Michael Grabell


Michael J. Grabell's first chapbook, Macho Man, won the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Competition and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The chapbook was a finalist or semifinalist for the Slipstream, Tupelo Press, Sow’s Ear, Slapering Hol, Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press, Ledge, Flying Trout, Burnside Review and Frost Place chapbook prizes. Order here!

“From its opening lines throughout the entire collection, Macho Man never misses a step or a beat. The voice of the speaker is effortlessly fluent and completely assured, ‘bearing witness’  (as he phrases it in one poem) to a singular individual’s experience of his world that any reader will be able to recognize and relate to. Though a number of the poems deal knowledgeably with the subjects of sex, longing, and love, the consciousness revealed in these and other poems—for instance, about the author’s parents and childhood—is exquisitely sensitive and attuned to the slightest nuance, and thus only ironically that of the ‘macho man’ suggested by the title. These are poems that impress, persuade, and delight on a first reading, and then stick in the mind.”

- Bruce Bennett, contest judge and Pushcart Prize winner

“Michael Grabell arranges the head-on collision of his restless desire with its immovable objects, and somehow walks away from the wreck with poems of utter lucidity, sharp insight and perfect pace.   Ranging from the last night of the high school era to thirty-something cruising, from run-on daydreams to bad dates, from charming self-deprecation to the brilliant rush of ‘Nike Missile Base,’ Macho Man is hilarious and poignant and urgent all at once.”

- James Richardson, National Book Award finalist

“Some of us boys, we muse bemusedly through the day, remembering and speculating and failing to save America, and the poetry of ‘this fleeting, this floating we've been doing’ is actually a mode of survival.  So it is for Michael Grabell, whose bemused poems keep stumbling off the Gravitron of life, past Lucky Leo's arcade, desirous and thirsty and gawking, trying to keep dancing with glowsticks.”

- Mark Halliday, Guggenheim Fellow and ‘ultra-talk’ poet


1. Nike Missile Base

Winner, Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Award                                                                                  

“This was before I thought I accepted/that atoms and nations and couples split/and found out that I didn’t/and that I still don’t.”


2. The Difference Between Gawking and Bearing Witness                                         

“I broke a glowstick and let it drip on my hands/so that the whole night people wanted to touch me.”

3. The Torsos are Medium, Rare
First published in Inkwell                                                                                        

“Maturation is the tenderness of an hourglass,/a lipstick ring left on a cigarette butt,/the isolation of a Coke machine at night.”

4. Drifting
First published in Rattle                                                                                                             

“And doesn’t raw chicken breast always/look like South America—or Africa,/depending which side you slice from?”

5. Station Wagon                                                                                                                    

“Parsippany, New Jersey, Route 46./It was Valentine’s Day, 1986.”

6. Gravitron
First published in Poems & Plays                                                                                                         

“He tries to be Patrick Swayze/kissing Baby in Dirty Dancing./She tries, closing her eyes,/to be Baby being kissed by Swayze.”

7. Thigmotactic
First published in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review 

Somewhere we developed phobias,/learned devil’s horses don’t ride piggyback.”

8. Ode to Kirsten Dunst                                                                                             

I would tell her that/her face is the last sunflower on sale/at the Super Wal-Mart, the unopened/midori bottle left over from the opening/of the hibachi bar…”

9. Boarding Call
First published in The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review                                                                                    

“Sometimes I wish the oxygen masks would drop/just to be sure I can secure my mask and still have time/to assist others…”


10. Between                                                                                                               

“Living on the highway, I learned to love/the sound of two cars crashing together”

11. Memoir of a Hulkamaniac                                                                                    

“Hulk Hogan is getting a colonoscopy./This wasn’t in the creed, brother”

12. Synthesis Photo
First published in Poems & Plays                                                                                                    

“What to say then when the body falls/but there is no one there?”

13. Before Committing
2nd place, River Styx International Poetry Contest, selected by Stephen Dunn                                              
“The one who thought it sexy/that I knew all the state capitals/would go next to the one who ate sushi,/thinking the pink sliver of ginger/was the raw fish on the side.”

14. Palimpsest 
First published in Columbia Poetry Review                                                                                                 

“There was never a need to ask/about the vanilla swirl over the red Chinese above/the 'burgers & shakes' sign.”

15. Definition of Terms                                                                                                          

Chosen for Best American Poetry 2009, selected by David Wagoner, ed. David Lehman
Chosen for Best New Poets 2009, selected by Kim Addonizio, ed. Jeb Livingood

“Maybe it’s because my mother met my father through the kosher butcher”

16. The Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate
First published in The Ledge                                                                   

“Is this how you imagined it would be? We pick up your friend at the airport/and sing the gate number – C-39 – to the tune of Sweet Caroline.”

17. Touchy Feely 
First published in The Ledge       
What would happen if I could have my own private island/where hot young coeds got down and dirty just for me?”

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