Twelve Poets

A collaboration with The Poetry Project, hosted by Nicole Eisenman

Nicole Eisenman, Why I'm Not a Painter, 2023. Oil on linen, 30 x 24 inches (76.2 x 61 cm). © Nicole Eisenman

  • May 19, 2023
  • Ursula: Issue 8

For Ursula’s first-ever theme issue, we asked a dozen poets to create a chapbook of verse within the magazine.


Bahaar Ahsan

Kimberly Alidio

Joss Barton


John Coletti

Renee Gladman

erica kaufman

Shiv Kotecha

Matt Longabucco

Ted Rees

Laurie Weeks

Simone White

Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, Composition, 2022. Courtesy the artist and West Gallery, Metro Manila, Philippines

Kimberly Alidio, Composition II, 2023. Courtesy the artist

Kimberly Alidio - COMPOSITION II


By the hand a schooling the hand in infamy long-winded oratory incanting with

Fetish of mini eye in triangle surprise a random

Face in the back alleys

Of Time clutch a moving hand

With narrowing eyes zoomed From drone above writing’s

Fields edicts writs

Brush never lets up

From a ceremonial score of sur

Face swelling with graphisms red

Embroidered day-of-the-week set

Of panties scarlet

Letter’s carnal


Scrawls to hang onto “scratching

And pawing at their paper with

Tools the scale of their hands”

Such as dermatographic refuse of spiral derma like a future tense reversal of a

Non-event such as universe creation which in this

Case is the boundary by which no other

Letter crosses





Matt Longabucco -  Θ

you can’t smoke even outside at Lincoln Center

or take photos in the Frick

fuck marry kill in the Dutch portrait galleries,

two schoolmates sidle past, one declares

Rembrandt “looks dumb,” the other replies,

“If you’re saying that then you’re saying

he thought he himself looked dumb”

he looks many things, but not dumb—

bewildered by his own face, beat up—

is that rouge on his cheek, or a scrape?

using his resources without illusions

it’s erotic but what isn’t—seltzer makers,

books packed to bursting on the shelf,

time moves so slowly on the canvas

but even there can never fully be stopped,

the blood held an eon in the fist of her heart

will one day flow again, and in the next instant

do her eyes fall to her hands

or fly to the door



in search of a lens that grips

when focused, closes in by

tinier and tinier increments

without suddenly slipping past

the point of greatest clarity

before dialed back in hopes

of alighting upon a thread

or fine strand where resolution

coincides with and solidifies

the specter of my intentions

when in reality composition’s

one of those ropes, wide around

as a waist, that make you wonder

in the musty old ship museum

which sailors were crushed

in the bum-rush of the tides


Bahaar Ahsan - Orphic Interlude #1


Attend the missing referent:

The new way to spell ethics is M-O-D-A-L!

How does one trill?

Illuminate very well

Very flatten.

Pendulous prompting

Prompted titration

Titration prompt begets

Even titration of vision.

The new way to spell leaf is T-W-I-S-T!

How does one enunciate?

Sustain flattened crisp

Framed deceit.

Padding forms circle

Sugar pierced

Disclosure no prompting

Never touching.

The new way to spell condom is S-Y-M-B-O-L-I-C!

How does one arpeggiate?

Crumble feature

Contact loss timbre.

Undone so actional

Coordinates not withheld

Vehicular imperative

Uncongeal musically.

The new way to spell style is I-N-S-T-R-U-M-E-N-T-A-L!

How does one ascend?

Immersion submersion

Pickled submersion sustains.

Incensed privacy upturned

Line through held up

Upturned cradled in service

Blue sphere foregone.

The new way to spell fictive is P-R-I-V-A-T-E!

How does one make clear?

Grain metaphor

not holding.

Caulked disjuncture

Never dwindle sever mirror

Munch unwanted

Reflexive munch.




Original drawings by Nicole Eisenman in collaboration with poetry by CAConrad, 2023. Courtesy the artist

Original drawings by Nicole Eisenman in collaboration with poetry by CAConrad, 2023. Courtesy the artist

John Coletti - Sky Advising — after Zachary Wollard




manure blueberries in

fields and arcs

no need to build that stories-high, dull chartreuse watering can

to get to the place of your need

safely lit candles dozens of them

fence abalone

hardware paint

beyond sunlight in three parts

out of my face

as talon vinyl fluoride

Sprite harbor foam

dressing a French fry

in harmonics

morning sax for bottle fish

all marinas swell moon forms

glass cleanser


the steady, relaxed smell of cover stock

try answers toward me leave a lake

Zachary Wollard, Sky Advising, 2020. Photo: Thomas S. Barratt. Courtesy the artist

erica kaufman - from PARA CLASSIC: structural panic


sure, i hear myself say,

i would stay here couch

simple google search prototype

for sailor say who giveth rooster

understanding how long before

fashion week notice “return”

to landscape kitchen stories pre-

season brawls let’s not pretend

times change or it’s okay just

watch temporarily mute myself

hero tossed aside like paper-

work redacts allegorically vapid is

as vapid becomes wanton puddle

of procedures feeling birds wait

no one helps sort

debris worship metallic

feet in retrospect what is

work for but to flag

here i am don’t notice

giddy up in small ways

get attention expensive

carpet hair dye cell phone

tactics i try to happen

realize our protagonist

polite sanitized instead

of an event carry forest

forward crib figures upend

movement is not a place


Renee Gladman

Wind Studies, No. 3

Wind Studies, No. 4

Wind Studies, No. 11

Shiv Kotecha - Untitled Frustration Poem


I swear to god.

I don’t know how to look at paintings.

I don’t know how to see them.

Anymore, or at least, now.

No I don’t, no I swear it.

Look, you can watch me.

Watch me try it.

I just tried it, using my eyes in the way you’re supposed to, taking it all

in, feeling the painting’s presence, but if someone were to say to me,

do you see that, it’s a foot, I would have to disagree with them and say

no I don’t see a foot because I don’t see one, and if they were like fine,

do you see a swirl of color, I would have to tell them no, I don’t see

a swirl of color or a see a foot, I don’t know how to look at paintings

I would have to tell them, I swear, and that I’ve spent a few minutes confirming it,

It’s possible that this has always been true,

About what I can and cannot see and it’s possible

That it isn’t true, movies are still easy to see,

And I’m on the fence about photos,

But yes of course I’m angry about it all.

It’s not like I want to give up looking at them.

I like paintings, but also I don’t want to be a liar.

I want to be able to speak to others accurately

about what I’m looking at or have at some point seen

inside or on paintings, or along my way to them, or all of a sudden,

when I’m standing inside a gallery or a museum or hanging out

at my house or the home of a friend who puts

art on their walls with faces and places I’m afraid of

not recognizing, as if I were invited over to do just that.

But it’s possible that for years I’ve been lying for years

not just to myself but to everyone about how I know

when I see at a painting, what I’m looking at, a big liar.

Maybe this is why I like to read books

that represent my condition and hide

their paintings behind or inside something

else like an elaborate plot in which no one is tasked

with description but the potential of a painting’s theft,

replacement, or total destruction, as in the novel Cigarettes

by Harry Mathews, in which Walter paints Elizabeth

so well that everyone around them,

two generations of horse-and-dog set,

upstate socialites and their downtown art

world friends squabble over who but the painter

sees its subject better than anyone else but the reader

who learns that the painting in question isn’t by Walter

at all but by Phoebe, whose training involved making

an immaculate copy of it, which Owen, her frustrated father

destroys in a fit of jealousy and self-protection.

Even when I was young I liked books, they are so nice.

“Tintoretto was squiggling all over the place,” writes Mathews,

calling out Henry James—who always put the beast in the jungle, and the figure

in the carpets of his novels and who had said of the Italian

painter that he had never painted an immoral line—for his bullshit.

I better watch what I say about paintings

to magazines in the case that someone like Mathews

calls me on my bullshit. Shiv was wrong, Kilgallen’s blocks

of bikinis are not on her canvases they’re in his head;

the “mottle and mince” he uses to describe how Ellis’s paintings look

“like how forgetting feels” a more correct description of his addled mental state

than of contemporary technique; that the “slow rub” he uses to describe the butts

of Majoli’s blueboys are the products of fantasy; etc.

Now that I can’t confirm it.

Yep, nope, it’s right, really,

to see absolutely nothing and to say

there’s nothing there in front of me or to admit

from time to time how I don’t understand what I’m supposed to

look at or do but replace the ask with a question like

Is this is what you call a gallery,

I’m standing in an empty room.

Ted Rees The Little Dulling Edge


Smoothly constructing what? The attempt to make freedom comprehensible, magnifying this most tender pink bile just about so long pretending my lips are pennies mightn’t work gazing into his bobbers—how many fathoms is the pits then

I find my index, sigh as petals skirmish thus around his cheek defying esthetic standards of conformity meaning skinny punch or rested in green terror the young painter knew of its beams’ first interruptions along this spin, along the dread creek we splash into again ever hollow we hear once and shake

footprints in the dew, overshot this rancid loom cannot spoil the weft moreso than present, pretty blossoms come out and smile at the husk in the shallows, his and his cold hand on shore.


Laurie Weeks

Simone White The Clothespin for Joan Retallack


“A city should be a place where a little boy walking through its streets can sense what he would someday like to be.”—Louis Kahn


The golden glow characteristic of Philadelphia’s morning light is best viewed from the southwest corner of Market Street facing east facing the Delaware, natural boundary of the Colonial City. Ben Franklin, of course, alights from that body in legend, first of his kind on legs, to originate the history of boys, apart from the history of light.

None of the significant historical scenes that shaped the landscape of ideas in Philadelphia’s power structure in the 1980s or any given time would have anticipated the life of the black teenage girl running the low-slung stairs leading to the concrete plinth that supports Claes Oldenburg’s Clothespin (1976).

Ed Bacon’s keynote Downtown project does not contemplate     six year old black girls who use the buses and trains alone, fear pissing her yellow carpenter pants as she lifts the gate-latch outside a Mt. Airy river stone seconds before she can use the brass key she is clutching in her little fist. Sixteen, she can run, though no one credits her athletic or physically creative in any way,

2 miles in under 13 minutes, a clip that assures a decent chance of a getaway from your lunging crackhead or rapist; she navigates the dank crap subway to nowhere, ho strolls and black commercial Avenues North, South, Northwest of her location. In the heart of Philadelphia black children get bombed, so knowing how it’s built is good.

Not sensing what she would like to be who is before you sprinting the stairs emerging from the commuter rail concourse, she runs the tunnels past luminescent below-grade tulips shoe shine SEPTA tokens Dietz & Watson hot sausages the places urine pools     abandoned unplanned     violent

Manifesting a process most people did not realize was going on power most did not know even existed. Her father, as it happens, could have seen her if he looked out his office window, but he is not in his offices on Chestnut Street. He is being humiliated in a meeting with Senator Arlen Specter,

one block north down 15th Street at City Hall. Specter snaps, “What is it you want?” Her father consults his notes on index cards, doesn’t react, tells the motherfucker what he wants and gets it. Her father has been watching the girl turn feral and done nothing to stop it. She is going to i.goldberg for Timberland boots with his cash in her pocket.

She is free when she has his cash in her pocket. But I have stranded the girl on the unsightly Penn Center stairs, whipsawing between aesthetic and financial rejuvenation of a major downtown, also known as redevelopment, and its failure as an innovative matter of cooperation between reform and capital

such that the object is reduced to its absolute essentials and totally deprived of its function. Let us go back to the Laurel Canyon scene of the 1960s that both begins and arrests the girl’s movement unto the the big world where an image of Joni Mitchell’s Blue is affixed to the wall on a record sleeve Joni hanging there no one listening.

Unborn at the moment the picture was made, the girl’s radiant identification with the saturated blue light, countenance in shadow, suggests the presence of that which is sonically feminine prior to its actual emergence—Joni before the microphone— becomes a manner of awakening to a form of speech or life not directed to the politics of the (black) father possible and possible to examine

only on and as a conjunction of several elemental planes. As the curves of Joni’s face resist the light the camera requires and implies, and break out in a fury of shadow, in childhood segregation was not allowed the girl, who is essentially unhanded by Jim Crow the last little plinkety SOS barely on a t-shirt, which results in incidental denial of Joni Mitchell

who implies segregation and also somehow allows through the girl distortion of the interpretive tools that would tell us what she would be allowed to become in the built city and her movements through and away from it, in the accidental discovery of the fact that art would not necessarily kill her.

Without knowing the precise angle of ascent of Penn Center Plaza’s stair, it’s hard to say whether Alexander Calder’s statue of William Penn would be visible at their Crest without considerable craning of the neck. The site of the Clothespin is 200 yards, give or take, from the western walls of City Hall, 22 feet thick in some places, anti-modern or faux ancient, as was tacit agreement of the banker class to build no structure higher than 548 feet, or, the top of Penn’s hat, for nearly a century.

Besides, the girl is diminutive. Looking straight ahead, the girl is eye level with the hot dog cart obstructing her view of Dilworth Plaza, a filthy, dim slab covering two square blocks on a good weather day, otherwise recalling the drippy malignant toad, now squashed, that was the Chinese Wall originating at the old Broad Street Station. No one ever mentioned that the old Station had existed; it had never existed. She read about it in a book.

Her father was a toddler when it was demolished in 1953 and no one knows anything about Philadelphia before her father, who did not know his father who was not in Philadelphia or from it. The girl’s attachment to the place is loose, belonging to a separate politico-economic history, that of her paternal grandmother who lived within the system of municipal authorities that produced AFDC and the Richard Allen Homes,

then died at 41 when the girl was 9 months old. Her grandmother’s cancers and death loosely contemporaneous with the death of the old industrial city and the full geographic installation of the deep underclass outside the purview of view the “aesthetic.” That is, the PCPC’s self-understanding as world strategist, seeing to it that by the year 2009 no part of Philadelphia is ugly and depressed,

demanded the removal of the prospective existence of the sixteen-year-old black girl waiting for a friend, as usual, at the hexagonal guardrail beneath the Clothespin.


Joss Barton American Obligations


Pink gloss glows in waves Across stern Lake Michigan Our eyes red cracked bowls Our debts fucked on patchwork quilts While the client talks about

His daddy issues He pays us 400 down For double TS Time spent drunk rambling on His surgeon father’s cocaine

Addiction and his European oil paintings Pastoral fields Sissy bard strums in rose silk All these old racist masters

Framed in gold carved leaf French provincial and So fucking CAMP until he Brags about their price tags to Us the two whores bored in

Ombre blonde wigs and Inky vinyl thigh-high boots The timer rings and We get dressed while he begs us To stay but doesn’t want to pay

In the cab ride home We hear a judge ask about Americans and Our obligations to wealth We pout pricelessly stoned.

Staffed entirely by poets, The Poetry Project has nurtured new and experimental poetry since 1966. Based at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, in New York’s East Village, the project has been an accessible resource and advocate for diverse, culturally rich poetry and art from its conception, offering reading series, writing workshops, a quarterly newsletter, a website and archives for poets and the wider reading community.


Bahaar Ahsan is a poet from the Bay Area living in New York City. She is the author of Gay Girl Hyacinth (Eyelet 2021).

Kimberly Alidio is the author of four books of poetry, including Teeter which will be published July 2023. Her video, sound and visual poetry appear in FIVES, Bæst, Juf and Anamorphoseis. Her writing has been awarded the Nightboat Poetry Prize and the Bill Waller Award in Creative Nonfiction; nominated for the United States Artists Fellowship and the Lambda Literary Award. She lives on Munsee-Mohican lands along the Mahicannituck River, otherwise known as New York’s Upper Hudson Valley.

Joss Barton is a writer, journalist and spoken word performance artist exploring and documenting queer and trans* life, love and liberation. Her work blends femme-fever dreams over the soundtrack of the American nightmare. Combining prose poetry, non-fiction confessional essays, drag artistry and spoken word stage performances, Joss examines the myriad states of queer trans womanhoods from historical, political and pop cultural identities of death, desires, dreams and disco.

CAConrad has worked with the ancient technologies of poetry and ritual since 1975. Their latest book AMANDA PARADISE: Resurrect Extinct Vibration (Wave Books, 2021), won the 2022 PEN Josephine Miles Award. They received a 2022 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a Creative Capital grant, a Pew Fellowship and a Lambda Award. They exhibit poems as art objects with recent solo shows in Spain and Portugal and their play The Obituary Show was made into a film in 2022 by Augusto Cascales. A new collection of poetry is forthcoming from Wave Books in 2024 titled Listen to the Golden Boomerang Return.

John Coletti is the author of Peppermint Oil (PUSH, 2020), Deep Code (City Lights, 2014), Mum Halo (Rust Buckle Books, 2010), Same Enemy Rainbow (fewer & further 2008) and Physical Kind (Yo-Yo-Labs 2005). With Anselm Berrigan, he is the author of Skasers (Flowers & Cream, 2012).

Renee Gladman is a writer and artist preoccupied with crossings, thresholds and geographies as they play out at the intersections of poetry, prose, drawing and architecture. She is the author of fourteen published works, including a cycle of novels about the city-state Ravicka and its inhabitants, the Ravickians, as well as three collections of drawings, Prose Architectures (2017), One Long Black Sentence, a series of white-ink drawings on black paper, indexed by Fred Moten (2020) and Plans for Sentences, an image/text-based meditation on black futurity and other choreographies of gathering (2022). She makes her home in New England.

Poet, writer and teacher, erica kaufman is the author of POST CLASSIC, INSTANT CLASSIC (both from Roof Books) and censory impulse (Factory School). She is co-editor of NO GENDER: Reflections on the Life and Work of kari edwards and a collection of archival pedagogical documents, Adrienne Rich: Teaching at CUNY, 1968–1974. Recent poems can be found in e-flux. kaufman's prose, focused on contemporary feminist poetics and pedagogy, appears in: Approaches to Teaching the Works of Gertrude Stein; The Supposium: Thought Experiments & Poethical Play in Difficult Times; Urgent Possibilities, Writings on Feminist Poetics & Emergent Pedagogies; and R_eading Experimental Writing_. kaufman is the director of the Bard College Institute for Writing & Thinking.

Shiv Kotecha is the author of The Switch (Wonder, 2018) and EXTRIGUE (Make Now, 2015). His writing appears in publications including 4Columns, Aperture, Artforum, BOMB, frieze, The Nation, Notebook at MUBI and T_he Poetry Project Newsletter_. With the artist Pradeep Dalal, he edits Cookie Jar, a pamphlet series of innovative arts writing produced by the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. He lives and works in New York.

Matt Longabucco is the author of the poetry collection Heroic Dose (Golias Books, 2022) and M/W: An essay on Jean Eustache’s La maman et la putain (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021), a book-length essay about a landmark of French cinema and its creator. His essay “Poster Syndrome” appears in the Nicole Eisenman catalog Incelesbian (2020). He lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing, innovative pedagogy and critical theory at New York University and at Bard College’s Institute for Writing & Thinking.

Ted Rees is a poet, essayist and editor who lives and works in Philadelphia. His most recent books include Dog Day Economy (Roof Books 2022) and Thanksgiving: a Poem, a Lambda Literary Award finalist which was published by Golias Books in 2020. Recent essays have been published in SPT's The Back Room and The Poetry Project Newsletter. He is editor-at-large for The Elephants, as well as founder and co-editor of Asterion Projects with Levi Bentley. Since summer of 2020, he has been running Overflowing Poetry Workshops, an extrainstitutional online workshop space.

Laurie Weeks is a writer, pataphysicist and educator who divides her time between New York City and Idaho. She is the author of Zipper Mouth, A Novel and I Watch The Human. Weeks is the founder of the Institute for Lifelong Juvenile Delinquency: Investigations into Psychomagic, Resonance and Shapeshifting. She is also the founder of Summer of Bad Plays, in collaboration with Nicole Eisenman, Charles Atlas, Dancenoise (Lucy Sextion & Ann Iobst), Mike Iveson and Stinkmetal. A chapter from her latest novel-in-progress, Worms Make Heaven, appeared in the recent anthology Pathetic Literature, edited by Eileen Myles.

Simone White is the author of the collections or, on being the other woman, Dear Angel of Death, Of Being Dispersed and House Envy of All the World. She teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.