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 strategems 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/)