Name: Laura Citino
Current city: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Occupation: English instructor, gifted learners program
What does poetry mean to me?
As a prose writer, I often feel extremely, and overly, process-oriented with my stories. Figure out the characters and the plot, assemble the conflict, decide the point of view by dartboard, arrange everything in a neat little tableau, draft. There is an end goal I have in mind, and it’s all hack-and-slash to get there. (Not always, but sometimes.) Poetry helps me feel lighter, more playful, stranger, and a little looser with my relationship to language. Less managerial, more collegial; poetry assists me in seeing the words as allies in the work, not adversaries. My feelings toward poetry are almost always in a state of “I should be reading it more” because it does so much for my writing process, likely even more so because it’s not my primary genre. Poetry (and poets!) remind me to be an artist, not only an architect.
Favorite poem or poet:
I have spent a good chunk of the latter half of my twenties (re)discovering the fact that my uncle, David Citino, was a prolific poet. He published ten books of poetry and not a small amount of critical writing. He died when I was a senior in high school, basicially just as I was growing up and into the knowledge that words and language were my tools for understanding the world. Reading his work now is a headtrip. First, because I have this incredibly intimate window to get to know a person who loomed so large and brightly in my childhood but who died before I could really meet him as an adult. Another reason is that his poetic subjects—the body, sex, weather, the Rustbelt and the Midwest, heritage, family, time—are also my writerly obsessions and concerns. Reading his work now is like seeing myself in the past and the future at the same time.
This poem from his collection The House of Memory has been a favorite for a long time; it hits all of those favored subjects above. The line “Here’s my heaven: Ohio, bitter enough / to set teeth on edge” encapsulates the feeling of living in the Midwest in a handful of words better than any novel I’ve ever read.
"One Hundred Percent Chance of Snow, Accumulating Six to Eight Inches by Morning"
by David Citino
Snow billows over cracked blacktop
in parking lots of K Mart and Whirlpool plant,
plexiglass domed roof of Southland Mall
where young and old cluster and dissolve
in weekend conspiracies.
Snow blows over churches downtown,
each spire and arch shaped by antique disputes
concerning the shape or taste of God
obliterated now by tons of lovely nothing.
Here’s my heaven: Ohio, bitter enough
to set teeth on edge and turn my face red
as litmus paper. Still, for all
our dirty profits, there’s more love
than I can use, and more cold.
Near me beneath the ice run
the Olentangy and Scioto. So much
of our lives gets named by what’s fallen.
I think of the ruddy women and men
whose teeth and bone lie arrayed in strata
beneath me, earth of their every fire dark
as obsidian. I step over burrows
where they weather forever’s winter.
I’m coming soon, Grandparents.
My feet leave lines of script to mark
my progress, each step a fossil moment,
no two the same, lines that sing
my stride to anyone willing to follow
before this pure and ruthless beauty
disproves that I was ever here.
Laura Citino is a fiction writer from southeastern Michigan. In 2013 she received her MFA in fiction from Eastern Washington University, where she was also Fiction Editor for Willow Springs. Her work has appeared in numerous journals in print and online, including Passages North, cream city review, Sou'wester, Gigantic Sequins, Pembroke, and others. She currently teaches in a program for academically talented youth and serves as Managing Editor for Sundog Lit. She lives in Kalamazoo, MI.