Wednesday 6 January 2016

Carmen Giménez Smith's Milk & Filth (University of Arizona Press, 2013)

Here are some favourite passages from this bold, thought-worthy book:

It sets wild into new fluencies.


The jar houses my illusions

of eating men like hairballs.

end of "[Fragments from the Confessions]"

The charlatan was prelude

to the fracas I'd be.

Oh, those razor-sharp

appetites and their audacious



We met in the shadow

of his artificial interrogation

and wrested out the victories

from each other's defects.

from "[Wizardine]"

The blade was made

in the furnace where

excess is made and tiger

and where we sleep

like vampires when God

comes knocking.

She constructs a man

limb by limb from the earth,

and he belongs to us,

so we tear him apart

because he belongs to us.

from "[The Red Lady]"

I became the gelatin shiver of tea's

surface, that spent emotion.

from "[Susannah's Nocturne]"

Demeter became monster,

foul shame to motherhood.

We can be so insensitive

with others' losses when

they aren't our losses.

end of "[Hysteria]"

Poetry of regimented epigraphy smelled like fabric softener when I was young.

from "Parts of an Autobiography"

My cruel, divisive temperament: my cross

to bear. We all bear it because of our 

shared ancestry of milk and filth.

end of "Trigger Warning"

My parents can't describe me. All they ever see is assimilation and coconut. All they say is, "Why can't you just build yourself a Trojan horse into the big league?"

from "Can We Talk Here"

We're figures. We're lists of expenditure and food diaries,

but today I held the middle of me in hand and shook it.

It shook, shook like something fun.

from "Our Tiny Dimensions"

When God was a woman,

empire was meh.

the beginning of "When God Was a Woman"
The best way to purchase Milk & Filth in the UK is to order from Abe Books here.

Saturday 2 January 2016

Seizing: Places by Hélène Dorion, translated by Patrick McGuinness (Arc, 2012), second selection

I'd like to begin my second and final set of selections from Hélène Dorion's Seizing: Places with two quotations from Patrick McGuinness's excellent introduction:

"Though Dorion's poetry has evolved, it has always been limpid and intense, sophisticated in its thinking but elemental in its feel for the world. It is also emphatic about poetry's role in knowing that world, in putting the world to words not in order to name it, pin it down and categorise it, but because expressing the world is also to experience it."

"'Writing does not protect me from life's turbulence, but rather takes me to its most precarious points of equilibrium, where the sense of provisionality is at its sharpest', she writes in her essay, 'The Poem's Detail'."

And now for passages from the poems:

to the years echoing behind you 
the storm blurs your vision, your hands
reach only for this furious past.
Everything is red, will soon be mauve.


You see the path: long rays
where the dramatis personae of your
unfinished lives are jostling. In your mouth
jaws suddenly close
on one of them.


You open the box where memory stirs. by one, you find the stories again
--a crowd of images
fastens itself to every object. 


                                                    You open
a window and we breathe
the tiny leaves, branches, buds.


In Gursky's library
you turn the last page, it's the end
of the book, the world that's now contained
between the covers 
opens out then violently
shuts again on paths
you'll never tread
except in that rich
undefeated world of your books.
But each time, each time
your life will grow larger.


--so long as you hold
words in your hands
the garden where tonight, as every night
you open yourself to the wind's passage
will tell you what life really is.

from "Seizing: Windows"

Over the hill, a reddened
cloud grips that hour
when the soul settles--
and disperses.
As into myself, I enter
the cracked heart of dusk.


...slow cavities of hours.


Already the bank was fading
behind us, and far away, the brief
space where dream surges up.


is the place that is not a place
but that holds them all.


And for us the frail shelter invents
houses of fire and castles of sounds.


                                Each life
scatters its light
across time's room.

from "Seizing: Faces"