Author Archives: Joanna Hoffman

About Joanna Hoffman

Joanna Hoffman is a poet and teaching artist living in Brooklyn, New York. She has been on five National Poetry Slam teams. In 2011, she represented Urbana at the 2011 Women of the World Poetry Slam (WOWPS), National Poetry Slam, and Individual World Poetry Slam, placing in the top 10 at all three. In 2012, she was the Urbana Grand Slam champion, 4th place finalist at the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam, and the 2012 champion of Capturing Fire, the international queer poetry competition. Her work has appeared in decomP, PANK, Union Station Magazine, The Legendary, Spindle, Sinister Wisdom and in the anthologies Women’s Work and Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry. Her full-length book of poetry, Running for Trap Doors, was recently released by Sibling Rivalry Press. She has been nominated for a Pushcart and a Lambda Literary Award. When not performing poems, Joanna works at a nonprofit, bikes around Brooklyn and tries to convince her cat to wear bow ties.

Ten Apologies To My Body

woman-in-red-armchair

Pablo Picasso – Woman in a Red Armachair – 1934

 

(with thanks to jayy dodd for the prompt)

1. To my breasts: You were the offering, the slaughtered calf, the V-neck password, the proof the world needed that I was, in fact, a girl. With my mother’s history of breast cancer, I know that one day you might be cut away from me, and maybe that’s why I never took the time to really love you, not in the dark, by heart, with only my own hands to frame you. I’m sorry.

2. To my heart: I hated how your hunger drove me off the road every time. How the worst pain I’ve ever felt was in you, the splintering core, an ache so bright I could read by its glow and see my name signed after every shatter: yes, i did this, loved the wrong person again and again, saw my own wicked shining and watched the fear tear open, a bursting cloud of spiders, a knife made of fingernails, a hand muffling your siren as i lay in bed watching the noise spill under the doorframe. I’m sorry.

3. To my brain: When you said, “everyone hates you, you’ll never be enough for them, you’ll end up alone, you should die,” I should have known what a ventriloquist depression can be. Or is, because the truth is I still think all of that, only on good days I’m able to translate it to mean, “I’m sick, please take care of me.” When the anxiety crawls up my throat and drowns my language in its own flavor, I try to taste it for what it is. It isn’t your fault for catching the virus born into this body. Every day we survive together is its own kind of miracle.

4. To my nose: Jew beak. Witch snout. My mother says it’s anti-Semitic to say that I look Jewish, but then how does everyone know by looking at me? “Jews suck,” says the girl next to me in my 6th grade social studies class. She glares at my nose and all the kids laugh. I think the teacher will correct her, but instead he says, “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” and slams the textbook closed.
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Praise Song

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To say I’ve learned to manage my depression
would be to say it’s a beast I could leash and not
such a gorgeous shape-shifter. There were times I
fell asleep cradled in its song, felt its soft hand in mine
on the subway every day going to and from work when
I was starving for some kind of contact. To say I fight it
off would be to say I fight off my mother’s eyes, my father’s
chin, the history tucked in neat spirals in my cells, just waiting
to unravel into chaos. The truth is, I am grateful for having 
survived myself. There were nights I thought I might not, Continue reading

Three Poems – Joanna Hoffman

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Graduation Advice

You don’t have to know
what you’re doing with
your life, at least in the
way great aunts mean
when they ask the
question at Thanksgiving
dinner. You can answer,
I’m trying to consume
every flavor of frozen
yogurt in New York 
City, or I’m mastering
my online dating swagger
or I’m trying to make
my cat Internet Famous,
and all of these are both 
true and viable answers. 
You can be over thirty
and not have a permanent
mailing address or an
idea of whether or not
you’ll ever have kids.
All you have to do
is be the kind of person
you would want your
niece to ask for help
if she were ever lost
and afraid. The kindness
of strangers is sometimes
my best reason for wanting
to be alive. On the rush 
hour train, a man steps
on my feet and pushes
aside a pregnant woman
to sit down. But then
a teenage boy stands
and smiles sweetly
when she thanks him.
He doesn’t say,
you’re welcome. Continue reading