I met Michelle Bitting in 2007 at a workshop taught by Sharon Olds at Esalen, a famous hot springs retreat on the California coast near Big Sur. It was my first real poetry workshop, and I signed up to celebrate my 50th birthday and my return to poetry after a hiatus that had lasted 35 years. The workshop focused on generation of new work rather than revision, and I remember looking forward to what Michelle Bitting spontaneously came up with, day after day. Struck by her luminous, joyous approach to the practice of poetry, I began to follow her work, buying each of her books and looking forward to the next.

In 14 unrhymed and unmetered lines some would call an American Sonnet, Bitting grabs her readers and takes them along on a wild ride of the five senses. “The Goods” truly delivers what its title promises, celebrating desire and “corporeal feelings”—what is felt, heard, tasted, smelt, and seen by the body evoked in delightful word pairings like “love-weariness” and “kiss-quest.” Heat, sweat, and a rush of power and speed are embodied in the image of a horse on a great, unrestrained gallop. The horse is “called faith,” or perhaps it is a faith that has been summoned, and its presence here makes me think of poets like George Herbert and John Donne, who also wrote sonnets that yoke erotic with religious imagery. Bitting reinforces the image’s urgency in short lines fashioned into one long sentence that does not come to a full stop until the ending that packs extra punch with a sexual double entendre. A wonderful evocation of blustery March and its liminal position between winter and spring, “The Goods” is signature Bitting, capturing the qualities I admired in her poetry and person eight years ago in a workshop by the sea.

—Rebecca Foust, Poetry Editor

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The Goods

It’s the corporeal feelings
I crave the most: aridity, lust,
their aches’ redaction, love-weariness,
kiss-quest, falling in bed again
when loneliness breaks a sweat
and we mount a horse
called faith borne
on this wheel of March,
charge and stamping
heat of the noble
night that will carry us,
tongue and thigh
entwined and shuddering
against our own coming history.

 

First published in American Poetry Review, Vol. 44, No. 2, March/April 2015, and inspired by Wendell Berry’s “Goods.”

Bitting_4-20-15 copyMichelle Bitting has work published in The American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Narrative, diode, the Paris-American, L.A. Weekly, Manor House Quarterly, and others. Poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and as the Weekly Feature on Verse Daily. Her book Good Friday Kiss won the DeNovo First Book Award, and Notes to the Beloved received a starred Kirkus Review. Michelle has taught poetry in the U.C.L.A. Extension Writer’s Program, at Twin Towers prison, and is an active California Poet in the Schools. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University, Oregon, and will soon complete a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute.


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