American Valentines

No paradise without a snake. In her forthcoming poetry book American Valentines, Hannah Star Rogers asks what you and your country do for each other. In this video, Rogers reads a selection of her poetry. Rogers’ poetry explores the personal relationships we each have with our bureaucracies and how the interior selves we craft to interact with the natural world, art and literature, and each other relate to the political and institutional environments in the societies we create.

American Valentines features lyric epistolary poems that explore the love, hate, distance, and intimacy we have with institutions to reveal the tensions between personal experience and public imagination. American Valentines inquiry about the relationship between the personal and the bureaucratic, between our ideals, hopes, loves, and worries about America and the consequences of dealing with its institutions. These letters chronicle the intimate relationships we all have to government institutions, corporations, and bureaucracies, which are interlaced with ballads about the governing force and complications of the family and communities.

From »Dear NSA,« in which the speaker considers the recordings of her love life to »Dear Postal Service,« which recalls the daily relationship we have with the USPS, this manuscript is takes pleasure in the ironies and complications of language by taking up difficult topics like the criminal justice system, hospital access in inaccessible places, and the chemical and petroleum industry’s interventions across rural America.

Merleau-Ponty’s Donkey

Knows about as much about the straight-line
as we do, what the professional naturalist

might call the mechanical part of understanding:
the cloning of a mushroom

in a starch-based tact, that training and
pruning are crucial for natural

dye-making, categories cannot provide
closure to the open casement, she says yellow

leaf shape: oblong with plough teeth
disappearing into the taxonomy of thought

the production of non-knowledge from
the salient features, feasible as

sand and sediment, sifted lower
the grade narrowing toward the portrait

of the stages of the self
the refusal to go on is

the providence of those who
understand the line.