4 new poems in BafterC, Arc, & CV2

It’s been quite a summer, and—aside from some other exciting news—I’m tickled to have four new poems out, with four more on the way this fall.

In June, “Vesuvian Man” (great pun, right?) and “Evil Arrow-sign God” (maybe not my greatest title) appeared in the latest manifestation of BookThug’s occasional anthology series/eccentric periodical BafterC, which was guested edited by the Midas-touchy Jess Taylor. (Thanks, Jess!)

Earlier in the spring, “Gastromance” (my first attempt at writing an honest-to-god love poem, which of course turned into a poem about flatulence) was shortlisted for Arc Poetry Magazine‘s Poem of the Year. In April, it appeared online for consideration under the Readers’ Choice aspect of the award. Then, in June, it was finally ink-manifested in Arc‘s summer issue. I was happy to share a gutter with co-shortlistee and longtime friend Catriona Wright, especially because her poem, “Hitler’s Taste Testers,” made me feel a little green (in all three senses).

In July, “Sea Cucumber Elegy” appeared in the Water issue of Contemporary Verse 2. It’s often disconcerting when an older poem (especially one written in a style you once toyed with, have since abandoned) is selected for publication over much newer poems. But if a poem ages, untouched for years, dissociation can—surprise!—eventually make room for readerly appreciation. Which is probably why, come to think of it, you’d bother submitting an older poem. The composition and recompositions of “Sea Cucumber” are alien enough to me that I’m taking credit for some dead person’s work, which is always a sneakily good sensation and which is uncannily appropriate to the poem itself.

BafterC, Arc, and CV2.jpg

This fall, keep an eye out for new poems—one each—in Arc‘s Art in the End Times issue, Vallum‘s The Wild issue, and The Puritan. I’ll also have a new poem in the next issue of Word Hoard, which I’ll admit is suspect since I’m on the masthead of that journal. It might be worth checking out, though, if you want to see my full mondegreening of a new poem by David Huebert, which will also appear in the issue. And if you don’t yet know what a full mondegreen is, well, stay tuned.

Video reading: “Figure with Pressurized Hose,” “Ascension,” and “Last Bastion”

Another video, this time from the June 3rd edition (and season closer) of the London Poetry Open Mic Night. My thanks again to the organizers and to videographer Sebastian Rydzewski.

At the beginning, I’m responding to an earlier reader who mentioned a line famously misattributed to Valéry: “A poem is never finished; it is only abandoned.” Open mic host Joan Clayton polled the crowd on whether they finish or abandon poems. I ‘think too much,’ so I abstained and then, in this video, point out that the line is a gloss of Valéry from Auden’s Collected Poems foreword.

Valéry wrote roughly this: “A work is never completed except by some accident such as weariness, satisfaction, the need to deliver, or death: for, in relation to who or what is making it, it can only be one stage in a series of inner transformations.” Valéry’s examples of “accident” do suggest abandonment, but I prefer the ambiguity of “accident” itself. I like to think my poems exile me for causes beyond my control.

Here’s also Kelly Creighton reading “Day One” and, hilariously, refusing to parse it afterward. Unfortunately, this video’s audio dampens the hypnotism (which is Creighton’s forté), so have a drink first, I suppose, then watch it with your eyes closed.

A few thoughts on “Olbers’s Paradox”

Thank you to everyone who sent congratulations regarding my recent Descant prize win. A few of you generously mentioned that you ‘enjoyed’ my interview on the Descant blog. I’m convinced that (through no fault of the interviewer) I sound like an ingénue, so to compensate I’ve posted here a few thoughts on “Olbers’s Paradox,” my only other anything-winning poem. They were originally hosted on the Echolocation blog but didn’t survive a recent content cull. Evidently, I refuse to take that as a hint.

Page’s glosa “Inebriate” (which you can listen to her read here) pissed me off. From there, “Olbers’s Paradox” very quickly began to write itself. Many of its images respond directly to Page’s and are traceable through the rhyme scheme, which I annoyingly had to preserve in order to write a glosa from the same cabeza. And I wanted the same cabeza because I thought I could use the same source material to produce something more interesting. That admitted, I haven’t done much to advance the glosa form. Maybe I’ve brought in dramatic monologue, or dramatic lyric, but that’s a bit like adding whisky to bitters: what you get is still (an) old fashioned. Advancing the form wasn’t my interest. If I had to name one difference, it’s that Page wanted glosas to be celebratory and I want them to be quietly or loudly belligerent. Characters are pretty good at quiet belligerence; poets can be good at being loud.

With “Stars / beyond stars unfold for me and shine,” Page practically handed me the paradox that the historical Heinrich Olbers posed: the universe can’t be both infinite and eternal (eternally static, that is) because if it were the night sky would be completely chocked with starlight. Being high on Anxiety of Influence at the time of composition, I evidently connected the potential frying of the Earth’s surface by stellar radiation with the woe of the contemporary writer. But the Earth doesn’t fry, they say, because space is expanding and the stars are moving away from us. That’s a simplification. Here’s another: time expands outward, pushing the past and its precedents away from us. The gradual departure of their lights is what allows and requires that we keep writing.

I traced Page back to Cohen, both back to Keats, and he too back to Elgin, incidentally Olbers’s contemporary but more importantly the one who ‘rescued’ the Parthenon Marbles from those crazy, statue-burning Greeks. Each of the four handled influence in a different way—lauder, renouncer, neurotic, and thief—but I have more fondness for Olbers’s patient, the character whose voice cohered quite suddenly out of this mess. The patient is my antidote to Page’s transcendently happy, ironically healthy, spring water-swilling septuagenarian. There’s something admirable, I think, in a younger person terminally ill but thermodynamically happy. You heard me, Keats.

Echolocation 2012 Poetry Contest

After what I’m told was a very factious judging process, involving three entirely incompatible shortlists and a few reversals, a poem of mine (“Olbers’s Paradox“) has somehow tripped over the line to win Echolocation Magazine‘s 2012 Poetry Contest. The prize offered a fantastic shortcut to seeing one’s writing in print: the winning poem hand-pressed in a limited-edition broadsheet to be sold as a fundraiser for Echolocation. Phoebe, general editor, offered me a few broadsheets or their equivalent in cash; I went all sentimental and chose the broadsheets. It was difficult not to after having stopped by Massey College and pulling the first twenty or thirty myself under the patient tutelage of master printer Brian Maloney, who then asked me to sign two copies for the press’s and his own records. The whole was a ridiculous experience for someone with the naughty non-habit of never submitting his poetry nowhere.

Edit: My rumination on writing “Olbers’s Paradox” was originally hosted on the Echolocation blog but didn’t survive the machinations of a recent content cull. I replicate them in a more recent post.