MONTHS SIX THROUGH EIGHT: TIME-WORK AND THE GOTHIC
is thin and long like the language, seaweed
a face in August
hung in fluttering strips
moons cracked open into other identical moons
alone onscreen glittering pools bright red machines snakes quiet it’s too hot for sound only the sound of the insects stuffed into grasses the un-punctured face as your face so smooth and actual all night long getting high in air conditioned rooms
the Hampton Inn in Lafayette
where we talked about being witches
the actual face that isn’t there because the actual face is just a hole some recursion into verbs a perfectly smooth hole an empty skin a bubble like a whale rising up to the surface of the sea green and stewed nothing can rupture nothing the feeling of your tongue pressing down on the palm of your hand I have an ache in my right leg it is August and there are robins shaking their flat faces in the trees
thin snake world
a wrestler’s body
swims in skin a deep skin there is nothing but the skin in July water and waves fish eyes turtles insect eyes and plants and stones and mud and further down the folds and flecks all of the undulating mirages the faces here the surface forever pressed up against everything pressed against this screen where it pushes and becomes the screen that moves underneath moving and wriggling and the screen and the skin are the same what the screen says is right there and part of the skin but the things that the screen says are not and never not part of the skin
a back is a beautiful face
sitting next to the turned-inside-out mausoleum being a function of the stone you are with the grasses wholeness is wholeness is a sighing
and skin as a way to be
just by reclining in the light
like little roses red and all balled up
and they crawled everywhere and spun all over the body
they crawled up the rocks and they crawled through the moss that covered the rocks, and over the lichen. it was late in the summer. it was the last day of summer. they wait near the water. they’ve migrated into their skin. the air moves like glue.
we set stones at the edge of the river and on the other side of the field where we grow olives we set out platters of food and with coal we burn some animal fat and we use the coal to sketch a picture of the rooster and we write RIVER next to the sketch the children set the honeycombs in the grass near the marker we pour sheep’s milk over our hands and arms we are making the fucking work by making edges and knowing to make the fucking work to make generations of people coming out onto the appropriate floor the proper time the acceptable dress the correct movement we regularly discover abandoned office chairs by the side of the freeway or littering the edges of county roads
in the office park
a motionless noon
a mouth full of germs
one moment of the day
bright cold air
office windows glitter
they sleep feed you
naked greed greets the noon hour
rotten fruit sits in your trash
kill the sickness with wine wine wine
eat the men hidden in the trees
PHILIP SORENSON has released two full-length books: Of Embodies (Rescue Press, 2012) and Solar Trauma (Rescue Press, 2018). A smaller handmade work was released last year by Another New Calligraphy; though, now it’s out of print. He co-edits, with Olivia Cronk, The Journal Petra.
above rope or straight smoke neck
above last year’s wasp’s nest blown
one stop shop stab and done shuttle the hack
down the smoke rope
held to the oval then
for one fledge of tocks then
fuel to forge force bird sky worthy
your fate to go down
something 2 carrots thin
plastic bag in elm arm alarm
coked up man’s fixity eye
i go where the night leads me
says slapping at his pockets
like money fights
flights or bites
when scissors and
shoehorns get busy together
with rope and old wasps nests
there you have my
memory of my whack ass
stepdad cutting my hair on
the yard missing cuttin my ears
and carcass flies over
a county off comin runnin
cuz the baste sang
oh i ain’t got
no turkey flats no
and i knowin then
the bleedout secret
freshet candle humalong
flying fulsome in whim water
the milk peace all that glide
seam gem wise the water
midswim mind and then
icicle carrot gat and then
gargle gargoyle and then
gaggle gag gull and then
on into the blown
wasps nest bulb belly body
probably half alive still pre lift
but then what would you be for?
if we are all a little or a lot
a woodlot a good load
what would you be for what?
mess i vote for
let my pretty
my petty parts scatter
cross the platte’s
many or one
there’s worse overtime
friend than wings
unto the waste corn
walked off the job
those statues just did it again
ah history we
try and stone it
ABRAHAM SMITH is the author of five poetry collections–Destruction of Man (Third Man Books, 2018); Ashagalomancy (Action Books, 2015); Only Jesus Could Icefish in Summer (Action Books, 2014); Hank (Action Books, 2010); and Whim Man Mammon (Action Books, 2007)–and one coauthored fiction collection, Tuskaloosa Kills (Spork Press, 2018). In 2015, he released Hick Poetics (Lost Roads Press), a co-edited anthology of contemporary rural American poetry and related essays. His creative work has been recognized with fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA, and the Alabama State Council on the Arts. He lives in Ogden, Utah, where he is Assistant Professor of English at Weber State University.
questions for the egret
by Adrienne Herr & Vi Khi Nao
VKN What does a debt-free landscape look like for you, Adrienne? Livelihoodwise, poetrywise, prosewise, lovewise, etc.
AH Well to be debt-free livelihoodwise is really a particular politico-economic situation that would subsist on something that doesn’t even know what debt is, because of the way of conducting economy. The rich have the most debt, and also profit from it more generally. So it is self-sustaining. Would a debt-free landscape need to be antithetical to self-reliance, sustenance, the sustaining of the self? The individual? Poetrywise, I think debt could be a function or a state of being. Not to a person or a corporation or an institute, or even to a poetry school. But to the next line… to a polemic or to the history of a word. Even to the sound of a word. To be debt-free means to owe nothing, and sometimes that happens with a line break. One line doesn’t owe anything to the other, but they necessarily follow one another. To write like this is sometimes very exhilarating. Prosewise, I feel that my prose is indebted to my writing practice because it is something that I chose more so than I chose to write poetry. And so I think a lot also about how the prose I write is indebted to the novel, to character. My friend said she wished that the characters would be developed more, she wanted to know more about them. Which to me is a kind of debt to some idea of novel but also the debt to place. Because I think that often when a character is developed it is about place and the placement of character. Lovewise, the debt or debt-lessness I find could be described very similarly to ways I’ve just described poetry and prose.
VKN I still don’t know how to write non experimental writing. Do you find it difficult?
AH I wouldn’t call my writing experimental, yet. Or at least that is not the goal. Unless experimental writing is defined merely as a mode of writing that refuses to satisfy certain expectations of medium, in which case I think as writers we necessarily “play” with expectations, use them or antagonize them. But I tend to relate experimental writing (in poetry specifically) as a more extreme treatment of language as material, precisely this intimacy with language that you’ve mentioned, Vi.
I do seek to push my language further and further towards the material and indeed, the experimental — though the end goal for me is not pure experimentation. Of course language has a very complicated relationship with the material, even sound is not material unless the senses are material. Of course we are made of material, matter – is language material if it comes from us… what does it mean to materialize language, Vi? Is it something you believe in?
I don’t think that the materiality of language should be emphasized in the form of some kind of de-humanized language, sans author or history. On another thought, the active and foregoing – almost eternal process of mechanizing language (as in the written text, or as in the data-fying of language for voice recognition or AI) is necessarily a process of materialization. I believe the writer’s role is to work with and against this mechanization. So I think many other forms or genres (other than ‘experimental’) necessarily become more relevant to codify the work.
VKN I like for us to get away with slanted, reserved gazes, the restraint, unspoken, subtext within textual entity that push the boundaries of intuition versus deception.
AH This sounds like flirting. Is experimental writing like flirting?
VKN I like to think of language as dust, something easily blown in the wind and easily molded with water and spit. I am open to the idea of spitting on language to build another body of another language: woman, being, time. What the world would be like if God pulls a rib from Eve to make another Eve, how sapphically exhilarating it seems in coeval time. I feel like in western culture, we make art by spitting a lot. I like to think we could make things by swallowing, which can be a very Eastern impulse.
AH I have to say this idea of Eve creating another Eve is extremely exciting. The Eve in Paradise Lost looks around her world and sees no boundaries, so it is said that she has no language. It is Adam who looks around the world and starts to name things. But… It is Eve who is ultimately related to Satan, who is the poet in Paradise Lost. Swallowing, spitting… makes me think of Zeus eating all his children. They stay there until his wife tricks him into puking them out. Some kind of male birth aided by the feminine trick. Consumption and creation… we tend to believe now that the way we consume (as consumers) is meaningful and effective in itself. But we forget about the need for expulsion.
VKN Do you like the idea of Satan being the poet?
AH Yes. It reminds me of something I read the other day about how in germanic christianities, there was a god who created, and that god was evil, and a god who did not create, who never created, who “retired” from creation, and that god was good.
VKN Retirement isn’t a bad idea. I am no God, but I am ready to retire.
AH And what do you want it to be like? How do you think of your memory in relationship to death?
VKN I want to orbit out of existence and when you orbit out of it, does memory matter any more? Time? Distance? Intimacy? Satan being a poet? I’d like to think that each person on this earth is a sinkhole in themselves. There is no more realm of existence if one person, their own universe, is a sinkhole/blackhole. I like the idea of the death of one person is the death of all existence. Which in practical terms is not practical. But in metaphysical and nonlinear terms, quite definitive.
AH When my mom died it felt like the end of one universe, or maybe the birth of a parallel one. And that there was a bridge between the two, that I alone was left to maintain. The responsibility of memory. Then memory became more embodied, I realized her as being a part of my body in a very physical sense. Memory became like muscle memory, not something I could control. Do you think about your body after you have died?
VKN I just think how liberating it is. This ontological weight off me. This absolute nothingness. This great dust blowing in the wind. And, it’s exciting. I think death is the most exciting event in a person’s life. Much more exciting than marriage, though maybe less exciting than writing poetry. But who can compete with poetry? Even God is afraid.
AH I went to a cemetery the other day and saw a plaque sitting on top of a tomb that said “regrets”
VKN That plaque needs a daffodil. Place a daffodil in front of the first “R” to hide its remorseful breast.
AH The banana/flower was really what hit me after the initial shock. I google “egret” and see a photo of a white crane, a symbol for strength, patience, purity, long life.
VKN Do you want to be a mother, Adrienne?
AH I don’t know. When I am in love with someone, part of me does.
VKN What is falling in love? I don’t know what that is…or what it embodies. I see people falling in love all the time now and I haven’t been able to relate.
AH It is like the idea of sacrificing your life. Very important to do, very impossible to do.
VKN I don’t have any memory of its permanent feelings, its existence. I have loved: out of duty, out of trust, out of boundary, out of function….Are you in love?
AH Yes. But I think the best way I can think of explaining it is as a succession of disclosures. That’s how a book I’m reading describes narratives or testimonies of religious experience. “A physical and spiritual experience that is inward-turning and outward-moving at the same time.” Being drawn into and out of God (love), a downward and an upward movement or an outwards and a return journey, like a question and an answer. Like an interview that becomes a dialogue. Falling in and out of love, the first fall. It’s very easy.
VKN Like watching paint dry. Two people falling in love. Watching a baseball game, waiting for that homerun that never arrives. I don’t think love exists. I think there are lots of commercial transactions pretending to be love, which is fine for advertisement effect/defect. It’s like going to the superbowl, falling in love.
AH So what kinds of transactions does one expect when they fall in love?
VKN One that is always costly. Not business-like enough. Confusion between who is merchant and who specializes in wholesale: which is what polyamory is all about.
AH So this is when we can experience merchant/buyer confusion in the most all-encompassing way…
VKN Yes. Like I observed the first time I met you: I like how efficient you are. Maybe what I recognized was that there was no confusion in the merchant/buyer in you.
AH If you were to fall in love what would you want? To avoid exchange, of a certain kind?
VKN I would have wanted more subtlety, poetic license to be quiet, resilient, silent, to have the open space for absence.
AH I guess this goes back to debtless landscapes in love. In poetry, and in prose. I guess love is always a kind of exchange. Wanting to know more about a character, wanting to know more about ourselves in a certain place with another. Or lines that follow one another but owe nothing to each other. They happen to be next to each other, sometimes it seems even accidental. It reminds me of how you responded after I first sent you my poems. You wrote, each line may need the next line to anachronistically challenge itself or be less of what it is, and yet, each line could easily self-erase itself, making the readers not careless in the potential demise of language or the way one thinks or could disentangle in this world. You wrote that they are capable of making leaps without resisting. Failing to disembowel because failing isn’t death. And so, I guess, I see love very similarly. If the leap is from one to another, in an exchange, in the instinct to save and destroy ourselves. Love teaches me not to be careless, in the ways I could disentangle. It is also an opportunity to feel fear, because failing isn’t death. Or if it is, then what is being sacrificed is always already a product of this exchange.
ADRIENNE HERR is a poet who bases her work in multimedia presentations, audio recordings, and staged plays. Working with translation, found text and the mode of address, her work exists in tension with our desire to confess. Her latest series LIGHT WORKS or, POEMS FOR THE ANGEL is inspired by a gold angel coin she found on the street. “The Angel is in all happenings / I am going blind on him.” She has recently performed at Hotel Normandy, Paris, Shore Gallery, Vienna, Fine Arts Gallery, Berlin, and The Glove, New York. Adrienne lives and works as a language teacher in Berlin.
VI KHI NAO is the author of three poetry collections, Sheep Machine (Black Sun Lit, 2018), Umbilical Hospital (Press 1913, 2017), and The Old Philosopher (winner of the Nightboat Prize for 2014), the short stories collection A Brief Alphabet of Torture (which won FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize in 2016), and a novel, Fish in Exile (Coffee House Press, 2016). Her work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. Her stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in NOON, Ploughshares, Black Warrior Review and BOMB, among others. Vi holds an MFA in fiction from Brown University.
KAMDEN HILLIARD is a poet, activist, and educator. Currently, they are an AmeriCorps VISTA member based in Greenville, SC where they assist Gateway House. Kam holds a BA in American Studies and an MFA in Poetry. They’re on the internet at kamdenihilliard.com. Xoxo, gossip squirrel.
Others have made the trip but not you
And that implies a certain thing
No one ever wants to hear
So what if you weren’t raised
Where you were born
And have been forced to eat
This variety of confusing foods
Experience the boon built into the system
Always expanding even in redundancy
Only fools figure it out
The rest form an unlikely community
Some fond of bland crispy rice
Others wounding themselves with hot sauce
All wanting to be sophisticated enough
To accept everything
What a sermon you thought
As guilt turned into insults
Let’s get ahead of ourselves and relax
A Fire Island rental and all that means
Traded for a no-frills vacation to the arctic
On a cargo ship taking advantage
Of weather change
And newly available routes
It’s obvious what I’m trying to say
That we’re going to hell happy
And we’re going to complain
Even as we’re amazed
Dream Disaster #2
An oddly composed squirrel perched on a ledge
Was surveying the street below seen mostly
In silhouette it looked like a mini-gargoyle
Or a superhero calmly exuding dread
Then underwater I was naked and struggling
With gooey vegetation that held me in its grip
As a giant squid approached in its florescent menace
Just then a muscled man who looked like Kirk Douglas
With high-wasted navy-blue briefs dove into the water
With a knife between his teeth and the mood
Was now one of confidence
And the problem with the objects
That were attacking from all directions
And now subdued is the idea of them
As something else that you can turn on or off
And just as the thought was about to subside
An airplane crashed into a building
But the film they show is of the Hindenburg
In Lakehurst New Jersey already a memorial
Even as it burned into a floating skeleton
Whose black spindly bones kept waving in silence
The Grid of Elements
I’m growing old right before your eyes
My days as a Plantagenet in royal purple and ermine
Pushing people around with thoughts and malice
Will soon end and I’ll be just another commoner
At the meat market exchanging coins for scraps
What do you call it when the tables are turned
When the adjustment is brutal but deserved
The practical side of transformation unexplained
The imminent law of threes turns up with a fury
There are seven ages to get through
But the math gets fuzzy at the top of the chain
Growing impatient with others whenever you’re not alone
Company only interesting when it’s with nuggets of gold
And I’ve never been the type to find solace
In the devotion of dogs who should be with their own
Hunting in packs and tearing flesh from the bone
At night by the sea’s bioluminescence I’ve seen
The mindless extraction of what remains of the self
Float away perplexed and unclean
ARMANDO JARAMILLO GARCIA is the author of The Portable Man (Prelude Books, 2017). His work has appeared in Boston Review, TYPO, Pinwheel, Inter|rupture, Black Sun Lit and others. He is the current co-editor of poetry at preludemag.com.
JULIANNE NEELY received her MFA degree from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she received the Truman Capote Fellowship, the 2017 John Logan Poetry Prize, and a Schupes Fellowship for Poetry. She is currently a Poetics PhD candidate and an English Department Fellow at the University at Buffalo.
“We are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.”
– Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
House of the Rising Sun is an interactive self-portrait about the phenomenology of heartbreak, presented as a choose-your-own-adventure game. Exploring the interconnection between physical architecture and emotional architecture, House of the Rising Sun investigates how the home becomes a living extension of memory, intimate relationships, and the human body.
THEO ELIEZER is a transmedia artist whose practice is characterized by interconnected narratives in installation, lens-based media, digital and physical artifacts, and related critical theory. Much of her work explores a literal interpretation of the adage “print is dead,” the implications of media as being subject to mortality, and feminist considerations of the body, identity, aesthetics, and technoethics. Influenced by Masahiro Mori and Donna Haraway, her recent work uses augmented reality to present concerns about the future rights of sentient machines.