Showing posts from November, 2013

Sadiqa de Meijer: YES

Sadiqa de Meijer Yes, I said. The wind lifted the word and blew it through the birches into smaller yeses that dispersed. Hitched bicycle ride, my hands on your waist, soles skimming the road in the bends. What we wore will be one of those tellings that even a latent, erasing disease never steals. In tune like a robin and robin, a doorbell and creak of the stairs. Say love is the ship coming in. Say the grave eyes of the birch trees watched us go. How long had we stood on the pier? Gulls squalled. We’d outgrown what we packed. Read my interview with Sadiqa de Meijer here

In Conversation with Sadiqa de Meijer

Sadiqa de Meijer's having a busy year. She took a break to talk with me about goosebumps and awe as the sky got darker, earlier. SUSAN GILLIS: How did you come to poetry in the first place? SADIQA DE MEIJER: It’s been with me from the near-beginning – in children’s books, and also in the occasional verses that my grandfather wrote for birthdays and other celebrations. He encouraged me to contribute: it didn’t have the feeling of an art so much as a game, like chess or something – you had to try for consistent meter, clever rhymes, puns. It gave me a start in exercising those kinds of skills. Poems really got to me – they seemed to hold such concentrated power. When they were read out loud in high school, I always had a weird suspicion that they affected me far beyond what was typical – goosebumps and awe. Writing-wise, there was the predictable next stage: poems of adolescent melodrama. And when that resolved, I continued writing, and reading. It’s probably the lat

In Conversation with Phil Hall

 Phil Hall. Portrait by geffo I would love to be a fly on Phil Hall's desk. A fly with ears.  I think Phil's desk is a swatter-free zone. A deeply generous zone. Here he is, on raw decorum and other songs.   SUSAN GILLIS: What brought you to poetry in the first place? PHIL HALL: I was desperate for order. Shelter. I built hidden forts everywhere. I needed—and still do—a musical place to keep my only and tiny authority.   A musical need —the jarring, discordant, random ugliness of childhood would not let up. Only— powerlessness can be underwear the dead wore first. But— only screwed-up me made this / using the little I know. Tiny— inside the making of poems, the authority I find has to be easy to hide—it has to eat its flourishes, or risk the crime of showing-off— I wasn’t doing anything, just humming to myself, plotting transformation… Outsider artists know something that is glaringly obvious—something that we educated types deny in favour of crit

Phil Hall: A New Poem

Phil Hall from Lake’s End   Early      can still catch      out      writing at its oldest posture to set down care alone      & quiet matters      personal defiant fleet   to dare from self-loathing      the eternal      & then erase it I want little more      have always wanted       the littles      more        now than      another morning to say      what’s been said      already another morning      to waste      figuring out       uselessly      how to   stick in somewhere here      screws for dragon-fly lights      (a note I found)      I want this in my poem      is all      & ruin at bay      for my loved ones Read my interview with Phil Hall here

In Conversation with Katia Grubisic

photo by J. Parr A few weeks ago I caught up with Katia Grubisic over a beverage at one of our favorite drinkeries. We talked between bites of extravagantly delicious cheese and bread. SUSAN GILLIS: How did you first come to poetry? KATIA GRUBISIC: I only heard this story a few years ago, long after my apparent début. Apparently, when I was about three, I marched into the living room, planted myself there and declaimed “La nuit est noire. La nuit / est noire.” The line break is my father’s recollection, or addition. Observed detail with figurative implications, the undermining and expanding of repetition…. Ta-dah! I could very well have become a Duke of Hazzard, and now be recounting the family lore in which Katia refused to get in or out of the car except through the window. But I’ve had that little, inexplicable poetry elf whispering in my ear for as long as I can remember: lines, ways of looking at the world. I also recall that first awareness that there exist


Katia Grubisic PARADISE , DAM, NORTH SHORE It prods with its beak the heaving flanks, lets the fish wait for death. The heron too waits. Its feet wrap the rock like gnarled lichen and its breath rises and ends someplace deep and slow. Desire is a vertiginous warmth spread slowly; has it really to do with hunger? I trace circles on the shale, my scratch in this ordinary riparian melodrama: the dammed river, the rapids’ patient frenzy, the black-capped night herons lined up on the shore, poised, eager and pathetic but the one who gets it is the great grey-blue, who dips in and spears the carp, forces the skin apart, slits it like a mouth before swallowing it whole. There is no forethought to concupiscence. We are thinking of paradise, which is not thinking at all. We like the enfolding conflagration, we like swallowing it whole. Later I will barely recall that moment’s mindless hunt as I push against my lover, not telling of t

So Many Someones: Wislawa Szymborska's The End and the Beginning

The Last Post, the moment of silence (smell of Dustbane in the school auditorium, soft breathing nearby, a throat cleared, stiff rustle of wool sleeves, the gym floor creaking lightly), the act of remembrance. "In Flanders Fields" again instead of Wilfred Owen . A felt poppy on a collar. The rows of shining medals, the poppy as badge,  ceremonies that celebrate it all, glorification of war as itself, as enterprise. I can’t decide if this poem by Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska makes me want to wear a poppy (“But already there are those nearby/starting to mill about/ who will find it dull”) or not wear a poppy (“Those who knew /what was going on here /must make way for/ those who know little”).  It's recognizable Szymborska: the typical direct-seeming understatement underpinned by sharp images, at moments brutal in their straightforwardness. I find it heavier-handed than many of her poems. The wagons, the scum, the unsevered head; the dr


Wisława Szymborska, translated by Joanna Trzeciak  After every war someone has to clean up. Things won’t straighten themselves up, after all. Someone has to push the rubble to the side of the road, so the corpse-filled wagons can pass. Someone has to get mired in scum and ashes, sofa springs, splintered glass, and bloody rags. Someone has to drag in a girder to prop up a wall. Someone has to glaze a window, rehang a door. Photogenic it’s not, and takes years. All the cameras have left for another war. We’ll need the bridges back, and new railway stations. Sleeves will go ragged from rolling them up. Someone, broom in hand, still recalls the way it was. Someone else listens and nods with unsevered head. But already there are those nearby starting to mill about who will find it dull.


Franz Wright DEPICTION OF CHILDHOOD after Picasso It is the little girl guiding the minotaur with her free hand-- that devourer and all the terror he's accustomed to effortlessly emanating, his ability to paralyze merely by becoming present, entranced somehow, and transformed into a bewildered and who knows, grateful gentleness... and with the other hand lifting her lamp.


Courtesy of RGBStock Images Did it just start raining, or did I just start seeing it? Morning, early, and I'm at my study window, thinking about the way parts of a poem come forward as I read or listen, while other parts recede. When I was very young my father took me to an exhibition of giant images projected on a screen that broke into huge moving blocks, sliding forward and back silently, a precursor of 3D pixelation, of holography, that terrified me. The world was breaking up before my eyes! It was a terror that fascinated me. I have little memory of the images themselves. Was there a story? I don't recall; it was a pastiche, full of unpredictable life and movement. Diapolyecran, Czechoslovakia Pavilion, Expo 67 In poems, the advance-and-recede effect creates a quality I want to handle. Not texture, but pliability. Pattern that isn't decoration. Pattern that is its own structure. In "Depiction of Childhood, " Franz Wright guides u