Winter 2016: The Dead Have Risen

Dearest Readers,

2016 has brought many changes for Yes Poetry. I started the journal in 2010, when I was merely 21 years old. It was in the days when online journals were still getting their grounding, unsure of their place in the publishing world. Now, almost six years later, I can say the website has grown. I have grown. Online magazines are not so clunky or awkward anymore - it's like they've finally matured to adulthood. 

The magazine was initially hosted on Tumblr, which was a wonderful home for a long time. But the website outgrew Tumblr - it's just not a powerful enough platform, and definitely not one made for poetry. The lineation was always awkward to deal with, no matter how much magic I tried to work with the html. After working on posts for hours (literally), I finally came to the realization that I was trying to work with a broken machine. So, I decided to start the site over with Square Space. Which, in many ways, illustrates the transformation the site is making. I want it to do bigger, more meaningful things. I want to publish more diverse voices, because that's why I love living in the world, and of course, why I am an editor. I want Yes, Poetry to be a safe haven, a place of intersectionality. 

It's interesting to be alive on the internet, because it's at once transformative and limiting. We can be whoever we want--we are constantly changing and learning in this fast-paced digital landscape. In other ways, it sometimes confines us to the persona we have chosen, even if we grow up, and change ourselves. In many ways, 2016 represents the coming together, and breaking away, from this duality. I, just like the magazine, have changed (and for the better, like wine). 

Another part of the relaunch is the start of our chapbook press, which will publish chapbooks designed in-house with the utmost care. We're very excited to announce the launch of this endeavor, because I firmly believe in promoting work that pushes boundaries, makes the reader uncomfortable, and shifts the usual narrative. 

With all of this in mind, I'm deeply excited to welcome you to the new site, and enjoy our Winter 2016 issue. 


Joanna C. Valente
Founding Editor

Katie Hibner's poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Bone Bouquet, Dead Ink, Jerkpoet, Peaches Lit, GlitterMOB, and Smoking Glue Gun magazines. She reads for Sixth Finch and Big Lucks. She is currently studying at Bennington College.

The Robin Hood of Summer 2015

It’s easier to aim arrows with this cooling rack fixed to my sternum.
We torrent the summer in more easily-swallowed cubes,
have a sale sign launderer stationed at the Walmart.

I gave you all a flour itinerary, dollar-store hermit crabs,
a pocketful of rubber, squirmy animal toys.

I bought the squirmies at the craft store that’s tucked
in the armpit of this cinder valley.
Maybe we do secretly enjoy being blackened and released.

This Fembot Can Think

CyberLord glossed the internet over with winter marmalade.
At the download of his woolly mouth,
antennae were roasted;
pixel-finches were sucked into the wood chipper.

Now his pill bugs fringe my little black dress,
but they crackle with osteoporosis.
I strap on a raft of oversexed honeydew
and ponder in silence:

Why is it we mannequins are lacquered
with just-enough feminine coverage,
bare upgrades from loincloths of mastodons?

We should just skin our own meat for trophies
that are perfectly wearable,
like prickly, alien dew rags,
apt for sexy-angel partners in crime.


Interview with Katie Hibner & Founding Editor Joanna C. Valente

JV: Talk to me about your line breaks. How do you determine them?

KH: Wow, you started off with a question that’s honestly a kicker for me— my poetry is very image-driven, so getting into the headspace of line breaks and enjambment often feels alien and labored. That being said, fragmenting the images into lines and stanza is very fruitful, for it creates a pace that reflects the emotions of the poem and orders the chaos (at least a little!). I’m hungry right now, so I want to liken the process to slicing a rich potato into slivers so it can be fried into more delectable, easily-digested chips. 

What would you say is your obsession right now? As poets & artists, we are sometimes defined by these obsessions in our work.

Mina Loy! Mina Loy! Before starting at Bennington College this year, I actually had a very limited knowledge of poets prior to postmodernism, but now I am fortunate enough to be taking a course in modernist poetry and have become enamored with the poet who claims she “never was a poet.” I feel like Loy is one of my literary ancestors, as I see flickers of her visceral, tactile descriptions of carnality and flesh in my own work. I adore the lyrics of the bands Alt-J and Glass Animals, which also explore such sensory fraying.

How does your physical landscape affect your poems? 

This question is so apt since I just moved from an Ohio suburb to rural Vermont. My suburb was highly developed and commercialized— there were probably over fifty restaurants within a fifteen-minute drive from my house. Since relocating to a realm more populated with trees than stores (or even people!), I feel as though my poems have become more internalized and less about consumerism. The vastness of the Vermont landscape forces introspection.

Who writes your poems—what part of you? 

My id definitely drafts my poems; she’s a ravenous gremlin without a filter. Much of her survives the editing process— the final product feels hollow without her. I had muzzled her when I first started seriously writing poems my freshman year of high school, but Caroline Crew and Colleen Louise Barry, my fairy mentors from the Juniper Institute for Young Writers, coaxed her out of the shadows. Now, my id itches constantly, and nothing is more rewarding than satisfying her bloodlust.

I’ve always felt my poems come alive after they’ve been edited—as if I’m carving a poem, rather than writing it. Would you agree or disagree with this?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the editing process shocks poems to life, but rather grants them tangible faces. I’d equate trimming a stanza to chiseling a nose. 

Shebana Coelho is a writer and director. She received a Fiction Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), and a Fulbright Research grant to Mongolia. Her short stories and poems have been published in Word Riot, Chronogram magazine, Malpais Review, Lummox, Madcap Review, New Mexico Mercury, Sin Fronteras and NPR's On Being Blog, among others. Her website is



I came into this world

wanting more greedy for

greediness devouring

heart wanting the press of

all life all stories and

the romance of

a sky lit with roads

running the milky way

to the darkness of deep space

-- oh the wonder

of it stopped my breath

till the doctor slapped me

silly and I wailed

and the blue hospital light

blinked at me and said

this is the edge of your

world it ends here and I

wailed again and I said



We wore pinafores

and followed nuns

to a table land

passing boys in white shirts

pressed by priests into

uncreased splendor


The nuns didn’t say a word

but we knew to ignore the boys


We knew to walk

clear across the field

past their round brown knees

shiny with sweat

and square bodies that were not ours

jaws with hard angles

rough voices running

over each other


We carried our ripe red hearts

pulsing like Christ in the parlor

his blue robe drawn open

waiting for our return


Now it is a longing

to become bark


in red earth

become kin to

soil sky branch


Now it is as tender

as new grass

as wise as those

who watch

leaves fall without interrupting

knowing it is the nature of things

leaves fall all the time 


Interview with Shebana Coelho & Founding Editor Joanna C. Valente

JV: Talk to me about your line breaks. How do you determine them?

SC: Sometimes, they determine me. Other times, it might be that I want a certain sound to pop at the end or the start of a line.  Or I like the look of a word. Mostly, it’s the sound that determines the break, how the poem sounds as I read it out loud, where I pause, where I feel the line needs space, where a word grabs me--like this, I play.

What would you say is your obsession right now? As poets & artists, we are sometimes defined by these obsessions in our work.

Obsession is a strong word. For me, it implies something you can’t stop yourself from doing. Whereas the place I’m at right now, I’m conscious of choosing where I place my attention, where I focus my energy and having that focus be balanced, so writing but also being, working but also resting, running but also stillness, like that. What has recurred over the last few months in my poetry, and my life is the notion of revolution-the small revolutions where you fully submit to yourself, where you trust that speaking your story in the way that only you can speak it is enough, where living in the light of your art is enough.  I’m not articulating this well because I’m still in the process. The other thing that keeps recurring is how my poems keep finding their way back to India.  And healing -, that’s another recurring theme of the last few months, writing poems that lead me through all kinds of dark into a catharsis and moments of peace. And I can't get enough of writing such poems because they leave me better than how they found me.

How does your physical landscape affect your poems? 

I love writing when it rains. I love dark overcast skies. Everything in me softens to hear the rain, to see that dark grey. I live in New Mexico where we have 300 plus days of sun. But this summer and fall, we’ve actually had long days of rain and grey and it’s been such a fertile time for writing.  The poems I write when it rains--I feel those poems burrow in the ground. But I also love the early morning sun and the vast expanses of the llanos, the plains, the mesas, the silhouettes of mountains. Poems written when these vistas are resounding in me--they are full of texture. Sometimes I can almost smell the juniper or the piñon in them, not because they are about New Mexico, but because they have space in them and sharp acrid smells and a crisp cutting feelings to the sounds.

Who writes your poems—what part of you? 

I really like this question though I don't know how to answer it.  I try not to ask myself too many questions about who writes. I'm so grateful for all the selves that show up!

Certainly I feel the part of me that hurts easily--that part writes, the part that can’t get enough of being still and feeling what’s around me through every one of my senses - that part of me writes. But - as I write this response - what’s coming to me is a sense of how poetry has allowed me to integrate many selves. Because I left India when I was young and I’ve had different career paths, because I’ve traveled a lot, because I tend to write in different genres, because I speak different languages, I’ve felt – for periods of time--really fragmented, really separate. But everything in me conspires to help write poetry--it’s brought me home to myself.

I’ve always felt my poems come alive after they’ve been edited—as if I’m carving a poem, rather than writing it. Would you agree or disagree with this?

I agree. And also, the degree to which carving is needed, varies. Some poems emerge--not fully formed--but with a very clear shape and not much in the way of that shape. But then others, there’s a whole wall of words they come with. And yes, those you carve and that process I love--staring at the wall, narrowing my eyes to see if there’s a shape in all that flatness, and then finding a word or image or sound that juts out, and then other words, and beginning to speak them together, almost like an incantation, and then that first rough draft, that first rough shape takes shape and you print it out…It’s heady, every time. I love the feeling of clutching that piece of paper and looking down at the text of the poem and marveling--not at the quality of it--but the fact of it, the feeling of it, how you’ve done what you came here for and in that moment, you, it, all of it is enough.

Claire Handscombe graduated from American University with her MFA in Creative Writing in May 2015. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including both of the UK's best-selling writing magazines, and The Washington Post. She is also a regular contributor to Book Riot.






Father in the Third Row
For Brad

This dance: the hundredth time.

The man on the stage

              – will he catch her?

Such a perilous art.

Such joy in the jumping.

Tomorrow, she leaves him.

His turn

to lift and throw her.

March in Madrid

We were all on those four trains. - Jorge Fernandez Diaz, Spain's Interior Minister, on the Madrid train bombings on 11th March 2004.

Cold. Clear skies:

March in Madrid.

Coffee, breakfast, schoolbag,

Her turned back as she walks away

Murmuring Latin,

Bleary eyed from maths.


On with the day.

Ironing, another coffee.

The phone:

Is she okay?

The thump of a heart.

Hello? Hello? 

On the kitchen table,

A dirty cup. A plate.

A few crumbs. 


Interview with Claire Handscombe & Founding Editor Joanna C. Valente

JV: Talk to me about your line breaks. How do you determine them?

CH: I feel much of my writing on a visceral level, and that includes my line breaks. That said, each of my lines tends to each be a fully formed thought, unless there is a reason to emphasise a particular word or create a pause with white space. The white space in Father in the Third Row mirrors those moments in ballet when we hold our breath, waiting for the dancer to be caught or to land.

What would you say is your obsession right now? As poets & artists, we are sometimes defined by these obsessions in our work.

Oh, so many obsessions! I’ve become very interested in ballet this year, as reflected in Father in the Third Row, and thinking about it, ballet and poetry have a lot in common. They’re both elegant and little bit magical.

How does your physical landscape affect your poems? 

I don’t think my physical landscape matters nearly as much to me as my emotional landscape. That said, physical landscape can play into my emotions. I feel differently about life – more hopeful, perhaps, but also more nostalgic, on a crisp, sunny autumn day than, say, a hot, rainy August evening. Places I have returned to over and over and that are heavy with memories for me, like the beach, or the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, also tend to awaken the kind of nostalgia that spurs me to write.

 Who writes your poems—what part of you? 

I fell in love with poetry when I was growing up in Belgium and reading Jacques Prévert. I don’t think it’s an accident that I came back to poetry through a translation class where I looked again at his work. I think that young, idealistic part of me is who writes my poems. Speakers of French have a deep respect for their language, and even though I now mostly write in English, that love for words, for le mot juste, remains at the core of me. I was also deeply sensitive as a child, and I still am. Melancholy pervades my poems, as it does my soul, and that is also something I have carried from the time I began to write.

I’ve always felt my poems come alive after they’ve been edited—as if I’m carving a poem, rather than writing it. Would you agree or disagree with this?

I think they can, yes. Both of the poems here were extensively revised after advice from members of my poetry workshop and my wonderful professor, David Keplinger. Father in the Third Row started life as a sonnet, and is, I think, much more powerful for being sparser. But I also think some poems come to me almost fully formed, or, at least, that only a little sculpture is required.