This episode is about allusions, Slushies. How do poems gain dimension by relying on references? Where is that ekphrastic sweet spot? Listen in as we focus on the poems of July Westhale. Under the influence of her work, we talk glass flowers, ghost towns, road trips, and snow. Here are links to a few of the references and allusion we make on the show, inspired by Westhale’s way of seeing the world: This is America; “My Mother is a Fish”; Teresa Leo’s Junkie; and ee cumminings [i carry your heart with me]
At the table: Samantha Neugebauer, Alex J. Tunney, Kathleen Volk Miller, Jason Schneiderman, and Marion Wrenn
July Westhale is an essayist, translator, and the award-winning author of Trailer Trash, and Via Negativa, which Publishers Weekly called “stunning” in a starred review. Her most recent work can be found in McSweeney’s, The National Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, CALYX, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The Huffington Post, among others. She also has an inventively-named collection of salty chapbooks. When she’s not teaching, she works as a co-founding editor of PULP Magazine. www.julywesthale.com
Rotten Apples Return to Harvard’s Glass Flowers Exhibition
What you have heard is true—
something rotten once got us
from our houses, from our beds
where what was there may
or may not have been.
Remember, my darling, my sweet,
that a blistered and blackened
thing, a thing representing life/
sin itself, was a cause for art.
Gave a man, many men,
a lineage of pride.
The moon rose tonight as usual,
no spore-filled scab. As ivory
as the cut belly of an apple
sliced to share. Nothing noxious
to point to, say you.
The world of museums and love
are, as it turns out, through the machinations
and designations of man-made things,
defined by abstractions: Security,
beauty, even, in our worst days.
One day, Blaschka told his son, yes—
“the silver lamp,–the ravishment, –the wonder–the darkness,–loneliness, the fearful thunder” John Keats
There’s a billboard with the route 66’s version of June Cleaver, holding a pie underneath block letters HO-MADE PIES, which is how dry towns get their jollies, I guess.
We buy coffee in cups so thin the joe becomes us and we never regain our human shapes, and I say to you I wonder where they keep the half-bull man and you shotgun back I’ve spent my life asking that like the sharp shooter you are.
Who wouldn’t want to be the son of a bull and a damned woman
we are all sons of bull and damn
you’ve gone West to find everything or me
and look at girls the way I look at girls who are bad for me. Like a desert
through slatternly windows. This is America: the big-pricked statues statuary in their old-growth knowing:
in the end–spoiler alert–we’re both after the wrong bandit, the bank gets robbed, the two women who should be lovers but aren’t arc their Caddie like a rainbow into the lavish vaginal canyon at the last moment, the whale gets away, Faulkner’s pretend mother doesn’t get the burial she deserves, we have to choose between Liz Taylor in a kerchief or James Dean with his shirt stuttered open, and we can’t—
Now there’s snow on the ocean, which is meant to confuse us
and does, though not because we are unprepared for it
but rather because the sight of it reminds us
of the static-hearted parts of our bodies as they prostrate
themselves in years-over-yonder: exploratory attempts
to find warmth—not unlike a surefooted expedition—,
in the disappearance of everything ripe—now covered
with snow’s annihilating speeches—, in the blank stares
of our children as they amputate themselves
from us, in the cloudscape of come forgotten to be enjoyed,
on the snow of a down comforter at which we’d first begun
(circle back to exhibit A), in the cold expanse following
the question am I like winter to you, in the unspooling
that happens when we, I, I mean I play a memory
over again for the too-many-ith time, in the television’s
convex and prudish eye, in the snowy sound of over-use,
in the way empty feels like brain-freeze, in the brilliant
and nearly-neon white of the sign which mourns vacancy
even if everyone around us says off-season, says they love
the snow, the way it makes well-conquered land possible again.
You’d never guess it (oh, good, a game!),
but here we are many days without our bouncing
blue ball, our terrestrial ball and chain, our baby
planet—not even a note as it slipped from the rearview.
Now a footnote in a book that, were we on said earth,
a man would walk door to door to sell as a collection:
The History of Aquamarine, Abridged. But we are not earthlings
any longer, with no taxonomical replacement in sights. Stars
coronate the endless black, winging it, and here we are:
the most select, the most tourist. The most inclined
to shoot the earth for the moon’s moon, to go nil,
to bankrupt because it is the most American thing to do,
though America was left behind, no matter nationality—
only the home, the journey to and from.
Let us not
seek solace from the callousness of quietude, for it is what exiled us.