Sunday, April 23, 2023

self-elegies and imaginary daughters

A few years back, the awesome Kara Dorris asked me to contribute to a project that did not yet have a publisher but that she was compiling on self elegies.  This month that bit of beautifulness dropped into my mailroom as Writing the Self-Elegy The Past is Not Disappearing Ink published by SIU Press and fostering all sorts of goodness therein from a huge bevy of writers that are familiar and unfamiliar to me.

The past half-decade has been a strange dream of stretchy time, so it was hard to remember when I sent these (luckily, my little process note that proceeds a writing prompt that relates to my poems notes that it must have been early to mid-2018) The poems are two pieces from the science of impossible objects, aka the imaginary daughter poems, I had written earlier that year. I think the topic of the anthology was definitely in line with my feelings in 2018, the year after losing my mother, and the period in which that series, and the greater span of poems that became the longer collection FEED took root. Which is to say, I was searching in poems a lot that year and grappling with grief and loneliness much more acutely. Losing my father this past fall was rough, but not quite as decentering as that initial loss (or at least I tell myself this, though sometimes not sure if it's true.)

As a child-free person, I both feared and was at the same time curious about alternative lives, the sum of the life of my mother, the sort of things you lose from your own childhood when a parent is gone. This is especially true in my fully orphaned state, where I will think of something and realize that there is no one who knows the answer to a question.  No one shares certain early memories and information--barring my sister, but she's younger and therefore less reliable. I have a couple of aunts left on either side, ample cousins, a friend of my mother. But if they do not remember things, who besides me does? Who will when they are gone? When I am? I supposed the great thing about being a writer is that, well, everyone will.  Here in this blog, in our books, in our poems. In the stories we tell. I would have been a terrible mother--impatient and probably resentful of the time suck of raising children-- as well as I was at least. I don't have a nurturing bone in my body. But sometimes I wonder what turn things would have taken under other circumstances and conditions. Definitely not regrets (enough harried stressed mommy instagram reels and I am wondering how and why anyone has children ever. I mean, EVER.)   

These poems probably came from these feelings, which are deeper, but also just a hilarious interest board where a woman bougie-ly outfitted an imaginary child in baby Ralph Lauren and beige Montessori toys. They're some of my favorite poems (though, like children, I say that about all my poems.)

You can get a copy of the anthology from SIU Press here...