**************************eyes, the enigmatic
Whereas “One Ring” is a straightforward, true-life memory-image—complete with nostalgia for more primitive, grounded, yet also coded communication, but additionally, I guess, suggestive of anxiety and silence—“At the Sackler…” is one of those hybrided poems, at least in terms of process, an overlongtime result of three compositional methods: almost untouched source text, riffing off another quote, then an internalized blot-out technique applied to that riffing.
Here’s what I mean: years ago, when my wife and I lived in Arlington, VA, one of our favorite places was (still is) the Sackler Gallery. The language from section 1 comes from two placards at that gallery, language that just struck me and I jotted down. I think from “Notice the blue hair” to “and the head” was all directly from a single placard, and the rest of section 1 was from another placard; or perhaps it was all two separate bits from a single placard. Either way, I didn’t do much of anything to the language except shape it into lines, spaces, stanzas—and it went through at least half a dozen page arrangements. In fact, it used to be its own little enigmatic scrub of a poem for years until I realized—probably from reading Arthur Sze and Eric Pankey’s Reliquaries—that if it was gonna amount to much more, it needed an other-voiced partner to counter its pretty-purely “found” self and its gently imperative gallery tone.
So second section. Used to be the third section of another poem, with each section riffing off a different Heraclitus line. As happens often for me, it took me years to get tired of the old poem and salvage the third section to match with the Sackler bit, but even the old third section wasn’t quite doing it for me; the riffing needed checking, so I stripped out a word here, two there, until I had a lyric I thought was both fused and fragmented.
On a purely autobiographical note that is not evident in the poem, I’m often reminded of the grief and healing some of the important women in my life have suffered, the landscape of Virginia Beach where I grew up, a certain kind of struggle towards introspection and identification, finally resting in the odd little colloquialism that is the last line’s compliment.
On an explicitly feminist/scholarly/political note, my educational research has led me to Virginia Eubanks. Although I can’t articulate how her work has informed my poetry, it is very important to my teaching and research interests, and I highly recommend her article “Double-Bound: Putting the Power Back into Participatory Research.” I think back to my five years as a writer-in-residence for middle schools with DC WritersCorps & the DC Creative Writing Workshop, and ahead to my dissertation in the doctoral program in Curriculum & Instruction at SUNY Albany. I hope that in the near future, my research work is less an act of objectification—however inadvertent it may often be in academic research—and one of collaboration.