The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: FROM THE LAKE HOUSE: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love by Kristen Rademacher


This selection comes from the book, FROM THE LAKE HOUSE: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love, available from She Writes Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Kristen Rademacher has lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina since 2002, which is when she began writing. FROM THE LAKE HOUSE is her first memoir. With a Master’s Degree in Education and a Professional Coaching Certification, Kristen is an Academic Coach and ADHD Specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also leads trainings and presentations at national conferences on the topic of academic coaching. Find her online at kristenrademacher.com

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: FROM THE LAKE HOUSE: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love by Kristen Rademacher


This selection comes from the book, FROM THE LAKE HOUSE: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love, available from She Writes Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Kristen Rademacher has lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina since 2002, which is when she began writing. FROM THE LAKE HOUSE is her first memoir. With a Master’s Degree in Education and a Professional Coaching Certification, Kristen is an Academic Coach and ADHD Specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also leads trainings and presentations at national conferences on the topic of academic coaching. Find her online at kristenrademacher.com

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: FROM THE LAKE HOUSE: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love by Kristen Rademacher


This selection comes from the book, FROM THE LAKE HOUSE: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love, available from She Writes Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Kristen Rademacher has lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina since 2002, which is when she began writing. FROM THE LAKE HOUSE is her first memoir. With a Master’s Degree in Education and a Professional Coaching Certification, Kristen is an Academic Coach and ADHD Specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also leads trainings and presentations at national conferences on the topic of academic coaching. Find her online at kristenrademacher.com

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: FROM THE LAKE HOUSE: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love by Kristen Rademacher


This selection comes from the book, FROM THE LAKE HOUSE: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love, available from She Writes Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Kristen Rademacher has lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina since 2002, which is when she began writing. FROM THE LAKE HOUSE is her first memoir. With a Master’s Degree in Education and a Professional Coaching Certification, Kristen is an Academic Coach and ADHD Specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also leads trainings and presentations at national conferences on the topic of academic coaching. Find her online at kristenrademacher.com

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: FROM THE LAKE HOUSE: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love by Kristen Rademacher


This selection comes from the book, FROM THE LAKE HOUSE: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love, available from She Writes Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Kristen Rademacher has lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina since 2002, which is when she began writing. FROM THE LAKE HOUSE is her first memoir. With a Master’s Degree in Education and a Professional Coaching Certification, Kristen is an Academic Coach and ADHD Specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also leads trainings and presentations at national conferences on the topic of academic coaching. Find her online at kristenrademacher.com

 

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Un-American by Hafizah Geter

The poet Hafizah Geter (Nigeria/USA), New York, New York, February 7, 2020. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

TESTIMONY

for tamir rice, 2002–2014

Mr. President,
After they shot me they tackled my sister.
The sound of her knees hitting the sidewalk
made my stomach ache. It was a bad pain.
Like when you love someone
and they lie to you. Or that time Mikaela cried
all through science class and wouldn’t tell anyone why.
This isn’t even my first letter to you,
in the first one I told you about my room
and my favorite basketball team
and asked you to come visit me in Cleveland
or send your autograph. In the second one
I thanked you for your responsible citizenship.
I hope you are proud of me too.
Mom said you made being black beautiful again
but that was before someone killed Trayvon.
After that came a sadness so big it made everyone
look the same. It was a long time before we could
go outside again. Mr. President it took one whole day
for me to die and even though I’m twelve and not afraid of the dark
I didn’t know there could be so much of it
or so many other boys here.


This selection comes from the book, Un-American, available from Wesleyan University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter is a Nigerian-American poet, writer, and editor. She received her BA in English and economics from Clemson University and an MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. Hafizah’s poetry and prose have appeared in THE NEW YORKER, TIN HOUSE, BOSTON REVIEW, LONGREADS, AND MCSWEENEY’S INDELIBLE IN THE HIPPOCAMPUS, among others.

An editor for Little A and TOPPLE Books from Amazon Publishing, Hafizah serves on the planning committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival and lives in Brooklyn, New York where she is working on a novel about coming to America and a full-length nonfiction project about the intersection of anti blackness, climate change, language, borders, and the aftermath of American slavery in daily life.

 

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Un-American by Hafizah Geter

The poet Hafizah Geter (Nigeria/USA), New York, New York, February 7, 2020. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

HOW TO BRING YOUR CHILDREN TO AMERICA

The mothers became targets.
Hanging on clotheslines, bibs
of the barely fed.
Children, countries born
split in two—firstborns
whose first steps aborted
their sisters, brothers, the fresh bread
of their love language,
children the English
tearing sphincters in two.
The mothers came by boat,
with wings, forgetting

their own mothers’ uteruses, singing
praises to Allah, they came over and over again
until it could not matter that so-and-so had died,
we were the nicknames escaping
their bellies, the translation between
stay and never arrived.
Husbands, uncles, we were
wives, illnesses, pawpaw seeds,
only things that could save them,
sickle cells that knew better
than to touch. Visible
only in their dialect, they spoke to cousins,
wired money, forgave ancestors
we couldn’t trust.

They stopped speaking to us
in our birth language until we became new
dictionaries, became the consonants
of the Constitution they studied,
our first words forgotten
artifacts in our home
countries. They were the ones
whose fathers had died
in the milt of language,
without daughters.
In America, we were memories
without accents or consensus,
lambs that couldn’t be traded
for milk, meal, or honey,

the fact of our bodies
in America their new Quran.
And, oh, how they moaned,
how they starved, sucking their teeth
between King’s English, yelling for us
to stop playing immigrant and go
get naturalized.


This selection comes from the book, Un-American, available from Wesleyan University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter is a Nigerian-American poet, writer, and editor. She received her BA in English and economics from Clemson University and an MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. Hafizah’s poetry and prose have appeared in THE NEW YORKER, TIN HOUSE, BOSTON REVIEW, LONGREADS, AND MCSWEENEY’S INDELIBLE IN THE HIPPOCAMPUS, among others.

An editor for Little A and TOPPLE Books from Amazon Publishing, Hafizah serves on the planning committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival and lives in Brooklyn, New York where she is working on a novel about coming to America and a full-length nonfiction project about the intersection of anti-blackness, climate change, language, borders, and the aftermath of American slavery in daily life.

 

 

Caroline Earleywine Reads Nickole Brown

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week, we feature poet and educator, Caroline Earleywine, who reads Nickole Brown for us and discusses writer’s identities in spaces of queerness, gender, and the South.


Erica Hoffmeister: In our emails, you said that despite brainstorming other poets, you still returned to Nickole Brown. What do you think drew you to her poetry that made you feel it was necessary to share her work with our readers?

Caroline Earleywine: What makes me return again and again to Nickole Brown’s work is the way she makes me feel seen. When I was in graduate school, before I ever really wrote about my queer or southern identity, I was lucky enough to have Ada Limón as one of my mentor teachers. She was the one who recommended Fanny Says to me. It was a pivotal moment for me in my writing. 

I so admire the way she writes about the South and about family and those complexities and hard truths that come with both. I also relate to the way she writes about beauty and femmeness in the queer community and its ties to nature, gender, and violence. Underneath even the tough parts, there is a joy and resilience found in her work, which is something I cling to right now. So in addition to hoping her work helps others feel seen in the way it has done for me, I think everyone can benefit from those chutes of joy. 

As an aside, after I started reading her work, I found out she used to teach in Little Rock where I live and has a couple of books published with Sibling Rivalry, which is a local press. I got to meet and hear both her and her wife Jessica Jacobs read in Hot Springs at Wednesday Night Poetry last year.  (And I’m so thankful for being introduced to Jessica Jacob’s work — I aspire to write love poems with the honesty and integrity she does in her book Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going.)

Caroline Earleywine reads “Fuck” by Nickole Brown

EH: Why did you choose these particular poems of Brown’s to focus on?

CE: I so love the tenderness of “Fuck,” and how it takes a word often seen as crude and raw and inappropriate and turns it into something beautiful. The poem feels like a portrait of Fanny. I don’t necessarily have a person like Fanny in my life, but I feel this familiarity to her. I’m really drawn to this idea of what it means to be a southern woman and how we push up against that conditioning and expectation. There’s such a defiance in those last lines: “My grandmother, who didn’t ask for power, but took it, in full, fuck-it-all-bloom.” I love it for its un-apology and grit. It’s a type of strength that is unladylike as far as tradition, and is typically a type of power reserved for men. I love how Fanny takes up that space, and in writing this poem, it feels that Nickole Brown is occupying that space as well. I also just love how in this poem, and in others in the book, she examines a word that is so specific to a culture. It emphasizes that language is very much alive. It also makes me think of Nate Marshall’s poem, “Finna,” which I’m currently obsessed with. 

“An Invitation for My Grandmother” is a poem that means a lot to me. There is grief, there is beauty, and there is the joy of finally being seen. I love the journey the poem takes, both geographically and emotionally. It honestly chokes me up almost every time I read it or think about it. My grandmother died before I was able to come out to her and before I married my wife, and I often wonder what her reaction would have been. She was a true southern woman who always spoke her mind. In that way, Fanny reminds me of her. I actually wrote a poem that was largely inspired by this poem and concept called, “My Grandmother Gives Me Her Approval Nine Years After Her Death.” 

Caroline Earleywine reads “An Invitation for My Grandmother” by Nickole Brown

EH:  As a fellow queer, southern poet and educator, do you find that Brown has influenced in your own work in certain ways?

CE: I feel like she gave me a permission I didn’t know I needed. I have felt, and still feel, a bit of fear and intimidation at the idea of writing about the South. I worry about falling into stereotypes with my portrayal, or getting too negative, or not giving the unflattering parts enough space. The South is filled with such contradictions and pain and beauty, and I so admire the way Nickole Brown holds all those truths in her hand at the same time. 

I also feel a kinship and a further layering of feeling “seen” by the fact that Nickole Brown is a queer southerner who is a femme woman. There’s this experience of passing as straight, even to yourself. Heteronormativity is so conditioned and learned that it can make it hard to hear the pulse of your own desire. I feel so much of being conditioned as a woman is prioritizing being the object of desire, specifically to men, instead of examining what you yourself desire. This is further complicated with homophobia all around you because even if you did drown out the noise and hear yourself, there’s this knowledge underneath of other people’s disapproval, sometimes coming from those you love dearly.  

A very specific example of this is in Nickole Brown’s poem, “Fanny Asks Me a Question Before I’d Even Ask Myself.” I have one poem that I feel is particularly in conversation with that one, which is “Lesbian Shoes.” Obviously, my work has been very affected by Nickole Brown’s — I held this book closely as I worked on my own manuscript. 

EH: Lastly, is there anything you are currently working on or upcoming publications that you would like to share with our readers?

CE: My debut poetry chapbook is coming out in October with Sibling Rivalry Press! It’s called Lesbian Fashion Struggles. Like the name suggests, the collection is a chapbook that chronicles my experiences as a lesbian, specifically as a lesbian who grew up and resides in the South, with aspects of clothing and identity woven throughout. Much of it is a reframing of my youth through a queer lens. I’m excited and a little nervous to have it out in the world. 


Nickole Brown is a Southern poet with an MFA in fiction from Vermont College who has worked and written in various spaces, including a decade-long position at the nonprofit press Sarabande Books, an editorial assistant for Hunter S. Thompson, and Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and she currently works as Editor for the Marie Alexander Poetry Series and guest teaches for various programs and workshops. Her novel-in-poems Sister (Red Hen Press, 2007), biography-in-poems Fanny Says (BOA Editions, 2015), and essays-in-poems The Donkey Elegies (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2020) are considered groundbreaking cross-genre works and speak to identities in lesbian, Southern, and working class spaces. Brown lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her wife, Jessica Jacobs.

Further reading:

Purchase Brown’s book Fanny Says: A Biography-in-Poems from BOA Editions.
Read this interview with Brown from The Nashville Review.
Listen to Brown’s feature on Rattlecast + Open Mic.

Caroline Earleywine is teaches high school English in Central Arkansas where she tries to convince teenagers that poetry is actually cool. She was a semifinalist for Nimrod’s 2018 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and for the 2019 Vinyl 45s Chapbook Contest. She was also a finalist for the 2019 Write Bloody Publishing Contest. Her work can be found in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Barrelhouse, Nailed Magazine, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Queens University in Charlotte and lives in Little Rock with her wife and two dogs. Her chapbook, Lesbian Fashion Struggles, is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press in October of 2020. It’s now available for preorder.

Further reading:

Preorder Earleywine’s debut chapbook Lesbian Fashion Struggles from Sibling Rivalry Press.
Read poems by Earleywine as featured in Barrelhouse.
Watch Earleywine read poetry in this video for the Write Bloody Finalist Competition.

Erica Hoffmeister is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently in Denver, she teaches college writing and is an editor for the Denver-based literary journal South Broadway Ghost Society. She is the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). A cross-genre writer, she has several works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, articles and critical essays published in various outlets. Learn more about her at http://ericahoffmeister.com/

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Un-American by Hafizah Geter

The poet Hafizah Geter (Nigeria/USA), New York, New York, February 7, 2020. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

U N – AMERICAN

My mother transfers the last marigold

from a pot to a patch of earth

that she’s carefully bellied out

beneath her, the dirt cool as a penny,

her fingers tender with the bright

petals as she demonstrates how

what’s uprooted can return

to solid ground,

her colonial English helpless

against her native tongue’s prayers.

Allāhu Akbar, my mother says as casually

as she says my name.

The wind, warmer

than the water from her morning wudu,

continues its pilgrimage East,

a steady stream

of fireworks chasing it in the distance.

My mother looks at me all shine,

her dreams quietly

wild in her garden.

She says the rain can do

in Nigeria what no sun will ever

do here in South Carolina,

her shadow my only relief

from the Confederate heat.

High noon, work done,

my mother settles in on the front porch

where my father swallows

the landscape in his hands.

Leaning over his shoulder,

she watches him sketch

another promise—

his wife and last child digging

in the garden. Our likenesses,

figurines, forever

in a charcoal

amber. In his mind,

my father is always building

shelter, the spirits that haunt him

like mice in the walls:

oranges for Christmas,

a single pair of khakis

to last all year, his mother

on her knees

Murphy oiling a white woman’s Alabama

home. The heat licks the corners

of my father’s sketchbook to a curl.

He draws God’s shadow right

down to the horns.

In the garden, the bees burn

their tongues on sprouting

chili peppers, turning the honey mad.

Fireworks splash against my parents’

American Dream, a switch that turns

all their ghosts on.

Children prowl the streets

with sparklers in hand

impatient for the holiday to dusk.

I look for the ones like me and my sister

who, not born in this country,

can never be president.

My sister, upstairs, asleep

in the relief of this Independence.

Returned from college,

she’s still never shed the gait

of our barely remembered home country.

My longing could drive a car—

citizen I am

to our parents’ wounds.

My sister’s and my blood the scar

healed between them. Half of us

never owned. Half,

Southern-lynched. Strange fruit.

Watch as I pull the slave out

of me, how un-American,

to wear the names

of what they fled.

My grass-stained knees pledge allegiance

to a country that belongs to no one

I love.


This selection comes from the book, Un-American, available from Wesleyan University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter is a Nigerian-American poet, writer, and editor. She received her BA in English and economics from Clemson University and an MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. Hafizah’s poetry and prose have appeared in THE NEW YORKER, TIN HOUSE, BOSTON REVIEW, LONGREADS, AND MCSWEENEY’S INDELIBLE IN THE HIPPOCAMPUS, among others.

An editor for Little A and TOPPLE Books from Amazon Publishing, Hafizah serves on the planning committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival and lives in Brooklyn, New York where she is working on a novel about coming to America and a full-length nonfiction project about the intersection of anti-blackness, climate change, language, borders, and the aftermath of American slavery in daily life.

 

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Un-American by Hafizah Geter

The poet Hafizah Geter (Nigeria/USA), New York, New York, February 7, 2020. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

NATURALIZED CITIZEN

Mouthing amendments, our mother studied

the Constitution. Her whisper

not English, not her

Hausa tongue,

but something lower—

a car revving its engine.

Our mother memorized presidents, capital cities,

adopted habits like moving

her green card from one closet to another,

kept a manila folder for every year of her life.

In the kitchen she turned Cream

of Wheat into tuwo shinkafa,

cooked kuka until our Catholic school jumpers stunk

of crushed baobab leaves. She’d spend days in

her garden refusing to explain anything

but the marigolds.

In America, no one would say her name

correctly. I watched it rust

beneath the salt of so many tongues

like a pile of crushed Chevys.

At night, she prayed to Allah

for something from America that was more

than children. Come weekends,

we were counting

the naira in her underwear drawer.

From her calling cards, we learned

Naa goodee meant

thank you.

Kai!,

everything else.


This selection comes from the book, Un-American, available from Wesleyan University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter is a Nigerian-American poet, writer, and editor. She received her BA in English and economics from Clemson University and an MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. Hafizah’s poetry and prose have appeared in THE NEW YORKER, TIN HOUSE, BOSTON REVIEW, LONGREADS, AND MCSWEENEY’S INDELIBLE IN THE HIPPOCAMPUS, among others.

An editor for Little A and TOPPLE Books from Amazon Publishing, Hafizah serves on the planning committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival and lives in Brooklyn, New York where she is working on a novel about coming to America and a full-length nonfiction project about the intersection of anti-blackness, climate change, language, borders, and the aftermath of American slavery in daily life.