Melissa Broder - Every airplane is sleep.I point my finger at a jetliner to rest my eye. Boys smell holes in a neon blue banner I keep in my wallet. The banner says RELAX GOD IS IN CHARGE. Stephen Dedalus you are never on my mind. You come to my island and I am the island. You are well-traveled but that is arid.

Melissa Broder, Scarecrone, Publishing Genius Press, 2014.


Melissa Broder’s

In her third collection, Broder (Meat Heart) manages to conjure a psychic realm best described as one part twisted funhouse and two parts Catholic school, heavy on libido and with a dash of magick. This gritty, cherry soda–black book, where Broder “distorted all the mirrors/ in mucus, oil and blood,” is bizarrely sexy in its monstrousness. “There is no need to be pink when another woman is already pink,” she states, and her poems reject feminine frills, choosing instead to dig into the body’s dark spaces for something beyond the corporeal: “I cried/ because my body/ was not waterlogged enough/ to fall right off the bone.” She reduces the female form to its negative space; holes or mouths hungering to be filled or stuffed: “I ate/ the world and I ate/ the world. It tasted like bandage.” When she is frank, her self-criticism is arresting and comes closest to revealing what she seems to be digging at: “I have wanted/ many unfair things/ What is most unfair/ is that the Earth is still okay/ with me being here/ I think, and even/ encourages it.” One must be careful about what’s filling these wants and spaces, Broder writes, “because/ you shouldn’t just fill one space/ with the unclarity of another.” - Publishers Weekly

If you’ve ever read Melissa Broder, or if you follow her on Twitter, you know her spirit is entrenched somewhere halfway between the club and the void. There’s an odd balance of metaphysical transcendence and material bling-brain to quite a number of her lines, and she is unafraid to have her idea of God bump shoulders with both blood and Tumblr.
Broder says shit like: “Nobody bleeds white like I bleed white / Into a ditch the shadow of my bloodbag is white / I want a darker aura, like I want to be gorgeous.” There’s a weird brand of inner loathing mashed with inner haunting lurking here, but what I like best about Broder, oddly, is her morality. As coal-black as her imagery gets, and as overriding as the sadness in her ongoing personal desolation might be, there is an unrelenting sense that there’s a reason for it. That humans, perhaps, carry hell because they are hell, and that really the self is just a vessel toward something no one really has a name for.
That Broder wields this, and isn’t just pumping out poems full of wry cartoon loathing and social exuberance, shifts the center of the book not onto the self but onto something larger, undefined. I don’t know what a book is if not a latch to elsewhere, and Scarecrone has pressed its skull against the hidden door. It is neither drunk nor ecstatic to be here—it is a state unto itself. - Blake Butler


My wings are made of garbage
At least they can be touched
I want you I want you
Especially the old and ugly
Take these bottles of soda
And tubes of cherry lipstick

These are my demon breakfast

And my red red hooves

It is better to be satan

With half-trash filling

Than try to stuff your holes with clouds
Lacerating on your nails

I once stuffed my holes with halos

Until honey dripped down

The honey smelled like village women

Full of want and feces

Village women screaming out for anything alive
I shut them up with jars of eye cream

And a plastic head

I gave them eggs of pantyhose

And a melting cathedral

I gave them black snakeskins

And menstrual sponges

I gave them sainted men

With semisoft dicks

Making it hard

To feel totally fucked

Every time a new book comes out from Publishing Genius, the author is interviewed by the author of the previous PGP book. I’m pleased to present a bunch of questions that Edward Mullany (author of Figures for an Apocalypse) posed to Melissa Broder (author of SCARECRONE). —Adam Robinson
EDWARD: Can you talk about the figure of the “Scarecrone” as she relates to your book as a whole? What is her significance? 
MELISSA: The Scarecrone personifies my fears around time, death, and the loss of physical beauty / sexual desirability. She is a dry succubus, a cautionary tale of the inevitable and the perceived inevitable. She is a mirage. But she is a powerful mirage. She is dangerous in her unreality. She may have something wise to teach. On a social level, one might say she is the ghosts of discarded women in a culture obsessed with youth, though this book doesn’t really fuck with culture, because I don’t really fuck with culture. I fuck with me, mostly, and my own obsession with youth. I fuck with time. I fuck with fucking. Also death.
To your mind, is the difference between “the inevitable and the perceived inevitable” a significant one? What is that difference?
I made the distinction here, because death is (historically) inevitable, whereas time’s slow, cruel drain on my worth as a human being is a perceived inevitability. Where did I get this fear that to grow old is to become worthless? Did I get it from culture? From my mother? From nature? It isn’t a truth in the way that death is a truth. And intellectually, I know it’s not a truth at all. But to me, on a visceral level, it’s a very real fear. And it dictates a lot of my actions. And I can probably make it true if I believe it enough, or at least I can will my own misery. So I guess I’d say that the inevitable and the perceived inevitable are different, but that one’s reality and one’s perceived reality are the same.
You mention that the Scarecrone can be understood as a sort of succubus. Does this suggest that your poems are concerned as much with the supernatural, or spiritual, as they are with the physical? Or does it suggest something else?  
I tend to negate the value of the physical world and reach for realms of fantasy, the imagined, the spiritual. I think that’s because I’ve always found it difficult to live in a body and sought union with something bigger than me for relief. It’s that tension between soul and body that compels me to write poetry. If I could choose my ideal god it would be a god that protects me from pain, from people, from life–a god that makes me feel blissed 100% of the time. It would basically be heroin, except it wouldn’t be a false god, because I wouldn’t be dependent on anyone or anything for it. And I would never come down. And believe me when I say that I have tried to make many tangible things into this god. And believe me when I say that you always come down.  I mean, I have had a lot of those peak experiences in life–those ecstatic whoa moments that feel lotusy and like I imagined ‘spirituality’ would be.  I am a succubus for those moments. But I’ve found that even when they aren’t attached to a drug or a lover or a guru or X or Y,  they aren’t sustainable. But then there is this other kind of spirituality that is tangible, not as showy, the kind that works through people, action based, pause-based, stillness, quiet moments of gratitude for nothing, a not-reaching for glitter, a more Earthy spirituality, laughter. Its lack of glitter, its humanity, is counterintuitive to me. And it is exactly what I need. It has been instrumental in keeping me on the planet.
Sexual appetite, or need, is strong in the voices in your poems. Could you talk about this?
Yes. These are some horny poems. But is it a sexual need or is it spiritual/creative need disguised as sexual need? Are they the same? Is it both? I’m not sure. There are so many different kinds of holes to fill, not just physical. It’s a lot easier to try and plug those holes sexually than it is with stillness. Like who wouldn’t rather go to a beautiful face for solace than sit quietly? And maybe that’s ok. But at some point it’s going to hurt really badly. Because lovers don’t comply with fantasy. Reality doesn’t comply with fantasy. That sucks. That still surprises me. People aren’t infinite peace like the power is infinite peace, which ultimately, is what I am in it for. To be ok. To feel ok. So heartbreak comes. The heartbreak that is the death of a fantasy. But knowing this, having experienced this many times, I keep going there anyway. Maybe this time it will be god. And more want comes. And more pain comes. And then I surrender and grace comes and the poems come. And the poems are grace, pure grace, even if there are dicks in them. God likes when I am writing poems. And I know it’s god because the holes get filled and the poems don’t hurt me after. But then there is time. And I look away from the poems. And the holes empty again. And I want to fill them. And I want to fill them quickly. And I press repeat.
One of my favorite lines from your book is from the poem, “The Saint Francis Prayer Is A Tall Order”. The poem ends like this:
To be a saint is to be courageous
about the pursuit of what?
I have a pretty mouth.
Meet me at the black clock.
There is something provocative in this. But I’m not sure how to describe it without diminishing the poem’s complexity. Let me just say it puts me in mind of the William Blake line (from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell): “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”. Could you talk a little about this?
In terms of religion, I wasn’t raised to have any hangups or guilt about sex. So I don’t see spirituality and sexuality as warring forces in that sense. But in terms of an addiction model, I know that I am inclined to try and fill an insatiable longing (or holes, as I call them in my last answer) with glittery, tangible stuff. And sex is some of that glittery, tangible stuff. Sex for sex’s sake is beautiful. But for me, having sex to fill a bigger chasm usually only doubles the chasm. And sometimes I don’t care. I am willing to double the chasm if it means a temporary filling, or illusion of filling. And that’s what this poem is doing. It’s saying fuck it. Let’s fix now. Sate me.
What, to you, is an appealing characteristic of human beings?
A good sense of humor.
How would you characterize SCARECRONE’s relationship to your previous books? Do you see it as a progression? A departure? Something else?
The difference between the texts is definitely physical. MOTHER came from the head. It was syllabic and form-driven and clever. And I am so over clever. MEAT HEART was sort of a hybrid, where I took it out of the head and brought it deeper into the body. Maybe the heart, actually. SCARECRONE came from even deeper places, somewhere between the neck and the genitals, also the third eye and this place above the head. I’ve learned how to clear the channel. I’ve learned how to get out of my own way more. I’m still not great at that in life, but I’m happy with where my poetry is headed. The stuff I’ve written since SCARECRONE I feel like I don’t even want to use language anymore, just like burbles and whitespace or something.
I was watching a movie last night, and one of the characters, a film producer, said to his friend, in a conversation about casting, “Unhappy people can act well”. Because they were trying to decide who to give a role to, after an audition. And I’m just wondering what you think about that. If someone was to suggest to you that unhappiness is usually involved in the creation of art, what would you think, or say?
I act as though I believe that you don’t have to suffer to make art. Like, I take daily actions in my life to move towards the light, in spite of how I might feel or mistakes I make. Something in me really wants to live. But I will say that I am way more compelled to write poems when I don’t get what I think I want than when I do.- Interview by Edward Mullany

“Broder risks the divine … shrewd, funny, twisted, sad poems.”—The Chicago Tribune

“If you listen past the weird, you can hear all sorts of things: sadness, seriousness, life, death, and a whole lot of laughter … Broder is a tremendous talent.”—Flavorwire

“At the core of Broder’s poems is hunger, the drive to consume or destroy, an instinctual void as visceral as it is absurd.”—The Rumpus

“Melissa Broder performs a kind of literary augury few poets have the stamina for … Broder’s insight and honesty will make your brain light up and your hair stand on end.”—The Examiner

“Broder’s poems beam oracle energy. They pump a music of visions for the life-lusty death dance.”

Melissa Broder, Meat HeartPublishing Genius Press, 2012.

Don’t believe Melissa Broder when she writes, “I’m afraid / to say anything with heart.” This book is not afraid, as she proves right away and on every page, and that’s why we needed her to make it. A little dark, a little damaged, a little deranged, but definitely not afraid—and never short on the titular organ, which also acts as mouth and mind. The whole book pumps, and I swear some of what’s coming in and out are flashes of light that you can read it by.- Mark Bibbins

The speaker in Meat Heart is either an old-world witch or a contemporary warlock. That is to say, this speaker-being gallops through time making thrilling observations. There is a focus on meat, blood and food. The poems tear through the reader with a reassuring giggle, yet remain ominous. Broder writes, “I find a thighbone in his mattress / and think of friends gone missing.” She also writers “G-d loves my hair,” so we are reminded not to be overly frightened. To read Meat Heart is to consume, perish, murder, glitter, and prophesize. To say that Broder is fearless is not saying enough.- Natalie Lyalin

With her hallmark wit and brilliance, Melissa Broder has followed up her heralded When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother with Meat Heart, a book of poems that is at once apocalyptic, full of sorrow, and packed with images crystalline in their beauty and truth. In these poems, Broder takes us through a world that is both alien and familiar to the world that we already know, a wild landscape where there is “ash fish / and elemental octopi,” where “cornhusk filaments / Still jacket tongues,” and where in a place with “200 flavors of panic/the worst is seeing with no eyes.” All of these freakish things to help us confront the bald fact that we are all just a series of meat hearts ourselves. It is here that Broder shows her generosity as a poet, because she makes us a new world in these poems where we go beyond meat—a world where Broder tells us, “Somewhere I stopped looking for magic.” I guess she found all she needed; this book is full of magic.- Dorothea Lasky

Building on the foundation she laid in her lush and sneering debut, When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother, Broder's second collection cranks up the weird by mining the grotesqueries of her speakers' relationships with men, god, the self, and food. That these elements often become indistinguishable--as in "Ciao Manhattan," where "It is so god/ When the voice is like wheat// Spooned wheat/ In whole milk"--is evidence of Broder's talent for showing us our contemporary conflict: god is both a haven from the grotesque and the name we rail against when we aren't safe from it. But Broder is smarter than to suggest that there are only two sides to this dilemma. Out to "crucify boredom," her poems show us how any relationship with the divine is no less at risk of engendering grotesque lust. "Yesterday the worship rattled like an engine," she writes, and "God keeps unfurling me/ with god's gigantic helium." What makes Broder such a pleasure on the page is her insistence that these dramas play out on a workaday stage infused with surreal Pop and imaginative muscle. "When the last Beatle dies," she tells us in "Ringo," "the president hits a kill switch/ and all our possessions/ drift like eyelashes/ through a crack in the sky." In Broder's hands, it's good to kiss them good-bye.  -Publishers Weekly 
But it’s unsurprising that Broder should be responsible for poetry that shoves a live wire into the premise of its making. She’s run a reading series for years. She holds down a day job at one of the biggest book publishers in the world. She edits a fierce and lasting online literary magazine. She’s pursuing an MFA. She tweets like you wouldn’t believe. She backs other writers’ work, and her own is a force of exact and exuberant play. Her poems are made of worlds. Melissa walks the walk, and here, she talks the talk.
Peter Moysaenko Your poem “Blue Period” opens up, “I know / I am menaced / by art.” By what degrees might you say your writing practice figures as diversion or confrontation? And would you say the bulk of your writing practice eventually leads toward or ultimately centers around poetry?
Melissa Broder In “Blue Period” I imagine being attacked by classical pieces of visual art—like literally getting eaten by museums. I’m not really into the traditional museum experience, because as a kid it felt so oppressive. Adults tried to “culture” you with Mary Cassatt, but I just wanted to be in the cafeteria eating pudding. I felt like I was dissolving with ennui. That is a negative experience of disintegration. But on the flip side, there can be a very euphoric form of vanishing, which is what writing does. It validates the itch. It makes the itch worth something. And it gets me out of my “me-ness” enough to enjoy being on this planet, where I’ve never felt particularly at home. So I think my writing practice figures as an integration. By vanishing, it’s the wholest I can get.
I’d say most of my practice eventually leads toward poems. I’m pretty utilitarian for a fantasist. I keep a lot of scraps around—pages of hoarded nouns, half poems that never made it out alive. I don’t like seeing anything go to waste. A lot of my work is surgery, or alchemy—fusing salvageable lines together from dead poems or taking a journal entry and replacing any “me language” with nouns thefted from a home and garden statuary catalog (i.e. crypt, panther, sphinx). Poetry can grow out of anything.
PM You’ve mentioned, more than once, that you’re apt to write poems while in transit. I wonder, is such approach strictly a matter of convenience or expediency, or does your sense of poetics link firmly to such fleetingness?
MB I’m a perfectionist. A nice desk in a pretty room doesn’t work for me, because the expectation that IT’S TIME TO MAKE ART is too high. I have to outwit myself and act casual—to approach with a sense of play. That doesn’t mean I never get “serious.” It’s just a question of outrunning the shit-talker within. There’s something about writing on the subway, or while walking, that frees the subconscious. It’s sort of a rebellion thing, like, I’m not really supposed to be doing this here now. I should probably pay more attention to my surroundings. But I get really entranced by the work. And the utilitarian in me feels good to be using every moment productively.
PM What does a poem offer you that a song or a film or a painting or a sculpture or an industrial park or a skyscraper or a mattress or a rendered whatever can’t or doesn’t offer?
MB If I had an ear for music I’d be in a band for sure. Poetry is all I know how to do. It’s the tool I was given by something bigger than me, so I use it. I do love the intersection of mediums—where one informs another. Recently I’ve been using Tumblr image blogs to write ekphrastic pieces. Here is where I hoard images, many of which are NOT SAFE FOR AN OFFICE PARK.
PM Do you imagine that recent ventures to bring poems or poets into realms of film and video at all enhance poetry’s broadcast and influence?
MB Okay, so while I like ekphrastic poems or cinema-inspired poems, my favorite place to encounter a poem is still on a piece of nice paper. That being said, San Francisco poet and video artist D.W. Lichtenberg and I just did this sweet collaboration. I wrote like, what, 50 words? And he spent hours and hours making the animation, the original track.
PM I was recently reading about this high-end restaurant, housed in an American-owned hotel-casino complex in China, that keeps on staff a so-called poet whose job it is to compose personalized verse for VIP guests. Does this sort of kept-poet gig strike you as deeply perverse? Or does it seem no worse than, let’s say, a regimen of chasing grants and juggling adjunct teaching appointments?
MB That casino sounds nuts. I bet it’s crazy inspiring with its glitz and weirdness. I am visualizing a giant buffet with gold glitter sauce. But the poet doesn’t sound perverse enough. I am hoping the poet wears pasties with tassles, vintage Vegas style. That would definitely be preferable to teaching freshman comp. Actually, a friend of mine has been taking pole-dancing classes. The pole-dancing school made her sign an agreement that she would never do it for money. That’s kind of like adjuncting, right?
PM What’s a favorite noun of yours, common or proper? And can you think of a verb that trumps it?
MB My favorite noun is probably me. A verb that trumps it is surrender (can also be a noun).
PM Surveying trends in attire and grooming, as far as you’re concerned, what are some all-time fashion bungles? Bustles? Wooden clogs? Dressy cargo pants?
MB Honestly, I don’t think there can be a bungle if it’s on the right person. Adam Robinson, who runs Publishing Genius Press, has a sweatshirt covered in acorns that he makes look very chic.
PM So what’s the difference between style and art?
MB I don’t know. God?
PM Is the myth or reality of the doomed but brilliant poet—or, let’s say, the poète maudit—gone for good? And for the better?
MB Nah, as long as there are 16-year-old boys with angst and Moleskines the poète maudit lives on. And there’s something beautiful about that. We can rub our emo phases together and make a shared past. But I don’t romanticize the effect of substances on creativity anymore, because I can’t afford to. It stopped working for me.
I read this quote recently, something John Lennon said about the impact of drugs on The Beatles, and I found it interesting:
It’s like saying, “Did Dylan Thomas write Under Milk Wood on beer?” What does that have to do with it? The beer is to prevent the rest of the world from crowding in on you. The drugs are to prevent the rest of the world from crowding in on you. They don’t make you write any better. I never wrote any better stuff because I was on acid or not on acid."
I mean, I don’t think that tells the whole story. John said this in 1972, in hindsight, after the experiences had already been had. It’s like, Come on, John. Those experiences did expand your mind. They took you through another door—they showed you that other doors even exist. But you can definitely access some pretty trippy creative portals through meditation, art, other avenues. You really can. It’s way slower, but you get to keep it. Also, when you’re fucked up all your fresh ink looks genius. You fall in love with the crappiest shit. When you’re sober you know to give it some time before deciding what’s good.
PM I’m wondering, what do you make of faith—how might you describe the idea or experience of faith in relation to those of compulsion, mania, fear, shame? Does passion ultimately win out over reason?
MB I think faith is a muscle. You gotta work it. Mania, fear, and shame are doing push-ups right alongside it. And faith can definitely contain both passion and reason. Like, there are the occasional peak experiences, the moments of pure serenity or grace. I live for those, because I like highs. But then there’s the practice of it, which is quite—well—practical. Prayer, for example, is a very reasonable thing to do if it sustains you. If it works, do it—even if the only cosmos it affects is your brain.
- Interview by Peter Moysaenko

Melissa Broder, When You Say One Thing but You Mean Your Mother, Ampersand Books, 2010.

Who's the queen of kundalini bloopers, Emily Dickinson's attitude problem (that bitch) and California dreams? It's Melissa Broder, who will charm your pants off and show you a little tough love in this vivid, witty first collection of poems. Each poem is artisan-crafted in controlled couplets, weighty triplets, tight syllabics and assonance that will take the top of your head off. But you won't have the time to absorb the academic monkeyshine—so absorbed you'll be on the flip side of Bat Mitzvah stress-syndrome, Aunt Sheila's in Taos, vampires in absentia, and brand names, brand names, brand names. From junkie fetishism to a housewife with a special "thing" for laundry, Broder does dark with magnetic charisma and enchanting humor.

This debut from Broder, editor of the online poetry magazine La Petit Zine , and a publicist at Penguin, is as funny and hip as it is disturbing. Poems with titles like “Where Is Your Vampire” and “Not Quite Ready for the NRA” feature jumpy, accessible lines about love and lust in a drug- and media-fueled world. “You’re nobody,” Broder only half-sarcastically proclaims, “ ’til some sweet-faced junkie/ with a Dixie cup of juice// and methadone loves you/ more than his drugs.” These poems are also quirkily compassionate (“Faith is a muscle// like the rotator cuff./ After the matinee// she saved soiled tissues—/roses in her coat—//remember that sadness won’t make you explode”), sexy, and at times even gross: “I’m wearing sunglasses// in the supermarket,/ mourning follicular fallout,/ getting pus on all the towels.” Throughout, Broder searches for a place to stand, and for an object for her considerable sympathies. This is a bright and unusual debut. - Publishers Weekly

In her new book When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother (Ampersand Books, 2010), Melissa Broder performs a kind of literary augury few poets have the stamina for. Like Nikola Tesla’s 1896 experiment to illuminate freestanding light bulbs in a field to show that electricity could be conducted wirelessly, Broder transforms the bombardment of pop-propaganda that eventually leads most thinking human beings to at least one crisis of self, into a signal-beacon of lucidity. Where Tesla’s invisible force was electrodynamic induction, Broder’s could be called sociodynamic deduction: both have gone so far as to use their bodies as a conductor.
Consider these lines from Broder’s book: “Remember the drug dream you had/ in ’79 where New York City/ got silent sometimes? It died this evening./ Now there is a word for everything.
Like photos of Tesla, calmly scribbling in a notebook amid free-flying bolts of electricity, Broder plucks her language from contemporary psycho-social energies: a land of celebrity-rehab shows, unpredictable plate-tectonics, slap-happy kitchen devices and endless male enhancement innuendo-mercials. The voice of the psyche in Broder’s poems stands amid a whirlwind of fragments: the present, the past, “Hart Crane and Kurt Cobain,” the “shtetl and the seersucker suit,” “J.R. Ewing and Ted Berrigan,” polaroids and .jpgs, a paper doll with interchangeable hair on an LCD screen. How to navigate this bizarre no-body-land that nevertheless emphasizes we perfect our physicality at all costs?
The traditional channeling-ground of poets has been that crossroads between self and environment, but as we flit between the 3-dimensional and a virtual simulacrum of reality that is billed as somehow more “interactive,” it becomes less and less clear what solidity is. What of having a body, through which the cell-phone conversations of others are constantly pinging? Broder’s answers shift honestly, as frustration levels and tolerance dictate. At times she is devil-may-care: “Here we levitate the ghost/ of Liberace, stuffed on daiquiris./Plug me back in. I see how little/time we get. Even the slots men,/ whooping at sevens, are growing gray./ Let’s ask questions of ourselves and they’ll pay.” At others, bitterly mocking: “You could hug and dry hump/ and he’d show you how to shoot up/ movie myths under the Brooklyn Bridge.” Then frank and lyrically practical: “You can be a lily pond/ for poems to land on; if you live in the city/ be a parking spot.
The muscular, resilient, compassionate force behind When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother characterizes a new generation of poets who have cast off the safety net of simple repartée and are singing the current of lyric at contemporary warp speed: jamming and enjambing words and ideas together to form a new language, not for witticism’s sake, but because they have decided to claim this ultracontemporary language, harness and drive it in the direction of their choosing. Nature, now, is not dominated by the sound of horse hooves on cobbles (Whitman) or mountain streams (Wordsworth), nor is it the suitcase falling down stairs (Tennyson) or against the regular piston-grinding of the machine age (Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore), or Plath and Eliot’s echolocating shouts from within a post-war echo chamber, or Ginsberg’s capering, cyclic boil-overs: this poetry is otter-like, playful but with sharp teeth. It is peppered with the mottos and jingles and deeply conflicting info-feeds that every generation since the invention of television can relate to—the mental assault of being marketed to at every moment of every day from an increasing number of sources—visible and invisible. As Broder demonstrates, at this point our very bodies are conductors (or at the least obstacles) for our own relentless broadcasts: we are our own spaghetti-test: flung at the mirror, what will stick?
The result in this volume of poems is an inventive, restless ricochet between a cultural psyche at war with what it has been taught to idealize, and its bullshit-sensitive belly-mind. Broder’s insight and honesty will make your brain light up and your hair stand on end. - LJ Moore

 Whether describing the “warped pudding” of dried vomit or the downy lanugo of an anorexic, the loving ministrations of a mother over a sick child or the man who’ll soon “pet / your cloche until the flowers fall, / lick your little doll skull / to sunburn, a wolf in friendship...” Melissa Broder shows major chops. Here is a poet with a gift of gaze, able to look long and hard and deep at the world, then think just as hard, churning near-perfect lines out of her observations, telling stories, in this book, about both coasts, from pure childhood to the angled hipster present in a narrative voice that is charming, disarming, and instantly addictive, hitting the pitch for tough, sexy, funny, sad, and wise, often all together, and in harmony.
It’s the range as well as the rhythm that makes this book, how Broder can shift, with ease, from the interior world of “field hockey fillies / and cotillion colts” to that of Jewish matriarchs, from field notes on a variety of men, their manly get-up and let down, to “Boys,” seen through the sugar-buzz crush gaze of adolescent awe, “Sparrow spirits on skateboards, // bottles of Tahitian Treat, Rose’s Cola / and blue raspberry Slurpees laced with vodka.”
With poems that make a quick slip from glory holes to “a frozen Jenny Craig / glazed salmon,” Broder offers serious and steady consideration of our human world, from detox to religion to bad finger-banging, from deconstruction of the romantic “movie myths” of heroin use to meditations on the sage initiatory advice of Seventeen magazine. This book is a pleasure, but it is also, relentlessly, more than that, far more than a mash-up of the moment’s culture, the flaunted moxy sheathing some heavy reflections. Tattoos aren’t just talked about; their ramifications are considered. Aging anarchists aren’t just nudged; they’re offered heartfelt condolences for the dangerous naïveté of their dreams.
Indeed, Jim Jones clones lurk behind liberal sentiment, and the spiritual Pop Rocks of paperback Tantra might not be too far removed, in terms of ultimate act, from the desires of fry cooks monogramming their biceps with cigarette burns. Consider the former New York real estate agent, wandering into the landfill that is San Francisco and the tragedy that is his own faith in consumer reinvention. The city
...distends to make room for him
and his brand new Tensor Lo 5.0
skateboard parts, surfboard on back-order, Oakley
blinkers, pocket Dharma Bums, as he drinks
Anchor at Vesuvio, brushes asses
with the young ladies of Columbus, buys bad weed
from the pavement teens on Upper Haight and good stuff
from the medical place at Fillmore Street.
But there’s empathy even in the most dismal portraits, and a concern with humanity—as the whole mess of us, poetic narrators included—which shores together these pieces into something solid, something more than the sum of their technically excellent parts. The greedy and potentially selfish work of poetry is itself held up to scrutiny, as in “Your Mother is Dying and I Want Details,” where the narrator hungers for “updates, last regrets,” description of “the stench.” Elsewhere, the intimacy of the poem’s voice is bolstered by the vulnerability just under the bluster. In the face of the new organic sincerity, the narrator has to “reach in my trick sack // for a nicotine patch / and a bottle of Klonopin.” The poetic witness here is indicted and effected, meshed in the scenes and desires it relays. When, for instance, we hear that
Men sold Tecate, limes and sticky smack,
the telephone rumored of midnight sluts
and what they did in vacant parking lots,
hard with Aqua Net and Charlie, rubbing
up against somebody..
It’s not just a stage set or a cluster of nifty words. The world of this book is real world, profoundly felt.
Freud held we sometimes let slip such deep feeling, unintentionally. Broder, on the other hand, has put her muscle into each poem here count as a statement of reality.
And in so doing, she’s infused something sparkling and super-charged into the seemingly banal—which is maybe a decent definition for art. Broder can work with anything—from the Dixie cups at the methadone clinic to pots of chicken soup. Check this description of laundry action: “Cotton / won’t shrink from the quickening friction. / Fluff it, pat it, crease and repeat.” Childhood, young adulthood, family, language, life, death, and desire—all these are folded in, still sparking with static and radiating warmth from the spin cycle, to make When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother a major statement from a poet with skill and soul. - Spencer Dew

interview by Daniel Nester @ The Best AmericanPoetry

I am afraid to be nothing.
The nothing is me, my totality and disintegration, or maybe it is just a feeling.
I call the feeling ‘nothing’ not because I am deep or French but because there is no word for becoming a whale and then dissolving.
Let’s call the feeling nothing1.
There is another kind of nothing, we’ll call it nothing2.
This nothing is a cinematic nothing, more tactile than the first, a black vacuum, a gooey void, memelike, the French one.
I have no relationship with nothing2, because it has rejected me, though sometimes I pretend to be well-versed in nothing2.
I speak as though nothing2 is a close friend, an ally, has me on its list.
I do this so as to appear deep.
I want to appear deep, because i do not feel like enough of a something.
The act of striving to appear deep, the hope that I might convince someone of my depth, feels like a something.
It feels like a punch in the nothing1.
There is no punch in the nothing1.
You cannot fake friendship with the nothing1.
There are blankets you can wrap around the nothing1.

Then the blankets dissolve with you.

what hurts more? that the world doesn’t comply with my fantasy or that i try to make it comply?
when i have a peak experience i fall off the other side. i want the world to rise to meet me. when i taste sugar i want to stay in sugar.
but real life isn’t like that.
what is real life like?
my father says: if the world was as you see it, the world would be a better place. i am 13 and haven’t started fucking.
the poet Maggie Nelson says: Fucking leaves everything as it is.
is it worth it to have the experience when i will only fall off the other side?
i am not even falling. i am creating the illusion of falling by rising. i am altering my template of arousal till nothing else is quite as good. i am putting sugar in the wound and it crusts. i am _____________.
when i am in the experience it is an intravenous shot of YOU ARE GOOD. if only i could give myself that feeling.
the clock is ticking on me giving myself that feeling.
also the clock is not ticking.
i am the one making the clock tick.
also the clock is ticking.

3 poems in the new issue of Fence, excited abt this one. it’s not online but order it–so tight. always.
did a thing at Blackbook w Myles Klee
read poems w Mira Gonzalez and w Marina Blitshteyn in Venice and taped dat shit
reviewed god and botox A++ highly recommend

in the dream i ate a handful of black pills yes i wanted to be cradled yes i was trying to die no the black pills were not drugs yes they were vitamins yes i tried to kill myself with vitamins yes i had to kill myself with vitamins because i wanted to protect my sobriety yes even in dreams i protect my sobriety yes even in death i protect my sobriety no the vitamins were not time-release yes they were coffin-shaped no i did not die yes i woke up in my bed yes i got in the shower yes the shower turned into a coffin yes the coffin filled with all my headstuff yes my headstuff is loud yes this happens every morning yes i can make anything into a coffin no i do not pride myself on this yes sometimes i do yes sometimes i build a persona around my coffin-making yes female poets and suicide no i do not consider myself a female poet no i do not consider myself a male poet yes i am tired of considering myself no not tired enough to stop considering myself yes all i do is consider myself yes this is what the headstuff is made of yes it is made of made my considerations of myself yes the headstuff is an allergy yes it is an allergy to reality yes there is a way to turn it off yes i can turn it off with light no i cannot do this by myself yes i know where to find the light yes that is a blessing yes hallelujah yes sometimes the light comes to me yes that is called grace yes most times i have to walk to the light yes that is also grace yes the grace to keep walking yes i must like the light yes i must really like the light yes i must like it better than the coffin yes i keep walking there

I don’t know anything about ego-slaying  except I know a little.
I fail and fail and fail at ego-slaying every day.
I mean, ego-slaying  is about the practice anyway, and practice includes total failure, so it’s fine.
Also, ego-slaying  is about the rehumbling, I think, the building self up on ego bullshit so as to then have it cut away AGAIN and be slain and laid fucking bare AGAIN and have to surrender to the benevolent and egoless truth AGAIN.
I only choose the benevolent and egoless truth as my last-ass resort.
Like, I don’t choose it until I am forced.
I crawl towards it begging.
And it always takes me back.
And it always takes me back.
I think it chooses me.
But that is also another story.
The story I want to tell is thus:
Ego-slaying in writing poems is doable.
You can so get out of your own way.
It is a muscle and it can be worked–the getting out of your own way muscle.
I don’t write poems from my brain anymore, not anymore ever.
I write from somewhere fucking else and am grateful to have found that place.
I wrote my way into it and prayed and meditated and channeled.
I pray and meditate and channel only because I have to.
I fucked up my way into it, really.
I write from there and there alone now.
I like it there.
I like that place.
Fuck the rest.
So I write from that place and then I put the thing I wrote away.
Then later, only later, I take the thing back out.
I edit it until the thing is quiet.
When I say quiet I don’t mean quiet like sound-quiet or tone-quiet.
I mean quiet in the sense that there isn’t any part left that when it speaks I feel like ‘shut the fuck up asshole’.
Asshole is ego.
But you knew that.
That’s all I have to say.


I am not in love with anyone, only god. God of the caves and god of the boys. God of the dumpsters and god of the ash.
And I don’t want to be taught anything anymore.
When I read ______’s essays I feel completely wrong, like everything I have done is wrong, cos this is who I am most of the time–the kind of person who feels wrong. A person who does not trust herself.
No I don’t want to be taught anything anymore.
Sometimes there is trust. When I am alone on my _______ I am aware that things would be easier if I got a better one, and that I would be safer with a ______, and maybe even safer if I had more knowledge, but this is the one I have, and this is the knowledge I have, and so the only one.
Trust that this is the only way and feel free.
I felt a freedom like this in walking down the street alone in ________, writing on my ______, oblivious to everything around me including time. I could have been anywhere though I was very much in ________. 
I was scared that when I moved to ___________ I would lose those pockets of freedom, like that freedom was contingent on place, like the need for it wasn’t inside me and it wasn’t something I would make happen anywhere.
But lo and behold I have found the pockets here too–or I am making them–the same amount of pockets, maybe even more, where I actually like myself cos I have disappeared.

Sadness leads to a set of doors then another then another.
The doors are fake because I expect.
Real girls walk through everything and are worshiped for their casket faces.
This is what I told myself in the dumb doors and became somebody else but didn’t.

I say I don’t believe in the flesh but I totally believe in the flesh.
My altar is way shittier than where I claim to worship.
Most of the things that give me hope are slops.
The miracle already happened but I forget what it was.
Last night some thing was inside me.
I know this because I hurt down there.
At least I don’t hurt in my heart.
I totally hurt in my heart.

Here are two new poems at The Green Mountains Review.
Flavorwire says I will make you care about poetry (thx Jason Diamond).
Sampson Starkweather and I did a collab thing at HTML for his new anthology.
Been sexting a lot. Might post some here (just mine, not the ones I get).
**update** Not going to post any sexts just yet, but–
Someone emailed me and asked if I am able to sext without developing feelings. And if so, how do I do it? And if not, how do I move on when it stops?
I said this:
‘I always get feelings and it’s always a problem and it can be a distraction from poetry but in the end the feelings are generative for poetry. I think.’
There is a lot more I could say on this subject regarding the heartache and blessings of being a creative human/addictive human/human inclined toward projecting my own fantasy narrative onto others so as to generate wonderful feelings within myself that are the equivalent of a high, which then lead to a low when the fantasy inevitably dissolves one way or another (as fantasy always does) (thus exacerbating the tension between want and reality) (which leaves me no other choice but to write or die) but it’s all there in my poems.
Ultimately the poems feel redemptive, despite my sometimes-failure to learn from my own mistakes.
I don’t think you have to suffer to make art, and I don’t think my sometimes-failure to learn from my own mistakes has the goal of making art in mind at the outset, but I do think that both come from the same place within me maybe. It’s the wanting out of self, the longing for something higher–sometimes by way of misguided vehicles– beautiful and ugly.

Here are some pieces I wrote in bed by hand that are now at Pocket Notes
Here are three new poems at Banango Street 1 | 2 | 3
A new poetry vid called SEX TAPE
Another new poetry vid called TENDER BLACK


Dear _________,
If I found a note inside a box of bandaids at CVS I would want it to say YOU ARE GOING TO BE OKAY. I keep waiting for a grownup to tell me YOU ARE GOING TO BE OKAY but that grownup unfortunately has to be me for me. I also want that grownup to tell me what to do though I hate being told what to do or maybe I love it.
In any event, I can barely do anything IRL. The ghost I pine after is a midwestern fantasy and I know nothing about chili or bratwurst or having people come stay in one’s home and feeling relaxed about it and making them feel welcome, so even that ghost is not for me.
I don’t know anything about you but I assume if you hung around my twitter feed long enough to want a note in a box of bandaids you actively feel some uncertainty about things, maybe your life, the world or your place in it? What I mean to say is that none of us really know what is going on or what we are doing but if we can just reach out to each other once in a while and express that in the ways we can (which for me is sending this note) then I think that helps us feel less alone, terminally unique, weird in the ways we don’t want to feel weird.
Or maybe you have it all figured out, in which case mazel tov and thank you for wishing for this note — it made me feel special and weird in the ways I want to feel weird.
Be well, I wish you exciting and meaningful experiences, people and things.
Melissa Broder

“What is the use or function of poetry nowadays?’ is a question not the less poignant for being defiantly asked by so many stupid people or apologetically answered by so many silly people. The function of poetry is religious invocation of the Muse; its use is the experience of mixed exaltation and horror that her presence excites…poetry, since it defies scientific analysis, must be rooted in some sort of magic…
Welsh poet Alun Lewis…wrote just before his death…of ‘the single poetic theme of Life and Death the question of what survives of the beloved.’ Granted that there are many themes for the journalist of verse, yet for the poet, as Alun Lewis understood the word, there is no choice…Perfect faithfulness to the Theme affects the reader of a poem with a strange feeling, between delight and horror, of which the purely physical effect is that the hair literally stands on end…
The Theme, briefly, is…the birth, life, death and resurrection of the God of the Waxing Year; the central chapters concern the God’s losing battle with the God of the Waning Year for love of the capricious and allpowerful Threefold Goddess, their mother, bride and layer-out. The poet identifies himself with the God of the Waxing Year and his Muse with the Goddess; the rival is his blood-brother, his other self, his weird. All true poetry…celebrates some incident or scene in this very ancient story, and the three main characters…not only assert themselves in poetry but recur on occasions of emotional stress in the form of dreams, paranoiac visions and delusions. The weird, or rival, often appears in nightmare as the tall, lean, dark-faced bed-side spectre, or Prince of the Air, who tries to drag the dreamer out through the window, so that he looks back and sees his body still lying rigid in bed; but he takes countless other malevolent or diabolic or serpent-like forms.
The Goddess…will suddenly transform herself into sow, mare, bitch, vixen, she-ass, weasel, serpent, owl, she-wolf, tigress, mermaid or loathsome hag. Her names and titles are innumerable…The reason why the hairs stand on end, the eyes water, the throat is constricted, the skin crawls and a shiver runs down the spine when one writes or reads a true poem is that a true poem is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, the ancient power of fright and lust—the female spider or the queen-bee whose embrace is death…
Sometimes, in reading a poem, the hairs will bristle at an apparently unpeopled and eventless scene described in it, if the elements bespeak her unseen presence clearly enough…
The Night Mare is one of the cruellest aspects of the White Goddess. Her nests, when one comes across them in dreams, lodged in rock-clefts or the branches of enormous hollow yews, are built of carefully chosen twigs, lined with white horse-hair and the plumage of prophetic birds and littered with the jaw-bones and entrails of poets.”
–Robert Graves, The White Goddess

I don’t want to say yes to the future.
Dracula come kiss the mouth and suck backwards.
Sleeping in a garden there are always wires.
Lasceration music I do it to myself.
I make boundaries against the glorious anon.
Women of devil’s island vs. boys of heaven.
Works by me and others I don’t care.
The unknown dead are underground.
I still want you to be okay.
When I slice my heart in half I am surprised.
There are still maskless people in there.
They really care about other people.
Movie stars have bees in their eyes and I don’t care.
Graduate from self to self and I care.
At the end you get a box or urn.
In the middle somebody hugs you.

Three new poems in Sink Review (poem 1) (poem 2) (poem 3)
New poem in Ghost Proposal.
Two new poems in Illuminati Girl Gang.
Here is a video of my reading (yelling) at the HTMLGIANT lit party at AWP. Thanks to the rad DJ Berndt for taping this.

Poems Online:


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