Sou MacMillan

Sou MacMillan

BandSpoken WordSinger/Songwriter

Big strong words - personal & fierce.


A veteran of the early and mid-nineties Columbus, OH indie music scene, Sou MacMillan was the voice behind Caroline/Double Deuce band Pet Ufo, which coined the term Tantrum Rock in the heyday of post-grunge and riot grrl politic. Not that much has changed in a decade – she still considers poetry as a much underestimated form of music, and she still finds herself a sort of activist for the blurring of lines between media, adding visual art to the mix over more than a decade of performance and publications.

Former co-editor of Poetry Fly, and sole editor for Omnivore Magazine, MacMillan has had her hands in small press, recording, and performance poetry since 1989. She has competed on four National Poetry Slam teams for Worcester, MA, including the championship finalist team in 1997 at CT, and she has completed two novels, the most recent, Chrysanthemum, currently being serialized on

She has been published in numerous anthologies, including the 1995 Bottomdog Coffeehouse Poetry Anthology and Manic D Press's, Poetry Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry, as well as publication in 2X4, The Worcester Review, and The Boston Poet. In 2004 she was honored as a winner of the Jacob Knight Prize for poetry. Sou also currently performs with Daily Mouse who released their first full-length cd, If Money Burns, a collection of music & poetry, in 2003.

Shallow Empire (Lethe Press) is the next logical step for MacMillan, a volume of poetry including the performance piece The House, in which she investigates the places we live and have lived, and the things that resonate there.

What people are saying:

In these poems, Sou MacMillan scribes an empire as open as a freeway, as vulnerable as a heartbeat, as promising as an open door, inevitable as a meadow's overgrowth. They'll capture and transport you like a favorite song playing on someone else's car radio as it drives down the street, leaving you on the sidewalk grinning remember when, forgetting your keys to the now are in your hand. She's what you meant to say, what you might have forgotten was so powerful.
- Daphne Gottlieb
Author of Why Things Burn, and editor of the much-acclaimed Softskull anthology, Homewrecker

Sou MacMillian has tapped into the current that blazes through language and crafted work that is unapologetic and fiercely lyrical. With their unerring visuals and stark narrative, the poems in Shallow Empire are like snippets of cinema-lush, startling and ultimately unforgettable.
- Patricia Smith
Author of Teahouse of the Almighty, four-time individual National Poetry Slam Champion



Written By: Sou MacMillan

If I do not come home tonight, it has nothing to do with you.

If I do not come home tonight, the car is in the driveway where I left it & the keys are under the seat; I’ve left it unlocked for you. Everything you want is in the trunk - your cds, your books, your watch. But the t-shirt I stole from you when we first slept together, I’m keeping that.

All the things I needed to do today, they are done. The house is spotless, the dishes are drying, & there are no messages on the machine. I’ve brought food home - there is plenty to eat. All the bills are paid today. Please feed the dog.

I can’t hold onto the ground anymore. My mouth is dry & there’s dirt under my fingernails from grasping. Gravity isn’t working right. I’ve been falling all over myself in the streets & everyone knows.

If I do not come home tonight, I am parting the wind like your hair. I have scattered the last of our dollars, the receipts, the reminders I had written myself to get the animals to the vet & to hand in papers, to stay on the earth.

If I do not come home tonight, I have surrendered:

If I do not come home tonight, I have surrendered:
I am flying over the city in my brand new wings, awash in the low glow of lights that line the interstate & the drums that have been living in my breastbone.

I’m as safe as I ever was on the ground.

Here I am opening up the window on the very top floor of the house & stepping over the bed, but the roof is still too low.

In the window:
I am unbound & the sky wants me, wearing your t-shirt & my bare feet. The stars - I’ll have to clear the clouds to see them, &


tonight I am finally willing to let go of Ohio.


Written By: Sou MacMillan

This is Tuesday:
chairs upended
swept & mopped
bottles made
bed dressed
coupons cut
dishes done &
a new bowl slides through space
surprised by its own flight from the dishrack
hits linoleum
& splits,
a simple bump disrupting


I present to you the Bone
that stayed in the pot
sank so far in the soup that it
evaded the ladle
it rattles out in the sink w/ the dregs
stands alone to be counted:


& here is the Kettle
boiled over on the Stove
as the Laundry ran
chugged trainlike into the distance / &
led my being back to the Bowl.

Here is a shallow empire
: 1 floor,
5 rooms -
the Bedrooms are all about the solid sweet charm of sheets that smell familiar
the breach in Dreaming when the neighbor starts his car;
the Bathroom is 5 minutes in peace
a hot shower;
the Livingroom flickers and hums in accord to current along its own score;
but the Kitchen is Manifest Destiny

& so here i sit
sipping from the scalding spoon
with a shoulder’s breadth of insight
about the size of a large bird -

In the Beginning (in the Beginning)
(in the Beginning)
there was lightness of being
the Bone was not a bone
but a piece of a Chicken -
billions of years of evolution
& puppetry
balanced on a delicate foot
& now it is all erased in a puff of aromatic steam that
smells gloriously of... Dinner

Holy is the Sweephand
spinning liquidly in its circuit
constant &
full of limber motion
Holy is the lone hollow tittering of fingernails against formica
the pattern of a child’s breath in sleep
the rise & fall of waves in the sink
the soft simmer of good food steeping slowly
over a low flame
it is a soft sound
a dance without definite pace
it needs no metronome

there is a steady tapping along the spine
counted off in ticks progressing no further than

:this Fact is a slender thing
the tine of a fork wedged
between somber edges
prying in its own tune to
open me wide in
one short burst of Mothering &
the daily promise of Creation.

If Money Burns

Written By: Sou MacMillan


The day she won the lottery -
the second the money was in her hands
she started paying her life off.

it began simply as she sat down with the checkbook:
the bills, credit cards,
her bar tabs across the city
paid off the car
the back rent
$20 to a friend who’d helped out
the student loans
cats’ shots up to date
the last $300 she owed her mom

& when it was done - -
she wondered how she’d ever been solvent enough to afford
the air she’d breathed

& she held in her breath
the only thing she’d always owned
& called it prayer
called it by her own name

called the cats in for the night
& with nothing but longing & used up sheets,
burned the neighbourhood to the ground.

this gasping for air
waiting for the emptiness to be filled
space inside the chest where the -!- blackbird tries to nest
this sulfur haze, sticky yellow &
the walls that won’t answer


every valentine heart she’d ever paid for
every grocery line & liquid skein of debt
it was never dogma -
it was sheer like smoke &
heavy like answers &
what to do now that it’s all gone?

her body so light with wonder
as the curtains go up
as the cats vacate
as the floor loves her back & her sweat

as she breathes & breathes & breathes...


At night
maybe we take all the furniture into the backyard &
light a match
maybe we dance naked around the scorching ground & recliner
till the springs burst, singing from their sockets &
the neighbours call the police.

Maybe we don’t.
Maybe we just lay in the grass in this quiet neighbourhood &
look at the stars until the neighbours
call the police.

Everyone’s watching.
It’s like that with us -
the kiss of God’s branding iron upon our brow.
How could we ever go unnoticed?


Driving along a 2-lane highway the backseat
begins to smolder
& they abandon the car &
start walking
him smoking

her shaking
neither of them caring about the mess left behind them
they just walk away
because things break &
sometimes you can’t fix them anymore
the car will be spent before anyone notices &
there isn’t even enough money for the gas

It will be tomorrow before they get home.
The blaze gives them light to hike by.

They don’t fight about it
they never say a word.
She just packs her things & goes &

this waiting on air
this waiting on a last kiss &
this warm air that flies us &
the stink of ashes that clings to the skin

It is a long line that will separate them.


Is not important


Clearly, there is something to this startling moment:
the way the match head explodes & we feed it -
what’s left of the party is in the ashtray
the moon is missing &
i am a woman with burning in the gut

i am all lit up
easy to read from a distance.

this waiting on
this air that keeps me
broke as fuck ain’t
sometimes things can be fixed
sometimes things aren’t broken at all
i am immolation now & here
(& that’s good)
i am a million blackbirds’ wings beating
i am the music of crack & bend & slide with melting
spilling coins from my pockets as i dance to
spilling the coins from my pockets

These ribs are not hollow
My belly is full of fire
& i cost nothing
i cost nothing but breathing
i am breathing

i am breathing
i am breathing
i am breathing
i am breathing

i am free.


Shallow Empire - Lethe Press 2006
If Money Burns (Daily Mouse cd) - Doublebunny Press 2003

Set List

20-40 minutes of spoken word/poetry, with some poem-songs.