Saturday, April 03, 2021

K. Lorraine Graham, The Rest is Censored


I want to dress like Cal Worthington and hoola hoop across the country somehow in tribute to Peace Pilgrim.

The rest of this poem is censored.

Or we can just make this the poem / floor plan / teacher.

As I am perpetually behind on everything, I am just now getting to Washington D.C. poet K. Lorraine Graham’s The Rest is Censored (Lambertville NJ: Bloof Books, 2017), a book-length accumulation of short lyric fragments that encompass the length and breadth of those lived moments that exist between or around what might otherwise get recorded. “Sit next to someone,” she writes, early on in the collection, “who doesn’t want / Next to                           / Yes  but is this interesting?” The Rest is Censored shifts the notion of the day book, a daily archive composed through the lens of the lyric, into a book of moments, framed within the boundaries daily life, opening as the body and the narrator wake. The narrator wakes, and the poem begins, suggesting less a “day book” than the book of a single day (although this temporal presumption on my part might be both missing the point and completely irrelevant). Composed as nine sections and a brief coda across one hundred or so pages, Graham composes short bursts as a sketchbook; composed of threads and moments, a poem of connection, fragment, sentences and disconnection. “insert bland / excited comment about landscape.” she writes. As part of her February 2019 “12 or 20 questions” interview, she references the compositional structure The Rest is Censored, as well as that of her debut, Terminal Humming (New York NY: Edge Books, 2009):

It felt good to have my first book, Terminal Humming, in the world as something I could celebrate and share with others, but it didn’t change my life. I used to think that the The Rest Is Censored, my second book, was very different from the first. Formally, it is. Terminal Humming is dense. The Rest Is Censored is spacious. But they both emerged through interventions into my daily routine. I wrote Terminal Humming when I was research assistant at a think tank in Washington researching US-China-Taiwan relations and missile defense systems. I’d read Vallejo’s Trilce on lunch break and then write for a while in my cubicle or outside. I wrote The Rest Is Censored on my daily bus commute between Carlsbad, CA and UC San Diego. It was a beautiful, miserable, hour-plus ride along the Pacific Ocean. I’d write until I was too nauseous to continue.

There is almost a way in which Graham writes boredom and down-time, sketching notes during a daily commute, finding the poem from within those spaces during which nothing “important” happens or occurs. There is nothing out of the ordinary to see, but for the remarkably ordinary. “If you’d throw more parties,” she writes, around the mid-point of the collection, “I’d take up surfing, / be more gracious with small talk. Nothing is discrete— / number, person, house, poem—sitting on the balcony as the / sun goes by, one bus goes by, not enough people on balconies / or buses.” There is something quite remarkable about the minutae she records; the mundane activities and discrete, wandering thoughts, revealing what is worthwhile in those moments of inactivity, even during those moments one works through, desperately waiting to get to what comes next.

I am supposed to keep a record throughout the day of anytime I feel a certain emotion. I am supposed to keep my emotions simple, for example: “glad,” “sad,” “mad,” or “bad.” I can also include “afraid” and “guilty.” Anytime I feel one of these emotions, I am supposed to note the time of day, the emotion I’m feeling and what was going on when I felt that emotion.

Later, with my partner, trusted friend or therapist, I am supposed to go through my list and share what I’ve written down. I should try to describe how the emotion felt within my body. I am supposed to talk about how it feels to share my emotional feelings with another person.

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