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Best Thing I’ve Read Today: A Conversation with Matt Hart at Rkvry Quarterly

3 Jul

A few months ago, Rkvry Quarterly published this devastatingly lovely essay from Matt Hart about hauntedness; if you haven’t taken the time to read it, you absolutely must.  It just about destroyed me in the best possible way.  For instance:

Every word is haunted by its own etymology. Its historical origins linger connotatively. These origins color the atmosphere of the language while remaining largely invisible. One doesn’t need to know, for example, that the word “haunt” derives from an old Norse word heimta meaning “to lead home, to frequent,” and yet these meanings are present in contemporary usage as a trace, an echo, a ghost. Every word is haunted by its past uses, and is also itself a haunting, a visit from the past into the present.

Poems deploy, destabilize, and explode the meaning(fullness) of language, creating fields of connotation, ambiguity, and metaphor, while playing on the history of words in the service of multiple possibilities. These are the ghosts of every line, every sentence.

Words are also haunted by other words, which in turn are haunted by still other words, and all of them are haunted by other languages, and language is haunted by human utterance as longing (a desire to meaningfully mean). This is art.

I just now caught that Mary Akers did this fantastic follow-up interview with Matt digging around further in what it means to haunt and be haunted, in poetry and in breathing wavering growling existence.  This part, which sent the most chills up my spine:

 I (used to?) have a recurring dream of walking down a dirt road in the woods in the middle of the night, and up on the left is an old gray house made of boards, and inside there’s a brightness, like a lantern light burning. The house is ominous, even evil. It radiates hostility and madness, something terribly gone-wrong and utterly sad— a big black negative negative. I know in the dream that whatever’s in there is going to be incredibly painful to me, that it might even kill me. And yet, I’m compelled to go to it, so I keep walking. There are some steps and a little porch. It feels like Tennessee for some reason (where my mother’s family’s from). When I get to the door, my fear is overwhelming, and that’s when I wake up.

In the broad light of day, the dream seems like a goofy Evil Dead type horror movie set, something more to laugh about than to be afraid of. About a year ago, I described it to a friend, and he immediately said that the next time I have the dream I need to make myself stay asleep and open the door—that I need to go inside the house. And when I asked him why he thought this he said simply, “Because it’s home.” I haven’t had the dream since, but before that I was having it four or five times a year. I think the dream is now haunted by me, and of course “haunt” comes from an old Norse word meaning “home.” Anyway, I will open that door the next chance I get.

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Best Thing I’ve Read Today: Bret Shepard’s “Skin Interims”

1 Jul

The new issue of The Diagram went live yesterday. As always, the editors have put together a fantastic issue. I’m especially a fan of Bret Shepard’s four-part poem “Skin Interims.”

A couple weeks ago, Bret and I visited a playground at a middle school in Lincoln and he read from the poem. Check out the video below, then head over to The Diagram’s website to read the entire issue. You can also read more of Bret’s work at Sink ReviewILK, and The Leveler:

The Best Thing I’ve Read Today: Jane Lewty at They Will Sew The Blue Sail

21 Jun

One of them many goodness tentacles of The Volta, called They Will Sew The Blue Sail, publishes in bitty bunches (single poem by three poets) monthly, on that day the month kicks into gear. I showed up a tad late this month, disarrayed as is, but was happy happy at what I found.

Sandwiched between two great poems by Andrew Joron and Rob Schlegel, Jane Lewty is a bright candle. Her poem, “Dead Man’s Curve (Original Edit),” puts us there, fearful and squalling, the “we” together turning over and toppling. There’s an imbalance that this poem paints; it chomps my breath into ripped-apart car-shaped pieces, and I shutter, intensity it is.

Here’s the beginning:

LewtyGo here and see how the rest goes.

Best Thing I’ve Read Today: Dikembe Press

12 Jun

DP 001I first became aware of Dikembe Mutombo during the late-1980s when, under the tutelage of the great John Thompson, he and Alonzo Mourning formed one of the most intimidating frontcourts in the history of college basketball at Georgetown University. He then went on to have an illustrious career in The Association, popularizing his now famous finger wag.

Wasn’t it a joy, then, when I discovered the inaugural titles from the newly formed Dikembe Press, a chapbook publisher based out of Portland, OR and Lincoln, NE.

Dikembe Press’ first two titles are Matthew Rohrer’s A Ship Loaded With Sequins Has Gone Down and Emily Pettit’s Because You Can Have This Idea About Being Afraid Of Something. The second set of chapbooks, arriving sometime this summer, are already slated: as-of-yet titled manuscripts by Christian Hawkey and Christine Hume.

Rohrer’s collection begins and ends with longer, narrative poems. In between these bookend pieces are a series of four re-combinatory sonnets, each one comprised of three different variations. Take, for instance, the first iteration of the second “Sonnet” as a sample of what you can find within:

He wrote amazing poems because he
was fucking a wizard. This perspective
mutilated all his expectations
and he was naked. The wizard threw him
a small thin towel to cover himself with.
I’m sitting in a small bar in Brooklyn
discussing his next move: surely his wife
will climb the pyramid and leap off it
because she is a butterfly. He is
everywhere down there, in the air. Inside
a tiny black bean. It’s not necessary
to live like this, we decide. We crumble
into our highballs, the city outside
consumes things like an enormous creature. (17)

Emily Pettit’s collection contains thirteen poems and ten illustrations by Bianca Stone. The poems, which shift and bend through oftentimes absurdist logic, are most successful when articulating some sense of doubt, misunderstanding, or fear. For example, in the poem “You Keep Asking What I Want And I Don’t Know What I Want,” the speaker says:

                                                           We breathe air.
We keep the same body temperature all day.
We are holding onto things. An unspecified
racket. A small wagon. The biggest warehouse.
It’s ambitious and complicated. It’s a result
that is still unclear and can go either way.
I do not know what I have to make. I make
mistakes and many of them. I’m afraid I make
many mistakes. This has something to do
with the desperation and something to do
with other things too. A web of smoke holding
onto a dark night. Refusing to reflect any light. (17)

To purchase these titles and discover more information about Dikembe Press and their forthcoming releases, please visit their website.