I-70 Review

Writing and Art from the Middle and Beyond

Deborah Bogen

Deborah Bogen's most recent book, Let Me Open You a Swan, won the 2010 Elixir Press Antivenom Award. Her first book Landscape With Silos, was a 2004 National Poetry Series finalist and won the 2005 X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, judged by Betty Adcock. In 2002 Edward Hirsch selected her chapbook, Living by the Children's Cemetery, as the ByLine Press Competition winner.

     Bogen's poems and reviews appear widely in journals like Crazyhorse, Shenandoah, Ploughshares, and New Letters. She has been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily and her work was selected by Poetry Daily for inclusion in their hardcopy anthology.  Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and she's won the Peregrine Prize, the Los Angeles Poetry in the Windows Prize and a Best of the Net for individual poems.

     As an undergraduate Bogen studied philosophy at Pitzer College, but was lucky enough to spend one semester at Oberlin College where she was exposed to the teaching and the poetry of Stuart Friebert and David Young. Her first poem was published in Oberlin's student magazine, The Plum Creek Review, the same month the Kent State shootings closed campuses and sent students to Washington D.C. to march. After that march she dropped out of college, but continued to subscribe to Field, a reading experience that educated her and kept her going during many years of raising children, making a living as a paralegal and working on social issues like educating suburbia about the effects of Nuclear Power Plants. She did not write poetry again until she was kindly advised by Stuart Friebert to “read with a pencil in (her) hand.”

     At forty-seven Bogen began to write poetry seriously. She learned incredible amounts in a long-term community writing group led by the poet Doug Anderson. She continued Anderson's tradition, leading groups of her own for fifteen years. These days she lives in Pittsburgh PA with her husband, the philosopher of science, Jim Bogen.


                   He said John, immediately

                   the crows appeared.

                   Not sad, I said, I'm not.

                   He said, in case of emergency


                   call. A leaf fell.

                   We danced until two

                   He said he lived over

                    a truck stop, said,

                   these particular crows

                   are trouble's handprint.

                   I remembered Robert,


                   before him Michael,

                   room 208,

                   wallets on dressers,

                   in case of emergency

                   please notify,

                   the phone rang, black

                   like crows, sky seeped in,

                  singed, vagrant.  

                  I don't sing, I said.

                  I do everything but that.

                  He said, keep this

                  in a safe place, said, in case

                  of emergency.

                  The fistful of crows flickered,

                  black, eating holes

                  in the windows,

                  a kind of notification,

                  a kind of emergency,

                  a kind of slipping away.

                  And the wallet lay open

                  on the window,

                  the glass emptied itself,

                  a stain in the back

                  of my throat,

                   the taste of wet wood.

                  The windows cracked,

                   crows flew through

                   making holes not in the sky,

                   but in the world.

                   I said John, I said,

                   please notify,

                   there's an emergency.

                  The crows wheeled

                   above us, a circular saw.

The Migraine's Art

Blackwork --

this wanting to unravel, to travel lonely at the edge of the road

yoked to an undiscovered purpose, wintry

and so far gone

this is me, the mist, this ashy unraveling chained

to the axe in my crown

                                               harried by heaven's hurt

and craving a beggar's bed

          for the fox is out and bells are tolling fire,

or priests,

their knuckles a nick in my skull.

Migraine Without Aura

Nota Bene: No stars this time, just

Buddha's knife parting my hair beneath a sky airbrushed

and impotent as my spackled skull and my

stuttering attempts at ignition.

Gone to the void, I'm bared to God's fistic gaze,

a bitch straining her chain as the surgical needle bores through

-- but this time, no lights,

the windows of heaven are painted shut.

Alone I barter, a stake driven down to a vaulted

stillness, to me other,

my stone-


Autopsy: To See For Yourself


In the vault the Master lays the body on the table.

Tenderly he lifts the knife exposing the parts,     touching the

body to put a lesson on it, noting     the way the clavicle's fixed

with a glue that hardens

like the gum that holds butterfly eggs to a branch.

In the cloister, students gather bringing bread     and wine.

They have come seeking a lesson.     Amid the sweat and

sweetness they work to decipher

the body, to see what is glued together, what floats     in its

oily waters. And you are also here, witness

to these rituals, the aligning of descendant with

descendant, cause with cause. Sometimes there's

a flickering in the light that falls on the scene.

Sometimes the whole flock lifts.