Zwart, Wellman, Rivard, et. al.

Zwart, Wellman, Rivard, et. al.
September 24, 2022 Plume
Jane Zwart on “Half the Time”:

This poem owes its existence partly to Amit Majmudar, who invited me into a collaborative experiment called “mirror writing.” I have found the simple process magic. Amit and I take turns sending one another titles over email. For every new title, each of us improvises, solo, a poem to suit the title, sending it back to the other person within 24 hours. Neither of us is permitted to read the other person’s poem for a given title until our own is done. “Half the Time” comes from our first and longest volley (of thirty titles).

Given the space defined by the title “Half the Time,” I began thinking about the shiftiness of time, about our perceptions of how much time different phenomena take up, about what happens in a blur and what happens in slow motion. I remembered what a psychologist friend had once told me about the brain in the midst of crisis: it does a more frantic kind of sensory record-keeping, which is why time seems to slow. I saw a maple leaf doing leisurely flips on its way to the sidewalk. I thought about my blowing out the candles on a birthday cake and about our pretending that we can prolong childhood by photographing it.

Rereading the poem, I see it trying to do the same thing: to waylay, at least, the rush of things passing.



Will Wellman on ‘Lazarus’:

A professor of mine in graduate school had been deeply affected by the William Carlos Williams poem ‘The Term’ from which my poem takes its epigraph. She found Williams’ poem—which matter-of-factly speaks of human mortality—opening beyond itself to acknowledge something it never intended: resurrection, rebirth, renewal. I always found that hermeneutic disjunction wonderful. ‘The Term’ had had such a profound, existential impact on her and this, in turn, had a profound impact on me. I scribbled an earlier version of ‘Lazarus’ years ago trying to capture all of this but it was never quite right. Then one night, in a dream, I heard the first few lines of the poem as it is now.

David Rivard on “By Then”:

“By Then” was/is a kind of note to myself from the future. When I wrote it several years back, I was leaving the cabin I’d been staying in for most of the summer, on the Blue Hill peninsula in Maine.  I was leaving the next day.  But for some reason I can’t explain (and wouldn’t want to), I decided to write the poem in a past tense, as if I had already left.  The triple dream of time is in it now.  I was leaving more than the cabin, saying goodbye to parts of my life, people and places that I’d loved, parts of myself.  I hadn’t understood.  A space was being cleared, not unlike the meadow that the cabin sat at the edge of.  Some part of me that was living in the future wanted me to know.

DeWitt Henry on “Rabbit”:
In all seasons, I walk to a nearby gym, which is in a mall.  After a heavy snow, I discovered the rabbit, a grotesque anomaly, dangling down full length from a chain-link fence at the mall’s back gate.  It looked alive, but was stiff.  It had somehow squirmed through one of the chain-link diamonds well above ground and had nearly made it, except for its hips, back legs, and cottontail.  Its head and paws nearly touched ground and its teeth were bared.  Day after day, I greeted this eyesore, which no one could remove, at least without hacking off its hindquarters. Clearly the rabbit has been terrified and struggled with ferocity.  It defied Eberhart’s groundhog as a harbinger of nature.  It defied sentimentality and logic.  I thought of Hemingway’s epigraph to “Snows of Kilimanjaro”: “There is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard.  No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.”  My favorite surprise in writing was the metaphor of birth.
Alexis Rhone Fancher on “When My Son is Dead 14 Years”:
My only child, Joshua Dorian Rhone, died young (age 26) from a particularly deadly cancer. Now, over fifteen years since his death, my grief continues. I’ve stayed close to my son’s friends; watched them all marry, have children, careers. It’s impossible not to imagine what Joshua might have been like, what he might have achieved, if he had lived. Writing about him both honors my son and chronicles my sorrow; it’s one way he is not forgotten.

Marguerite Feitlowitz on translating Ennio Moltedo (1931-2012)

The five poems published here are taken from La Noche, a collection of 113 prose poems written during and against the Pinochet dictatorship but not published in Chile until the return of democracy in 1999. Night, my translation of the entire work, is forthcoming in November from World Poetry Books, and is the first volume by Moltedo to appear in any language besides Spanish. A revered and prize-winning “poet’s poet” in his native Chile, Moltedo was part of a close-knit circle of writers, visual artists, and architects in the linked coastal cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. He published eight collections of poems in addition to essays and extended interviews, art criticism and chronicles.

Moltedo’s small texts range from lyric to mini-drama to what the poet called “micro-fiction,” some being all three at once. The sea is ever present in his work, if not visually then in tidal rhythms; the horizon is a living force, beckoning or looming, a line of absolute clarity or a realm of hallucinatory mirage. He narrates through images; and while the images are unfailingly clear, they often challenge our usual ways of discovering or making meaning. Some of the most surreal images are actually grounded in material and political fact.

Because my Spanish has an Argentine inflection, I had to train my ear anew for Moltedo’s sonic textures, colors, and rhythms. I loved this challenge—at times it felt like confronting a new language within the Spanish that has long lived within me.

As I learned on my recent trip to Chile, Ennio Moltedo did not like to do public readings. However, he did read for and with close friends, and even shared drafts with several poets he especially esteemed. One of those poets and intimate friends was Luis Andrés Figueroa, whom I’ve asked to read the originals on the Plume website. Muchas gracias, Luis, por tu grata lectura y por tu apoyo generoso.

Julia Thacker on “Braid Him Into the Earth”:
When our father died, my brother and I and flew to Dayton from opposite coasts, and sat in a funeral director’s office selecting caskets from a catalogue. My brother pointed to the cardboard option. You know which one Dad would choose. Our father was famously thrifty. But our fingers traced steel, copper and bronze. Dad’s wishes were that his remains be transported to Harlan County, Kentucky and buried in the Thacker family plot. He had come to Ohio after World War II in the great exodus of Appalachians and found work at Chrysler with every intention of soon returning to the mountains. But he returned for good only upon death. After an Ohio service in the funeral home function room, a hearse ferried his coffin three hundred miles south where yet another service was held complete with an Army representative who mimed playing his bugle to a pre-recorded Taps. Years later, I wish we had buried my father if not in the cardboard casket, then in wicker, so that his body might be received by the rich soil and wildflowers of Appalachia. This poem, written in tercets, offers a set of alternative final instructions.
Joni Wallace on “One of a Series”:

“One of a Series” began as part of a more sustained exploration of the elegiac form. Part ekphrasis (Chopin’s lullaby was in my ear), it continued into the notional, a viewing chamber for grief. Once I could see the shape, images came together quickly, an assemblage: lake lachrymose, reflected sky, muddy depths and movements of air.  Eventually, the poem began to feel at least partially adequate, a stillchasm for grief, for beloved. As for the dragonflies, a few years ago, I looked up from my desk through an adjacent window to see a net of ruby shimmering over grass.  Disorienting, but after some moments of squinting, a low-swarm of desert firetails came into view. I had never seen this before and I have never seen it since. The poem was able to hold a space for this, too, so I could reach back and hold that moment of untethering/tethering.  Ghosts appear when you least expect them. I titled the poem as I did because having found the container, I felt sure variations would follow.  Instead, it’s a one–off.

Hoyt Rogers on “Archaeologists”:

In 2014, on the Aegean island of Astypalaia, a Greek archaeologist came across what he has called “triumphant inscriptions” from the 6thand 5th centuries BC. Accompanied by large, erotic petroglyphs, they memorialize the loves among several men, presumably soldiers keeping watch on a remote, seaside cliff. Even though carved in rock, these testimonials could not preserve the ardor they evoke, nor can memory restore the past to us in any palpable, bodily form. As Shakespeare knew so well, passions enshrined by words become no more than “trophies” inside a tomb. Poets often seem to excavate their own ancient ruins. And yet, and yet… we long to arrest our privileged moments, even as they fly from our grasp.


Griffin Brown on “Heroic Register”:

In an effort to avoid deflating the poem, I’ll keep my comments short. My room is small—that detail stems from life. Others come from… elsewhere: the page; slow, sentential improvisation. There’s sometimes a feeling of blackout after I complete a draft, which I’m sure other writers can relate to. The first began as a one-stanza poem in late winter 2022, and its current form was finalized in June (following a long time spent away from the text).

I notice a tendency toward the first-person plural in my writing. The title is partly a dig at this tendency—and the artificiality of my “we”—and partly a celebration of the perspective in general.