Magazine and appears in Verlee’s book, Said the Manic to the Muse.
A Poet in Action
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My second book, Said the Manic to the Muse, releases in April from Write Bloody Publishing. Available here!
All news, publications, and upcoming performances posted here.
Also, I make a mean batch of almond sugar drop cookies.
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