From Poetry Magazine

A Playlist for the January 2019 Issue

For our January 2019 playlist, we asked contributor Claudine Toutoungi to curate a selection of music for us. You can read about her approach to creating the playlist below. Click here to open the playlist in your Spotify app.

Though the creation of the poems in this month’s issue (aside from one) had nothing to do with me, having gotten involved with them by curating this playlist, I now feel a little bit parental about the whole batch. I know it’s ridiculous. I literally can’t take any credit for knock-out lines like:

                                                Anything might’ve had
poison tipped into its ear.
—From Recital at the Court of King Carrot III by Michael Farrell


I don’t want to shoot up this body in order to call it mine.
—From And again I stare at my chest as if waiting for it to bloom. by An Li


The goodbye that rises up near the radiator.
—From Au Magasin de Nouveautes by Yi Sang, tr. by Sawako Nakayasu


How they decided never to use surrender as a word again.
—From Ghost Choir by Carl Phillips

... to name merely a few. And I do realize it’s total projection to feel so attached, but there it is. They got under my skin as I’m sure they will yours.

There’s valor and defeat here. Also comfort and anguish, despair and exaltation, connection and profound loss. And lots of ghosts. So obviously, on a first read, I was terrified. Matching a song to each poem seemed like something that could be done. Just not by me. Fortunately, there’s also a lot of intoxication in this issue and that proved the key. I don’t mean I drank heavily to compile the list—the words provided the intoxication. While others were buying sprouts and hatching complex strategies to avoid anyone mentioning Brexit over the Christmas turkey, I was cocooned in my own little poetry world and yes, I admit, I became obsessed. I called friends (Listen to this! What do you think?), stole their ideas shamelessly, became unable to complete simple household tasks without listening to John Grant’s “Pale Green Ghosts” on a loop, and transformed (in my own mind) into a crazed, cigar-toting impresario, yelling: I need swooping chords, lush soundscapes! I need voices that can do raw and awestruck and broken and sexy but at the same time. Oh and drums. Lots of drums! Handily, in St. Vincent, Jacques Brel, Cerys Matthews, Acid Pauli, Björk, Ghalia Benali, and many other superb musicians, I think I got that. If this playlist were a contest between restless songs and soothing songs, restlessness would probably win. Ching-In Chen’s poem asks, “how to have peace?” I can’t guarantee you’ll find peace in these tracks. But I certainly hope they’ll help with the quest.

Originally Published: January 4th, 2019

Claudine Toutoungi is the author of Smoothie (Carcanet Press, 2017). She also writes for stage and radio and lives in Cambridge, UK.