This week's recommended reading: two poems & a photography portfolio.
For fans of: dead animals.
Fact: People are drawn to the grotesque. It’s true; don’t pretend like you don’t rubberneck while passing a car wreck on the highway. But hey, it’s okay. Everyone else rubbernecks, too. And they’re not just rubbernecking car accidents, or slowing down to see what kind of bloody and tangled creature lays on the side of the road. They’re pausing and observing, writing poems, taking photographs.
One of the privileges of art is to inhabit that disturbing space and draw from it, transform it into something really lovely. Andrew Bruce, a photographer pursuing his MA from the Royal College of Art, has mastered that transformation. His images are quietly sad and beautiful. Check out his online portfolio here.
Mute Love Poem by David Harris Ebenbach (from Issue #49) is another example:
I don’t know what to say about the skunk
that our neighbor’s dog killed and left
in the street, open-eyed in the wide and
bitter aura of its afterlife, about the city
coming to shovel it off the asphalt but
leaving a lot of the smell behind somehow,
or about the electrical charge of need that
cicadas have been adding to the air all
week, or about the black ants that cross
the bathroom floor on the diagonal,
or what it all has to do with you in a car,
driving the length of Pennsylvania to
come home, come home, all of us right
here, in this place, finally come home.
The poem drops the reader into that macabre region – a decaying skunk – gives visceral description – that lingering scent – and then turns, moving towards something urgent and relevant – a deeply rooted longing.
Joyce Peseroff’s poem Margin of Error (found in the Fall 2011 Issue of Ploughshares) evokes similar emotions. The speaker begins by acknowledging how inconsequential our time on earth is, and concludes:
“Such a tiny fraction, so little between
and zero, my life
falls within the same statistical margin of error
as a cat struck in the fast lane
glued by its tail to blacktop, thrashing
to separate from skin.”
Peseroff's poem is a reverse image of Ebenbach's, beginning in a universal existential territory and then moving to the gruesome. Both poems succeed in drawing something lovely out of that dark place.
Pick up Ploughshares (subscribe from their website) to read Margin of Error in its entirety, and the rest of Peseroff’s wonderful poems (and please check out Laura van den Berg’s story “I Looked For You, I called Your Name”).