Angela Hume and Brian Teare

Angela Hume and Brian Teare
Angela Hume and Brian Teare

The interview focuses on Hume’s The Middle and Teare’s Companion Grasses, both from Omnidawn Publishing.

Angela Hume: Brian, I want to ask you about lyric, as you’re thinking about it in Companion Grasses. “What is ‘lyric,'” you ask several times in your long poem “Quakinggrass.” The poem offers this response to its own question:

Little grammar of attraction

inflorescence

(What is “lyric”)—

 

The book fell open on its broken spine

(florere, “to flower”)—

“It’s quakinggrass,” I said—

Your dashes register the percolation of time through thought, or thought through time, pressing toward concept. To a certain extent, the lines are rendered fragmentary, even discrete, by their dashes, little caesuras. But they also aggregate, ideate, via their materials, from one line to the next. It’s not (necessarily) a linear logic. That is to say, the declarative “It’s quakinggrass” may or may not come as response to the preceding interrogative, “What is ‘lyric.'” In this way, the poem wrestles with the activity, or process, of its own thinking. This was, of course, the project of transcendental philosophy.

Importantly, the poem offers a particular figure here: that of inflorescence. This is a term that appears repeatedly in your book. Inflorescence: the arrangement of flowers on a plant—a flowering system. The collective blossom. Or, the process of flowering. The image, emplaced in Big Sur, California, is: the fragile flower cluster trembling on its slight stalk (briza maxima).

My question about lyric is also a question about your inheritance of both the Romantic tradition and the mid-century tradition of composition by field—the way you yoke one to its (seeming) other in Companion Grasses to discover lyric for yourself.

That said, I’m interested in the figure of inflorescence, very specifically, as a figuration of lyric. How does it work, in your mind?

Brian Teare: Thank you for the intricate and thoughtful question. Companion Grasses was written over five years, so the lyric mode as I think about it in the book remains somewhat of a moving target—this is true, too, for a figure like inflorescence, which suggests a range of meanings in the context of “Quakinggrass” (written in 2006), and a very different range of meanings in “Star Thistle” (written in 2009), which ends the book. The composer, Samuel Barber, once said that each of his compositions sets out a problem that it also attempts to solve, the resultant music being the solution. I definitely work that way, though I’m likely not wholly aware of the problems I’m attempting to solve as I begin work on a poem. Similarly, the obsessions and thematic concerns of a book usually don’t become apparent to me until quite late in its composition, at which point it does begin to seem, as you cannily suggest, that each of my poems “wrestles with the activity, or process, of its own thinking,” and that the book as a whole also undertakes a similar process.

Maybe it’s also hard for me to think through inflorescence as a figure without also taking into account the figure of the stem, which likewise repeats throughout the book. And maybe it’s hard for me to think of either figure as entirely stable, since I draw these figures from very literal materials; indeed, both stem and inflorescence vary in structure from species to species, and wild grasses anyhow transform radically during their life cycles. In “Tall Flatsedge Notebook,” I put forward what’s become my favorite formulation of the figure of the stem: “I was making language / a stem to aspire to: // durable      flexible     able / to register shift quickly // when shaken / to keep shape.” This stem seems to me now to capture best my feelings about the aesthetic and proprioceptive possibilities of projective verse—an admittedly idealized, aspirational figure. And if I track it from beginning to end of the book, the figure of inflorescence seems to me now an attempt to gather up the cyclical nature of Being, the beauty and bloom of reproduction and the scattering of seed that prefigures the plant’s death. Earlier in the book, though, the emphasis is on the first part of the cycle, on sexual love, and in that sense maybe “Quakinggrass” is more romantic (interested in affect) than Romantic (interested in historical iterations of affect), though admittedly the two are probably bound up in each other throughout. I think you can read each of the lines you’ve quoted from “Quakinggrass” as possible definitions of “lyric”: a language for sexual attraction, blossoms, a questioning of the lyric mode itself, the broken-spined guidebook, the action of flowering and quakinggrass specifically. Perhaps we could say that cluster of lines is like the cluster of flowers that makes up an inflorescence—what you’ve said it is, “a flowering system.”

System seems to me a word that’s incredibly relevant to The Middle, though one of the brilliant things you’ve enacted in this work is the impossibility of drawing boundaries between systems ordinarily depicted as discrete: human physiology, ecosystems, industry and the military-industrial complex all intertwine here in what might best be called “a wounding system.” And even more impressively, you’ve found a form—the fragment couched in ample white space—that both suggests the deep interconnectedness of biology and industry and renders visible the ideological and biochemical violence of the resultant intertwinings. Despite the contemporaneity of your thinking and your use of fragment, I’d nonetheless argue that the radical visual form of The Middle holds within it a list poem whose formal logic is as lyric and capacious as Whitman’s, and that it is the list form itself that makes so readily legible the duality at work in our interconnectedness. I wonder if you could speak first to the relevance of systems to your thinking, and if you might also address a possible connection between system and fragment, connection and wound?

AH: The question of the boundary, or limit, is an important one to me. How to imagine the contours and limits (or non-limits) of bodies, whether human or other-than-human, at a time in which our bodies, our attachments and our ecologies are increasingly administered, exploited and degraded by the “intertwinings” (as you say) of science/technology, capital and government? The limit; the system; the relationship between fragment and “whole”—while seemingly different concepts, thinking them exposes their inextricability. The questions you’ve posed are big ones. I’ll try to speak to them just briefly.

I’ve been reading Eugene Odum’s Fundamentals of Ecology, the first ecology textbook. Published in 1953, it helped institute the field of modern ecology as a legitimate scientific discipline. A decade later, Odum published “The New Ecology,” which argued that in order to ensure human survival in an atomic age, biologists must promote an ecological understanding of the earth as a single unit of interdependent ecosystems. (It was Bob Hass who pointed me toward this work—thanks, Bob!) What’s interesting to think about is how the science of ecology—specifically, the science of ecosystems ecology—emerges in the wake of advancements in nuclear physics (i.e., the development of the atomic bomb), which enabled humans to think, for the very first time, the absence or annihilation of the human. In this way, the emergence of modern ecology itself was predicated upon the development of a very specific notion of interconnectivity—as synonymous with precarity and violence. To be interconnected, to be in ecological relation, is to be in risky, often violent contact with all of the other materials.

This is all to say that I think a lot about the history of the Western ecological imagination, and this thinking certainly informs The Middle. Systems-theory logic was at the heart of early ecological thinking, and important to 20th-century thought more generally, though it’s by no means uniquely contemporary. It’s Hegel who argued that individuality consists in being the universal and, in his Science of Logic, that “the connection of having no connection alone constitutes the thing.” For Hegel, all things are “absolute porosities.” All of this at the beginning of the 19th century! Systems theory, whether Hegel’s or Odum’s, or a more recent one like Bruno Latour’s (his “actor-network theory”), has long helped facilitate the imagination of ecological entanglement. But however helpful it may be, the notion of a closed system, I’d argue, is ultimately totalizing, and therefore dangerous. Full stop. Here, I think, a contradiction comes to light. It’s true that we can no longer think in terms of absolute limits (as so many thinkers did in both philosophy and science in the 20th century—take Jean-Luc Nancy, for example, who argued that the body is the limit, qua limit; or toxicology’s basic tenet of the “threshold,” the dominant model for scientific risk assessment, which posits that at a certain point the body is absolutely cut off from its environment), because we know that chemicals like DDT are present in even the bodies of those of us born after 1972, the year the pesticide was banned in the United States. And yet, when we absolutize interconnection, when we say that limits between bodies no longer exist (that is to say, when we buy Hegel’s claim that “the truth is the whole”), we fail to account for what Adorno called the “nonidentical in the identical”—that which “[lives] in the cavities between what things claim to be and what they are”—that irreducible excess immanent to and constitutive of all things. What is ecology if not the thinking of where, how and why systems go awry? If not attention to sites of material contact that confound what we think we know?

Consider, for example, the concept of limiting factors in ecology—those variables that affect whether a species will thrive or perish. Of course, this concept continues to play a central role in the study of ecology. Ecological thinking needs systems theory, but how to think the system in such a way that undoes, or precludes, the absolute, in and through the process?

The Middle chronicles my obsession with these types of eco-philosophical questions, I suppose. In the book I work with the lyric fragment. Fragment is a register of the whole, but it also undermines the whole. It is that part of the totality that refuses the totality, as Adorno wrote. It can be a kind of waste product. I think my interest in the “nonidentical,” that which is in excess of a given system, is reflected in my forms—my use of caesura and the way my fragments often yield to interstice, the white of the page.

I want to shift gears and return to Companion Grasses. In discussing the figure of the stem, you referenced Olson’s notion of projective verse–“open” verse, or “composition by field,” a process-oriented poetics. In this way, you suggest that mid-century Objectivism and field composition have been important influences. As a note at the end of Companion Grasses, you acknowledge that in the book you actively work to “compost” and “wread,” per Jed Rasula in his book This Compost—enacting what Rasula describes as that collaborative, material, re-creational engagement with other texts that was characteristic of Black Mountain poetry (along with its predecessors and inheritors). Not unlike Olson in his Maximus or Duncan in his later work especially, you often incorporate language from other sources—poetry, theory and history books. But unlike Olson, it is not your intention to do away with “lyrical interference” in order to become object. In your work, it seems, one can be both lyric and object at once—a kind of lyric object. In this sense, your works straddles Romanticism and Objectivism—seeming opposites (though, of course, they are not). I’d love to hear more from you on how you understand the relationship between (Romantic) lyric and material(ist) poetics.

BT: I like the notion of the speakers in Companion Grasses as lyric objects. And I’m especially intrigued by your seeing my poems in relation to Objectivism, a relation I’d think would be obscured by my pleasure in “lyrical interference.” I feel my answer being pulled in many directions at once, so I’ll try and suggest three of these potential directions as briefly as I can:

1)  All my work from Pleasure onward has been written directly or indirectly under the sign of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s The Visible and the Invisible,particularly the chapter “The Intertwining—The Chiasm.” It is a dense and remarkable treatise on seeing, touching, being and the relational. As I understand his thinking, subjects and objects constantly interpellate each other as material bodies, through multiple senses, and in registers both sensible and sentient: “There is a circle of the touched and the touching, the touched takes hold of the touching; there is a circle of the visible and the seeing, the seeing not without visible existence; there is even an inscription of  the touching in the visible, of the seeing in the tangible; there is finally a  propagation of these exchanges to all the same type and of the same style which I see and touch.” And though there’s a lot to argue with in Charles Olson’s essay “Proprioception,” I’ve always seen the most useful aspects of Olson’s thinking here as linked to Merleau-Ponty, particularly Olson’s argument that proprioception is “the data of depth sensibility / the body of us as object which spontaneously or of its own order produces experience of,’depth,’ Viz SENSIBILITY WITHIN THE ORGANISM BY MOVEMENT OF ITS OWN TISSUES.” I suppose what I mean is that both Merleau-Ponty and Olson suggest that we as subjects are always already objects by virtue of our deep embeddedness in other subjects/objects via our senses.

2)  But I’d like to extrapolate on Merleau-Ponty’s idea that there’s “an inscription of the touching in the visible, of the seeing in the tangible.” The poetry I love most uses poetic artifice—forms of inscription historically associated with poetry—to give tangible surface to the visible, and to make legible the otherness of what is seen and touched. One of the poets most important to me is Hopkins, who uses alliteration, rhyme and prosody to create kinds of inscription in which the visual and the tangible are interpellated. His concept of “inscape” (accessing and representing the essence of a thing) is predicated on having encountered it, as in this excerpt from his journals: “There is one  notable dead tree…the inscape markedly holding its most simple and beautiful oneness up from the ground through a graceful swerve below (I think) the spring of the branches up to the tops of the timber. I saw the inscape freshly, as if my mind were still growing.” I love how that final sentence suggests that the sensible (“I saw the inscape freshly”) intertwines with the sentient (“as if my mind were still growing”), and that it’s relation that enables this to happen. And I love “Pied Beauty,” too—its “rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that  swim,” its “Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, plough,” and its praise for “All things counter, original, spare, strange.” Though like many of Hopkins’ landscape poems, this one ends as a paean to a Christian divinity, I’d argue that we feel in the language itself Hopkins’ embodied relation to trout, to field, all that pied beauty intertwined with his own “counter, original, spare, strange” sensorium.

3)  So perhaps, through Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, we can read a link between certain forms of Romanticism and a more materialist poetics. Where Olson would have poets “project” their ear and breath through syllable and line onto a typewritten page that scores an embodied music, Hopkins allows his proprioceptive self to register as the “instress” that structures his highly idiosyncratic prosody, and it is in this way his poems body forth the inscapes he has perceived through sight and touch. And where Hopkins puts his process in service of Christian theology, and where Olson puts his process in service of a cosmology, a poet like Lorine Niedecker puts her process of proprioception and condensation in service of bioregional ecologies. I see her rhymes and prosodic effects to function much like Hopkins’ instress, though her compression of sensorial experience attains a clarity and severity utterly aliento Hopkins’ poems. One of the things that makes Niedecker’s poems so different from Hopkins and Olson is their (I would argue proto-feminist) emphasis on the ways subject/objects become themselves only in relation:

We are what the seas
have made us

longingly immense

the very veery

on the fence

With the introduction of Niedecker, I’d like to turn back toward your work, which I see as part of an ecofeminist poetics trajectory that stretches from Rukeyser’s “Book of the Dead” through Niedecker’s lyrics, on to Evelyn Reilly’s Styrofoam, Allison Cobb’s Green-wood and Brenda Hillman’s elemental quartet. The Middle, like the work of all these women, is acutely aware of the fact that women’s bodies are interpellated by capitalism and industry differently than men’s bodies, and that these differences inflect the intertwining of body and world. Your fragments insist on the centrality of embodiment to your project (“an aesthetics of the middle / dreams in skin”), but they are also careful to note the ways in which women’s reproductive health is vulnerable to toxins (“gestational / BPA / exposure…a girl / gone / wrong”). I wonder if you could speak to your relation to ecofeminist thought and poetics.

AH: You suggest an interesting connection between Merleau-Ponty, Olson and Hopkins, as you speak to the processes of “embedding” and “inscribing” oneself, via the senses, in the material world, with which these thinkers are concerned. At one point, in his Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty describes the “compositive” (world-making) act as the “lodging” of oneself in the object of one’s perception. This “lodging” certainly seems related to Olson’s notion of the “projective act.”

I’m not sure how much an emphasis on the ways subject/objects become themselves only in relation comes out of feminism. On my reading, such an emphasis is Hegelian dialectics in a nutshell. But I know what you mean about a “clarity” or “severity” of perception in certain women’s mid-century writing, which becomes inextricable from a kind of environmental ethics, not to mention a hard-line (feminist?) materialism. Here’s Niedecker in her “Lake Superior”: “In blood the minerals / of the rock.” And then, shortly after: “you have been in my mind / between my toes / agate.” Niedecker’s chiseled lines, her incredible compression, throw into sharp relief the interrelation of and exchange between all of the materials, both living and nonliving. No body is cut off from the world around it; the materials course through us. Moreover, because both our minds and our bodies are, to a certain extent, constituted by rock, no absolute distinction between mind and body can exist. Consciousness is as material as blood, skin and bone. I’m also thinking about H.D.’s earlier Sea Garden (1916). She writes in her poem “Garden”:

You are clear
O rose, cut in rock,
hard as the descent of hail.

I could scrape the colour
from the petals
like spilt dye from a rock.

If I could break you
I could break a tree.

For H.D., the fact of the absolute materiality of the world serves as a leveling power. With the reducibility of all things to the base materials (here, rock, as in Niedecker) comes a shared precarity. I’m interested in the way both poets identify the hardness of rock with its opposite, that which is soft, fluid or seemingly immaterial—rose petals, blood, mind itself. There is an amorphousness to being material, and with deep apprehension of this fact comes a heightened sense of vulnerability and responsibility. I think there might be a kind of feminist Objectivism somewhere in here. Perhaps it’s something that sets these women writers apart from some of their male contemporaries (Pound, Zukofsky) who, for many years, overshadowed them.

Both Niedecker and H.D. are important to me, as are all of the women poets you named. Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Myung Mi Kim, Brenda Iijima, Frances Richard—all of these women are a part of the trajectory, too. Brenda Hillman was my teacher. When I started working on Brenda’s tetralogy in a more critical capacity, I began using the phrase “contaminated lyric” in order to talk about the kinds of formal de-, re- and trans-formations that occur in her work. These formal transformations are, on my reading, exemplary of what is happening in some ecological poetry today as it becomes immanently aware of its own degraded, toxic conditions of possibility.

I have mixed feelings about the term “ecofeminism,” and I’m critical of how some women’s ecological writing, what we might call ecofeminist writing, perpetuates or is simply resigned to the very problematic and very old idea that women’s bodies have a special relationship to Mother Earth. This kind of ideology is essentializing and limiting for thinking both gender and environment. I think Brenda Hillman’s poetry is a good example of a poetics that wears its ecofeminism, but always critically, always aware of the implications of such an inheritance. So when Brenda writes of “the under-mothered world in crisis” and the “leaking” of story into the epic, drawing from the language of French feminism, she is simultaneously rewriting such notions of “mothering” and “leaking,” de-feminizing them, perhaps, in that in the context of the poem (“Air in the Epic”) they are posited as practices of accounting for other-than-humans, objects and things; or of opening the field to the forces of myth and collective storytelling.

All of that said, I do think it’s absolutely essential to acknowledge the way that, historically, women’s bodies in particular have been affected by environmental risk factors—not because of some essential vulnerability or anything like that, but rather because of the way that the patriarchy (science/technology, capital and the state) has deemed women’s bodies disposable. Take the example of Diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic hormone used widely in the 20th century to treat menopausal and pregnant women and, later, as a growth hormone in industrial farming for fattening up livestock. Nancy Langston’s recent book Toxic Bodies explores the case of DES in depth. She writes about how, during initial investigations into DES in the late 1930s, research showed that even small amounts of DES, an endocrine disruptor, could cause cancer and other problems with sexual development. But despite these findings, the FDA approved the drug, due to pressure from pharmaceuticals. As Langston explains, this pressure had everything to do with the culture’s idea that there was an institutional responsibility to control the hormonal female body. The female endocrine system was not an area for further scientific research, but rather a problem in need of quick fixing. Today, Langston explains, DES is recognized as carcinogenic and a developmental toxicant so potent that others are often measured against it. In my mind, the case of DES is both abhorrent and telling. DES is, of course, no longer administered to people. But other endocrine disruptors, like Bisphenol A (BPA), are still used widely in the manufacture of consumer goods.

A question for me in my poetry becomes: How to write body in a way that avoids essentializing women’s experiences of toxicity and environmental risk, while at the same time acknowledging a very real history of patriarchal administration and subjection of women’s bodies to toxicity and risk?

One last question for you, Brian. Companion Grasses is an elegy—for your father, for Reginald Shepherd, for various changing relationships and landscapes. Margaret Ronda, who I know has been an important interlocutor for both of us, argues in a recent article that there is a body of work increasingly taken up with what we might call the “end of nature,” emphasizing not what is but rather what is not, operating in negative, indebted and elegiac modes called into being by ecological crisis. This body of work, she argues, is ecopoetics. I want to ask you: What is your sense of the relationship between the elegiac and ecopoetic modes at work in Companion Grasses? In your poem “To begin with desire,” for your father, you write: “we keep hiking, since / there’s no harm going / further afield,” but then, not long after, “the poem can’t hold the real / fields, of course.” In these lines, there seems to be a mourning for and dwelling, or melancholy, in the gap between the ontology of the (“field”) poem and the ontology of the material world (the “real field”). Can you talk about mourning in field? Both lamenting and honoring the gap, the negative?

BT: I appreciate your complex relationship to ecofeminism, and love the way you place H.D.’s Sea Garden in relation to Niedecker’s “Lake Superior” and the work of recent women poets with whom you’re in dialogue. I want to speak more, briefly, in relation to gender and perception, because that “lodging” of subject in object is pretty problematic for lots of reasons. Perhaps I’m less wary of making a phenomenological link between Merleau-Ponty and Olson because I think Merleau-Ponty’s figure of the chiasmus, the intertwining (conceived of after The Phenomenology of Perception), has the potential to undo much of Olson’s problematic, penetrative “projective” masculinity, while still acknowledging a place for embodiment in the production of poetic language. In The Visible and the Invisible there’s a sense that the process of relation is always already happening and ongoing, and that relation is at base not hierarchical—not subject giving rise to the object. And though chiasmatic intertwining indeed suggests a dialectical resolution of the relation between perceiver and perceived, Merleau-Ponty’s language asserts that, in the end, philosophical logic fails at the border of what occurs between two who in themselves are neither object nor subject, but both both and neither. Of such a paradoxical, supra-rational relation, the feminist philosopher Gail Weiss has this to say in Body Images: Embodiment as Intercorporeality: “Refusing… to privilege one person’s touching over another, Merleau-Ponty invokes a nontranscendent untouchable that is neither consciousness nor the unconscious, self or other, body or world, touching or touched.” This “nontranscendent untouchable” refashions a productive tension in Transcendentalism between materiality and abstraction by naming the fabric of embodiment (by not allowing the eye to escape its immersion in the sensible by taking refuge in alleged transparency).

And isn’t language another nontranscendent untouchable? I think Companion Grasses must be the ambition to capture the feel of this fabric—to make language sensible and textured enough that the reader rubs the surface of the poem and ultimately catches against timothy or manzanita. During the writing of many of the poems, particularly during the process of drafting the poems while on foot, I experienced this fabric largely as a kind of ecstatic state, a sensible plentitude. Interestingly, this state was not purely positive—a poem like “Susurrus Stanzas” registers the distress of knowing oneself to be embodied in part by ruin (and to be, in part, a ruiner), even as it takes pleasure in the colors of wild iris and the delicacy of coastal fog. And though obviously I was very aware of our shared situation of global environmental crisis, the book I ended up writing is neither a direct witness to crisis, nor an elegy for a “lost” nature. I couldn’t forget the fact that underneath harmful human actions, despite the dire consequences of harmful human actions, there is this ongoing relation, this intertwining that keeps going in spite of everything. “Matter,” I write in “The very air,” “a sidereal charity.” I frankly remain in raw awe of it: awed by the scale of our damage; by the environment’s inability to reject all the toxins we pump into it; awed by the fact that matter continues to constitute us, and we, it. Because our shared crisis is rooted in our continuing refusal to acknowledge this co-constitution, perhaps the book skews toward acknowledging or emphasizing this relation at the heart of both ontology and ethics.

But you’re right that the book ends in elegy, and for me it also marks the end of a period of frequent access to the ecstatic state I spoke of. It’s as if Sight Map opened a parenthesis and Companion Grasses closed it. After that experience, the question remains: To what degree are “To begin with desire” and “Star Thistle” elegies for anything other than my father and Reginald? Throughout the book the poems conflate and confuse the human and the other-than-human—a “mistake” I take to be evidence of intertwining rather than logical flaw, though it could certainly be read as that. “Where, if the world is flesh, do I put the limit between my body and the world?” asks Merleau-Ponty, but by this book’s end it seems to me that the line between them is clearer. And the paradoxes implicit in my idealistic readings of relation also stand out in starker relief, as you point out. Why? Because I think the process of grieving my father and Reginald allowed me to articulate and then say goodbye to a lot of ideas without necessarily grieving these as loss, and, in doing so, to heighten my sense of certain limits inherent in poetic language. For example: In drafting the poems on foot and elaborating on them later, I discovered that the language of each poem creates its own kind of material site that both falls far short of being the material world and also exceeds any simple reference to it. Though the book was driven by the desire to integrate my poems more fully into the material world, it was only later that I discovered what a foolish desire that turns out to be. Fine!

Human desire and affect are beside the point of environmental crisis, though, as we know, they’re also criminally implicated in it. And though poems of environmental mourning have been crucial to the formation of my own poetics (Juliana Spahr’s “Gentle Now, Don’t Add to Heartache” comes to mind), I no longer believe our shared state of emergency necessitates any single particular affect or range of affects. “To have an unmystified, angry view of large and genuinely systemic oppressions,” Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick writes in Touching Feeling, “does not intrinsically or necessarily enjoin that person to any specific train of epistemological or narrative consequences.” For those among the angry who are fond of ethics, and who honor the intimacy between ethics and aesthetics, this is a potentially disturbing proposition, but I would argue it potentially liberates us from habitual rhetorical positions and modes of thought and action. In fact, when considered in the light of rapid climate change and loss of species and biodiversity, Sedgwick’s sentence posits an aporia: What new relations have already formed? What forms of relation await us? The melancholic couldn’t tell you. Such questions make me wonder what epistemologies and narrative consequences we’re not exploring because we’re too wedded to whatever objects we rightly or wrongly think we’ve lost. It’s not that I don’t share in our collective outrage and grief—important elements of political life—but that I see them as two among many necessary responses. And then there are poets (such as yourself, such as Brenda and the others you name) who are already thinking through new forms of relation in which crisis is the “ordinary hour,” as you write, “tracing / now // now / now // goes and / goes.” It’s important that the ordinary hour is three parts now and two parts time passing: In your work, we’re more immersed than mourning, which allows the poems to render the violence of the ordinary hour with such precision and authority. We’re so lucky to have them.


Angela Hume is the author of the poetry chapbooks The Middle (Omnidawn, 2013) and Second Story of Your Body (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2011). Critical work appears in such journals as ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Evental Aesthetics, Jacket2 and OmniVerse. Recently she co-edited, with Laura Mullen, a special issue of The Volta on “trash.”

A former NEA Fellow, Brian Teare is the recipient of poetry fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Headlands Center for the Arts and the American Antiquarian Society. He is the author of four books—The Room Where I Was Born, Sight Map, the Lambda Award-winning Pleasureand Companion Grasses. He’s also published seven chapbooks, most recently Helplessness[black sun crown] and SORE EROS. An Assistant Professor at Temple University, he lives in Philadelphia, where he makes books by hand for his micropress, Albion Books.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Gillian Olivia Blythe Hamel with Angela Hume |