Kendra Greene: Every Glass Flower in the Harvard Museum

let's hear three cheers for another poem and prompt in observance of national poetry month! today we are so excited to let our well-traveled and insanely talented friend Kendra Green whisk us away on the whimsical drama of dusty archives and their fascinating specimens with her poem, Every Glass Flower in the Harvard Museum. you may remember Kendra from her interview and wonderfully bone-chilling essay. On Necropants. that she graciously shared with us last year on Spiderweb Salon's Literary Podcast. if not, what are you waiting for?!

Kendra's writing prompt for us today gives a little glimpse into her creative world and will perhaps encourage you to pursue your own inspiration in a new, enchanting way:

1. Gather your note-taking materials and seek out someone else's text. 

2. My personal affinity is for museum text, but there's no reason not to turn your attention to a book or a library or the billboards along the side of the road. Peruse the aisles of your grocery store, perhaps, or a particularly well-annotated garden. Seed catalogs can be so fetching. Maybe it's the wad of receipts in your bag that will call to you. 

3. Once you have established your hunting grounds, copy down the words and phrases and whole sentences that attract you. Start to notice patterns and repetitions, whether in sounds or rhythms or ideas. Copy down more. Think about your options. Keep copying. Begin to identify what kind of collection all these specimens belong to. Take more than you need.

4. Now make yourself a space for composition. Select for what thrills you. Excise with abandon. Arrange as though articulating the skeleton of a creature just discovered. 

5. Consider the taxonomic intersections of erasure and collage. Debate whether you are more magpie or bowerbird. Ask yourself what else these fragments might suggest.


Every Glass Flower in the Harvard Museum

Smashed, scaling, full of flaws:
much of the cotton of commerce is obtained
from two Mayan words meaning “bitter juice.”
The seeds yield a valuable oil,
the source of linen,
the leaves were used for tea during the American Revolution—
intensely bitter—
a remedy
against malignant fevers.

Anchovy Pear, Buena Mujer
Quebec to Minnesota

Cultivated as a shade tree in Cuba,
in waste places throughout,
in shady situations
in rich woods
in stagnant waters.
Native of Mexico;
Native of the Old World.
In ponds and streams
in bogs and on wet hillsides.

The juice is used to make animal flesh,
wood used for cigar boxes,
in cabinet work,
split leaves used for making hats.

Wild Succory, Common Chiccory
Blue Sailors, Bunk.

Collected in 1834 by Mr. Henchman
two empty glumes
and the perfect flower,
perfect floret.
Stamens showing coalescent filaments
sterile filament
fertile frond.

Fertile flower magnified 20x.
Sterile flower cut in halves.

Escaped northward
and northward.

Pickled and eaten by the Spaniards,
a fragrant odor
a typical form
a cosmopolitan plant.
Larva, enlarged
hairs, much magnified
gall seen from inside, natural size.

Pride of India, Enchanter’s Nightshade.
Wings. Spikelet. Keel.

Extensively cultivated.
Apparently abundant.
Origin obscure.


A. Kendra Greene is the author of Anatomy of a Museum, The Stone Collector, and, forthcoming this June, Vagrants and Uncommon Visitors. She began her museum career adhering text to the wall: one vinyl letter at a time. The University of Iowa gave her an MFA in Nonfiction, a certificate in Book Arts, and the opportunity to costume a giant ground sloth in its Museum of Natural History. She’s been a Fulbright Grantee, Jacob K. Javits Fellow, and most recently Visiting Artist at the Dallas Museum of Art’s Center for Creative Connections. Her zines appear in the White Rock Zine Machine for 25 cents a pop.