Poet Of The Week

Monica McClure

     August 12–18, 2013

Monica McClure‘s debut collection, Tender Data, will be published by Birds, LLC in 2015. She is the author of the chapbooks Mood Swing, published by Snacks Press in 2013, and Mala, forthcoming from Poor Claudia. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin House, Los Angeles Review, Lit Review, Lambda Literary Review’s Spotlight Series, The Awl, Spork Press and elsewhere. She studied fiction, poetry, art history and literary theory at DePauw University and earned her MFA in poetry from New York University. With Brenda Shaughnessy, she is currently editing the anthology Both and Neither: Biracial American Writers. She curates the Atlas Reading Series, a collaboration series of visual artists and poets, and helps edit The Atlas Review. She lives in Crown Heights.


I would do addy over cocaine any day
Let’s take a long ride on the A train snorting
orange crush time release beads
This older man I dated
called it his performance-enhancer
When he went to lecture at a Rabbinical school in LA
he let me stay in his Park Slope brownstone
Thank G_d he approved of abortions
I felt bad for blowing a guy on his futon
during the carnival scene
of The Third Man
I’m too young to manage a full-time sugar daddy
I never saw an amphetamine I didn’t like
Why should I be stuck with this
gentile mental capacity
I weighed the powder on a balance
Already I feel it tipping in my favor
I’ve never met a worse poor person than myself
I didn’t avoid pregnancy and county jail
to sound like George W. Bush
I reject a language manipulated by folklore
and white people watching ESPN
I want to live in a kingdom of style and camp
I want to relate this smut to Vienna after the war
When finally those who really got glamour
despite their transience and poverty
with just a little industriousness could live
like movie stars in the bombed-out rubble
Jean Rhys up to her dimples
in black market velvet and meringue
the chartreuse clouds hanging in the death sky
It’ll never be this good for her again
There’s a child in the orphanage who needs money

–Originally published in Spork Press.

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I was trying to convince someone with an adderall prescription to let me sell the bottle for a profit, and for my effort I would accept complimentary adderall as payment, which–now that I think about it–is what junkies do. I suppose you could say this poem is about the ethics of getting ahead and taking advantage, as they say.

What are you working on right now?

I’m writing a screenplay with Jenny Zhang.

What’s a good day for you?

If I feel like I have done work that will not soon be undone, I feel like then I’ve had a triumphant day. Adrienne Rich said housework is so deadening because it is work that is continually undone: an unauthored life is wifery and housework.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?

I love living in Crown Heights at the border of Lefferts Gardens because it’s cheap and close to Prospect Park, which is a sanctuary. When I first moved here in 2008, I really wanted a girlfriend, so I paid too much to live in Park Slope.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.

When I lived on Nostrand Ave, I invited a straight male poet over to drink wine on my rooftop. He looked down from the ledge and was astonished to see a group of girls jumping rope. I told him about double dutch, which he’d never heard of. Later, a source told me that he wrote a poem about it and brought it into his workshop at NYU because he couldn’t believe how much flavor and culture he had just been privy to from my rooftop.

That’s when I realized what I was and had been dealing with for all my time in academic institutions.

Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?

The historians of Brooklyn are its greatest poets.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

I like Unnameable because they carry secret journals in the basement that were published by a princess. This Italian princess of sorts knew how to put an issue together: James Wright alongside George Bataille! When my now boyfriend and I first started flirting, we went down there and bought them all up. They’re called Botteghe Osvri.

Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I try to do everything in my bed, which is in Brooklyn. I’ve also had some reading revelries on Eastern Parkway under the streetlights.

Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?

At the Far Rockaways, I once saw a funeral procession of women in white gowns. I also saw two couples get mixed up in their haste to order fish tacos, causing the woman from one couple to grab the hand of the man from the other couple with such an unscripted tenderness that I’ll never forget it. They laughed and thanked heaven that their actual mates hadn’t seen. Favorite places are like that.

Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?

I read Because I Was Flesh by Edward Dahlberg and Jackie Under My Skin by Wayne Koestenbaum–two books that further debunk the myth of a surface vs. depth binary.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you should assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

It’s perfect the way it is.

Why Brooklyn?

It just happened this way.