Poetry Blog: Brittney Corrigan

Brittney Corrigan is the author of the poetry collections Navigation40 Weeks, and most recently, Breaking, a chapbook responding to events in the news over the past several years. Daughters, a series of persona poems in the voices of daughters of various characters from folklore, mythology, and popular culture, is forthcoming from Airlie Press in September, 2021. Corrigan was raised in Colorado and has lived in Portland, Oregon for the past three decades, where she is an alumna and employee of Reed College. She is currently at work on her first short story collection and on a collection of poems about climate change and the Anthropocene age.

Brittney’s poem, “White Fall”, originally published in Thalia:

The ocean’s innumerable tiny mouths
 await the muffled impact like baby birds.
 Sediment clouds up at the deadened

settling, and the flesh is set upon. How
 the weight of loss can be beautiful
in its opening. Luminous worms undulate

like party streamers as isopods
and lobsters arrive to feast. This body
 holds an ecosystem unto itself: species

found nowhere else but here, cleaved
to the sunken remains. Sleeper sharks
 move in slow and gentle, ease

the messy carcass to gleaming bones.
 And then, how the skeletal rafters
of grief fuzz and bloom. How sometimes

the coldest depths allow for such measured
 undoing. All the while hungry lives
swarm and spread, come to stay.

Limpets attach to the unhidden core. Sorrow
 in its abundance crushes, cycles, feeds.
How the body rests, rich in what sustains.

Brittney’s poem, “Iteration”, originally published in Feral:

after the Aldabra rail
One flightless bird evolves twice, before and after extinction.
Collective bodies remember what it is to feel safe.

You remember this, too. Before the world came lapping.

A coral atoll—lagoon brimming with black-tipped sharks,
no people—flourishes. Giant tortoises wander between

turquoise worlds of sea and sky. The birds have no
reason to fly away. A body with no enemies simplifies.

There was a time when you didn’t need wings.

Nothing is wasted. The birds push their long, ruddy necks
through the coastal grass. Nothing chases them down.

There was a time when you never looked behind you.

The first time the ocean takes the island, every species on it
goes extinct. A mass drowning. Thousands of years later,

the water recedes. Fossils and sand surface; flora blooms.
The bird’s white-throated cousins land on the shores.

There was a time when your throat was open to the sky.

The bird evolves again. Again relinquishes its wings.
Again has no enemies. Again is a singular kind of being.

You can do this, too. Sharks circle but can’t cross land.

Bodies remold. Bodies wingless. Bones tell stories. Versions
of stories. You recolonize your body. What it is to survive.

Brittney’s poem, “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit”, originally published in The Wild Word:

The night a neighbor girl knocks on our door,
baby rabbit in the bowl of her hands, I place

it in a darkened box of straw, know it won’t
make it to morning. My grandmother’s tradition

for the first day of each month: stand at the edge
of the bed upon waking, make a wish, yell

Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! and jump. Tiny rabbit
body in my palm, soft and cold and still.

Rabbit sitting on the moon, pestling herbs
for the gods. A chant of white or grey rabbits

to ward off smoke. The Black Rabbit of Inlé:
his taking of this small life, his taking of my

grandmother when I was still small. I must
give this little un-rabbit back to the ground.

Oh, to be so frightened that your heart cannot
go on. But first, I must wake my young child.

On this first of the month, I ease tangles
separate through my hands. Sense something

quivering just beneath what’s real as I leave
the room. From down the hall, I hear

the bedframe sigh. Little undone heart cupped
in my hands. Little voice shouting a herd

of rabbits onto the floorboards. I hop
from foot to foot as they run past.

The following is an interview conducted on April 28, 2021, by Superstition Review‘s Poetry Editor, Carolina Quintero. It is in regards to Brittney’s works, writing process, and inspirations.

Carolina Quintero: Hello, Brittney! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview with me. I really enjoyed reading your poetry. You have such a passion for animals and our environment and you put their importance into beautiful words. I also thought it was really striking and genius how you connect animal life to human life…Your writing frequently involves animals and the environment. What experiences or special interests have driven you to center your writing around this topic?

Brittney Corrigan: I’ve been drawn to animals and the natural world since I was a small child. I grew up in the gorgeous landscape of Colorado where my family spent a lot of time in the mountains and generally outdoors. And when I wasn’t playing outside or surrounded by a zoo’s worth of pets, I was watching episodes of Wild Kingdom. For years I wanted to become a marine biologist, drawn to the ocean and its creatures from my land-locked home. Though I’ve always felt connected with and protective of the environment, living in Oregon for the past three decades—with its wild coasts, wild animals, and wildfires—has strengthened that affinity and resolve. As the realities of climate change have made their way into my consciousness over the years—from my founding of an “environmental action club” in high school in the 1980s, to my love for the flora and fauna of the place where I live, to raising up my children in a world fraught with natural disasters and extinctions—I wanted to move toward action to preserve this planet and the life forms with which we share it, beginning with bringing awareness to these issues through my writing.

CQ: Your poems carry thorough knowledge about animals and ecosystems. What inspires you to learn about this? 

BC: Voracious curiosity! I subscribe to countless email newsletters that showcase all things weird, wild, and wonderful (such as Atlas Obscura and National Geographic), and I love listening to podcasts of that ilk, as well (such as RadioLab and Ologies). I keep a running document of links to articles and oddities I find particularly fascinating that I come back to time and again to mine ideas for my work. In both my science-oriented poetry and my short fiction, the research is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. I love diving headlong into educating myself about a place or a species that I haven’t encountered before or that I just want to learn more about. In a high school English class, my teacher once presented me with a quote by Henry James: “Be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!” I carry that desire to notice, explore, and elucidate the world around me into my writing life.

CQ: What advocacy do you hope your poems will achieve? What audience do you hope your poems will reach? 

BC: By bringing the plight of various ecosystems and species into my work, I hope to make what can seem like an overwhelming problem to tackle both particular and personal. I think if folks feel connected to the natural world and its creatures in specific, tangible ways, they will want to help and make change in small, meaningful ways. I hope that my poems reach folks of many interests, backgrounds, and generations and move them to learn more, and to do more, to combat climate change, extinction, and the effects of our current Anthropocene age.

CQ: What are your poetic influences as of late?

BC: My current favorite poets are Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Ada Limón, Ross Gay, Natalie Diaz, and Camille Dungy. I’m also enjoying reading essays on topics of extinction and the natural world by writers such as Michelle Nijhuis, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Elena Passarello, Linda Hogan, and Alexis Pauline Gumbs.

CQ: What advice would you give to young writers? 

BC: I would say start with what you know and move outward toward your passions and ideas or topics you want to find out more about. First write for yourself, and then, when you are ready to share your writing with others, find your people. Seek out your fellow writers and readers with whom to share your work. Find a group of folks you trust and can share your roughest drafts with, and also find the mentors whose feedback will help your writing become stronger. And don’t be afraid to write outside of the boundaries you’ve been taught or the parameters you’ve been given. Break the rules and bust the genres open. 

CQ: What are you currently working on in your writing? 

BC: I recently completed a manuscript of poems about climate change, extinction, and the Anthropocene age. I’m now exploring those same topics in my first collection of short stories. As to poetry, I think science, ecology, and the natural world will always find their way into my work. I’m not sure exactly what’s next, but I’ve no doubt it will reveal itself to me, like bright animal eyes blinking out of the dark.

Be sure to check out both Brittney’s website and Twitter.

#ArtLitPhx: Jacqueline Woodson’s Red at the Bone

#ArtLitPhx: Jacqueline Woodson’s Red at the Bone

Changing Hands Bookstore (300 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85013 will be featuring best-selling author Jacqueline Woodson on Friday, September 30 at 7pm. Moderated by fellow poet Natalie Diaz, the event will focus on Woodson’s novel, Red at the Bone, which follows the story of 16-year-old Melody and the role of her birth and life in the history, community, and overall union of two families from different social classes. Exploring sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone examines how young people must make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Jacqueline Woodson, named Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation in 2015, is the best-selling author of more than two dozen award-winning books. Her most famous works include 2016 New York Times-bestselling National Book Award finalist for adult fiction, Another Brooklyn as well as her New York Times-best-selling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, which received the 2014 National Book Award. Woodson is also a a four-time National Book Award finalist, a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a two-time NAACP Image Award Winner, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award Winner. She lives with her family in New York.

Natalie Diaz is the author of the poetry collection When My Brother Was an Aztec. Her many honors include a MacArthur Fellowship, a USA Fellowship, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. She teaches at Arizona State University and will be publishing a new collection, Postcolonial Love Poem, in March 2020.

The event itself is free and open to the public, but you can purchase a copy of Red at the Bone and learn more about the event from the website.

#ArtLitPhx: ASU Book Group: When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz

Time: Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2019

Date: 12-1 p.m.

Location: Piper Writers House (PWH), 450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281

Cost: Free

Event Details:

The ASU Book Group’s April 2019 reading selection is When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz. The book group is open to all in the ASU community and meets monthly from noon–1 p.m. in the Piper Writers House on ASU’s Tempe campus. Authors are always present. A no-cost luncheon follows at the University Club. Attendees at each meeting will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate! Drawing to be held in April.

Synopsis:
“I write hungry sentences,” Natalie Diaz once explained in an interview, “because they want more and more lyricism and imagery to satisfy them.” This debut collection of poetry is a fast-paced tour of Mojave life and family narrative: A sister fights for or against a brother on meth, and everyone from Antigone, Houdini, Huitzilopochtli, and Jesus is invoked and invited to hash it out. These darkly humorous poems illuminate far corners of the heart, revealing teeth, tails, and more than a few dreams.

The book is available from amazon.com 

Natalie Diaz is associate professor of English in creative writing at ASU.

The ASU Book Group is sponsored as a community outreach initiative by the Department of English and organized in partnership with the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.

Download flyer: asu-book-group-18-19-flyer.pdf

Contact: Judith Smith

Email: jps@asu.edu

#ArtLitPhx: Art For Justice Reading: Natalie Diaz

artlitphx

Date: THURSDAY, APRIL 4, 2019
Time: 7:00PM
Location: University of Arizona: Poetry Center, 1508 E Helen St, Tucson, AZ 85719

Event Details:
We are proud to present Natalie Diaz, who will read from her work commissioned for the Poetry Center’s Art for Justice grant.  After the reading, there will be a short Q&A and a book signing.

The University of Arizona Poetry Center’s Art for Justice grant funds a three-year project that will commission new work from leading writers in conversation with the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States, with the goal of creating new awareness and empathy through presentation and publication.  In particular, through the work of leading poets, the project will seek to confront racial inequities within the criminal justice system to promote social justice and change.  Learn more about the project.

About the Author:
Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press. She is a MacArthur Fellow, a Lannan Literary Fellow, and a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow. She was awarded a Bread Loaf Fellowship, the Holmes National Poetry Prize, a Hodder Fellowship, and a PEN/Civitella Ranieri Foundation Residency, as well as being awarded a US Artists Ford Fellowship. Diaz is the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University.

#ArtLitPhx: Borderlands Poetry

 

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Event Description:

Natalie Diaz and [archi]TEXTS present Borderlands Poetry: A Reading and Conversation with Eduardo C. Corral benefitting No More Deaths/No Más Muertes

Date(s): Monday, November 19, 2018, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Location: Pima Auditorium, Memorial Union, Arizona State University, 301 E. Orange St., Tempe, AZ 85281
Type(s): Conversation, Discussion, Lecture, Reading
Genre and Form(s): Multi-genre, Poetry
Cost: Free; Suggested donation to No Más Muertes

Live streaming will be available at the date and time listed at https://asunow.asu.edu/asulive

To make a donation to No Más Muertes, visit https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/nomoredeaths?code=asu

To learn more and RSVP, visit http://piper.asu.edu/classes/eduardo-c-corral/borderlands-poetry

About the Conversation
What are the physical and metaphysical conditions of borders and borderlands? How do borders span the imaginary, emotional, and physical landscapes of the human condition? Join a conversation and reading with poet and educator, Eduardo Corral, exploring the imaginative, bodily, societal, political, emotional, physical, and linguistic impacts of borders to us as human beings, our connections, and our artistic bodies of work.

Fundraising for No Más Muertes
This conversation benefits No Más Muertes (No More Deaths), a humanitarian organization based in southern Arizona dedicated to increasing efforts to stop deaths of migrants in the desert. Their mission is to “end death and suffering in the Mexico–US borderlands through civil initiative: people of conscience working openly and in community to uphold fundamental human rights” (No Más Muertes).

About Eduardo C. Corral
Eduardo C. Corral is the author of Slow Lightning, which won the 2011 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. His second book, Guillotine, will be published by Graywolf Press in 2020. He’s the recipient of Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Holmes National Poetry Prize and the Hodder Fellowship, both from Princeton University. He teaches in the MFA program at North Carolina State University.

Presented by [archi]TEXTS and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU

Original photo credits: Sonoran desert by No Más Muertes; Eduardo C. Corral by Matt Valentine.

#ArtLitPhx: Poetry Month in the Desert- Readings and Book Signings

During the month of April, National Poetry Month, Mesa Community College will host, in partnership with Arizona Humanities, two poetry readings in the Elsner Library, Room 300, at Mesa Community College (1833 W Southern Ave, Mesa, AZ 85202). The readings will be Thursdays, April 5 and 19, 2018, at 7:00 pm, followed by a Q&A and book signing. Both events are open to Mesa Community College faculty, staff, and students, and the general public. Refreshments will be provided and books will be available for purchase.

Thursday, April 5, 2018 —  Eloisa Amezcua and Natalie Diaz

Eloisa Amezcua, MacDowell fellow and author of From the Inside Quietly, winner of the inaugural Shelterbelt Poetry Prize.

Natalie Diaz, Lannan Literary Fellow, Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow, and author of When My Brother Was an Aztec.

 

Thursday, April 19, 2018 — Bojan Louis and Felicia Zamora

Bojan Louis, Poetry Editor for RED INK: An International Journal of Indigenous Literature, Arts, & Humanities and author of Currents.

Felicia Zamora, 2017 Poet Laureate for Fort Collins, CO and author of Of Form & Gather, winner of the 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize.

For more information, please contact Josh Rathkamp (480-461-7560) or Ernesto L. Abeytia (602-615-5893).

 

#ArtLitPhx: Crossfade Lab with Carla Morrison and Natalie Diaz

Crossfade Lab

The CALA Alliance will be hosting the fifth edition of Crossfade Lab on Friday, October 27 from 7pm to 9pm. The event will take place at the Crescent Ballroom (308 N 2nd Ave, Phoenix, Arizona 85003), and doors will open at 6:30pm.

This edition of Crossfade Lab features a conversation between acclaimed Arizona Mojave poet Natalie Diaz and two time Latin Grammy award-winning Mexican songwriter and musician (and former Phoenix local) Carla Morrison. Josh Kun, the CALA Crossfade Lab co-curator and 2016 MacArthur Fellow, will moderate the evening’s discussion. The CALA Alliance teases that the night will involve “an experimental mix of words and music, exploring the connections between themes central to both Diaz and Morrison: desire and love, land and family, and traditions that bend, bear witness, and sometimes break.”

Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased here. The event is 21 and over. For more information, check out the Facebook event page.

Guest Post, David Kirby: Discussion of AWP Panel “The Poem You’ll Write Tomorrow: How to Teach Vision”

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Fun With Hypomania

This year I’m on an AWP panel called “The Poem You’ll Write Tomorrow: How to Teach Vision.” Now I can’t tell you what that poem is, so let me talk for a minute about the you who is going to write that poem. My topic is the mind of the poet, but I’m really taking about the mind of anyone who wants to be original and creative. The mind of the physicist and the chef and the cinematographer are all one mind. You have the same mind they do; it just happens that you  write poems.

At my university, I belong to a group called the Lawton Professors. These women and men are from every field possible: chemistry, psychology oceanography, computer science. I’m the only poet, though there is one dancer. When I look at the Lawton professors as a group, my hypothesis is that they all share a condition called hypomania. As the name suggests, it’s a low form of mania. And it stays there; it never sinks into depression, nor does it soar into the kind of enthusiasm that gets you into trouble.

If you google “hypomania,” you’ll see a list of characteristics, my favorite of which is a quality called “confident curiosity.” Hypomaniacs tend to want to go around the corner and see what’s going on there, convinced that something good will turn up, that they’ll meet people who like them and will be helpful and so on. So a manic person on an airplane will start proposing to flight attendants; a hypomanic one will just sip his tomato juice and think, “Nice plane! If something happened to the pilot, bet I could fly it!”

There’s a recent book called The Hypomanic Edge by John Gartner, a professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who says that, for better or worse, American energies are hypomanic; the original European settlers had to have confident curiosity to sail across the Atlantic in leaky wooden boats, and every day people come to this country who are confident that they can make a better world for themselves.

Now let me see if I can relate all this to the world of poetry while keeping it scientific. John Keats trained as a surgeon-apothecary, which means that, if he hadn’t died at the age of 25, he would have been a sort of nurse-practitioner, possibly in a small town that had no doctor. One of his teachers was the surgeon Sir Astley Cooper; there’s a procedure involving the ligation of the external iliac artery that is named after him and that any surgeon will tell you about if you ask him is he’s ever heard of Sir Astley.

Sir Astley Cooper said a surgeon needed three things: the eye of an eagle, the hand of a lady, and the heart of a lion. When I read that, I thought, the man’s right: that’s exactly what every surgeon needs. And then about five minutes later, I said, Wait: in what profession do you not need the eye of an eagle, the hand of a lady, and the heart of a lion? Without using the term “hypomania,” Sir Astley Cooper was describing that condition centuries before it was given a name

So at the AWP panel on vision, I’ll be talking about what you can do to be more of a hypomaniac than you are already. I’ll be using lots of examples: poems, of course, but memoirs, fiction, biography, even sculpture. And I’ll be fast. I’m on the panel with three brilliant women–Traci Brimhall, Natalie Diaz, and Erika Meitner– so what I really want to do is say my piece quickly and then listen to them.

Event Title: The Poem You’ll Write Tomorrow: How to Teach Vision

Scheduled Day: Friday, 4/1/2016

Scheduled Time: 4:30 PM – 5:45 PM

Scheduled Room: Room 501, L.A. Convention Center, Meeting Room Level