Friday, March 15, 2024

fragments and voice


Every once in a while I will read a poem I like in a journal or online and it is such a tidy little knot of a poem, all of its Ps and Qs in place, Ts crossed and Is dotted. It's like a thimble full of honey. It exists in a vacuum of space around it, and somehow addresses some big question or thematic issue. While I am not a Mary Oliver fan, her poems were often like this. Observation----> Conclusion.

I do not write those poems. Maybe I did, once upon a time. There are certainly poems in THE FEVER ALMANAC like this, maybe even in IN THE BIRD MUSEUM. But in the mid-2000s my writing became much more fragmented. This coincidentally was around the time I started working in collage, which is all about fragmentation. I cannot help but think these two things are related. 

There is rarely a single voice, even though sometimes it's me, or sometimes a persona. More often it may be a series of voices, a fragmented conversation coming from another room. This is probably why I feel most comfortable writing in series, since as a whole, they make sense (sometimes) in a way that I would never be able to achieve in a single poem. I was excited when years ago, I learned there was a word for--polyvocality. Even when it's a singular subject or voice, that voice is often fractured or fragmented in a way that works similarly. I felt this when writing GRANATA, which was why the p-o-v changed so many times throughout the project. Similarly, when I was working on PELT and could not decide who was telling the story--Antoinetta or Lavinia. The dog girl or the portraitist. In the end, it wound up being both.

I remember reading an essay once on poetic voice and fracturing of self that resonated with me. That the human voice is fractured no matter what. That all points of view are subject to error and fragmentation. Sort of like Picasso trying to present all points of reference in a painting. This may be why I am always reluctant to overly use "I" in poems, since really, I am a collection of fractured thoughts and impressions, just as much as a piece of art or writing is. 

My poem series always feel like an approach at something. From all sides and angles. A whole delivered in fragments and shards. It's something I've been thinking a lot about with the GHOST BOX project, which is set to include written fragments and visual work, both regular collage and AI generated images like the one above, all of which work together to create a world and a story.

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