Poems by Amy De'Ath
For a year of my undergraduate degree I studied in Philadelphia and also spent time in New York, where I first encountered some of the work that has since become important to me — and in fact partly accounts for my recent move to Vancouver in the Pacific Northwest.
The poetry I love most — that I most want to write — is that which erupts from lived experience and is capable of spontaneity, ‘un-knowledge’ in freefall, happy accidents which show me ‘I’ am not who I thought ‘I’ was — and so allow me to step outside of myself. Alice Notley’s sonnets, H.D.’s Sea Garden, or Joseph Ceravolo’s Spring in this World of Poor Mutts offer a kind of expansion, play, pleasure in language that give way to a messiness and ecstasy sometimes lost in other modes of (dialectical, linear, or perhaps deliberately programmatic) thought.
Partly because feminism has been a prevalent discourse among North American (especially Canadian) poetry conversations, I’ve found the writing happening on the other side of the Atlantic to be a lifeline and springboard for my own work. To borrow a phrase from Rachel Blau DuPlessis, I don’t feel the need to ‘invent a new and total culture’ that a previous generation felt: in poetry that’s been done for me, by Lyn Hejinian, Joan Retallack, Susan Howe, and others. Perhaps the space those poets have cleared means there is no need to fall abjectly into the category of the ‘feminine other’ anymore (though I do think women poets in the UK continue to suffer from a lack of serious critical attention paid to their work relative to their male counterparts).
At the same time I’m stuck on how poetic language is constantly and ever more inventively appropriated by popular (digital) culture — how can I begin to write my love poem when Hipster Runoff and Vice magazine have already eaten it? The point is that I can begin, though. And there is so much North American poetry to turn to in thinking about this, especially recent work by Kevin Davies, Lisa Robertson, Catriona Strang, Brian Stefans, Stephen Collis, Cathy Wagner. “Give me hackneyed words because they are good,” says Robertson, and her books — especially The Men, Magenta Soul Whip, and Debbie — have helped me to see how I might disregard or circumvent the limits of the conventional or depleted lyric in my efforts to be sincere. Similarly, while Davies’s work enacts the malaise and social logic of late capitalism, it works through a funny, affective, and subtle irony that affirms the presence of an individual and collective conscience which is at once politicized and self-reflexive. I’m interested in the work these rhetorical affects can do, how the kinds of pleasure and sincerity — perhaps the excess — I want from poetry can be transformative, a form of affective politics.
In Case of Sleep
Sitting on a retro toilet that once belonged to Geena Davis
I stand for what I pee. A mighty maze speaks Olivia
through its annals & look! Her apology implodes.
I came to see you to tell you that the weather is finally listening
when your chest bleats into the cul-de-sac, but dining into the human
species and their revolving loopholes all I hear is your blood
and see it flooding out on a doubly romantic dream of mine which
the poets say is beautiful but is really glamorous and tiring.
Sleeping with my childhood wardrobe in a garden centre
responsibly and respectfully sharing my angst with the lobelia
I might recline like a cat but I wouldn’t sell my wares openly
I wouldn’t want to be that memory-cat with the power to die the power
to be put back on my feet I came to see you’d been eaten by tar sands
and cat didn’t exist what kind of a country is this
what did you say I missed that
I miss that cat
Just Handcuff Me
Then paint me the sum of polygamy.
Tender brawny snippets, pear pips
& a drainpipe running down to the
sea. Not you not me.
With night you come stomping,
It’s kristallnacht in my dream —
why did you shave our heads?
When will we reinvent love?
Look at me orbiting the earth:
cool extreme organic oil.
I tower above the Shard wearing my
new raspberry jeans and orange t-shirt.
Some worlds still purr apart
a fly or fact or loaf
some people are just called bodies
but I’d rather die clean on the spot!
Some feel a baby kicking.
Asterisk nipples the real September
I began and where I started. With
shining intuition. Esoteric holler.
Pin on your hopeless dream
blu-ray flash bird now I see devotion
mapping through a soft-top
then I am watching the blue leaf
Then I am Piccolo Mondo, killer of joy boys
and the third wave and I have been
a long time coming in the ovens.
The foothills are fleshing out, obituaries
are turning the corner of the street
to meet you dissipated and tuck the corner of
the sheet among your family maybe wash
your house down at dawn,
maybe make a genius snowman
let it float towards the future asking itself
what bloated life can be, turning
to the wall asking, what snow can be?
I have been a long time coming
The sun and the prince go on and on,
pulling on each other, looking for a party,
caught with their tails on fire
or worse, fucking with a weaponless pigeon.
Now I see devotion pulling and cover versions
cascading to the pit of the archive
where my hand is now, grubby Peyko-chic
Whatever drainage stinks down the wall
I will still,
Any flames can eat me up
You know —
Delinquency forgets its echo Yea
Karaoke was always sung across two seas
Or why, in the Dalston CLR James
Library in the blonde ages
the enquiries could melt a man’s
heart, or touch him, make a fool of
him, or spread like bible engines
and really sorrowful. At that desk
we first knew the time I didn’t have
the cash on me, that was when
Big fence like might you broke.
I thought you might be the shredded
water beneath my hair, my
Enlightened life. I thought the
steam room into Stevie Nicks’ head
Revolving on Stevie Nicks’ neck.
It’s not that I condone heraldry to get
close to death and colours
it’s that my feet are frequently misled
via Pontoon Dock or West Silvertown
where I see an LED soul frazzle hanging
& chicken bones rule the roost
where sometimes it demeans us
to where things leave us
and where we leave things
alone, dancing on
the showboat, a glazed wooden brain.
What’s not great about this is this:
in the soft fruit brain, what’s binary
and what’s not *poverty under the sun
*software that knows you and the two
of us asleep on Pluto where, if a porn image
ever dumbs up, hits itself in the eye
needs love phobia of love or
stickies, I will be there to give it.
So bad I need money, I hire out benignity
I’m huh your syndicat d’initiative
go bounce in the night
Hug me —
“tell me it’s okay not to be modern,”
that Louise Labe would’ve made believe
Not found goat in her bed
not sunk head-first into woolly Caracas
called her mum to say “call me.”
It’s not that I want a showy title
I just want to believe I saw the arrows
Pointing to each hole in the sky
you’ve gone to buy me a birthday present
of voluminous capacity, I
know where things leave us blown across
the window where the sound of train rolls
or at night wake up: to me, my favourite
time was in the street, junky cuss
but aside from this tenet what I see is
bands of poems: hairspray-encrusted plenary power
my self-pity bawling with the local yoga babies
that when I was too tepid was when my heart rubble
and my milk feet.
Coax down the decade
pine away palinode
stretch roving echo
to Vancouver’s alacrity
a shaky shoe-rack above Japan,
the atmosphere’s an apple layer for us
our opal loss
my fresh apple:
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