Saturday, November 13, 2010

Praise for literary journals, craft, hard work, Fifth Wednesday, Alice George's 'Lysol'

Lysol advertising history is
bizarre with implications women
could use it as douche or
contraceptive. Ck. wikipedia. 
Literary journals are, individually, a surprise. An anthology of almost random work waiting discovery.

Since each "random work" is in truth selected, its seeming random quality is merely a perception of the reader, who most often well knows there is a God and that God is a poetry or fiction editor.

Moving without fanfare from third- to first-person, I, Sarah Sarai, take delight in roaming pages as if they were an easy or at least unfenced range, not knowing what I will find, feeling free to like, dislike, reconsider.

My peers, writers I'm published alongside in a journal whose God has blessed me by selecting my poem or story, can intimidate. Sometimes I'm nervous when I receive a contributor's copy in the mail (just talking print, here) and have to wait to investigate who has outshined me, revealed the meagerness of my craft.

When Vern Miller, publisher and editor of Fifth Wednesday, sent my contributor's copy over a year ago (Nina Corwin was God, a.k.a. Guest Poetry Editor) I didn't hesitate to read the issue. I can't tell you why I unselfconsciously dove in because I don't know.

I read for delight and also to be educated. To see how other writers resolve or work with issues that puzzle me. "Lysol" is a sweep of a poem, one long sentence, and that's what interests me in terms of craft--how does Alice George use conjunctions and prepositions (which in a one-sentence poem move things along), honestly. The ultimate answer is through rewrites and drafts. I don't know George, but I will stake my heart with a silver pen if that's not the case. The answer to most questions about writing is Work at it.

The poem makes the specific--a friend, conversation, emotion--universal. I feel I know the players. I feel. Words jump with tangential logic (. . .hers is deeply / unexpected [flood? basement? life? empty nest?] and out-of-control. . .).

Check out Alice George's poetry collection, This Must Be the Place. I don't know if she was aware of claims Lysol executives made early in the 1900s, but I read a woman's body in the poem before I knew of the history.


Exhausted as jerky my friend
leans her head into the bright

salad I've made and tells about
ER shifts back to back and then

demands to know what kind
of Lysol I use to clean my basement

after it floods because hers is deeply
unexpected and out-of-control

and before I tell her nothing
we use nothing it's rain simply

triumphant around our ankles
before I offer her crackers

and volunteer as case in point
our cracked cave down below

I study the marks on her the way
her youngest son's leaving

has left her streaked with mud
and tears and now she somehow

wrings her clever hands
of answer she is mourning

the departure of the water
she swam in and I will be

there in a few years and vow
to be just so completely wrecked.

Alice George, pub. in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Spring 2009, Issue 4.

No comments:

Post a Comment