Poem of the Week, by Benjamin S. Grossberg

*My new poems podcast, Words by Winter, can be found here. 

853B7327-276B-4536-BA2A-FF488CFE5606A couple of years ago my publisher emailed the cover art for a new novel. I thought it was beautiful – the rich color, the design, the way the title spread itself across the image– so I showed it to the Painter and our painter friend next door.

They studied it, turned the image this way and that, then looked at each other in a silent exchange of information. They were seeing things I didn’t, but what? 

They pointed here, pointed there, tried to explain how the typography was clumsy, too many fonts, and the kerning was off. And what did I think of the palette, was there too much cyan, was there enough contrast to read the spine copy? I tried to understand, but that would have required me to have different eyes. I thought of how hard reading can be for me, the books others rave about that I don’t, how sometimes I gnash my teeth and hunch my shoulders, mourning at how many sentences, including my own, could have been built so much more elegantly.  



The Finish Carpenter, by Benjamin S. Grossberg

Half million, and what? Cardboard subfloors—
crap, but all right. Vinyl-sided chimney.
Looks like shit, but can’t be seen indoors,
that’s something. But, Jesus, what you can see:

door frames, wall openings, kitchen pass through—
no moldings. Nothing. It’s like a face
without eyebrows. Or ears. And we’re talking new
construction, nice street. There’s window casing,

I guess we should be grateful. But they’re my folks—
pop was an architect—and I say, look, dad,
I’ll bring my god-damned miter saw. He walks
away from me, shaking his head. Glad

to do it, I say. Take me a day. He shrugs,
I see his shoulders move, his hand sweep down
in front of his face like he’s clearing bugs
or a smell. Why not, dad? Just a little crown

in the den, some chair rail. He’s seventy.
What happens—shit ceases to matter
at that age? Come on, I say. No filigree,
just finishing. You still have that step ladder,

right? He’s on the couch now, remote in hand,
surfing. I don’t get it. I don’t. Fine
corners, cornice, some detail, a few planned
correspondences. Why not? Some lines

to guide the space, hold it together. It frames
the parts. Gives shape. An order. Some wood.
That’s all I want for him. No games,
just shape, a little grace. He’s my blood;

I want him to have it nice. Mirrors and smoke,
he says, not looking up. He’s been saying it
to me twenty years, since I went broke
fixing my first place. Prewar, Sears kit

with nothing plumb, and me wild on the phone
raving about warped floor joists and plaster.
Smoke and mirrors, he said. And that’s it. Done.




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Brand-new upcoming creative writing workshops!


One-day Picture Book Writing Workshop!

51ZARDXBHJL._SY453_BO1,204,203,200_Do you love picture books? Have you ever wanted to write one? Are you curious how to go about it? Welcome to my one-day picture book writing workshop!

In this intensive, fun class, we’ll deconstruct some classic picture books, talk about ideas for new ones, and go through all the nuts and bolts, such as how long can a picture book be? What’s the relationship between writer and artist? How do you write a picture book that children will love and adults won’t mind reading ten thousand times in a row? We’ll come up with ideas, draft a basic outline for one or more picture books, read aloud some favorite passages, and provide instant feedback on anything you come up with.

Street cred: I’ve written many picture books, including several New York Times bestsellers. All told, they’ve been translated into more than 20 languages and won dozens of awards. They still bedevil me, fiendish little things that they are, but when they work –when one lifts off the ground and soars into the sky– it’s magical.  

Date and time: Saturday, May 6, 12-4 pm
Place: Uptown Community Room, 3554 Bryant Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55408
Cost: $100, payable via Paypal or personal check. (10% of proceeds donated to Small Sums, a non-profit whose sole mission is to provide homeless individuals with the tools needed to accept the jobs they have been offered. Items include things like bus passes, work boots, trade tools and licensing fees.)

Class is limited to 15 participants. To reserve a spot, please email me at alison_mcghee@hotmail.com or click on this Paypal link