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Since 1996 Volume XXI

Vivian Shipley

Vivian Shipleyís eighth book of poetry, All of Your Message Have Been Erased, (SLU Press, 2010) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, won the 2011 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement, the 202 Sheila Motton Prize for Poetry from New England Poetry Club and the Connecticut Press Club Prize for Best Creative Writing. Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor and Editor of Connecticut Review, she teaches creative writing at Southern Connecticut State University.

The Poet as Hammer Thrower


Tyrannosaurus Rex trapezoids,

thighs and rear, I am spinning.

Earth is spiraling; I want to keep


doing this. Cosmic. Interplanetary.

Zen. I am Mercury. I am Venus.

No, I am Harold Connolly, ribboned


in Olympic gold from Melbourne, 1956,

ballet slippers designed by my Irish mother,

a vaudeville dancer. Confined to a seven


foot wide concrete circle, not fourteen

lines of a sonnet, I pirouette, whirl, lance

the hammer maybe three stories high,


a football field long, then the yelp. If only Iíd

overcome gravity like negativity, my hammer

would never touch ground. The secret


is the pendulum, the system: centrifugal force

created when I begin to rotate and speed up

to sixty miles per hour, gripping a four foot


wire attached to sixteen pounds of hammer.

Twirl four times, no prodigy, I canít get

away with three, I lean back, sit in space.


Arms are stretched straight because,

to borrow from physics, the longer the lever,

the farther the throw. For me, itís kamiwaza,


Japanese for super human feat, or divine

work like words lined into a single eruption

of 8 mm film spooling onto the tile floor.


I have been known to crutch through a poem,

but centered, brute strength or no, I canít

muscle the hammer forward. Like fingers


probing my spine to rotate me through the tango,

it is a guide, tries to show me how to avoid being

banished from festival fields because weight


of my subjects pock lawns manicured like sestinas

and villanelles. My hammer in hand, I am a leaf

shedding a globule of rain that quick silvers


a glissando down the center vein. Green,

the tip unbends. My heart and hammer

are one. Transcendent. Then the thud.



© Copyright, Vivian Shipley.
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