248 mgs., A Panic Picnic

Susan Landers

2003 • 88 pp. • $12.00
ISBN: 9781882022502
Cover image: Kiki Smith

Purchase from Small Press Distribution

This book explores the emotional and socio-political lives of a cast of characters based on autobiography, but devised by sound. The book’s claustrophobic tercets combined with spiraling repetition help foreground the importance of artifice and code, the very elements the book’s characters undermine, complicate, and expose. The code is a score. To sound out the story. The book was inspired in part by the author reading Jack Spicer, “I was excited by the serial poem as a form as well as the idea that there is no such thing as a single poem…. This was me not stopping.”

“Sue Landers plays a keyboard of melodious funny daring rhymes in delightful Steinesque rounds. Here is a picnic of the mind bent through a clever child’s eye’s view — this first book is lovely, joy-filled, cathartic, and smart.”
— Lisa Jarnot

“Written in tercets to explain what it means to be a little pill in a big complicated world, this book is unlike anything else I’ve read. It is wonderfully brittle. It is tightly wound and spinning. It is original and powerful.”
—Juliana Spahr

“Daredevils, precipice-walkers, smoke jumpers: take note. Sue Landers has cracked your code. The prickly and wired tercets of panic picnic warn of the risk and necessity of coming to consciousness on the bed of broken glass called memory. Because “Every obsession/needs a collaboration/in public” the work recruits a multiplicity of subjects projected from one another so no one is object/abject but each complicit with the obsession of dismemory/dismembering memory. The ensuing humanity is a rugged compassion, a hellcat’s language sobered by the memory mill, but ultimately the safety net of a poetry that sticks its neck out.”
—Heather Fuller

“248 mgs., a panic picnic is a long poem in ten parts, written in deceptively modest tercets. Susan Landers is painting an unmistakably American image here; undulating between autobiographical elements and fantasy; always listening closely to the sounds of her words: “Grab a crevice/in the king’s/tickle taffy.” And her humor is irresistible: “Little pill would sleep/her way to the top/if she could get/out of bed.” This is a daring and contemporary voice that speaks of pills, guns, and of shame. The story is captivating, the echoes of recurring themes and stanzas are haunting: this book is a blast.”
—Anne Tardos

“Readers old enough to have read Max Beerbohm’s Seven Men will recall the competition between Hilary Maltby’s Ariel in Mayfair and Stephen Braxton’s A Faun on the Cotswolds, and will conclude that 248 mgs. trumps both at their own game. Susan Landers has turned Pan on his head to spell out NAP, nap in which she sees and writes through the creepy children’s modernism of Rossetti, Stein, Sandburg, Harryman, and Freud. This “panic picnic” is a fresh, engaging look at the anxiety of a restricted vocabulary — roll over, Esperanto, and tell Basic English the news.”
—Kevin Killian


Susan Landers is the author of 15: A Poetic Engagement with the Chicago Manual of Style (Least Weasel), COVERS (O Books) and 248 MGS., A PANIC PICNIC (O Books). She was the founder and co-editor of Pom2, a journal of poetic polylogue. Recent poems have appeared in Try Magazine and on the blog Elective Affinities. She lives in Brooklyn.


if you are not well you will not be left alone

Put put buys minnie
some butter for fattening.
But what does put put

like to eat? It’s easy
to confuse them
when they are not

thinking. Put put
doesn’t play plot rules.
The secret secret

she never tells
is not telling
she has secrets.

Prank fish makes
slick frig music.
Minnie’s a good

thinker when not
lying in the box
that she likes.

Other people knock
down doors to get
closer to fire.

Should put put
go to work today,
doctor? TV makes

other people feel
so free. Feel me
up TV.

Minnie says more
than she has ever
said hasn’t been said

by me. Put put goes
away only to come
back again. Birds

know to fly away.
The trains are not strange
without announcements.

What you know
becomes valuable
when it is not for sale.

Minnie mines put put.
Mine. Her.
Practice saying it.

Enough times to be true.
Shake the fever
numbers down.

Other people are angry
for reasons they don’t
know are true.

The same old story
bears repeating
though other people

feel differently about
trains and shopping.
Ball. Stick. Gun.

Gum me a solution.
Other people eat
muck muck just

because it’s free.
Butter king stick
waves his nylons.

Don’t tread on me
says king. Well
wishers get sent

down the well.
Doctor meanwhile
is good and gay

and selling sweets
for nothing outside
the market. Living

does not complain
me he says. Not
just anyone could

make or sell
such a little

Let’s run some
more says put put
after lion kills peacock.

recess: new old story news

Something falls
onto the lawn.

A real someone.
Other people make
someone shoot them

in the back to give
someone a bad name.
To make it look

like they care
about other people
other people say

bless you a lot.
Other people are them
though they feel like

us. We are them
too because we don’t
know each other by

our people names.
Little pill
catches catchy songs.

Gulps a herring hair.
What makes other people
think any day is new?

Little pill falls down
the stairs thinking
of other people’s hands.

if you fall in love with one then you are a stinkface too

Little gash gnashes
carpet gore. Gorge
us torturer sees

angel mother smile
happy snacks on
boys with muscles.

Happy muscle twists
little gash a deep
pinch. Stinkface

is everything me is
not. Wet myth mouth.
Give her a tinkle

sticker for her
high horse. Old
things like scraps.

Me wants the one
me doesn’t want.
Fork habit

stuck in the heart.
Fist blast cries
into little pill’s

engine that could
be a new story
but is not. Bug

scar. If little pill is
a new book other
people will buy her.

How do other people
decide? Other people
like deciding what fits.

Stick a tester in it.
It is ready? (Perhaps
this is a fescue fantasy.)

Naughty panicle.
Little pointer points
out the twig text.

Pick a face
to freeze by
little gash.