Tuesday, June 16, 2020

poems and ghosts


So say I was once a five year old who loved to scribble lines in notebooks and pretend they were stories.  Say I was 14 when I wrote a poem about flamingos for my frehshman english class and the teacher liked it enough to show it to the others as an example.   Say I was always in love with books--library young adult offerings, horror novels passed off from aunt. I was the middle schooler who was determined to be the next Stephen King or VC Andrews, only more feminist.  The teenager who filled her diary with bad, bad poems about the beach. Writing was something I was good at, so I did more of it. Stories, poems, high school newspa
per editorials about saving the dolphins.  By the time I landed at college on the coasts with an intent to be a marine scientist, I was already lost to books. To words.  To other depths than the Atlantic.

I returned to the midwest to study English and Theatre.  Banged out skinny poems on an electric typewriter and saved my money for all those SASE's. During college summers, you'd find me seated at the dining room table of my parent's house with a box of writing mags, poems drafts, and envelopes.  By the time I was in grad school studying literature and intending to teach English, I was writing enough to feel like I might be able to do this. Be a writer. And I was getting better each year.  By the early 2000's I'd found a job in a college library, and spent the rest of the time writing and publishing in online journals and things sort of arced from there, through chapbook and book manuscripts, readings, awards, getting my MFA. 

But these seem less like inspirations than circumstances.  My young writer self was inspired by all that horror and gothicism and sought to reproduce it.  .  I was 14 when I encountered Edgar Allen Poe for the first time. Was 17 when I found Plath. Somewhere between these two a match was struck. At the Field Museum in the fall, an audience member inquired whether I thought myself a nature poet, but maybe I am as much as any girl who spent her life growing up in the boonies of both Illinois and Wisconsin, but who was in love with the sea.Who wanted to be a scientist to study those depths. As an artist, I fall again and again to landscapes and botanicals.  Though I am probably more in debt to the supernatural than I am the natural. I feel, as I've been working on 
dark country, that this is at the forefront, but it's been there all along through the other books I've written.  Even sex & violence has it's ghosts--my own past relationships, Plath herself, Dali's little blue dog. 

And in many ways the writing is a sort of exorcism of ghosts, of stories, of the past dusted off and made shiny and new. I've been thinking of this as I look at the newest completed manuscript, feed, and how it was a writing out, a bloodletting in the year after I lost my mom. There are so many ghosts there, literal and just my own metaphoricals.  Or maybe less an exorcism and more of a seance--a speaking to and with the dead, either others or the self you left behind at various points of travel. 

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