Living fire and flattered lyre

On Erica Mena and Robert Fernandez

In Featherbone and Pink Reef, poets Erica Mena and Robert Fernandez make an argument for poetry’s somatic effects. These two books are very different, but they share a spell-casting potency and embrace the power of language not just to denote the world, but to act, vividly and terribly, within it.


Constraint and construction, body as page

Poet and reader inside poem in procession.

I talk about meaning all day long. I don’t feel that language comes out of my body, but rather that I observe and recycle it. Maybe my voice originates in my body, but language is a visitor that changes form all the time. I use my body all day long. I don’t feel that I am my body, but that embodiment is an idea that I observe and recycle. Maybe I originate in my body, but I am a visitor that changes form all the time. Is the idea that emerges from this line of thinking a concept? I think about what I want to do with poetry all day long.

A conversation with Bhanu Kapil

The poet's novel

Laynie Browne: Is there such a thing as the poet’s novel?

Bhanu Kapil: The poet’s brain changes, perhaps in mid-life.  Perhaps the poet moves from one part of the country to another.  The poet turns to the sentence as the place where questions of magnetism, gravity and light — the forces that bind a person to the earth and then release them, abruptly — might most fully be worked out.  Why?  On a scrap of paper, I draw three overlapping rough arcs.  These are sentences.  These are vectors, complicated — in this preliminary sketch —by refraction and shame: the reality of what happens — does happen — has happened — at the limit of a nation state.  Sometimes, as I’ve thought about elsewhere, a person doesn't get to cross.  A person sees their body reflected, perhaps, in the gelation membrane that extends above and just beyond the border like an invisible dome. To exit you rupture.  What the novel-shaped space lets the poet do (perhaps) is work out what happens both before and afterwards: the approach to that multi-valent perimeter [the shredded plastic on the floor.]

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