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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.

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.

[ The Fire That Consumes All Before It, Cy Twombly ]

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.

[ Étant donnes, Marcel Duchamp ]

I had two poems in the Nashville Review that went live yesterday, “Missives” and “A Remnant,” and they are both from Doors of New Jersey. That’s the whole book, doors / I keep peering through / pressed / as though they could open.

And hey look! Coconut 19 is here! Freshly pressed! Imminently real! Inexplicably heroic!

 

[ “To the west,” Erin Palovick ]

I have some particular excitement about one of these writers, who I tried and failed to publish in my inaugural issue of BWR. It’s gratifying to see that the work continues and the work continues to be great.

This morning I’m rereading Juliana Spahr’s This Connection of Everyone With Lungs, which I grabbed from the free pile in the grad lounge a few days before we left (of course, we were packing up everything we owned and actively trying to get rid of books, but I had to take it). The MFA who owned it previously has written notes in the margins here and there, and now I’m realizing why this bothers me so much. In prose works, little notes have always distracted me, but in poetry they drive me a little batty. The page is important, the shape is important, the balance of text and empty space is important, and so, etc, the little notes are like the bug smears on the windshield of my Penske truck that the inadequate wiper fluid never wiped away.

I am officially a Master of Fine Arts.

I defended my thesis yesterday, and in a strange twist of fate I wished that the defense was longer. I’m very conscious of the fact that I’ll be leaving Alabama soon, and that carefully considered conversations about my poetry will not be happening on a regular basis. But now that I’m a Master, I can just command people on the street to talk poetry to me, right? Right. It was so nice to hear all the nice things the committee had to say, about flatness and intimacy and the constructed body and pronouns! and all the other parts of my thesis that I fretted over. My advisor even admitted that although we had disagreed over my pronoun usage, I convinced him in the end that it was right for the project. I feel like the book came out the way I wanted it to, which is maybe the highest compliment I can stand to give myself. I’m proud of it.

My MFA friends will all be defending their work soon, so I plan on observing their defenses. I’d like to hold on to this community as long as I can, and also, their work is so great—imagine a mashup of Ovid and Peter Pan and black bears and poured-concrete mountains and Monumental Women and spaghetti westerns and Beanie Babies and the baddest of bad sisters and hulking ships and delicately shaving someone else’s legs. I feel lucky to have been around such crazy good writers for so long.

Laying the foundation is the most difficult step. Measuring and leveling, again and again. Everything needs to be so certain. My body is not a male body except in the sense that it is male. The box I sometimes check. I look awful with long hair and all the best dresses dip in the wrong tight way. It’s no different than everything else you know about me, still and glittering in the air. And even were I strong and clear, someone like a sky to fly in, I still know you saw me first down a path, thought a thin boy was shuffling toward you. I place cement blocks and above them I will place the floor, the walls, a place to stay.

– T Fleischmann

One of my favorite things about this book was its bookiness, the way it built itself out of itself. Everything moved steadily, looking back over the shoulder with a certain rhythm. So much loveliness. The self building the self from the self of the house to the sense of the body as a room as an art form as a gallery display. On and on. B and I had a small conversation this evening wherein we both listed off the books that we’re intending to read, both lists ending in on and on because it just keeps coming, the emergence of books that make me want to read them again. When I was a kid, that was my habit—I’d get to the end of the book and I’d turn right around and read it again. In my car, I’ve been listening to the same CDs for over a year. I like to know all the words. It becomes a certain rhythm, certain, I mean to say, in the sense of knowing oneself. In building oneself out of the gallery all around, taking it in and exhaling it. How dare you sit on my body. I’m art. Look at me! I’m god damn art. – says the body.