Poet Of The Week

Hadara Bar-Nadav

     November 5–11, 2018

Hadara Bar-Nadav is the author of several books of poetry, most recently The New Nudity (Saturnalia, 2017); Lullaby (with Exit Sign) (Saturnalia, 2013), awarded the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize; The Frame Called Ruin (New Issues, 2012), Editor’s Selection/Runner Up for the Green Rose Prize; and A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight (Margie/Intuit House, 2007), awarded the Margie Book Prize. In addition, she is coauthor of the best-selling textbook Writing Poems, 8th ed. (Pearson, 2011). Her awards include an NEA fellowship in poetry and the Lucille Medwick Award from the Poetry Society of America, among others. She is a professor of English and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. On Friday, November 16, she will read for the Brooklyn Poets Reading Series at 100 Bogart in Bushwick with Darrel Alejandro Holnes and Pamela Sneed.


A zombie is a head
with a hole in it.

Layers of plastic,
putty, and crust.

The mindless
must be sated.

Mottled men who will
always return

               mouthing wet

You rise already
harmed and follow

               my sad circle

as if dancing
on shattered legs.

Shoeless, toeless,
such tender absences.

You come to me

               in linens and reds,

eternal, autumnal
with rust and wonder.

My servant, sublimate
and I am yours

(the hot death
we would give each other).

My dark ardor,
my dark augur.

Love to the very open-
mouthed end.

We are made of
so much hunger.

—From The New Nudity, Saturnalia, 2017.

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I have written a few poems about zombies, a subject that has seemed in recent years to be an obsession in popular culture. I was horrified and absolutely compelled to watch The Walking Dead—which seemed to be playing constantly on the TVs when I was at the gym—awful and consuming at the same time. I had read somewhere that zombies rise in popularity during recessions and times of financial strife. But I also wondered about zombies as representing something else—full-bodied desire, in part a response to our increasing isolation, how we are super-connected and super-isolated by our cell phones and the Internet.

My poem “Zombie” is a love poem, a poem about longing for the other beyond death, beyond our apparent brokenness and beyond reason, as some loves do.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a couple of different projects—one on the Holocaust and political issues, and another on pharmaceuticals / the medical industry / mortality. Sometimes I think they are the same manuscript, but these days they are heading in different directions with different forms.

What’s a good day for you?

Quiet time to write and breathe throughout an entire morning. Then work, gym, walk with the dog, sunshine, family and chocolate!

Where’s home for you? How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other places you’ve lived?

Kansas City, MO. I have lived here for eleven years. I like the restaurants, bars, music, shows—it’s a lively city with a flourishing and diverse literary / art scene. And I also like its quiet, its smallness. I can get to work, my kids’ school, my gym, and great food and concert venues within ten minutes. NO TRAFFIC! And housing is affordable.

Spent any time in Brooklyn? If so, when and where? Share with us your experiences, impressions, etc.

I love the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (where I performed a wedding ceremony for two dear friends) and the amazing Brooklyn Museum. I have also read at Berl’s and think it’s a fantastic little bookshop.

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that where you live? Why or why not?

A poetry community means I have company as a human and as a writer, that I am supported and that I get to offer my support to others, that we share in each other’s lives and poetry. I couldn’t survive without it.

I define “poetry community” widely. I meet monthly with a wonderful community of younger women poets, and we celebrate each other’s successes and share stories about our professional and personal lives. There is a community at UMKC, where I teach, of my amazing students and my colleagues, as well as at the Writers Place, a local / community venue where UMKC hosts many of our readings. There are dozens upon dozens of poetry venues and series in the area. And there are also dear friends with whom I share my work who live all over the world. In addition, I am a contributing editor for the journals Pleiades and Memorious, so there is a sense of community from working with these literary magazines as well.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

Kim Addonizio, who selected my first book of poems, A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight, for the Margie Book Prize. I have admired her poetry for years and have taught it as well.

Whitman—of course. His expansive vision, generous spirit and dazzling long lines have inspired me for years.

Also, Marianne Moore, Jason Koo (of course : ) ), Kimiko Hahn, Tyehimba Jess, Matthea Harvey, Bernadette Mayer and others.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

Hilda Raz was my dissertation director and is a formidable poet and editor. She has influenced my work in countless ways—I can still hear her in my head guiding my poetry, my teaching, my editing. She taught me to be passionate and compassionate, driven and patient, and to give my all to my work, as she does.

Other poetry mentors include poets whose work I turn to for guidance, company, direction: Lucie Brock-Broido, Paul Celan, Gwendolyn Brooks, Gertrude Stein, Francis Ponge, Patricia Smith and many others.

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

I really enjoyed This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt, which recently won the Griffin Prize. The poems are gorgeous and innovative, and the slipperiness of language, form and identity is fascinating. I’ve also really enjoyed recent books by Erika Sánchez, Allison Benis White, Patricia Smith and others.

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

The whole world of libraries! The list is endless. There are approximately a thousand books of poetry published each year in the US alone. How can one possibly keep up?

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

I read multiple books at the same time, and I like to look at art books as well. I have my steadies: the folks I turn to again and again who are always near me when I write: Lucie Brock-Broido, Dickinson, Celan, Brooks, C.D. Wright, Rankine, Stein and others. But then I’ll bring in other books as well. I totally and completely and without hesitation prefer physical books. I spend enough time at my computer. I want to touch and feel books—their weight and necessary objectness.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

Perhaps to insert symbols into poems successfully. I’ve tried this before and my dear editor-friends have told me to stop. : )

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I tend not to write at home as much because I get caught up in the dailiness of life and things that need doing (laundry, cleaning, etc). Coffee shops and libraries are my preferred spaces to write, though these are becoming challenging. People are always on their phones or unnecessarily LOUD! I’m constantly on the hunt for quiet coffee shops where I can work undisturbed. And if you see me reading or writing, please don’t bother me!

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

It’s a cliché to say it, but I love the Brooklyn Bridge. I have actually studied bridges on my own. During grad school when I was painting feverishly, I became obsessed with the idea of bridges—their lightness and heaviness, how they suggest that we are always leaving and arriving, how they fly across space, though are themselves rooted, even trapped. I find the paradox fascinating—and it’s just a freakin’ gorgeous bridge!

I also love the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and have enjoyed the Brooklyn Museum (which I mentioned earlier).

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate wine,
And what I drink you may also drink,
For every glass of wine that swims in me as good also swims

Why Brooklyn?

I’m actually from New York. Wait—Long Island counts, doesn’t it? I was born in NY and raised in NJ. I’m doing a small book tour on the East Coast in support of my latest collection of poetry, The New Nudity. It’s great to be back reading poems in NY and NJ.