[Editors’ note: We’re proud to present our second miCRo feature. Every Wednesday we’ll spotlight a short piece that packs a punch—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid works. Chosen by our assistant and associate editors, miCRo features will be taut, timely, and thought provoking. See more information about how to submit in our submission guidelines.]
Assistant Editor Caitlin Doyle: We are pleased to share Emilia Phillips’s evocative piece “‘You Should Write a Poem About That,’ They Say” as the first poetry feature in our miCRo series. With a combination of humor and gravitas, Phillips addresses the complicated interaction between life and art. Even as the speaker asserts her reluctance to put certain experiences into writing (“No, I don’t wish to make / more of the mouthful of my mother’s cigarettes I gulped from a Diet Rite / can, the dog with no hair she kept in the spare / room”), she forges poetry from the very subjects she wishes to avoid. We can’t help but “make more” of the poem’s many unsettling images, despite the speaker’s insistence that she can’t create art from them. Phillips invites us to consider how the memories we most resist often shape our lives, both as artists and human beings, in ways that we can’t fully control.
To hear Emilia Phillips reading her poem, you can click below:
“‘You Should Write a Poem About That,’ They Say”
by Emilia Phillips
No, I shouldn’t I’m ill-equipped to crack a Korbel bottle on the butt-end of every sinking ship No, I don’t need to torture-n-rack that amoebic memory of the time I lost my virginity, which I don’t remember too clearly anyway—or that day I got caught picking my nose in first grade, the trailing flower girls petaling shame, shame I don’t want to track how many steps it takes me to reach Chimney Rock, or bookmark every page in my Browser History Believe me some secrets want to leap from the Golden Gate and heave into the turbid bay, its anonymous blue cresting into angels’ brief, shorn wings I don’t keep a good record of all my losses, for casualties, remember, are the dead and the injured No, there’s really no place for my favorite word landfill or my old dog who used to roll on dead animals A man once told me I’m cold for a woman Another said I don’t deserve No, I couldn’t solve the paradox— how many griefs would I have to remove from my heap of griefs until it no longer crushes me? At a rainy spring graduation the commencement speaker says I can’t wait to upload my consciousness to the internet I’m uneasy with anything that stinks of the Singularity, of my heartbeat becoming prosody Sometimes I think my doing is more like don’ting moving always on the great American script of interchanges and exits No, I don’t wish to make more of the mouthful of my mother’s cigarettes I gulped from a Diet Rite can, the dog with no hair she kept in the spare room My poet’s coat of arms is a cowbird on a skittish lamb No, thank you, I think I’ll just lie down and shut the blinds Please bring me a sip of water my mouth’s dry and yet you’d ask me to magnify the sun to fire?
Emilia Phillips is the author of three poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, most recently Empty Clip (forthcoming 2018) and Groundspeed (2016). Her poems and lyric essays appear widely in literary publications including Agni, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s an assistant professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.