Poet / Lecturer
"It’s enough to think of it now. Enough to toss it back,
to let that ugly beauty go."
photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher
A Sampling of Online Poetry & Prose
SWIMM - Bootlegger
Vox Populi - Walls
Vox Populi - Ode to Sex with You
Loves Executive Order - Flight Patterns
Verse Daily - Ziggy
SWWIM - (Supporting Women Writers in Miami)
Fiction & Prose
Narrative Magazine - Little Gifts
Morning, Highway 126
Farmers heft and truckers load crates of lemons onto flatbeds at first light.
The skillet trees stream past,
silhouettes of yellow fruit and shadowed green
like something aquatic. Here I go,
sucked under, again. I love what won’t belong to me
and so sit tight, fingering the wound,
the open sinew, sticky gem pot
in the lap of the matter.
At any moment, my heart a bowl of pabulum,
stirred or eaten. Flimsy houses whiz by
the flanks of my eyes, jimmied
plank to dust
by the cranks of decline.
I drive while reason takes a hike.
Let me spin, I say.
Let me crumble in your hands,
my raw materials, my soil
ganged up on. You
and your gorgeous worms
that won’t stop working on it.
~ published in The American Poetry Review
My fifth collection Nightmares & Miracles won the Two Sylvias Press Wilder Prize, and will be published in Spring of 2022! I’m absolutely gobsmacked thrilled.
"Threnody" named Finalist for 2020 Edwin Markham Poetry Prize, Reed Magazine.
Picking Berries, Belevdere 1975 was shortlistsed for the 2020 MONTREAL INTERNATIONAL POETRY PRIZE! Read it here.
BROKEN KINGDOM is the winner of the 2018 Catamaran Poetry Prize. Michelle also won the 2018 Mark Fischer Poetry Prize and the 2018 Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Poetry Prize.
“Michelle Bitting is an original, no one writes quite like she does with her lush, ruminative excursions into the female psyche, into myth and the bliss and fragility of domesticity, blithe forays into sex, gender, politics, religion and what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher and a poet striding into the kingdom, breaking every window, blowing open every door.” ~ Dorianne Laux
Praise and Reviews
“Michelle Bitting is an original, no one writes quite like she does with her lush, ruminative excursions into the female psyche, into myth and the bliss and fragility of domesticity, blithe forays into sex, gender, politics, religion and what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher and a poet striding into the kingdom, breaking every window, blowing open every door.”
Author of THE BOOK OF MEN
“There is a sense in Michelle Bitting’s Broken Kingdom that the poet is announcing the advent of something both gorgeous and horrific. It’s very much a book for our time. Repeatedly, these poems astound me with the power of their pronouncements and with their new and voltaic use of language. Broken Kingdom restores my faith that life can be miraculous, even when—or especially when—it’s as mundane as a father and son unstopping a clogged bathroom sink.”
Bitting offers a poetry collection that combines environmental, religious, and familial themes. This lush new book of poems, which won the 2018 Catamaran Poetry Prize for West Coast poets, invites readers into a space that’s both contemplative and visceral. From the very first work, “An Hour North of Lee Vining, California,” about fishing in the Golden State, the author’s descriptions evoke vivid, lively settings. Religious imagery also abounds, from God’s rampant destruction in the book of Genesis to the stained glass, pews, and cup of Sunday services. Some of Bitting’s lines even read like prayers: “I remember what matters. / Please don’t ever remind me again.” Motherhood emerges as a theme in the latter sections, as when Bitting’s speaker expresses awe at her offspring in “Touched”: “I don’t know how / we got so lucky / to say we know you well when / clearly you are from somewhere else.” A father-son plumbing repair sparks equal amazement at how a fitful teenager became a man who’s patient enough to unclog a sink in “sometimes i want to look away.” In “Everything Crumbling Becoming Something New,” the narrator alternately grieves and celebrates her daughter’s declaration that she wants to be a boy: “woman now man / all your multitudes I’m learning to sing you,” the poet writes. Throughout, the metaphors are masterful and fully engage all the reader’s senses; water balloons are “watered organs that want to burst” (“What the Rain Made”), female genitalia is a “vinegar cave” (“The Slaying”), and coffee is “dark fluid sun” (“After”). Bitting is a seductive writer who eases readers into the darkest depths; she’s able to open a poem in the seemingly benign setting of a high school darkroom and end it with the untimely death of a brother in Yosemite.
Fans of Sharon Olds’, Margaret Atwood’s, and Louise Erdrich’s poetry will find much to admire in Bitting’s vulnerable, emotive free-verse style.
A glorious set that weaves together the ethereal, earthly, and mundane.
October 30th, 2018
TALKING WITH THE RADIO
Praise and Reviews
The Couple Who Fell to Earth
In a multi-directional “one shape” of voices, time, people, spaces Bitting takes us in and out of her all seeing third eye poetics. We go into an orb of family, love, then we swoop out into the delight of humanity. And, in a sense, these refractions are the “the self’s / shady daguerreotype coming to surface / through exposure to light.” In day-to-day terms we find enlightenment and paradox—“ of death and peppermint,” of “birth and strange beauty,” of “Elysium nothingness” and “mythmaking machinery.” I find Michelle’s cosmic mechanics fused with historical platforms akimbo and the “sheen” of personal meditations, a rare accomplishment.
A unique treasure of visions and voice.
JUAN FILIPE HERRERA
Poet Laureate of the United States
If [...] Benoît Violier was a chef’s chef, readers might think of Bitting as a poet’s poet. While she displays her wares for all to see—and admire—there is a level of excellence in her verse that should provide numerous pleasures for the connoisseur. In her new collection, she is often in conversation with poets, including Dante Alighieri, Wendell Berry, James Merrill, and Frank O’Hara.
Near the heart of her book, the author gives readers in “When the Sky Makes a Certain Sign” one of those lines that might sneak into her obituary decades in the future: “Every poem’s a love poem.” And in every one of Bitting’s diamond-sharp verses, there is something to love. Readers should count themselves lucky if this sublime volume falls into their laps.
With this poetry collection, the author firmly establishes herself as a powerful contemporary voice in American letters.
Michelle Bitting is a poet of the natural world but in a completely Transcendental sense. Like Emerson, her poems seem to claim that, even in the face of all kinds of traumatic loss, “beauty breaks in everywhere.” The Couple Who Fell to Earth holds things of the world up to the eye in an effort to glimpse heaven, or as Bitting herself says, “Accept me. I love the dawn. / The sun is a sea / I throw myself into…”
This book is all heart.
Author of THE NEW TESTAMENT
May 2nd, 2016
A fourth generation Angeleno, Michelle grew up in Los Angeles near the ocean. She studied theatre, wrote poems, danced, played music as an undergraduate at U.C. Berkeley and went on to study Meisner acting and perform as a modern dancer, including a two year workshop and filming stint with Twyla Tharp for the James L. Brooks movie, I'll Do Anything. Formerly a line cook, chef, outreach worker and pre-school assistant, in 2001, she returned to creative writing and since then has taught poetry in the U.C.L.A. Extension Writer’s Program, led master classes and lectures at universities, high schools, and literary centers across California and beyond, including dozens of hours at Twin Towers prison, DTLA, and for ten years was an active California Poet in the Schools, reaching over 500 student poets per year. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University, Oregon, an MA in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology, and a PhD in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Michelle is the Poet Laureate of Pacific Palisades and has won multiple grants from the Optimists Club and Poets & Writers Magazine for her teaching work in Los Angeles. A mother of two, she is married to the actor, Phil Abrams.
Michelle Bitting was short-listed for the 2020 Montreal International Poetry Prize and the 2021 Fish Poetry Contest judged by Billy Collins. She won the 2018 Fischer Poetry Prize, Quarter After Eight’s 2018 Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest, and a fourth collection of poetry, Broken Kingdom won the 2018 Catamaran Prize and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2018. In 2021, her manuscript Nightmares & Miracles won the Wilder Prize and will be published by Two Sylvias Press in 2022. She has poems published in The American Poetry Review, Narrative, The Los Angeles Review, Rattle, Vinyl Poetry, The Paris-American, Love's Executive Order, The Raleigh Review, Plume, Tupelo Quarterly, and others. Poems are forthcoming in Air/Light, The Night Heron Barks, Sugar House Review, Limp Wrist, SWWIM, and Pine Hills Review. She was a finalist for the 2020 Reed Magazine Edwin Markham Prize, as well as the 2019 Sonora Review and New Millennium Flash Prose contests. Michelle is a Lecturer in Poetry and Creative Writing at Loyola Marymount University and Film Studies at U of Arizona Global. Her third collection is The Couple Who Fell to Earth (C & R Press, 2016), named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2016. She has poems published in The American Poetry Review, Narrative, The Los Angeles Review, The New York Times, Love’s Executive Order, Vinyl Poetry, Plume, Diode, the Paris-American, Green Mountains Review, Harvard Review (“Renga for Obama”), AJP, Thrush, Fjords, Rattle, Raleigh Review, Crab Orchard Review, Passages North, Prairie Schooner, Askew, and others. Poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily and in numerous anthologies including Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (and) Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke: Erotic Poems from Tupelo Press. Her book Good Friday Kiss, chosen by Thomas Lux won the DeNovo First Book Award and Notes to the Beloved won the Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award, earned a starred review from Kirkus and was re-visioned by C & R Press in 2018. She has won awards from Glimmer Train and the Beyond Baroque Foundation and been a finalist for the Poet's & Writer's Magazine California Exchange, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Julia Peterkin, and Rita Dove poetry awards. Poems have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes (including Best of the Net 2017 from Thrush Poetry Journal) and The Pablo Neruda, American Literary Review and Tupelo Quarterly Poetry contests.
To anyone interested in donating to an outstanding humanitarian aid program, she suggests Lidè Haiti (started by good friends Holiday Reinhorn & Rainn Wilson) - the organization that believes in empowerment through the arts for women and girls.
THE LATEST NEWS!
7th Annual Catamaran Writing Conference
Craft Talks - Monday & Tuesday
Robert Louis Stevenson School
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Pebble Beach, CA 93953