A curated literary guide

Week #43 / 23rd – 29th October, 2017

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Five Things with Raymond Antrobus

1. The last thing that made you smile.

In BSL (British Sign Language) class my teacher taught us about affirmation and negation, saying, in sign, if you are crying and someone asks you, “Are you crying?” you must answer with a smile and nod to affirm, yes I am crying.

2. A secret.

You have no idea how often I turn off my hearing aids and zone out at bad parties and poetry readings.

3. The last thing you wrote.

I’m four drafts deep on a new Sestina poem. I’m kind of obsessed with repetition right now so I’m taking on forms that use it. I have no idea if my Sestina works yet but I have some readings this week to test it on an audience. Hopefully no one turns off their hearing aids.

4. Favourite city.

Maybe Cape Town or Lisbon.

5. What you’d place in a time capsule.

My father’s rice and peas with Akee and Saltfish and a letter my grandmother wrote about how it feels to be young.


Raymond Antrobus is a British-Jamaican poet, performer, editor and educator, born and bred in East London, Hackney. His poems have been published in magazines and literary journals such as POETRY, Poetry Review, The Rialto, Magma Poetry, and others. His critically acclaimed second pamphlet, To Sweeten Bitter (2017) is published by Outspoken Press. His debut poetry collection will be published by Penned In The Margins (2018).

Five Things with Emilia Phillips

1. The last thing that made you smile.

The memory of a friend, hot buttered toast, setting up and writing in my office nook in my new home, my first cup of coffee this morning, the low-sixties temperature when I let my dog out.

2. A secret.

Sometimes I’m afraid of the fact that I'm a writer. Sometimes I feel I didn’t have a say in the matter, that I couldn’t live without writing. I worry this makes me weak, even self-indulgent.

3. The last thing you wrote.

This morning, I got several pages in on a lyric essay. It’s an essay with which I’ve been struggling for months, worried as I am to get the tone right, to charge its meditations. I don’t want this essay to just be a confession. Not a call out. I would like to claim ownership over my story.

4. Favourite city.

Every city I’ve thought about naming, I’ve thought, no, that’s not it. I love Reykjavik, and Edinburgh, and San José in Costa Rica. I have a long, conflicted love of Richmond, Virginia, and I’m ready to get to know my new city of Greensboro, North Carolina. And I feel like I love the ideas of cities I’ve never been to or don’t know that well. I love arriving in a new city. I love cities loved by those who live there, who show me what they love about those cities.

5. What you’d place in a time capsule.

Szymborska poems. A lock of hair. A letterbox. A future-person. Something from the earth I dug up to place the capsule—maybe a rock, a root, a beetle that would eat through the other things inside before anyone saw them.


Emilia Phillips is the author of two poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, Signaletics (2013) and Groundspeed (2016), and three chapbooks, most recently Beneath the Ice Fish Like Souls Look Alike (Bull City Press, 2015). Her poems and lyric essays appear widely in literary publications including Agni, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s an assistant professor in the MFA Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her third book, Empty Clip, will be published by the University of Akron Press Spring 2018.

Interlude

October is nearing its end and the leaves have almost completed their life-cycle in this small corner of the world. There are many things to love about this time of year: the colours, the brisk morning air and, this autumn in particular, some great issues of lit magazines and journals. Below I’ve mentioned a few (whilst missing many more I’m sure) and also some of the great contributors in those issues that wildness has had the pleasure of publishing over the past few years.

Waxwing (Paige Lewis), The Collagist (Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib), Glass: A Poetry Journal (Topaz Winters), Diode Poetry Journal (Marco Yan & Phillip Schaefer) and The Adroit Journal (M’Bilia Meekers, Luther Hughes and Lauren Camp).

As a final note, we released our tenth issue of wildness this month, and we’ll be back again in December as we return to our original bimonthly format.

Journal Editor / Michelle Tudor

Mythology

a poem from Kim Suttell​

This coming week, in the northern hemisphere, the veil thins, the otherworldly shimmers through, and even for people disinclined to believe in the uncanny there’s an undeniable shift in the balance of night and day that is conducive to dark thoughts. The dead-themed celebrations strip us from the anesthetized day-glow of fluorescent lights, to stand in nature, connect to something ancient and powerful, to death, decay. Kim Suttell’s poem, ‘Mythology’ is a poem that beats in the vein of Halloween and Day of the Dead, in that it summons deep, ancient powers inextricably rooted in nature, like the deities of old, wrathful and destructive, and only temporarily mollified by sacrifice. Suttell’s god of unbound growth of yeast and cancer, the power to burn the food on the hearth, haunts the speaker in the poem. She’s been undone by the capricious god. What she’s lost is left unexplained. Maybe in modern times there would be a clinical treatment, long weeks tucked in bed, but this time of year, this time in history there’s only the unkind god. The shadow shifting between the seen and unseen.

Visit Burning House Press to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Reneé Bibby

[My Body Is an American]

a poem from p.e. garcia

my body is an american
minotaur, half-formed mistake stuck
in the bowels of your imagination

This week’s poem is by p.e. garcia, recently published in Hobart Pulp. ‘[my body is an american]’ highlights the dichotomy between the American identity and its reality. The poem, through the lens of definition, of defining the self and identity, examines the American dream, and the distance between the ideals and how far it falls in practice.

my body is
an american;
a divine accident, a Ford wrecked,
spraying blood across the Midwest

The poem displaces classically American imagery with a sense of subcutaneous discomfort, the rifts beneath the surface image peeking through. Recentralizing the overlap between immigrant and American identity, Garcia paints a contemporary image of America without filler or excess, a steady gaze at where we are right now.

i have tried to be re-
                              born
                              & shed my skin
                              but every word i speak
                              is laced with baseball
                              jazz & apple pie idols

Visit Hobart to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Joyce Chong

On Borders, White Space, and Saying the Unsayable

an essay from Sasha Pimentel

It’s relatively common to rhapsodize the literal-yet-ephemeral qualities of poetry, such as white space, line breaks, and such. I mean “common” in the sense that poetic writing about the act of poetry is its own genre, really—a rich and circular genre.

Sasha Pimentel’s addition to the genre—her essay ‘On Borders, White Space, and Saying the Unsayable’ on LitHub—is resonant, timely, and poetry unto itself.

So as a public, we understand more than ever how crucial the sharpness of words and what they exact. So poets, whose medium is half in language, half in silence, must more urgently than before understand how an utterance plunges into and against that which is unspeakable—it hurts so much to say (in fact it is impossible ever to fully say)—but it must be spoken.

When we speak, we ascend into the terrible partitions of speech.

Overall a meditation on borders, immigration, identity and violence, the essay accomplishes something difficult: treating poetry as incredibly serious and important without bringing the genre to state of collapsing self-regard.

If whitespace is “powerlessness,” the poem’s virtue is in its lament against such powerlessness. The line, rippling into whitespace, says: this is unbearable, what is happening is unbearable and I cannot change it—and in so saying, knows: all I can say is that it is unbearable.

And against that powerlessness of what is unsayable, is the poem’s small power to record, yawp, and grieve.

I want to stay with this essay, but it’s time to break from the page, time for meetings and appointments and emails. But the break isn’t clean; the border between the text as experience and the text as something that now lives in my memory is inexact, as it should be.

Visit Lit Hub to read the essay.

Contributing Editor / Andrew Sargus Klein

past life portrait

a poem from T’ai Freedom Ford

I always love a poem that works more off image association than anything. The form here really allows its moments to float off by themselves, then into each other. The cinematic quality allows us to lean into being voyeurs and connect the dots. Being the person that I am, aka constantly water-locked, the shift in water quality across the poem interested me most, namely because there’s a marked difference in how the boy-bodies engage with water vs. the speaker’s.

The first three comparisons of the boys to water show intimacy. The boys splash around in the river until the smell of it sticks to their bodies. The tap runs down/across their mouths & throats and into the speaker’s. You can’t know water is cool unless you touch it in some capacity, right? There’s an interplay between these bodies of water taking the boy-bodies into themselves and vice versa, but this union doesn’t merge them completely. Even together, you know where one ends and the other begins, and the remnants of each in the other isn’t enough to cause any real shift.

With the speaker and their “bloody” water, the change feels irrevocable. Any drop of blood would be a notable shift in composition. This water feels more stagnant: even though the blood is probably swirling across it, I don’t imagine it moving across any space. Rather, it sucks in color and salt until it’s tinged with them. They co-mingle until separation can’t really exist. When your body is capable of staining & taking up more space than originally granted, you can defiantly lean into that possibility, but more often, the awareness makes you hold yourself together gingerly.

We can see why the speaker covets the boy-body in its singularity & ability to come back whole from any mouth. But I also wonder how we can love our “bloody water”, always flushed with our touch.

Visit the Sundress Blog to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Nix Thérèse