Oh hell, here’s that dark wood again –

What I like about Kim Addonizio’s poem “Divine”?
Actually … a lot; but most of all how she combines the divine and the profane and puts herself in Dante’s shoes, as if they were her own. And of course — they are!


by Kim Addonizio

Oh hell, here’s that dark wood again.
You thought you’d gotten through it –
middle of your life, the ogre turned into a mouse
monsters hammered down
into their caves, werewolves outrun.
You’d come out of all that, into a field.
There was one man standing in it.
He held out his arms.
Ping went your iHeart
so you took off all your clothes.
Now there were two of you,
or maybe one mashed back together
like sandwich halves,
oozing mayonnaise.
You lived on grapes and antidepressants
and the occasional small marinated mammal.
You watched the DVDs that dropped
from the DVD tree.  Nothing
was forbidden to you, so no worries there.
It rained a lot.
You planted some tomatoes.
Something bad had to happen
because no trouble, no story, so
Fuck you, fine, whatever,
here come more black trees
hung with sleeping bats
like ugly Christmas ornaments.
Don’t you hate the holidays?
All that giving.  All those wind-up
creches, those fake silver icicles.
If you had a real one you could stab
your undead love through its big
cursed heart.  Instead you have silver noodle
with which you must flay yourself.
Denial of pleasure,
death before death,
alone in the woods with a few bats
unfolding their creaky wings.



On composing Divine, Addonizio  writes:

My brother once commented, ‘Now I get how writers work. You’re magpies.’ Which we both understood to mean: Writers scavenge from wherever they can.  In the case of ‘Divine,’ I scavenged from Dante, Plato, the Bible, fairy tales, old vampire movies, whoever said ‘Only trouble is interesting’ is the first rule of fiction, early Christian flagellants, a trip to Australia where I saw bats in a botanical garden, and my then-present emotional state. Which was, essentially: There’s no place like hell for the holidays. When I Googled ‘magpies’ for this statement, I discovered they possess a few more writerly traits: They are clever and often despised, little poètes maudits. The Chinese considered them messengers of joy, but the Scots thought they carried a drop of Satan’s blood under their tongues. They are fond of bright objects. And then this: When confronted with their image in a mirror, they recognize themselves.

An interview can be found here


Kim Addonizio was born in Washington, DC. She attended college there and in San Francisco, where she earned a BA and MA from San Francisco State University.  She divides her time between Oakland, California and New York City. She is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently My Black Angel: Blues Poems and Portraits, with woodcuts by Charles D. Jones (SFA Press, 2015), and Mortal Trash (W.W. Norton, 2016). Her collection Tell Me was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has also published two novels, two books of stories, an anthology on tattoos, and (with Susan Browne) a word/music CD. A new blues and word CD, My Black Angel, was released in 2015. With Dorianne Laux, she wrote The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry. Her latest book on writing is Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within.  Wild Nights, a New & Selected from the UK’s Bloodaxe Books, was published in 2015, and a memoir, Bukowski in a Sundress, is due from Viking/Penguin in 2016. Her awards include two NEA fellowships, a Guggenheim fellowship, and two Pushcart Prizes. She teaches private workshops and volunteers for The Hunger Project, a global organization dedicated to empowering people to end their own hunger. Visit her online at www.kimaddonizio.com.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. I love her. She was a teacher at my MFA program many years ago and her poems rock the edges between formal structure and a youthful freedom she seems to be able to engage almost at will, and yet in the down-to-earth details she calls up classical allusions. I’ve taught this poem to my students many times.
    Anyone reading this comment who hasn’t read Addonizio’s books yet–check out her work! 🙂

    1. Sigrun says:

      Oh – Lucky you!
      & YES: read Addonizio, also her books on writing: http://books.wwnorton.com/books/Ordinary-Genius/

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