Laura Washburn






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Laura Lee Washburn is an Associate Professor and Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas as well as an editorial board member of the Woodley Memorial Press.


Washburn is the author of This Good Warm Place (March Street, 1998) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize, 1996). Her book, This Good Warm Place, Expanded 10th Anniversary Edition will be published in 2008 (March Street Pr). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Quarterly West, The Sun, The Journal, and Clackamas Review.


Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia and currently making her home in Kansas, Washburn has also lived and worked in Arizona and Missouri.   










The Mailman, 2004

“Maybe it’s the gap, the feeling that someone isn’t listening, doesn’t get it, has half heard us, that compels us to write and explain.”  —Natalie Goldberg


I was the mailman and

I thought I was carrying letters:

A, B, the whole symbolic mess

of alphabet turned to words, one

son or daughter writing from the third

world or some other pretechnological

handwritten place, but instead

I found myself

going insubstantial, literally,

believe me—it happened—

blinking out, like migraine

flashes of light that float

and disappear. Each text

I carried was blank with unmeaning.

In this century and at the end

of the last, I was noself and the words

depended only on words. I delivered

letters to boxes. Mother,

receiver of delivery,

maker of the daughter—or son—

made meaning of the blankness

of the letter, of the word: You

know how you are, she said,

You know what you’re like.



Poetry: A Resurgence

for the poets among us
“The British critic F.R. Leavis used to observe
that a poem is not a frog.”  —from The Creative Writing


At the end of the twentieth century, we were warned.

No one could find frogs in the volume to which

we’d grown accustomed. Upon inspection,

the frogs we found were missing legs or had extras.

Small hind quarters jutted obscene

from their thick and proper limbs, their sight

was bifurcated and tenuous, their faces

misshapen. The polar icecaps

and the frogs were virtual canaries

in the coal mine. Take heed, the great seers said.

We have seen and not seen said the see-ers.


Poems, however, were ubiquitous. Their growth rate

was alarmingly high. You could find the Laureate

at the end of the newscast reciting unrhymed lines

or singing on radio shows. Trudging to your car

after a long shift, you’d find stanzas pressed under the wipers.

Even our young drank beer and heard the rhythm

of the night’s hundred poems chanted from their stages.

The poems were a chytrid fungus, rapid and mortal.

We were breathing through our skins and we didn’t know it.


The Good Reader lived here and there, lifted the wipers, pressed

her bifocals to the soft cotton covering her belly,

and commenced, tuning her voice to the

violin’s virtuosity. The world was getting warmer

by the instant. The real gardens bloomed into the winter.

All the imaginary toads might have died. Yes,

they said, but at least we all died in the truth.

Hunger: A Philosophy

from “Guts (Gutz) n.” in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue
By Captain Francis Grose, Edited with a Biographical & Critical Sketch
& an Extensive Commentary, By Eric Partridge, M.A., B. Litt. (Oxon.)


 I. The Vulgar Tongue


My great guts are ready,

ready to eat my little ones.


My great guts are ready,

ready to eat your little ones.


Littleneck clams salt the guts

that crave little little ones:


capers, baby crookneck,

crabs that crawl live

from the oyster’s glossed shell

down your throat, the amouse-

bouche, gherkin, kernel,

floret, thin stem

of chive, and celery’s seed.


Great guts are ready

to eat the little guts. My guts

begin to think, begin to think

my throat is cut, else how

this sparsity, how wait?

II. Classical Thought


And as my guts begin to think

of what they are wont

to think and think and want,

it’s only a matter of time


before great guts conjecture

and little guts postulate

on atoms and theory and wings

shifting, infinite expansion,

reasons for decapitation,

reasons for reason, reasons

for bomb, gutting, dragging,

flaying, the enforced march

and the pressing down.

III. The Guts


My guts curse my teeth, foul

movements rumble snoutward,

words vulgar as the acts

and days. Nothing to chew on.


My guts curse my teeth; my guts

are cursing and thinking

and ready. Horrid as they are,

my guts, like any guts, my guts


like your great guts and little guts

will take possess keep shroud

and change, digesting with relish

whatever we will send down.


All poetry on this page
© b
y Laura Washburn, 2008 


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