There’s No Such Thing as Blue Water – Damian Rogers
I’ve been thinking that montage is a mental technique
for accepting unity as a convulsive illusion. I feel sick.
I hate it when my stories have holes, though I suspect
there’s where the truth leaks out. So go back to bed.
Maybe it’s laziness, maybe the delivery system is flawed.
If the gods are making a movie, I’ve spent years sneaking out
for smoke breaks between takes. I do violence to myself.
I imagine the ones I love dead in their favourite chairs,
dead in distant car crashes. Who are these girls who wear
lipstick to watch TV? The woman I know go shut-in,
sleep in their clothes for days in a row. A self-help author
revealed to me with great confidence that life is swinging
branch to branch in a fog. And I thought, of course
he’s right, of course he’s wrong. Let’s say we are always
at Point A. From space, the ocean is only a mirror.
I’m writing this from a cottage in Aldeburgh, after attending the poetry festival for the third year in a row. I’ve been at wall-to-wall poetry events from Friday night until this afternoon, but for those of you that weren’t lucky enough to be at a brilliant poetry festival, I am sending you this fantastic poem by the lovely Damian Rogers, who I met at an event in Grasmere a couple of months ago.
The poem comes from Damian’s poetry collection Dear Leader, published by Coach House Books. Damian is from the Detroit area and now lives in Toronto, where she works as poetry editor of House of Anansi Press and as creative director of Poetry in Voice, a national recitation contest for Canadian high school students. Her first book of poems, Paper Radio was nominated for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. You can find out more information about Damian on her blog and you can order her book here.
When I read this poem for the first time, I had a jolt of recognition when I got to the line ‘I do violence to myself./I imagine the ones I love dead in their favourite chairs/dead in distant car crashes.’ I do this all the time! I imagine worst case scenarios to the point where I will wince with the imagine pain and have to shake myself out of it. What a relief to know I’m not alone!
More accurately though, the first jolt of recognition was at the line ‘I hate it when my stories have holes, though I suspect/there’s where the truth leaks out.’ That seems true of poetry, that the truth leaks out through what is not said, through the holes in the poems.
The poem seems both sure of itself and unsure of itself. It is a strange mix of definite statements ‘I feel sick’, ‘So go back to bed’ but there are also lots of words which show that in fact, there is nothing simple or clear or definitive: ‘I’ve been thinking’ ‘I suspect’, ‘Maybe’. The poem does have its own inherent wisdom with observations like ‘A self-help author/revealed to me with great confidence that life is swinging/from branch to branch in a fog. And I thought, of course/he’s right, of course, he’s wrong.’
That statement seems to be at the heart of the poem – the idea that things can be both one thing, and another. I also think that the question ‘Who are these girls who wear/lipstick to watch TV? The women I know go shut-in, sleep in their clothes for days in a row.’ I think the shift from the ‘girls’ – who are not real – (who does wear lipstick to watch TV?) to the women, who are real, albeit ‘shut-in’ is a really clever one.
I’ve had an amazing weekend. The highlights of the festival for me was the readings tonight by Choman Hardi and Tony Hoagland. Choman’s book ‘Considering the Women’ was launched at the festival and she read from a sequence in the book which explores the genocide in Kurdistan. The poems were heartbreaking and moving and it is one of only a few occasions when poetry has moved me to tears, not only for those poems but also for the poems she read later about the breakdown of her marriage, which were full of such sadness and yearning and longing and regret. They were really beautiful.
The other thing that impressed me about Choman this weekend was the way she conducted herself during the various discussions and lectures that she took part in. In the Blind Criticism session, she was only an audience member, yet she said the most pertinent comment of the session, referring to Allison McVety’s poem ‘White Jean’s, she said something like ‘When women wear clothes it is seen as an expression of their sexuality, when men wear clothes it is seen as an expression of their identiy’ which I thought was so interesting and full of possibilities to explore.
Choman was the first poet to read in the last reading of the festival and Tony Hoagland did the closing reading. I love his use of irony and the clever observations in his poems and I love the way he seems to be trying to write about the soul – what it is and how to define it. I’m now planning on basically buying everything else he has ever written – that is how good it was! And to think I’d not heard of him, or Choman before the festival. That is why I love Aldeburgh – I go there thinking I’m excited to hear Kei Miller and Helen Mort and John Burnside (and it was exciting) but then the poets that make me feel like something in my life has just shifted, are poets I’ve never come across before.
There is lots more to tell you but I’m running out of my 1000 words and I’m writing this with a headache. On Saturday night, I rather embarrassingly started to get really hot as John Burnside was reading. I was quite near a door but still it was very obvious when I left, but I had to get out, because I thought I was going to be sick or pass out. I usually pass out when I get too hot. Once I’d cooled myself down by splashing water on my face, I was ok, apart from a really bad headache, which I’ve now got tonight as well.
So I’m going to sign off now. Aldeburgh was amazing. I’m getting up early tomorrow for the drive back to Cumbria. I have to be back in the evening for junior band rehearsal and soul band rehearsal. Hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Damian Rogers for allowing me to use it on this blog. .