The March 2015 artist-in-residence was poet Megan Levad. Originally from Iowa, Ms. Levad traveled from Michigan for a month to work on her manuscript War Movie, “a collection of poems that consider how the trauma of war and the violence of agriculture impact the domestic sphere in rural places.” Many of the poems in War Movie are ekphrastic (about a specific piece of art), and she offered an ekphrastic workshop at The Boise Art Museum during her time at Surel’s Place.
In addition, she also held a reading of Why We Live in the Dark Ages, the first selection in Tavern Books’ Wrolstad Contemporary Poetry Series, which Levad published in January 2015. Her poems have appeared in Tin House, Granta Online, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Mantis, the Everyman’s Library anthology Killer Verse, and the London art and fashion magazine AnOther. She also writes lyrics for composers Tucker Fuller and Kristin Kuster; she and Kristin will record an opera in Spring 2015, thanks to a grant from OPERA America. A native of rural Iowa, Megan has lived in New York, Chicago, and now Ann Arbor, where she is the Assistant Director of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan.
The cow was made to produce
Milk and suffer people. My grandfather, out of school
Already at thirteen, was taught to eat white bread
With knife and fork, like cake, and so it was
Cake, and not twenty years later he was shoveling sugar beets
Into the hopper at the Crystal plant, the Sugar Beet
It was called, the thing signifier for itself, like all
Commodities, like corn. Soybeans. Porkbellies.
Two generations later a farm kid can go to colleg
And cut class, grow her hair long, smoke Camels, wear
Chanel No. 19, come home to an empty barn and say Well
Good. I can work at the mall. That’s when her mother
Wishes she’d not raised her girls to be so cold, remembers
How she felt when the fairs ended, how her
Brother, now a fat accountant, tried to climb in the bed
Of the truck that hauled the calves away, and she wishes
Her lovely daughters wanted this life, even if it means
Exactly what she knows it means: two part-time jobs
On top of all the work at home, the early nights, the solitude, the rigorous
Adherence to schedules, measurements, and all for what?
To claim that freedom matters more than comfort and security. There are
Those who bear the weather when they can’t afford
To leave, and when they can they run to Texas, Arkansas, bright places
Banging with brassy, big-hearted people, where life’s a permanent
Spring break, but never having had spring break she doesn’t know how
It could be worth a lifetime of work for someone else, the days
Marked off in hours instead of tasks of her own making.
After just a year, the cow will learn her place, step in
Between the rails, eat sweet hay while someone who’s familiar
Fits the machine to her udder, drains her dry.