Too late


Cover Art by Angela Protzman


Last year, I had an opportunity to sit down with Allison LaPlatney and Jeff Wood of the theater collective, PIEHOLE, who were about to premier their play Old Paper Houses at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn. I had seen a nascent version of the show years earlier, and they wanted to chat about ways to incorporate original poetry into the performance, seeing as how this was to be a tribute to Bernadette Mayer. What a dream! Because I had seen the play already and knew that much of the scenes worked up the lines of Midwinter Day into something of a frantic pastiche, and because I also knew that the entire physical performance concluded with one lone actor reciting “Essay” surrounded by crushed paper houses and the rupture of some yet worse utopia (see colonization, see gentrification) (see: “And life looks like some malignant disease, / Viewed from the heights of reason / Which I don’t believe in”), my idea was to reach out to all of the poets to see who might have interest contributing to a project with Mayer’s most perfectly dismantling first line of “Essay”: I guess it’s too late to live on the farm.

Mayer was rattling my mind. There had been a marathon reading of Midwinter Day at Berl’s on winter solstice last year and I read with tears in my throat. I left Berl’s to purchase a present for my future sister-in-law—to leave the literary place (“I know the place / Taken by tradition is like superstition / And even what they call the / Literary leaves less for love”) and enter some fair-trade silk shop in Dumbo was ridiculous. I pressed my face against a $50 ceylon orange scarf and huffed frankincense until I felt holy. How stupid. I went home and read Mayer that evening like a fresh cut. I had recently read Ursula or University by Stephanie Young, which is already a shaky powerful performance of Mayer’s shaky powerful momentarily with the literary. Young had her own Essay poem in U & U, which broke my god damn heart: “Too much work and still to be poets.” So when I was approached about ideas for their play, I knew poets wanted to burn against too much work, to push for and against a life more or less momentarily, to break their own hearts on the spiked construction, “I guess.”

So I put out a call. I wasn’t sure how it would go or who might respond. I left the task open. I vetted little. I resisted the urge to edit, to suggest, and even, really, to reject. I asked others to spread the word, such that I received poems from people far away, of whom I had no heretofore knowledge. I also received work from friends, whether that friendship was carved from readings, from the internet, from a higher or lower life. I wrote my own version as my radiator hissed and remained ice cold. I debated including my own contribution, but I could never bring myself to that degree of self-promotion—I didn’t want to leave the farm to give a reading, in that way. The results were incredible though. Poets wrote and recorded themselves in less than two weeks and, during the show’s run time, theater goers could—after the show—listen to the equivalent of a blackbox, poems from so many on endless loop. It could be their secret, their “stay in the mirror with us.” It was haunting; it was messy. Audio filled headphones and you experienced each poet’s pressures and each poet’s static.

I wanted to highlight this further, and so here we are, held in another secret: The Atlas Review’s special online issue, which is also the debut of our online presence. Hello. Savor all of these poems. Savor the design by our wonderful new web designer, Angela Protzman. And if you dare, consider submitting your work for issue 6, which will be exclusively online. Our reading period will be between October 15th and November 15th—granted, this is a small reading window, with a major perk. Starting with issue 6, we will begin paying our contributors. We do too much work, isn’t that so. I guess it is so. I guess you should read on.

— Natalie Eilbert 

Alina Gregorian – Pass the Bass Guitar

Joanna C. Valente – I Guess It’s Too Late to Live on the Farm

Allyson Paty – I Guess It’s Too Late to Live

Carleen Tibbetts – I Guess It’s Too Late to Live on the Farm

Morgan Parker – I Guess (or, Those Farms Are for White People)

Julia Guez – I Guess It’s Too Late to Live on the Farm

Caroline Cabrera – I guess it’s too late to live on the farm

Gale Marie Thompson – I Guess It’s Too Late to Live on the Farm

Mike Lala – a brief text on tardiness

Kelin Loe – I Guess It’s Too Late to Live on the Farm

Sarah Blake – I Guess It’s Too Late to Live on the Farm

Esther Lee – Labanotation #15

Emily Brandt – I guess it’s too late to live on the farm

CAConrad, Magdalena Zurawski, Channette Romero, Jenny Gropp, Gale Marie Thompson, and Gina Abelkop – After Bernadette Mayer, at The Dinner Party

Elizabeth Clark Wessel – I guess it’s too late to live on the farm

Carrie Lorig – The Book of Repulsive Women

Lo Kwa Mei-en – GREEN CARD