Karla Huston

Website: www.karlahuston.com
Email: karlahustonplwis@gmail.com
Poet Laureate Website: www.wisconsinpoetlaureate.org
Photo taken by Philippa Stannard

2017-2018 Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Karla Huston, lives in Appleton, Wisconsin. Huston’s poems find their roots in the stories people tell—those memories and perceptions, personal and cultural mythologies which define us as human. From ancient Greek gods to Hollywood movie stars, Huston’s poems explore a wide variety of subjects, but frequently return to topics related to aging and women.

The author of eight chapbooks of poems, the latest Grief Bone, (Five Oaks Press), and a full collection A Theory of Lipstick (Main Street Rag Publications), Huston’s work has garnered many awards, including a Pushcart Prize for the poem “Theory of Lipstick.” She received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association for her collection of the same title. Her writing has earned residencies at Ragdale Foundation as well as the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her chapbook, Flight Patterns won the Main Street Rag Chapbook Contest in 2003. Huston has also been awarded three Jade Rings (one for fiction, two for poetry) from Wisconsin Writers’ Association.

Grief Bone, Five Oaks Press: 2017
Outside of a Dog, dancing girl press: 2013

A Theory of Lipstick, Main Street Rag Publications: 2013, winner of an Outstanding Achievement Award from Wisconsin Library Association


Theory of Lipstick
                           Coral is far more red than her lips' red …
Pot rouge, rouge pot, glosser, lip plumper, bee
stung devil’s candy and painted porcelain
Fire and Ice, a vermillion bullet,
dangerous beauty lipstick, carmine death rub, history
of henna. Fact: more men get lip cancer
because they don’t wear lipstick or butter,
jumble of a luminous palette with brush made
to outlast, last long, kiss off, you ruby busser,
your gilded rose bud bluster is weapon and wine.
QE’s blend: cochineal mixed with egg, gum Arabic
and fig milk – alizarin crimson and lead – poison
to men who kiss women wearing lipstick, once illegal
and loathsome – then cherry jellybean licked and smeared,
then balm gloss crayon, a cocktail of the mouth
happy hour lip-o-hito, lip-arita, with pout-fashioned chaser
made from fruit pigment and raspberry cream,
a lux of shimmer-shine, lipstick glimmer, duo
in satin-lined pouch, Clara Bow glow: city brilliant
and country chick -- sparkling, sensual, silks
and sangria stains, those radiant tints and beeswax liberty—
oh, kiss me now, oh, double agents of beauty
slip me essential pencils in various shades
of nude and pearl and suede, oh, bombshell lipstick,
sinner and saint, venom and lotsa sugar, lip sweet,
pucker up gelato: every pink signal is a warning.

First Memory

My mother clinking plates in the sink.
My father sits in the big chair,
sifting through news, the crackle
of the paper as he straightens
pages, the click-whoosh of his Zippo,
the sizzle of the cigarette
as it catches fire, smoke drifting
like vines, nearby, the lamp a floating
cone of light, me floating behind it
to see where the cord led, small fingers
finding the open outlet. Then
my father rising, papers falling,
my mother rushing, calling. She said
it happened, but I could not
have remembered; I was only two.
Yet, I can still see the way the light
seemed to pull the roses and ivy
from the walls. I remember the shock.
The way they bolted toward me. Actually
I don’t remember that, only
the shadows that pulled me, memory
drifting like smoke. Both gone,
now, the moment is mine alone,
a show of slides to arrange
when I need to see them, the frames
shuffling to capture the time
when it happened—or didn’t.