Our guest poetry editor selects poems that sit on “the knife edge between what we call the everyday and what we call the night.”
Image by Daniel Rios Rodriguez, Secondary Modern 2013 Oil, canvas
Four poets (Garrett Burrell, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Graham Foust, Cindy Cruz), four poems (“Adrift,” “Discrepancies Regarding My Mother’s Departure,” “Late Style,” “Guidebooks for the Dead”)—is there a thread that connects them? One could claim that each poem herein exists on the knife edge between what we call the everyday and what we call the night, that liminal space between what we see and what we sense, playing that game we play every morning upon waking, trying to remember the dream we are just now leaving, and how it will color our day, if we are open to it. This is how I read (re-read) them, at least on this rainy August morning, though multiple readings are of course possible and encouraged. These poems remind me that there is another language going on just below the surface chatter of the everyday, which is so loud now. These poems are all speaking from some otherside, some subterranean, somewhere outside the chatter. This is a deep river which poets get to find each generation, and these four seem to all have access to it, or at least they all did, at least in the moment (years?) of creating—or finding—these poems.
It is summer, but I gathered these poems this past spring, if that tells you anything. Three of these writers are from New York, likely not Manhattan, for what poet can live in Manhattan now, what poet would choose to live in a mall? I know Guernica will include images with each of these poems, but as I write this, I do not know what those images will be, and part of me resists them, knowing these poems generate their own images. Is there a way for you, dear reader, to simply read them one after the other, the way I do here, away from the images, to see how they speak to each other? Then you might find, as I do, that they are below our feet (as Whitman claimed for himself), wherever you are. If I could I would ask you to close your eyes as someone close to you—no, a stranger would be better—whispers these poems into your ear. If you could find someone on the subway, if you could step outside yourself long enough to simply ask, it should only take four minutes or so. Why the subway? Because it is closest to the experience of these poems, moving through a tunnel of light, fully contained in the pressure of the moment.
Garrett Burrell: Adrift
Cynthia Cruz: Guidebooks for the Dead
Graham Foust: Late Style
Rachel Eliza Griffiths: Discrepancies Regarding My Mother’s Departure
Nick Flynn’s most recent book is The Reenactments: A Memoir.