On Sunday, Entropy published my first creative nonfiction essay, and I suspect I haven't written about it here because it meant so much to me. This is definitely an essay about Doctor Who, but it is also definitely about reaching toward a void, returning to the missing, to the things you cannot and will not ever know. Like I said in this earlier post, I have been returning to this piece about returning since 2012. Talking about this yesterday, I explained that language, writing, the open field of abstracted thought—these are ways, for me, of reaching into that blank space. Literally: the blank page, but also the specter of what waits there. The nothingness of numbness. The silence between us. The space between the sections in this essay are just as interesting to me as the sections themselves. I leave it open-ended because if it was not open-ended, it would be a still and edible thing. You wouldn't have to reach for it.
20 years /
I keep promising myself that I won't wait until past 10pm to write each day's blog post, but then it happens almost every day, because the days have been full lately. I spent a lot of time this weekend reading and writing/editing, thinking about blind spots in my manuscript and how to fill them in or remove them (spoiler: still working on it). I can't believe I defended that thesis just about two years ago. At the time, I thought it was done, and I do still feel good about it as a whole, but two years is a pretty good amount of perspective. I'm making small tweaks in some places, and larger cuts/replacements in a few others. Some of the poems that still resonate with me the most are the most political, the least cautious, and I feel like I need to follow that impulse further.
One of my MFA professors says often that he will know he's succeeded as a teacher if his students are still writing 20 years later, so—I'm working on it. Ten days into the month. Two years into the 20. I'm reading tomorrow night for Painted Bride Quarterly and I can't wait.
As someone whose forthcoming book title contains the word “body,” I have some anxiety about including that term in the book’s announcement of itself, even though the word occurs throughout the text anyway, and even though it’s a large part of the book’s concern. I worry because there are so many poetry books and poems about the body, and I hesitate to follow a trend for trend’s sake. But I wrote the book the way that I wrote it because of itself, and not to be part of a moment, so I kept the title (and, let’s be real, I also kept writing about the body and using the word body, because I am trying to cultivate an attitude of fearlessness when it comes to content and form).
But I was thinking about this again today—why do so many poets think so often of the body? I mean, I find it infinitely interesting, surreal, difficult, unbelievable, ridiculous, etc. so I can’t blame anyone else for thinking the same. When I say "the body" I don't even necessarily mean a human body, and certainly not an idealized body, but the materiality of containment. Perhaps it's not that poets are into the body, but that writers interested in the body are drawn to poetry because it is inherently concerned with form. If the body is difficult to define, so is poetic form. For me, form can invoke the multiple and the simultaneous, as well as the specific and singular. Not only is it a constant morphing, but it also draws attention to itself in that way. Even a poem that doesn’t step outside of accepted forms asks you to pay attention to the way it appears in the world, just by declaring itself a poem. And that’s what I can’t get over—the way we appear in the world. The way bodies are multiple and simultaneous and overlapping, if you pay attention.
May is zooming right along. Not only did BatCat finalize the cover and page proofs, but I was gifted these gorgeous, generous words from two women I respect and admire. It means so much to me.
What presides over Kochman's haunting and gorgeous debut is a great IF, cracked with regret and longing. This IF crunches under every line, like leaves or bones. This IF is a home, unnerved and unbeheld. This IF, rafted from nowhere, like the ghosts of gods, like hope, looms mightily over Kochman’s collection. If I ever met this IF on the side of the road I imagine it ancient and chirping like a newborn. I imagine I would kneel down beside it, for Kochman has officially turned the conditional clause holy.
—Sabrina Orah Mark
In Laura Kochman’s stunning debut, The Bone and the Body, readers enter a watery space, a seaside house: a mouth becomes a doorway and the door is open here where you morph into your house and bones, its—and it is wandering. Even your horse runs and you are left parceling out exactly what you founder on, as it is something, yes, something, so felt. Through piercing voicing, you question the tenancy of your house, body, and bones with ferocity and delight. Finally, you and your house are boned to earth with feet that move lyrically and shelter us back into our own frames, our own known hands—some magic here, of this I am certain.
The challenge for the contemporary: how to speak into linguistic traffic? So much has already been said. Bodies of harm.
—Dawn Lundy Martin
I finally got a chance to really get into The Volta Book of Poets tonight and so far I, uh, love it. When I am done I will write a highly passionate review. It will be like a love song. I will talk about how I am reading through this anthology like I am eating something delicious and complex. If you've seen me delicately eat brie with my bare hands, it's like that.
My contributor copy of Parcel jst came in the mail, and I'm pretty excited to read it. The magazine is run by two Bama CFAs, which is cool, but it's also a carefully curated journal and I'm into that. "Golem" is one of the pieces of Doors of New Jersey that speaks most to questions of distance and proxy and fault.
in Iliam /
I've been sending and receiving work to/from a friend, and last week I sent her everything that was left from what I had written since moving here. The end of August and the beginning of September were a tired time for me, and I wanted to give my friend everything so that I would have nothing to send. Yesterday I only managed a showing of a revised and expanded poem, but this morning I woke up and wrote for real, for real for real, and it has been really nice. My writing journal alerts me to the fact that I haven't written anything in it in a month. Self, I forgive you. If you want to read something else I wrote, here's a piece for Coldfront's Song of the Week series.
And here's a poem I wish I'd made more of a fuss about when it went live in the Nashville Review. It was one of the first things I wrote last fall while the conscious feeling of my book was sprouting, and it sat for a long time in a very different form, and I came back to it at the end and reworked it and reworked it. It was very frustrating. And then one day I came back to it again and sort of let it lead me where it wanted to go all along.
I was wonce in a copse where we lived with no deathTrees stood together. The room never darkened.
- Laynie Browne
This incarnation of Evening Will Come, towards a discourse of conceptual poetry, is great. I'm still working my way through it.
B and I finally made it to the Philadelphia Museum of Art yesterday, along with everyone else in town who wanted to go for free for First Sunday. It was crowded and somehow it felt like a hero's journey to get there and back, but I'm glad we did. Some pieces, like the giant Chagall ballet backdrop, I remembered. Some pathways through the contemporary collection, some sculptures I had passed when I was shorter, following somebody else around. I loved a painting by Roberto Matta, The Bachelors Twenty Years Later, and then we walked over to Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even, and then the last, Étant donnés, laid bare behind a wooden door. All these questions about experiencing a museum space, moving from art to art, I the viewer / the digester / the reader / the meaning-maker, and the artist points to me / the artist / in my looking and looks back through the glass / the door / the slash mark.
Then we found a room I didn't remember, Fifty Days At Iliam, a Homeric narrative stretched on canvas in long crayon lines. Was it at the museum when I was young? I don't remember. I stared at The Fire That Consumes All Before It for a long time. That depth of red. It made me think of my Bubbe, and I no longer care if it makes me a cheesy person to continue writing and thinking and talking about my dead grandmother. She was the person I followed through the museum space. I was very sad in that room, and that's the truth. Did she love that painting? I don't know.
I can tell the story about how she set me going as a writer, how she made me love art, and those are true stories. But I realized yesterday that part of my sadness is that she died before I ever got to have real conversations with her about art. That's the door I keep peering through.