Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Arielle Greenberg's Given (Wave Books, 2002)

Arielle Greenberg and I were on a delightful panel at AWP in Seattle: on poetry and desire. I'd read her poems here and there, but not read one of her books in toto, and now I regret the delay, as I've relished reading her first collection and now eagerly look forward to more. Here are some favourite passages:

We (the clown, the doll, the murderer and I) are in love.
With the moon.

She ascends: the sky purples, clouds, she rises, now grinning,
becoming a burning door. We love her still.

from "Afterwards, There  Will Be a Hallway"

I know thirst very well because I once belonged to that organization.

from "The Expert"

I've been teaching English at a two-year college and it isn't going well.
Every single one of my students is somehow a furious dolphin.

opening lines of "Teaching English at a Two-Year College"

To debate an aesthetic issue is to go shopping for a party
    dress. You cannot come over till you have something interesting.

last stanza of "Pathos: a ghazal"

The project that loves to hang its head out the car window and smell the ocean

from "A Proposal for a Longer Work 
(Preferring the Dunes)"

They were free to be startled by their bondage.

from "Startle"

there is us
& there is a valley & there is the tight song the air forgot

from "happy holy"

The people who sleep with their socks on,
the day is over to them, adoring and abandoned.
The inside of her long body is a yellow flower. 
Breathe here, in the small hole your life has made.

from "This Train"

I do love my breasts. they are so soft.
but I love my hair more. it's my rosetti.

from "The Teeth of Betty Page"

Night came, blue night. It knew all the terrible choices. It covered the girl like a shawl.


What a catastrophe! Nothing all over, blue shawls, oven mornings. The girl was in a fit, fit of smiles. What was in her pocket? What terrible jealousy was in her mouth?

Come, she said. Come choose the terrible choice.

from "The Girl"

To be a magician's assistant, you must first believe in the real as a Fact in itself. Without the real, there is no awe at its breakage. Lucy was trained in basic chemistry and liked large dogs. She was as real as they come.


"There is something magical about this realism," the audience exclaims, delighted, somewhat dopey on little paper cups of swirled ice cream served with tongue depressor spoons glued to the lids. "It's the chocolate," Lucy says flatly, removing the knife from between her teeth. "I invented it to make you happy."

from "The Secret History of Chocolate"

Are you male or just malnourished?

from "To My Beaux-Artsy Bedfellow"

We make marks, and in this way we are like the species of fish who leave their ink when they are frightened.

from "Berlin Series"

In front of the house, the townspeople have gathered for the nod-out into plush plush love, so easy and out.

from "Nostalgia, Cheryl, Is the Best Heroin"


Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Illinois Corn Festival, 23 August 2014

I timed my visit to my hometown to coincide with its annual corn festival and spent four hours there yesterday with my niece Ella.

 One of the two corn shucking tables

A pile of corn awaits shucking

 Ella with corn

Me with corn

A perhaps slightly more flattering photo of Ella, a sweet and spicy sixteen!

The next installment of my home visit photos will be of today's baseball game, in which my nephew Nathan Wallace plays second base &c.


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

"Powerful writing of a high order": A new review of Imagined Sons in Stride

Here is the first paragraph, by poet and critic Steve Spence: "Carrie Etter's Imagined Sons may well turn out to be my poetry book of 2014. It comprises a series of scenarios where a mother who has given up her son when she was seventeen, imagined possible meetings at a later stage, envisaging alternative futures where their paths briefly cross again and recognition occurs or doesn't. This is powerful writing of a higher order and the fact that Etter often utilises the dream-like processes of surrealism allied to the quality of classical myth, in a very modern setting, enhances the intensity of the work and packs a powerful punch into the bargain." The full review appears here.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Housesteads and Hadrian's Wall, 31 July 2014

Housesteads is the oldest Roman fort in Britain, and Hadrian's Wall, a project ordered by the eponymous Roman emperor, extends from the east to the west coast of England. 

The remains of Housesteads 1

The remains of Housesteads 2

 This carved stone was found in Housesteads and depicts the genii cucullati
three spirits in hooded cloaks.

 Hadrian's Wall 1

Hadrian's Wall 2, zigzagging over the hills

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

"Intimate and Searing": Patricia Debney reviews Imagined Sons for Shearsman Review

Two days, two thoughtful reviews of Imagined Sons--I'd love to get used to this. The latest is Patricia Debney's review at the new Shearsman Review. Here's a passage: "Etter’s fundamental gift throughout Imagined Sons is her deft handling of tone; throughout, she employs the no-nonsense, matter-of-fact darkness that so often permeates bad dreams and their anxious attempts at normality. [...] It is a testament to the poet’s delicacy, restraint and invention that as readers we don’t run straight away from what, when stripped down, is so painful. Far from setting these wonderings firmly out of our experience, Etter’s writing compels and moves us: we too imagine the sons, and find there the immutable and worthwhile fact of being alive."

Monday, 4 August 2014

"Superb," "Tremendous": Katherine Stansfield on Imagined Sons at New Welsh Review

"Superb" and "tremendous" come from Stansfield's tweets, while the review itself is a podcast nine minutes long with a brilliant, appreciative analysis of Imagined Sons. Her observations on the "friend" series and on the final catechism especially heartened me, as they perceived ambitions I had for the work that I wasn't sure were successful. Have a listen!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Lacock, Wiltshire, 27 July 2014

My dear friend Lynn Corr was visiting this weekend, and Sunday we took her to Lacock. We began at Lacock Pottery, which sells Trevor's work, took a lovely walk through the countryside that gave us some lovely views of Lacock Abbey.

A hidden grotto

Lacock Abbey


Typical housefronts in Lacock


A street in Lacock


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Imagined Sons chosen for Editors Select in Notre Dame Review

Imagined Sons has been chosen for the Editors Select feature in the new issue of Notre Dame Review, where the book is described as "extremely moving."

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge's The Heat Bird (Burning Deck, 1983)

Visiting Providence in April (a city I love more with each visit), I visited a wonderful bookstore, Paper Nautilus Books. Because they stock both new and used books, I was able to find an out of print, early collection by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, The Heat Bird. It's an impressive book, and the passages I quote below are less powerful out of context, but nonetheless compelling. 

The book is a single long poem in four sections composed of short passages which feel like independent poems in their own right. The first section is "Pack Rat Sieve":

              ...the horizon is just a change where
from going deep you go wider, but go


                                                            All this time
she was trying to recede until things would resemble
each other, as she had imagined the void to be a room
of fog, so the figure of a man or a house on stilts
should clearly loom from its field.


              There is a woman who can whoop with laughing 
like a wolf at the stars, one to one, without
any bridge, but she is not that woman


...an urge to go look at the plain, your back to the town
and the ferris wheel.

The second, much shorter section is "Farolita":

                  Toward town, in low sun, she sees light
in flapping laundry. It was just movement at first. She has
heard the processions walk by. At first you think their
singing is a moan in the wind.

The third is "Ricochet Off Water":

The only quiet place was in the well where they
kept the melons. There she could hear most distinctly
people's cries in China.


The big hill is solid in dim light. A lit cloud
rolls down behind it. She was standing in the dirt yard
trying to decide between them.


Then she steps across what she can't remember.

And lastly, the title section, "The Heat Bird":

across stones in the river which cover
my sound, I startle a big bird who must circle
the meadow to gain height. There is a din
of big wings. A crow loops over and over
me. I can see many feathers gone from its wing
by sky filling in, but it's not the big bird
I walk into the meadow to find what I've already called
an eagle to myself.


                               Twice I am not sure if light wings
between some bushes are not light through crow feathers
but then I really see the expansive back swoop down
and circle up to another cottonwood and light
It's a buzzard with a little red head. You say
that's good. They're not so scarce anymore. It sould
have been more afraid of me


Fresh wind blows the other way at dawn, so
I'm free to wonder at the kind of charge such a mass
of death might put on the air, which is sometimes clear
with yellow finches and butterflies.


Like a critic I thought form was an equilibrium
which progressed by momentum from some original reduction
of fear to the horizon.


                                           In an apricot tree
were many large birds, and an eagle that takes off
as if tumbling down before catching its lift. I thought
it was flight that rumpled the collar down like a broken neck
but then as it climbed, it resembled a man in an eagle dress
whose feathers ruffle back because of firm feet
stamping the ground in wind.


                       If I am far from you isn't the current
of missed events between us an invention of potency
like a summer storm at night, or when I see you


When I touch your skin, or hear singers in the dark, I get
so electric, it must be the whole dam of my absence pushing
I think, which might finally flow through its proper canyons 
leaving the big floor emptied of sea, empty again
where there used to be no lights after dark


                                                               The eagles'
wingbones began to stretch open with practicing, so
luminous space in their wings showed against the sky
giving each a great delicacy in turns

You can learn more about Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge at The Poetry Foundation by following this link.