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Brendan Constantine was born in 1967 and raised in Los Angeles. The second child of two working actors, his parents named him for Irish playwright Brendan Behan. Constantine is an ardent supporter of Southern California’s poetry communities and one of our most recognized poets. He has served the cause of poetry as a teacher in local schools and colleges for the last fifteen years. He is also currently working with The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, bringing poetry workshops to Alzheimer's patients throughout the Southland.  In 2002 Constantine was nominated for Poet Laureate of the state. His work has appeared in numerous journals, most notably Ploughshares, The Los Angeles Review, The Cortland Review, RUNES, and LA Times Bestseller The Underground Guide to Los Angeles. Other publications are in Ninth Letter and The Boxcar Poetry Review, as well as the anthology Bright Wings from Columbia University Press and edited by Billy Collins. The author of 10 books of poetry; he has had about one a year published in the last 10 years. His most recent collection, Calamity Joe, was published in 2012 by Red Hen Press. Mr. Constantine is currently poet in residence at the Windward School in West Los Angeles. He holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Hollywood at Bela Lugosi’s last address.


Cold Reading                        

It’s really cold in here now,
easily forty below something,
and half the class is asleep.

Snow dazzles in the windows,
makes a cake of each desk.
It’s really cold in here now.

I’ve been lecturing on the same
poem for twenty six hours
and half the class is asleep.

I want them to get it. I start
to talk about death again
and it’s really cold in here now.

One student has frozen solid,
her hair snapping off in the wind
and half the class is asleep.

“See that,” I say, “Lisa gets it.”
But it’s so cold in here now
half the class are white dunes
shifting to the sea.

From Letters to Guns


A Little Black

The children of Juarez have run out
of red crayons. There’s so much blood

in their eyes; the bodies of mules
dumped in their schools, hands & heads

by the road, blood in pools, blood
in stories of blood. Before I know it,

I’m planning my own crime, the worst
a poet can commit: to steal suffering,

call it mine. How vivid, I think, what
a strong detail on which to build.

I open my computer, the great self-
making book of our age, search for

more of the story, for the words run
out of red crayons. I find children

out of red in Pakistan, in Haiti, no red
left in Afghanistan, none in Georgia.

The children of Sierra Leon have gone
through pink to purple, in Myanmar

they’re down to brown. I thought I had
something to add. I have nothing to add

but a little black, the color of the line,
color that consumes all others.

From Birthday Girl with Possum


© 2012 Brendan Constantine

Brendan Constantine


My Favorite Story Is This One

            where a little blond girl attacks
a family of bears; trashes their home,
eats their food, then runs away
                                    feeling invaded
My favorite part comes after the end
when the father bear wordlessly repairs
a little chair, a nail held in his black lip,
the mother wipes a table
                            with a checkered rag,
& the cub dries his eyes at a window,
watchful ever after
                               for a golden anyone

From Calamity Joe

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