While Writing The Echo of Something Hitting

I was waking up at 4:30 a.m., cursing my alarm clock. Awake before dawn, cold, sick/hungover, I’d trudge to the bus stop with frost crunching beneath my boots to get to work. It was an hour long bus ride if the traffic was good. I used that time on the bus to read and write poetry. I earned my MFA, start to finish, on that bus. Crossing the lines, riding over the river, circling the familiar pathways.

But before the bus was the dead kitten. My anchor.

See, while I was thinking about my graduating thesis, my “masterwork” of poems I was walking to the bus stop. A rooster crowed. There was fog, there was sleet, there was ice and the wet cold soaked into my marrow. My bag was too heavy with books and not heavy enough with food. I didn’t have enough alcohol/I had too much.

There was this image in my head of this ghost-woman under the foggy streetlight but that wasn’t reality. She was orange and I thought she was my speaker, the thread that would connect everything in my collection, but she wasn’t. I don’t know where she’s gone now. Maybe she wasn’t real to begin with.

I know she wasn’t real because the poems didn’t feel real. They weren’t working. I was stuck.

And then I was walking to the bus stop and there, in the grey concrete gutter at the edge of the dark, early morning road, was the dead kitten. Nothing ate it and its body was frozen. I walked by that little broken body for a MONTH and watched it get flatter and flatter, the fur and skin seemed to be dissolving into the road, the bones were sinking, slowly, into the concrete.

It was like the road was eating the body since none of the carrion feeders would touch it. It was too cold for the insects. Most insects.

And that made me think about borders and barriers and bodies dying on the road. Animal bodies, human bodies. There are borders between countries, borders between places within countries, borders between roads and rivers, roads and houses, roads and bodies.

I began to explore those places.

And then in the spring a flash flood killed my car. My most loyal, bestest friend in the world. We’d been on so many adventures together and I cried when I had to turn him (yes, him) in to the dealership. More debt, more stress. More mistakes made with the man who is now my ex-husband. I wrote the Echo of Something Hitting because I needed to tell myself specific things about the way I was living that I could not see. Rather, my sub-conscious/my reptilian brain needed to tell me. Go look back at your old poems and see if there’s something you might have realized sooner than you thought.

I began to explore those places too. The flood and transformation. Transformation from catastrophe. (As far as catastrophes go it was a small one but the water sloshing over my boots and then the firemen pushing my car out of the road, all of them wearing grey shirts and water up to their thighs, frolicking in the water like otters. Sadly, I couldn’t figure out how to put them into the book. If any of you are reading this now, all these years later, thank you.)

There’s lots of bird imagery, lots of water imagery, lots of grey. The kitten was grey.

(I tell people my favorite color is green but I think, secretly, it is grey. Grey and the weird pink/periwinkle/grey of some ballet slippers. Is it okay to have more than one favorite color? I don’t mean to imply in any way that green is inferior. I really like green.)

I’m running out of things to say about the book. It began as a collection of poems but as I wrote about the kitten and the road and the river the borders of the poems dissolved and it became what I like to think of as a “lyric essay.”

I got my degree in Cross-Genre and Hybrid Poetry. Hybrid is where prose and lines blend and mutate like sick proteins but they’re not sick. Things unfold and knot up. Things flow freely but they also flicker and disappear. Think deep sea fish and you’re good. The Cross-Genre is not merging “romance” and “fantasy.” Where I went to school, genres were prose and poetics. Genres were how you actually wrote, not what you wrote about.

So a lyric essay, to me, is formatted like an epic poem but has zero meter, too many long pauses, random chunks of prose that float like globules of crude oil in the ocean–they’re soft, not like plastic–

Here’s an article from the Los Angeles Review of Books about lyric essays…and how they can be…banal…(awesome selling point).

The Writer’s Alliance of Gainesville says, “Writing the lyric essay offers the author a frolic in the pool of memoir, biography, poetry and personal essay mixed with a sprinkling of experimental.

What is interesting?

What is over-the-top batshit crazy?

What is self-important pontification?

Maybe it’s all those things. But I feel that poetry is WAY more than just verse and form. Poetry is more than lines and stanzas, more than meter, rhyme, and syllable counts. I guess you could say that lyric essay is the ultimate free verse but free verse is already free verse so…I’m rambling now. I should end this post.

I wanted to say all that because I want to get back into poetry. I want to start working on another poetry collection, one that’s been hanging out in my head since 2007, like dust piling up in the corners.

You can find The Echo of Something Hitting for free download on iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and several other places that give good homes to free ebooks.

The Echo of Something Hitting is a hybrid, cross-genre, lyric essay that explores the transformative journey from disaster into survival; an imagined life after death. Becoming something new within the language of roads, rivers, and storms, the text decomposes and reforms to escape the boundaries of words.

Fans of Catherynne M. Valente’s The Labyrinth and Bhanu Kapil’s Incubation: A Space for Monsters will enjoy this handful of words.

*

Photo by Imthaz Ahamed on Unsplash

What I Read in Grad School

Matsuo Basho: Narrow Road to the Interior, Sam Hamill translation, 1991

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge: I Love Artists: New and Selected Poems, 2006

Frank Bidart: In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90, 1990

Elizabeth Bishop: The Complete Poems, 1969

Jenny Boully: THE BODY: AN ESSAY, 2007

Jenny Boully: [one love affair], 2006

Ana Božičević: Stars of the Night Commute, 2009

Rebecca Brown: Excerpts from a Family Medical Dictionary, 2005

Melissa Buzzeo: What Began Us, 2007

Anne Carson: Autobiography of Red, 1998

C. P. Calvary: The Collected Poems of C. P. Calvary: A New Translation, Aliki Barnstone translation, 2006

Paul Celan: Poems of Paul Celan, Michael Hamburger translation, 1989

Emily Dickinson: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, 1993

Dolores Dorantes: sexoPUROsexoVELOZ and Septiembre, Jen Hofer translation, 2008

C. S. Giscombe: Giscome Road, 1998

Renee Gladman: Juice, 2000

Marilyn Hacker: Winter Numbers, 1994

Kimiko Hahn: The Narrow Road to the Interior, 2006

Christian Hawkey: Ventrakl, 2010

Langston Hughes: Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, 1990

Richard Hugo: The Triggering Town, 1979

Bhanu Kapil: Humanimal: A Project for Future Children, 2009

Bhanu Kapil: Schizophrene, 2011

Carole Maso: Break Every Rule: Essays on Language, Longing & Moments of Desire, 2000

Eugenio Montale: Mottetti: Poems of Love, Dana Gioia translation, 1990

Pablo Neruda: Odes to Common Things, Ken Krabbenhoft translation, 1994

Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories, 1971

Frank O’Hara: Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara, edited by Donald Allen, 1974

Jena Osman: The Network, 2010

Sylvia Plath: The Collected Poems, edited by Ted Hughes, 1981

Claudia Rankine: Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, 2004

Arthur Rimbaud: A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat, Louise Varese translation, 1945

Muriel Rukeyser: Muriel Rukeyser: Selected Poems, edited by Adrienne Rich, 2004

Sappho: Sappho: A Garland, The Poems and Fragments of Sappho, Jim Powell translation, 1993

Selah Saterstrom: The Meat and Spirit Plan, 2007

Juliana Spahr: This Connection of Everyone With Lungs, 2005

Juliana Spahr: The Transformation, 2007

Jane Sprague: The Port of Los Angeles, 2009

Gertrude Stein: Reflections on the Atomic Bomb, 1973

Wislawa Szymborska: View With a Grain of Sand, Stanislaw Baranczak and CLare Cavanagh translation, 1995

Tomas Tranströmer: the great enigma, Robin Fulton translation, 2006

Marina Tsvetayeva: Selected Poems of Marina Tsvetayeva, Elaine Feinstein translation, 1987

James Wright: Collected Poems, 1971

C. D. Wright: One With Others: a little book of her days, 2010

Movies:

All About My Mother: Pedro Almodóvar, 1999

*

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash