Today’s Sunday Poet was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.
Michelle Bitting was a dancer and chef before devoting herself to poetry. Her collection, Good Friday Kiss, was chosen by Thomas Lux as the winner of the 2007 DeNovo Prize for 1st Book of Poetry.
Michelle lists Dylan Thomas, Sharon Olds, Tony Hoagland, Anne Sexton and Kevin Young as some of the writers who have influenced her most.
“I used to have to write at stoplights and in parking lots because my kids were small, and often, I was driving my son around to his therapies,” Bitting says in an interview with Pirene’s Fountain. “I would get up early, before the family was awake and write or force myself to stay up late. Fortunately, I have larger blocks of time with the kids in school a greater portion of the day. But there are still many scheduling challenges I’m hoping to work out, though for all I know it could get worse!”
In the same interview, Oliver Lodge asked Bitting about writing and “the muse”:
“I do believe that cultivating poetic awareness in the world, becoming a really excellent listener and watcher, performing the daily push-ups of consciousness is vital and helps prepare the way for synchronicity and visitation. So you have to do the work it takes to stay in shape. And it’s a better way to live in the world anyway–very freeing, enlivening. As far as blocks go, you have to write through them, write badly for a while if necessary. It’s the only way to get to the good stuff.”
The two poems featured here, “Patti Smith” and “In Praise of My Brother, the Painter,” are included in Bitting’s latest collection, Notes to the Beloved. Writer Dorianne Laux says, “A powerful female voice, body, spirit and sensibility inhabits this book…Bitting is at her best here: unbridled, open, aware.”
If you’re in California, there are two upcoming opportunities to hear Michelle read.
At 7 p.m. on Monday, April 8th, she will be participating in a visual arts and poetry event at the UC Davis MIND Institute. The event is free. Click here for more information.
On April 17th Bitting will read at the Oxnard College Literature & Art Lecture series in Oxnard, California. More details are available here.
Michelle has also created a series of short “poem films,” which you can peruse on her website.
I want to give Gwarlingo Sunday Poem fans a head’s up…This week I leave for a month-long writing residency in Wyoming. On my way to Wyoming, I’ll be stopping at the Cleveland Institute of Art to give a talk to students on the creative process. Because I’ll be on the road, there will no Sunday Poem next weekend. My bookshelves are bulging with lots of new poetry publications, however, and there are some fabulous poets in the pipeline, so stay tuned.
Have a relaxing Sunday!
In Praise of My Brother, the Painter
How every morning he rose, slave
to the sound, this endless call to make.
Mad hatter, dervish sawyer, a primitive
blur of hands at work: fingers feeding
the dreamiest bolts through needles,
vision’s machinery. In the photo where
he stands, fists on hips—defiant, electric
in his Bowery studio, splotched jeans
and boots, the clouds of white gesso
a kind of palette couture—so satisfied
his look: Je suis arrive, Asshole...And
this is how I want to remember him.
Not what a note left like that means.
Not the slow descent, the pills or piles
of soiled laundry. Not the dog left barking
in the kitchen, the bowl with enough grain
to last. No, I want the beauty, even
his cursive, the swirling tints
of parting thought, the art itself: Dear Sister,
if I could survive this long, you will flourish.