Poem: We’re Not Allowed To Have Nice Things

Leg o' Mutton Sleeves

Leg o’ Mutton Sleeves

We’re Not Allowed To Have Nice Things

stop me
before i volunteer
again for tight rope walking
and twirling pistols in hot water

the lace from my bell skirt
catches the muzzle and pellets ping
underneath my leg-o-mutton sleeves

“perfect!” leaps from me like a Gatling gun
The s-bend corset digs in like trench warfare

the bust darts stiffen
with rigor mortis
incorruptible long
after favor has left my body

the flowing iron molding in my cheeks
flutter over the silver-grey mohair and gilt buttons

Mute is the only way to be

© 2017 Melissa Currence

This poem came from our Cincinnati East Poetry Meetup‘s prompt to write a poem that includes a phrase that you found interesting in your everyday life (like a line of copy from an ad, quote said by a friend, a phrase found in an email). I was most inspired by this post, Fashions of the 1890’s: Day Dress, on Vintage Victorian. See more about found poems from this prompt on Write Now Coach.

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Poem: Ocean as Inheritance

Atlantic Beach, NC. Self Portrait

Atlantic Beach, NC. Self Portrait

Ocean as Inheritance

I see my mothers’ faces—
dozens along a single break
their braids crisscross my feet
their skirts ruffle at the shore
I am salty with their grace
their words confronting
my own hurricane—
a resurrection of waves.

© 2017 Melissa Currence

I spent a relaxing week with my writing friends at Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Our gathering was jokingly referred as #poetforce, which I think it is a pretty cool name for a writing conference. We feasted on seafood, lounged on the beach and scared the waitstaff with our notebooks and long periods of silence. The Virginia poet Blanche Robinson Williams inspired this poem, so I’m including an example of her poetry below.

Scarlet Wing by Blanche Robinson Williams

Scarlet Wing by Blanche Robinson Williams

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New Podcast Project: What Would Alice Paul Do?

alicepaulI’m proud to announce I am co-hosting a new podcast, What Would Alice Paul Do?, about demystifying what it means to be part of the League of Women Voters.

I’m co-hosting with my good friend, Amy Hjerstedt, who is a board member for the national League of Women Voters. We served together as co-chairs of the LWV’s Young People’s Taskforce from 2012-2014, and we had a blast.  See our toolkit for engaging younger members [PDF]. I’m glad we are partnering up again.

On What Would Alice Paul Do? Podcast, we share stories, tips and how-tos to make sure you have the tools and confidence to actively engage your community.

If you’re interested in listening in, you can find us online at alicepaulpodcast.com. We’re also on iTunes and Stitcher.

Learn about Alice Paul and her contribution to U.S. women’s voting rights.

Connect with What Would Alice Paul Do? Podcast

Poem: I am Dramatic

I swerve in cursive
like the signatures of colonial women
who gave birth to thousands
because it only takes a second to exist
and a moment to die


I type in distress
because I point forward
aligned with the arrow
of messages needing a response


I hang up the blood moon
to remind us of our kinship,
of annotations clotting
our preternatural bond.


© 2017 Melissa Currence


This poem came from a prompt from my poetry group: Write a poem inspired by the theme that the act of writing is a matter of life or death.

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Cincinnati East Poetry Meetup

Cincinnati East Poetry Meetup

Cincinnati East Poetry Meetup

I wanted to share that I started a Meetup.com group for poetry, Cincinnati East Poetry Meetup, where we workshop each other’s poetry.We listen and offer constructive feedback after the poet has read her or his work. And if we have time, we write together.

The prompt for our next meetup (from Kelli Russell Agodon – www.agodon.com – PDF): “Grab the closest book. Go to page 29. Write down 10 words that catch your eye. Use 7 of words in a poem. For extra credit, have 4 of them appear at the end of a line.We are a new group that shares our own poetry in an inclusive and supportive environment.  At the end of each meetup, we will decide a prompt for the next meeting, for those who need it.”

We’ve held two workshops so far, which went great. We meet on the last Wednesdays of the month. Sign up to get workshop info and join our community (it’s FREE)!

Poem: Pristine

A Norfolk Southern train hauling coal in Landgraff WV

A Norfolk Southern train hauling coal in Landgraff West Virginia


When I was a girl
God willed the churches along the Elkhorn River
Stay pristine white
Coal dust never touching
Their clapboard
The road as close
as Eve’s snake

Now the steeples keep themselves clean
Rising above their abandoned sanctuaries
And crumbling tipples
Even God won’t stop
The combat of mountains exploding
And coal trains lurking past
Escaping with all the potential

© 2016 Melissa Currence

The prompt for this poem came from my good friend Kristi, who challenged our poetry group to be inspired by the poem fragments of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova from the anthology of her work.

Here is Akhmatova’s line I chose:

And the road to the churchyard
Is a hundred times longer
Than it was when I carelessly
Wandered along it

This poem’s setting is McDowell County, West Virginia, which I was excited to visit in 2013. My grandma was born in Gary, WV. I loved both the Rocket Boys and Glass Castle books. In doing some research on this poem, I came across these great websites, if you’re interested in learning more:

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Guardian #8thDayChallenge


With eyes closed, I am one
syllable. simple
as the first dawn
scattering a rainbow. a wingspan
just strong enough
to keep you
on my shoulder

© 2016 Melissa Currence

There was no prompt for this poem, but I like it for its simple language. Writing with less words makes each one more powerful. Using everyday language in poetry as been a writing goal of mine for several years. What are your writing “edicts”? I’d love to know!

The #8thDayChallenge

I hope you will join me in the 8th Day Challenge!

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Happy Hour #8thDayChallenge

Happy Hour

the tumbler lowers
your smirk refracts
in the swirl between ice cubes
i, with darts in my fabrics
and hands without stone,
am creating a new happy
despite your confusion.

© 2016 Melissa Currence

Happy New Year! I took a small break for writing on the blog in December. But I’m happy to be back and ready to take on 2016.

My prompt for this poem was the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

What are your writing goals for this year? Let me know!  I am going to work on mine and share them with you soon.

The #8thDayChallenge

I hope you will join me in the 8th Day Challenge!

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Here lies Octavia #8th Day Challenge

Here lies Octavia (1875-1888)

Gravestone, Octavia Carter, 1875-1888

Gravestone of Octavia Carter, 1875-1888.

I breathe out the dandelion seeds
and roll in the hay bales
I push up the ryegrass
to grip their roots.

I run my scarred hands
in the thistle nests
and pat the ruts to keep them worn.
Dust rouges my cheeks
as I swing around the peeling tree trunks.

I’ve watched you
since the devil gripped my foot in the stirrup.
You have also absorbed death
between each sunset for a century.

I wish you could hear my song
and your laughter could
echo with mine,
that we still had a life
among these slaty hills.

Come now,
this is nowhere for the living.

© Melissa Currence 2015

This poem came together because of Halloween and listening to my mother’s stories about our family. She retold me the story of Octavia, who died when she was 13 years old after a horse riding accident. This picture is of her gravestone from 2013, 125 years after she died.

While the idea of the poem came together quickly, I worked on it for days. Since each word choice is so important in a poem, I can drive me crazy trying to search for the right one. I find if I am editing a poem a lot, I often have to look at the first draft to remember what I was trying to say.

What is your editing process? Let me know in the comments.

The #8thDayChallenge

I hope you will join me in the 8th Day Challenge!

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Cincinnati Business Courier Feature – Forty Under 40

Melissa Currence in Cincinnati Business Courier

Thanks to the Cincinnati Business Courier for featuring me in this week’s edition!

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