Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Sandra Simonds, steal it back

When my friend told me he was in love with someone else,
              my thoughts turned to Greco-Roman models
for inspiration. Also, the letdown
            of milk since the body is relentless. A troll on Twitter.
It was snowing on all the arches, on the atrium, the four
          chambers of a chicken’s short-lived, factory-style heart.
The word “psalm” comes from the Greek word “to pluck
          a lyre.” Maybe I can address you now. My husband
will be furious. Coward. Liar. A voice says, “Alice, why did
            you have another baby?” Exercise:
                      reread the Ten Commandments (“Glass Box”)

I’m intrigued by the expansive surrealism in Georgia poet Sandra Simonds’ latest poetry title steal it back (Ardmore PA: Saturnalia Books, 2015). The author of Warsaw Bikini (Bloof Books, 2008), Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University, 2012) and The Sonnets (Bloof Books, 2014), Simonds described her approach to poetry in her recent “12 or 20 questions” interview, writing:

For me poetry follows the logic of music and the logic of the body. I think you have to follow your ear in order for a poem to work—you know the hidden story that can only be told through blind faith in the sound.

The structure of her poems appear constructed as a series of accumulations, built as a montage of lines, thoughts and phrases that flow like endless, rushing water. The repetitions, cadences and rhythms are quite striking in poems such as the ten-section “Glass Box,” or the fourteen-section “The Lake Ella Variations,” that includes: “Oh little green apron boy with the crappy gray eyes, let’s watch / the sunrise over Georgia. Gave poetry book I hate five stars on Goodreads; I am / such a liar! / What if I step on a syringe and get a disease? / Who’s going to give me a lot of money so I can quit my day job and write this poetry?” Alternately, the seven-page “Occupying” is a single block of text, existing without punctuation but including capitals, suggesting new phrases and/or sentences, adding to, as opposed to slowing down, the inertia of the piece: “[…] I bet she is an excellent typist I bet she is a lot of things I bet she has been to yoga today I bet she is noble I bet she speaks in hushed tones I bet she is incredible I bet she is an incredible dancer I bet she is a lot of incredible things I bet she dances every night […]”

Simonds does seem to follow and favour rhythm and repetition, allowing certain phrases to echo and repeat, using repetition not as a way to hold the poem back but to hold elements of it together and to propel it forward, composing poems across a canvas far larger than the single page.

Today I paid my landlord
at the last possible minute
on the last possible day
of the month which is
on the 5th day of the month.
It is the 5th of November, 2012.

Poets hate their landlords.
This is an imperative. It has no grammar.
Maybe it has a crude grammar.
I am not writing the check until
the last possible minute
in my car because I have
so much hatred in my heart
for property and landlords
but not land or streams
since I love the Romantics
since I am also a romantic
when I am not practicing poetry
like going to TJ Maxx
and looking at my face.

I have been thinking
of the body of my three-year old
and how it is so new and unstable
and how I don’t want him to ever feel
happy in this world.
I don’t mean it like that.
I want him to feel joy
but not happy in the sense
that he feels content. (“A Poem for Landlords”)

There is a fierce intelligence and swagger to Simonds’ poetry, constructed with precision and an excess of wild energy; a poetry of rants, lectures, frustration, unease and pleading, passionate gestures. “I am writing this so quickly.” she writes, near the end of the piece “A Poem for Landlords,” a poem rife with domestic specifics and a rushed, harried breath. The poem ends: “I will post this on my blog / immediately.”

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