Editorial Preferences in Poetry: Megan Bromley

I have never pinned down exactly what poetry is. As a sophomore in high school, I bought a used copy of the first volume of Poems for the Millennium: a soaring, 800-page anthology of modern poetry edited by Jerome Rothenberg. While I read this anthology, I thought poetry was an experiment. It was hard not to feel the fundamental joy of watching an idea, snow-shaped, roll down its hill to build and destroy at once.

The modernist imperative—“MAKE IT NEW”—resonated in my very teenage heart. I wanted to read and write poetry that resisted entropic decay, that pushed past the point of no return and did not want to return. “New” meant scattered and blown-out, spacey and Space Age, supernova-ing. I didn’t “make” anything, just placed two ideas on a page and hoped they played nicely. Reader be damned! I was having fun.

Once during my beginning poetry workshop, I met with my section’s TA (Kyle Bassett) to discuss my life goals and to recite Dean Young’s “Anti-Ambition Ode” (my final assignment). A pigeon pooped on my bike while we spoke. When we finished our conversation, I walked back to my bike to find the fresh evidence and a rusty-colored, one-legged bird confidently strutting nearby. “That’s a poem,” Kyle said.

As an astrobiology student, I’m always asked “What is life?” and as a poetry student, I’m always asked “What is poetry?” and over time, these two definitions have converged. Life does not make sense, particularly in its origin. How do we make life out of its building blocks (nucleotides, minerals, amino acids)? What assembly is necessary? How does it persist and evolve? It’s easy now to look at my more “experimental” poems from high school and see the same failures and assumptions made in them as in some astrobiology research. The blocks are there, but the life is not.

I don’t know what poetry is. I only know that it does. It defies its own dimensions, and finds its way into every niche in which we look. We crack open a rock, and there we find poetry. Sink into the mantle, and it is there. Bottom of ocean. Our cities. Our commute. It lives between the bones. It is the interconnectedness of all things—ultimate betweenness.

To quote from Anne Boyer’s Garments against Women:

“Sometimes when you look at smoothly joining at least two different-sized pieces of flat but pliable material so that these pieces might correctly encase an eternally irregular, perspiring and breathing three-dimensional object that cannot cease its motion you think that there is no way ever this could happen, yet sometimes it does.

Megan BromleyBio: Megan Bromley is the student Poetry Editor for Superstition Review’s 20th issue. She is a junior studying Creative Writing and Astrobiology, and is also active in the marching band as a piccolo player. She enjoys all things chaotic and/or musical.

 

Guest Post, Liz Robbins: Generation Vex: Returning to Walls

Butterfly PaintingLast week, I had a conversation with a visual artist about the challenges of making art as we age. I’ll turn forty-six in December, and my friend is near there. I’ve read the statistics: the average poet peaks in her twenties; artists tend to be more in line with novelists, creating their best work in their forties (lucky guy). Still, with modern life and its distractions (see Anthony Varallo’s good post on interruption), finding inspiration tends to become more problematic with age.

The artist and I briefly discussed strategies we’ve tried to keep the wheels turning. He’s a pro: a gifted painter who reinvented his artistic identity by trying—and mastering—a new genre (video). He’s secured artist residencies. He’s earned a sabbatical. Yet he juggles a full-time teaching gig with a brilliant, lively family, which is to say, he drinks a lot of coffee. He’s constantly weighing appropriate balance and space—responsibilities galore, but good ones, ones crackling with depth and possibility. I struggle to find space—and inspiration within that space—for art in similar ways. In recent years, it’s been in the playgrounds of other art mediums, which sometimes means excellent live music shows, but often means wherever fresh contemporary visual art can be found locally; when on the Flagler College campus, where I teach, I frequent CEAM (the Crisp Ellert Art Museum). This is nothing new: poets have written ekphrastic poems since the beginning, many of them great and lasting (ie. Auden’s “Musee Des Beaux Arts”). And this is perhaps because there’s a certain kind of attention required of visual art—how color works to convey mood, for instance, or how vital a fresh concept to the work’s success—that helps remind us of important elements in poem-making. Not every poet has the same hurdles when it comes to making poems, but one of mine tends to be getting hyper-focused on the linear argument—that which I find most interesting, chasing the a-ha! moment—and therefore getting lazy about filling in with lush details. Or filling in the details, but not presenting them in strange or original ways. Another challenge is finding new themes: my obsessions have gone through the wash twenty times; all that hot water has faded and shrunk them. Spending a few hours with a visual artist’s work tends to get fresh angles spinning. For instance, one of my more recent riffs came courtesy of Anna Von Mertens, a highly-accomplished multi-media artist, currently living in New Hampshire. In this series, she’s taking well-known portraits (often self-portraits by artists like Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo) and from them, creating auras, using cloth, stitching, and homemade dye. Gorgeous. Mind-blowing. When I saw some of these in a CEAM exhibit, I immediately wanted to talk back to them, create a kind of tribute to them in poems. The result was a series of “aura” poems, using largely the Confessional poets. Here’s one:

aura: james wright
the head and torso shape that of a supplicant,
a nonbeliever in prayer, the eyes closed below
their frames, hands clasped at the heart, but the heart’s
red is the opposite of the dominant pigment, green: sap green
that breaks into flowering, o, Monet’s fields and water lilies
seeding and bursting beneath surfaces, all grown-blessed
in permanent green light . . . . Jenny the muse in hooker’s green:
river-rising just enough to be seen, he will wade in over
his head into the snake’s viridian venom, in the background
Van Gogh’s mother portrait, where the world’s players
smash against each other, competing terribly–
who wouldn’t waste a life for the naive green just breaking
into gallop? the wild fields blossoming?

As you can see, I’ve selected a dominant color palette that represents the poet/his work (green, with nods to significant painters who worked famously in green) and made allusions to Wright’s most well-known poems. What I’m most interested in is the conversation, the stimulation that arose from it. A familiar paradox, but one that bears repeating: artists must carve out vacuums in order to make art, yet art is not inspired by such vacuums, but life itself. In support of the collaboration of visual art and poetic inspiration, I bring my students to CEAM every semester, to view what riches our director has procured and to respond in poems; part of my own making process comes in designing prompts unique to the artist’s work. This experience is for them, for me, the dominant lesson: that the art-making engine runs on nouvelles idées, that we must constantly see potential inspiration everywhere and seek it out. If we’re young, the challenge comes in developing the habit; if we’re older, it’s in sustaining it. The irony, of course, with this particular mode: that the new ideas come from ideas already examined, though differently, by other makers. Another paradox (the soul of poetry).

Authors Talk: Maureen Seaton

Today we are pleased to feature poet Maureen Seaton as our Authors Talk series contributor. Maureen speaks about the way that her poems began and her love of poetic form.

Maureen describes her poems as “fraternal twins” that were born from a state of shock after her first bout with breast cancer. She notes her future’s ambiguity asking “I wonder what I would be today if….” That ambiguity is reflected in the poems’ simultaneous “straightforwardness” and complexity, their connection and their difference. The surface differences are in full view in the poems’ forms, which Maureen discusses.

You can read and listen to Maureen’s poems in Issue 19.

Guest Post: Christine Brandel

Words on the Paper of Skin

My Body

My body is a palimpsest:

you cannot read her writing.

He will be unable to read yours.

I confess that when I first wrote this poem, I was thinking about lovers. About the way those we love leave their marks on us — on our skin, our mouths, our hearts — and the way those marks fade but do not disappear as time passes and love fades and may or may not disappear.

The more I sat with the image, though, the more I realized my body is covered in the words of so many others — friends I’ve cared for, enemies I’ve cursed, strangers who loitered long enough to leave traces. Some were written in indelible ink, others with a lighter touch, but my hide has been dried under tension, and washing with milk and oat bran will never get this parchment completely clean.

In the right light, I can read it all.

On my feet I see action words, reminders that I can wait or run, stand or fall. My knees say please and up my thighs are lines of lyrics (or are they limericks?). Across my belly sits the word empty. No matter how hard I scrub it with pumice, the curves and tails of those letters remain. My chest bears remnants of an animal’s fear and a surgeon’s signature, and the writing on my breasts, well, that I choose not to share with you.

My back is covered with what looks like court stenographers’ notes — each scribble symbolizing my exact whereabouts on the dates in question and the precise lengths of each of my sentences. Over my shoulders are my first doctor’s orders: the pain will never go away. Twenty years later, a different doctor drew a line through his diagnosis, but she did not rewrite it. The pain is still there under the skin — all she did was take away its name. The marks on my throat are my music teacher’s words. They’re too blurry now to read, but I know they are the reason I only sing when I’m alone.

Every day my face reveals more lines. There are jokes around my mouth and riddles on my forehead. Farewells trail from the corners of my eyes. Along my limbal rings are the details of my birth, and deep in one pupil, there’s a no, in the other, a yes. My scalp says fuck you. I occasionally clip my hair to let those words get some air.

My hands are a bit different. They’re my manuscript. They are the one place on my person I’ve never let someone else’s pen tip touch. They are scarred by my words alone. My wrist says try.

In the mirror, I see my story. Like Jorge Luis Borges’s Book of Sand, it is without beginning or end, impossible, and terribly infinite. Perhaps there is some beauty there, too.

__________________________________

I grew up believing that there was a distinct line separating the body and the mind. The body was the physical — the domain of science, a subject I was never very interested in. I had nothing against science; I trusted it and was frequently amazed by it. In terms of interest, though . . . no.

I was more into the mind: the mental, emotional, intellectual. The mind was my passion — I loved learning and teaching, discussing and arguing, reading and writing. I wrote about my thoughts and emotions and made up characters with their own thoughts and emotions. In this realm, there could be pleasure or pain, ecstasy or anguish. If a feeling was confusing or a thought distressing, with my pen in hand, I believed I could make it better. The consequences of this were both comfort and power. I wrote what I thought I could never say. I wrote what I thought no one would know until they’d read what I’d written.

 Brandel-Mine (Legs With Words)

As I’ve grown older, though, I realize the errors of my thinking. The body and the mind are not separate. What goes on in one goes on in the other. Every thought I’ve ever had lives in my bloodstream and my brain, my memories in my muscles and my mind.

This concept might be stupidly obvious to others, but to me, it was an epiphany. This body was not just a thing I lugged around each day; it had meaning. Or rather, meanings — different parts meant different things in different contexts, like page-long entries in a dictionary, like feelings that feel good and also bad. I thought I’d been writing my life on paper in poetry, but I’d also been doing it on my skin and in my bones.

Of course, this means sometimes that I am weary. Depression makes a mind muddled and a body heavy. I can no longer pretend that one’s all right when the other one is clearly not. However, it also means that my bibliography is longer and more varied than I’d previously thought. It appears I’m quite prolific.

Because my body is a palimpsest. It is tattooed with others’ words as well as my own, and the layers are deep and permanent. There are lines in my fingerprint, they are lines of poetry. All that writing will tell you who I am.

Contributor Update: Deborah Bogen

In Case of Sudden Free FallWe are glad to announce that past contributor Deborah Bogen has recently released a collection of poems titled In Case of Sudden Free Fall. The collection has already received recognition from poet and actress Hélène Cardona, who called Deborah’s writing “a delicious gem” worth revisiting. Purchase a copy of In Case of Sudden Free Fall from Jacar Press here.

To read four poems by Deborah in Issue 4 of Superstition Review click here.

Congratulations, Deborah!

Contributor Update: Brian Doyle

Today, we here at Superstition Review want to take time to mourn the loss of past contributor Brian Doyle, who passed away in May at the age of 60. Brian’s writing first appeared in Issue 2 of Superstition Review, and he later became a frequent guest post contributor for our blog. Author Brian DoyleWe will always remember Brian’s abundant generosity.

We were grateful for the announcement of the release of his book Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace, which he was working on at the time of his tragic death. In this collection of essays, Brian writes about the “I love you” that goes unsaid, the brooding shadows in our hearts, and finding God in the unlikeliest of places. We are honored to have been given the opportunity to read and share his extraordinary tales with the world, which left a legacy of love and compassion that will not be easily forgotten. Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

Purchase a copy of Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace from Franciscan Media here.

Click here to read Brian’s guest posts for our blog, and here to read his essay, “Welcome Home Dick Queen!” in Issue 2 of Superstition Review.

 

Guest Post: Beth Gilstrap

After Nick Hornby

Self Portrait

School Years

Bathroom Floor

Not As Long As You'd Think

English Class

Cornell Quote

Knife

Journal Entry

Remember Me

Self Portrait

Pills

It's Dark In Here

Dedication: For all writers who struggle with mental illness. But particularly, for Aubrie Cox Warner and Jill Talbot who, whether they realize it or not, continue to inspire me to be vulnerable and open. With thanks to Ben Barnes for assistance with self-portraits and so much more.