When not in the office, Assistant Editor Matt McBride retreats to the caves of nearby Kentucky, where he renounces the material world and lives on a strict diet of hickory nuts and wild honey. We don’t talk about it much, except to point out when he’s meditating aloud or has twigs stuck in his hair. So we were somewhat surprised when, one recent weekend, he extended an enthusiastic invitation to join him at his hermitage. After losing two axles to the makeshift “roads,” we arrived at his dwelling, where he ushered us into a rough-hewn space lit with artfully placed phosphorescent moss. On one rock wall, Matt had carved the following sentiments.
Matt McBride: I dislike the real world. Perhaps it’s facile to dismiss the entirety of concrete existence, but let’s be honest—life, friends, is boring. Maybe that’s why I enjoy art that demonstrates the gross irresponsibility of such a statement, and maybe that’s why Julie Funderburk’s “Landscape of the Young” (forthcoming in issue 8.1) is such an incredible poem. It delivers back to me the world I’d forgotten, uncovering a salient beauty in that which I’ve ignored, in a manner that avoids simple nostalgia.
Funderburk’s poem doesn’t provide a depiction of our world made strange so much as our world at twilight, when particularities blur and things fade into the ideas of things, where the wind becomes “a choir of all songs,” where “the sand waits for words to be scrawled.” This inchoate landscape is mimetic of youth itself. Funderburk writes, “Out here, shadows stretch/ toward each actuality: the wide slats/ of the skeletal pier, whales asleep in the water.” In every line, there is a palpable feeling of being at the cusp of something. And yet what that something is remains entirely ineffable. After all, “you are young; you are a visitor.” By the time you realize what precisely you are on the cusp of, you will have already crossed over. The poem captures, beautifully, the unfledged feeling of dozens of unnamable potentialities boiling inside you. It also captures the awkwardness and uncertainty of such a time. This is reified in the poem’s closing image of the speaker looking out at “the gunmetal sea, in its deep wish to be blue.”
Many poems excel because they convey sharply the experience of a unique, lived reality. Funderburk’s poem excels for the opposite reason; it conveys, abstractly, the feeling of a universal stage of development. “Landscape of the Young” shows us a fuzzy photograph of an adolescent standing on the beach, and all those who look at the image recognize the figure as themselves.