Four poets published in issue 10.1 take a less violent, if equally revisionary, approach. Andre Bagoo uses a technique he borrowed from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to write an unauthorized biography in verse. Lynley Edmeades follows the lead of four giants of Irish and American poetry to access the origins of language itself. Janet Joyner credits Jacques Cousteau with helping her link the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis with the massive 2010 Transocean oil spill in the Gulf Coast. And Will Schutt negotiates the terms of his literary debts to Elizabeth Bishop and Du Fu in order to gain possession of his own poems.
Andre Bagoo (on five poems from All Streets Lead to the Sea): About two years ago I read Borges poem “Las Calles (The Streets)” with its closing line: “unfold the streets—and they too are my country.” At around the same time, I had begun a collaboration with the poet Vahni Capildeo called Disappearing Houses, which saw me spend time walking around the streets of Port-of-Spain, where I grew up and live, photographing things. Also at this time, my nephew Luke was obsessed with the film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, with its fantastic device of a living map that betrayed the whereabouts of all through magically changing footprints on its surface. I thought of writing, in a series of poems, an unauthorized biography of someone, but based solely on key experiences they had on key streets in their life: a kind of personal history; a biographical map. Thus, “White Street” recalls one such event for the protagonist: tenor Eddie Cumberbatch’s performance of Schubert’s Das Winterreise at the Little Carib Theatre in 2011. All Streets Lead to the Sea, the name of the entire sequence, remains ongoing, but many of the poems in it have already been published, scattered across diverse journals and publications, as they should be.
Janet Joyner (on “The Edge Has Moved to the Center”): It was not so much the Deepwater Horizon well explosion, which took life and dumped unparalleled quantities of oil into the Gulf, that was the initial spur for my poem “The Edge Has Moved To The Center,” but rather the “clean up” procedure of dispersing chemicals to break up the oil floating on the surface so that it would descend, in small bits, to the ocean floor. And there remain, out of sight, out of mind. Justified by the sea’s “diluting factor.” To enter, as Jacques Cousteau once said, “the planetary currents and upwellings and winds that keep atmosphere and ocean in constant motion—reacting one with another, maintaining Earth’s temperature and the sea’s alkalinity and oxygenation endlessly circulating as though they were a pulsing bloodstream and Earth itself a living organism. Finite and fragile, minuscule but majestic: air and water, the fluids of life.” This same principle of “dilution” underlay the schemes enabling the subprime mortgage scandal at the root of the financial crisis now known as our Great Recession. With “clean up” procedures that left untouched those most responsible for it. And, as it turns out, if business really is America’s only business, then pollution by assault weaponry will go largely unchecked.