Saturday, April 07, 2018

on HONEY MACHINE


This week, I've finally gotten a handle on the assembly of HONEY MACHINE : The Plath Centos.  You can pick up  your very own copy in the shop (or subscribe to the books & objects series to get that and much more.)  They've turned out to be beautiful little books and the collages reproduced really nice.  The acknowledgements include the line "And to Sylvia, for whom all of this should have worked out better."

In the summer of 2016, I was trying to come up with a textual component to accompany some of the floral work I was doing visually. and started thinking about the references and floral themes in Plath, particularly Ariel.  I gave assembling a couple centos a try--not a form I usually work with, though t'm surprised it took me this long to come to it given my collage tendencies otherwise..  A few years back, someone in a friends class had written and published a cento of my own work and it was weird how it sounded very much like a poem I'd written and yet, sorta not. But I dug it.

What was what was happening with these Plath pieces, while the floral obsession launched the project, was that the pieces I were getting actually came to have a very different tenor and tone, becoming their own creature--a beast laden with more domestic concerns about the repetition and roteness of housework and being a "wife". It felt very right, considering that  Plath was very much concerned with these things--the daily vs the ecstatic. How a being with a need to create can become laden with the expectations imposed on 1950's women, and perhaps even now, where women still shoulder most of the household labor. 

As I assembled more and more (and I say assembling, more than writing since the words were entirely hers and not so much mine.) there was this washing machine effect--like the red sock in a load of whites that you keep seeing, but almost as if that red sock will eventually ruin everything else in the dryer.  Snippets, obsessions kept reappearing as the speaker (Plath and not Plath) tried to reconcile love and romance with the drudgery of what those things become in the domestic sphere. 

By the end, I had probably around 50 pieces.  I started sending them off individually.  I sent off the full manuscript. People either seemed to love them (as many yesses from journals indicated) or hate them.  I realized after the full-mss was rejected that perhaps there was too much fat.  Too much of a good thing, so I trimmed it down--took out every piece that wasn't pulling its own weight.  Recombined other things into other things, and emerged with a tighter group of poems.  By then. I had started a series of collages using vintage advertisements that somehow seemed to complement the pieces and began to think they might make a nice little zine together.  Once I decided they were part of the same project, the poems started to influence the collages--particularly this one and the one above, which I decided to use as cover art. 

Last spring, during our FOUND reading at the library, I decided to trot them out for gallop and it was really weird reading them aloud.  It's basically someone else's words in your mouth, and even though you built the construction, the cadences and syntax seem unusually foreign. It was an altogether different experience, however, than simply reading someone else's poem, since I had had a hand in making these what they were. 

What resulted though, was a sort of love-letter to Plath (similar to how I always viewd at the hotel andromeda as a love letter to Cornell.) So hopefully I've managed to do her justice. 


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