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Anisfield-Wolf Fellow Leila Chatti Debuts New Poem “The Rules”

“The Rules,” a new poem by Anisfield-Wolf Fellow Leila Chatti, graced the inboxes of more than 350,000 subscribers, a landmark accomplishment for a rising poet. The American Academy of Poets has offered a daily dose of poetry, delivered digitally, since 2006.

Chatti reads “The Rules” in her mellifluous, thoughtfully inflected voice in the audio clip. She states that she “wanted to write about the walk I took . . . in Madison, Wisconsin, and the brief, vital moment of joy that indicated my year-long depression might finally lift.” To do so, Chatti knew she would need to break the conventions of her craft, the rules.

Fortunately, the poet is already adept at upending expectations. “This poem has no children; it is trying/to be taken seriously,” she writes in “The Rules” with characteristic puckishness.

Chatti, 28, splits her time between the United States and Tunisia. She is midway through her two-year term as the inaugural fellow in writing and publishing at the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. Copper Canyon will publish her first full-length collection, “The Deluge,” in 2020.

The Rules

There will be no stars—the poem has had enough of them. I think we
       can agree
we no longer believe there is anyone in any poem who is just now       
       realizing

they are dead, so let’s stop talking about it. The skies of this poem
are teeming with winged things, and not a single innominate bird.

You’re welcome. Here, no monarchs, no moths, no cicadas doing
      whatever
they do in the trees. If this poem is in summer, punctuating the blue—
      forgive me,

I forgot, there is no blue in this poem—you’ll find the occasional
pelecinid wasp, proposals vaporized and exorbitant, angels looking

as they should. If winter, unsentimental sleet. This poem does not take
      place
at dawn or dusk or noon or the witching hour or the crescendoing
      moment

of our own remarkable birth, it is 2:53 in this poem, a Tuesday, and
       everyone in it is still
at work. This poem has no children; it is trying

to be taken seriously. This poem has no shards, no kittens, no myths or
       fairy tales,
no pomegranates or rainbows, no ex-boyfriends or manifest lovers,
       no mothers—God,

no mothers—no God, about which the poem must admit
it’s relieved, there is no heart in this poem, no bodily secretions, no
       body

referred to as the body, no one
dies or is dead in this poem, everyone in this poem is alive and pretty

okay with it. This poem will not use the word beautiful for it resists
calling a thing what it is. So what

if I’d like to tell you how I walked last night, glad, truly glad, for the
      first time
in a year, to be breathing, in the cold dark, to see them. The stars, I
      mean. Oh hell, before

something stops me—I nearly wept on the sidewalk at the sight of them
      all.

 
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