A. Van Jordan is the author of Rise, published by Tia Chucha Press, 2001, which won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award and selected for the Book of the Month Club from the Academy of American Poets. His second book, M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, published by W.W. Norton & Co, 2004, was awarded an Anisfield-Wolf Award and listed as one the Best Books of 2005 by The London Times (TLS). Jordan was also awarded a Whiting Writers Award in 2005 and a Pushcart Prize in 2006, 30th Edition. Quantum Lyrics was published July 2007 by W.W. Norton & Co. He is a recent recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, 2007. He is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, and he serves on faculty at the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

Links:
Isak interview
On prose poetry
"The Synchronicity of Scenes"

Three Poems by A. Van Jordan



Einstein Defining Special Relativity

INSERT SHOT: Einstein's notebook 1905—DAY

1: a theory that is based on two postulates (a) that the speed of light in all inertial frames is constant, independent of the source or observer. As in, the speed of light emitted from the truth is the same as that of a lie coming from the lamp of a face aglow with trust, and (b) the laws of physics are not changed in all inertial systems, which leads to the equivalence of mass and energy and of change in mass, dimension, and time; with increased velocity, space is compressed in the direction of the motion and time slows down. As when I look at Mileva, it's as if I've been in a space ship traveling as close to the speed of light as possible, and when I return, years later, I'm younger than when I began the journey, but she's grown older, less patient. Even a small amount of mass can be converted into enormous amounts of energy: I'll whisper her name in her ear, and the blood flows like a mallet running across vibes. But another woman shoots me a flirting glance, and what was inseparable is now cleaved in two.


Einstein Ruminates on Relativity

INT. Theater. 1931—NIGHT

Premiere of City Lights starring CHARLES CHAPLIN, New York City, Albert Einstein is Chaplin's invited guest. They sit together and the audience stands to applaud them.

Charlie Chaplin tells me
that the world loves him
because they understand him
and the world loves me

because they don't, which doesn't seem fair
but it's true: This is relativity.
Journalists ask for a definition,
but the answers are all around:

a woman loves you for a lifetime
and it feels like a day; she tells you
she's leaving, breaking it off,
and that day feels like a lifetime,

passing slowly. I listen to Armstrong
play his cornet and it sounds
like a Wednesday afternoon in heaven;
some hear Armstrong play

and it sounds like a Monday morning
in Manhattan. Some hear the war on the radio
and they hear acts of love; some
hear details of the war and it sounds

futile. Outside my window
people decry the rain;
somewhere else people pray
for rain to run down their faces.

[from Quantum Lyrics, published in 2007 by Norton]


***

MacNolia

from prep. 1. Starting at (a particular place or time): As in, John was from Chicago, but he played guitar straight from the Delta; he wore a blue suit from Robert Hall's; his hair smelled like coconut; his breath, like mint and bourbon; his hands felt like they were from slave times when he touched me—hungry, stealthy, trembling. 2. Out of: He pulled a knot of bills from his pocket, paid the man and we went upstairs. 3. Not near to or in contact with: He smoked the weed, but, surprisingly, he kept it from me. He said it would make me too self-conscious, and he wanted those feelings as far away from us as possible; he said a good part of my beauty was that I wasn't conscious of my beauty. Isn't that funny? So we drank Bloody Mothers (Hennessey and tomato juice), which was hard to keep from him—he always did like to drink. 4. Out of the control or authority of: I was released from my mama's house, from dreams of hands holding me down, from the threat of hands not pulling me up, from the man that knew me, but of whom I did not know; released from the dimming of twilight, from the brightness of morning; from the love I thought had to look like love; from the love I thought had to taste like love, from the love I thought I had to love like love. 5. Out of the totality of: I came from a family full of women; I came from a family full of believers; I came from a pack of witches—I'm just waiting to conjure my powers; I came from a legacy of lovers—I'm just waiting to seduce my seducer; I came from a pride of proud women, and we take good care of our young. 6. As being other or another than: He couldn't tell me from his mother; he couldn't tell me from his sister; he couldn't tell me from the last woman he had before me, and why should he—we're all the same woman. 7. With (some person, place, or thing) as the instrument, maker, or source: Here's a note from my mother, and you can take it as advice from me: A weak lover is more dangerous than a strong enemy; if you're going to love someone, make sure you know where they're coming from. 8. Because of: Becoming an alcoholic, learning to walk away, being a good speller, being good in bed, falling in love—they all come from practice. 9. Outside or beyond the possibility of: In the room, he kept me from leaving by keeping me curious; he kept me from drowning by holding my breath in his mouth; yes, he kept me from leaving till the next day when he said Leave. Then, he couldn't keep me from coming back.


[from M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, published in 2004 by Norton]