Antonie van Leeuwenhoek first saw the microscopic monsters that the naked eye can’t see, describing the odd creatures as “cavorting, wee beasties.” A barrier had been crossed; the world of flesh and blood and dirt, so tangible around us and within us, was once again enveloped by mystery. The homunculi of our knowledge had come into question, challenged by the microscopic beasts whirling not only in some drops of water, but in all water everywhere. As poets, we ought to keep our eyes sharp for the immense as well as the Lilliputian. Between eye floaters and a bedbug infestation, some of the contributors to issue 13.2 have focused on the importance of the micro-world that lives in tandem with our own. While we’re always interacting, often unconsciously, with the wee kingdom, these writers focus on the minuscule, seeing in that impossible smallness our own condition as humans.
Claire Hero on “The Intraocular Ocean”: Several years ago, to further my understanding of scientific inquiry, I enrolled in some biology courses. Over and over, when I was first learning to use a microscope, I saw not the cells on the slide but the floaters in my own eye. These floaters seemed like things swimming through my eye, and I started to think of the eye as an “intraocular ocean,” an ocean replete with the strange creatures we find in the deep sea. Working with this metaphor I developed the poem. This poem reflects the writing process as I understand it: one sits down in the dark, plunges a hand into the eye, and writes what emerges from the uncharted waters of the imagination. At the same time, the poem speaks to the violence that creativity and scientific inquiry are capable of in the name of knowledge or art.
Taylor Gorman on “Insect”: This poem came out of a long year that I had. I had five different addresses and moved around a lot in grad school during 2015, mostly due to bad luck. When I finally had a permanent apartment, I found out too late that I had moved into a place that had bedbugs. I threw all my stuff out: the couch, my keyboard, paintings. I sat in my empty apartment and wrote this poem. Though it has little to do with bedbugs themselves, this poem is a direct result of my “giving up” to the disaster of that year: I, for one, welcomed my insect overlords.