My work dramatizes the very gender-inflected struggle of claiming a voice. It speaks of that struggle with forked tongue, using irony, punning, allusion, ambiguity, and double entendre as strate-
for opening up treasures in words beyond the manifest meanings that lie on the surface (because they lie on the surface).
I like to lean on the archeology of words, which exposes infraverbal, etymological residues that can be unearthed and put back into use. [Meddle English by Caroline Bergvall uses such verbal archeology.]
In a poetic line, words (like Trojan horses) yield unexpected resonances: what’s concealed in the unconscious of each word whickers to the unconscious of the others. Like the Jungian I am, I enjoy amplifying those sotto voce conversations among words. Sometimes their talk sounds like Babel-babble, but it’s always revealing.
When I use gender as a trope for the struggle between silence and utterance, it isn’t necessarily literal. But I always pose the question: do I have the right to write? And because I pose that question, what I’m also asking is: do I write right?
There! The phrase “right to write” drops something beautiful in my lap, because the issues of voice, permission, and proximity are right there in it. Can I claim my right to work English in a way that pleases me?
My skewed, homophonic version of Matthew 7:7 pleases me, because it both plays with and critiques the source text:
Her Golden Rule
Mask, and ye shall receive.
Sequin, ye shall find;
Knockout, the door will be
Opened into you.
I love rendering [pun intended] the multiplicity of words, in words.
I love exploiting English’s inherent ambiguities and redundancies to celebrate them. Homonyms, puns, double entendres, overdetermined line breaks, and variant spellings build up the musical richness and intellectual complexity I want my poetry to bear and bare.
James Merrill called the Oxford English Dictionary “the unconscious of the language,” so that’s the word-bank I go to, to “make the unconscious conscious.” For writing poetry is (also) work of the psyche. Here’s where my training in psychology and my writing dovetail.
Sometimes I play with language using verbal fission:
Be e c om e to me no w;
Be a ll u red, yo u
Be au ti ful hone y
Ma ch in e of be e in g.
(from “Final e”)
And sometimes I use verbal fusion:
We thought our LemonDropMantle
would never dissolve,
on our tongues, SweetJesus!—
like a BitterSweet pickle,
Sometimes I try to bamboozle syntax by letting trickster words mean everything at once, like waving while drowning (c.f., Stevie Smith). I court ambiguity on purpose, preferring polysemy to simplicity (i.e., the simplistic).
I dislike “accessibility” even more. Porn is accessible.
I like the richness ambiguity affords, even if it can be dis-
Abandoned ship, disembark I you sovereign
Cargo. Chaste-ravished I your utter Subject.
(from “Holy Child Sonnet”)
I write the poems the way I do in part because, as Linda Kunhardt said recently in Poetry magazine, it entertains me to do so! But it is serious entertainment.
I like giving a poem a textual tic which hawks a thematic shtick. I really like it when I can get a poem to read two (even if conflicting) ways at the same time:
Dear P|earls before s|wine.
(from “Be-hold, Be-head”)
I like that dizzying kind of sense-making because, in truth, aren’t we all polymorphically perverse, hemispherically bilateral multi-taskers? Why pretend, especially in poetry (that “condensery”), that we’re not?
(Excerpted from the One Alternate Workday blog: http://onealternateworkday.blogspot.com/)