Ilyse Kusnetz on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Ilyse Kusnetz by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Ilyse Kusnetz

Ilyse-KusnetzPoet and journalist Ilyse Kusnetz is the author of Small Hours, winner of the 2014 T.S. Eliot prize from Truman State University Press, and The Gravity of Falling (2006). She earned her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and her Ph.D. in Feminist and Postcolonial British Literature from the University of Edinburgh. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Guernica Daily, the Cincinnati Review, Crazyhorse, Stone Canoe, Rattle, and other journals and anthologies. She has published numerous reviews and essays about contemporary American and Scottish poetry, both in the United States and abroad; she has served as a guest editor at Poetry International and the Atlanta Review for feature sections on Scottish poetry.

SmallHourCoverShe is currently at work on a new poetry manuscript—Angel Bones. She teaches at Valencia College and lives in Orlando with her husband, the poet and memoirist Brian Turner.

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HARBINGER

Just another day           in hyper-capitalist society—
in my Facebook feed,           news of rabbits and

chickens tortured on meat farms,           but I’m still not
vegan and I’m waiting           to die myself

from cancer I may have gotten           from soil or ground water
contaminated by nuclear weapons,           and no amount

of posting uplifting stories           is going to fix that.
And lord, let them cease           trying to control women’s

bodies, people’s genders,           people’s desires,
let them stop hating people           because of their color

and ethnicities. I want to shake           the bigots and racists
till their teeth come loose           and they lose their bite,

till their tongues           swell up in their mouths
and they’re stricken mute.           I want to save

all the slaughtered animals,           save the seas and their
inhabitants—whales, birds,           the tiniest bivalve—

from choking on plastic.           I want to purify the air
of sulfur and carbon dioxide,           scrape the lead

from plumbing pipes,           god I need to do something
besides dying, besides           thinking about death

and the neo-fascist           politicians who lead
a nation of people           unable to think critically

after 40 years’ systemic           dismantling
of the education system           by the rich

so their lackeys           can make it
illegal to prosecute           corporations for poisoning

the air, earth, water—and Jesus,           isn’t it
a kind of           mental illness

annihilating what you need           to stay alive
for the accumulation of           blind profit—

and in the process killing           and killing and
murdering me,           along with the people and animals

I can’t save but want to,           with all my goddamn
fucking heart, but instead           I’m waiting to die,

trying to find some           last meaning in all of this.
A warning, perhaps.           You’re next.

—First published in Rattle, 2016

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