Another episode in our YouTube series on the Five C’s of Good Copyediting. Nicola Mason discusses the second C: Consistency
We’ve begun asking CR staff and volunteers to read their favorite poems and passages of prose. Exciting stuff. First up, here’s Assistant Editor James Ellenberger reading Paul Celan’s “So Many Constellations.”
These days it’s easier to fall down the rabbit hole than ever. To see an interesting morsel of information, and grabbing it, is like a kind of reverse fishing; we put the lure into our mouths, bite down, and get yanked into the binaric seas of the information age. Once we see information that we’re interested in, it’s easy to lose track of time completely, remembering little of it but the search, and waking with more in our heads but not necessarily more to say. Here are a few authors from 13.2 that fell down the rabbit hole, sure, but invented some marvelous little songs along the way.
Leslie Miller on “Cutaneous Rabbit Illusion”: I have long been fascinated by the way science names things, and though contemporary scientists themselves seldom have the luxury of expanding the metaphors they reach for, poets do have that luxury, even that obligation. When I read about the “Cutaneous Rabbit Illusion,” a tactile illusion wherein a few successive taps on one’s forearm produce the illusion of additional taps “hopping” up the arm after actual touch stops, I found the rabbit vehicle fascinating and wanted to explore additional dimensions of the rabbit metaphor: for example, the fact that rabbits are vulnerable, easy prey, and the fact that we sometimes involuntarily remember or imagine touch when we’ve lost access to a loved one. Ultimately, loss, and even the possibility of it, makes easy prey of us all.
Jennifer Moore on “Skeleton Clock”: Last summer I spent a month in rural Wyoming where I was able to work on a new manuscript of poems. My interests and research were pretty divergent while I was there. One week I studied local birdsong; another, I pored over poems by Zen monks in China. Then my obsession turned toward skeleton clocks—watches or timepieces which expose the intricate mechanisms that guide their design and operation. I found so many examples—antique, classical, Victorian, contemporary—exquisitely designed, meticulously crafted. The more research I did, the more I fell in love with the idea of making clear the inner workings of any kind of art. In that sense, the poem’s a bit of an ars poetica.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Cincinnati Review booth at this year’s AWP! The conference passed in a blur of old friends, new faces, and wonderful conversations. We also got to meet some of our contributors, including Aaron Coleman, whose poem “Very Many Hands” won this year’s Seventh Annual Robert and Adele Schiff Award in Poetry and will appear in issue 14.1.
Today on Cincinnati RevYouTube, we offer another inside look at our wonderful CW faculty. Assistant Prof Rebecca Lindenberg talks about her current project.
Thanks to all those who came out to listen and support at Monster Mags of the Midwest last night. As Jane Austen would say: it was a veritable crush. A reminder that we are once again running our famed AWP 3-for-1 deal. Stop by our, Mid-American Review’s, or Ninth Letter’s table to get an annual sub to all three journals for a mere $33!
Nicola Mason continues her YouTube series on the five Cs of good copyediting. If you missed the intro, check it out before moving on to the first C: CONFORMITY.
Nicola Mason: An announcement on the heels of a week of change (on the heels of a week of change, on the heels of a week of change). After time in the trenches and a great deal of self-searching, Becky Adnot-Haynes has decided to step down as managing editor. She loved many things about the job—largely the parts having to do with reading/writing/editing. What she found less thrilling were the parts having to do with red tape/bureaucracy/meetings, which left all too little time to do the rewarding work of connecting with your rewarding work. It was, of course, hard for Becky to let go and hard for us to let her go. She will remain a close friend and passionate supporter of the mag. Stepping into the breach will be another eminently and wonderfully accomplished writer and editor, Lisa Ampleman. Lisa is the author of a book of poetry, Full Cry (NFSPS, 2013), and a chapbook, I’ve Been Collecting This to Tell You (Kent State, 2012). A graduate of the PhD program in English & Comparative Literature at UC, she served as assistant and associate editor of The Cincinnati Review from 2011–13, then taught part-time and worked as a freelance writer and editor. Of becoming our new managing editor, Lisa says, “I look forward to taking the torch wielded so ably by Nicola and Becky and to working with the talented staff of The Cincinnati Review to uphold the strong tradition of this phenomenal lit mag. It’s an honor to be handed the fabled blue pencil. To put it quite simply: this is my dream job.”
Leah Osowski’s poem “Vs. Field” is forthcoming Issue 13.2. In today’s blog post, Associate Editor José Angel Araguz reviews Osowski’s collection, Hover Over Her.
While reading Leah Poole Osowski’s Hover Over Her, I found myself coming back to the phrase “the poetics of suddenness.” Throughout the collection, moments are built up into a spark and flash of imagery and linguistic resonance, so that often a reader is engaged in the act of keeping up with the poem as it happens. These lines from “For the Unrealized Girls” serve as a brief example of how this kind of suddenness works:
—the throb that comes the first time
an earlobe is sealed into the envelope of a mouth,
the beating wingspan of an owl under-chest—
The juxtaposition of physical descriptions here, from human to animal, is executed in such a way that both come alive simultaneously. The human acts are imbued with that of the animal, and vice versa; these twin moments of intensity push the lyric to a sudden level of emotion, lingering there before moving on.
In “Three Girls and Something Like Hovering on a Hill in Vermont” this same suddenness works as a narrative engine. This poem begins by contextualizing the lives of three girls via ideas of motion:
They’ll take more walks in this phase than any other—
the budding years right before driver’s licenses
just after boundaries…
These three lines paint a picture indirectly; rather than an age, the reader is given before and after. In this gesture, one can read the title’s “hovering” as pointing to a state of being indefinable. From here, the liminal energy of youth carries the poem forward through various details of the three girls’ respective lives, culminating at the end in images whose succession and immediacy have a meaning on the level of near physical sensation:
dandelion wine in the top cabinet. A little brother
grasping a fly swatter. A rooster hung from a cypress,
bleeding out in a kill cone. Most of the poplar stairs
lick the girls’ bare feet as they lightning past.
Here, the velocity of the three girls’ lives is mirrored in the speed of the narrative. Meaning and narrative happen in confluence through juxtaposition, the story realized through each image and phrasing registered. In a poem where a little brother is presented poised on the edge of violence, and a rooster hangs as a victim of violence, the image and sensation of the last line resonate with a mortal urgency.
This urgency is also present in a series of prose poems from the perspective of various inanimate objects. The poem “Blood Speaks of the Heart” begins:
It’s like coming home. Like running through a corn maze. Like the Vatican. But it really depends on which side you’re in, the blood gushes. If your next stop are the lungs then it feels like you’re climbing so many flights of stairs at an area of high elevation. And if you just came from the lungs it’s like a dance party in the atrium where nobody ever gets tired and the music is pumping and the energy is so high that the crowd always spills out into the streets and takes to sprinting…
Here, the imaginative leaps serve to redefine the biological working of blood via metaphor. This redefining becomes another kind of hovering, pushing against expectation through the conceit of blood speaking. Yet, metaphor and conceit necessarily push the poem back to its human terms:
And what about love, we ask? The blood gets real quiet. It whispers, we’ve heard of that version of the heart, we’ve heard it lives upstairs. And then in a barely audible murmur, like heaven lives upstairs up from you.
In this back and forth between blood and the speaker, one can see with what suddenness the redefining and reimagining impulse can be curbed. Osowski’s ability to evoke both exuberance and pathos within this conceit makes for an engaging reading experience.
The ambition of this poetic of suddenness can be seen in the emotional range of the poems discussed. Like the hovering implied in the collection’s title, a poem becomes a space where reader and writer can linger and consider experience. In Osowski’s hands, a poem is a way to reach after, but not hold or restrain, experience. Suddenness, then, becomes a way to do this work. The speaker in the sequence “Moonstone” asks a telling question:
10. You think you know the shade of someone once your body has laid next to theirs a certain number of times. But then the question arises—what color, if any, are they when the light goes out?
As the reader lingers in both the physical and conceptual dark of the speaker’s question, inklings of how unanswerable this question is and why begin to crack through. The speaker goes on to end the poem with an image of what it feels like to hover such questions:
11. Snow angels in a blizzard.
JAA: How would you say this collection reflects your idea of what poetry is/can be?
LPO: This summer I lived at a camp in the woods next to a lake. A larger lake nearby spit out rocks perfectly smooth and flat. I wrote the word “transformation” on one and kept it on the table in the center of the cabin. I believe poetry transforms experience. It’s a way of accessing memory and image through a layer of language. And language has a mind of its own. It can render reality optional, persona flexible, and insert rooms into the smallest details. All day we walk around with gravity and a whole slew of rules that apply to this world—poetry transcends those limitations, so when you have an art form that can do that you must. Poetry also tends to corral your preoccupations and obsessions, sometimes subconsciously. In that way, we access what’s pawing at us, herd it all into a fenced-in area, and hope to calm it down. But back to that lake stone: by adding words to the natural world we aim to understand it, or maybe just increase our proximity.
JAA: What were the challenges in writing these poems and how did you work through them?
LPO: I tend to begin poems on a line or an image and let the language take over and drive the content. I wrote most of the poems in this book in a 2 ½ year period and it wasn’t until the end of that time that I laid them out to witness the conversation they were having. The challenges weren’t in the individual poems but how they were working as a collection. I realized that the narrative backbone of this book is the poems about the “three girls” and their arch needed some shaping. But when I tried to write a prescripted poem it fell apart. The lack of spontaneity results in a dulling of luster. I’d write them and my boyfriend, who’s also a writer, would tell me they were terrible, and I’d go back in and mess up their hair. They’re like kids in that way—if you try to dress them up and keep them neat by the end of the day there’s grass stains and bruises and four wardrobe changes. Poems, like all living things, need their freedoms, and the challenge is in allowing that to happen while steering a collection towards cohesion.
Hover Over Her is available for purchase from The Kent State University Press.
To find out more about Leah Poole Osowski’s work, check out her site.
Writers don’t just describe the settings they inhabit, they make them their own. Twain’s Mississippi River, the Brontës’ haunted moors, Langston Hughes’ Harlem—even as these places change, they are forever defined by the writers who loved them and preserved them in language. In Issue 13.2, our poets explore the emotional complexities of setting, drawing on family history, American history, memories, and careful observation to find beauty in the mechanical and communion in the solitary. As Philip Pardi writes in his poem, “Ocean in View,” “I’ve come far to be near.” These two poets get up close to find the bigger story.
Andrew Hemmert on “Smokestacks”: One of the prevailing themes of my writing is urban landscape and its potential for lyric reinvention. Driving through Apollo Beach, I’m always drawn to the smokestacks. My uncle worked at Tampa Electric when he was in college, and he used to climb the smokestacks in a hazmat suit to sample the output. I always thought there was something glamorous in the grime of that story. This poem touches on environmental concerns, but ultimately seeks to identify the human elements that burn at the heart of our machines.
Philip Pardi on “Ocean in View”: I live in the mountains. The birds I know by name are mountain birds. The trees are mountain trees. Each night after work I cross the Hudson River, and as the bridge rises beneath me, so too do the mountains before me. Days off, I hike: lots of up and down, of climbing up to look down. No surprise, then, that the mountains figure in my work; in recent years, the landscape around me has been a place where poetry begins or converges. This poem emerged when I found myself, after a long, long drive, on the flattened North Carolina shoreline. I felt utterly unprepared for it: ocean, distance, seagulls, horizons. I had been reading the journals of Lewis and Clark, which is where the title comes from: the full line is “Ocian in view! O! the joy,” and I wanted something of that joy, but then “wanting” seemed suddenly and precisely to be the problem. This poem is an attempt to start again.