1. audio from my reading at Indian Springs School.
I was very inspired by my visit to ISS, and was especially heartened to encounter the vibrant and engaged curriculum developed by poets Jessica Smith and Douglas Ray. Also, Heidi Lynn Staples is awesome. So fun to read with her. Audio of her reading is here.
2. My poem "Pine Needles" is day two at the Delirious Hem Advent calendar.
After-Cave germinates in a space that is
desolate and dangerous. It invites the reader to nestle in the narrator’s skin
as a movement towards livability is recorded. The words collect on the
speaker’s dermis, galvanically; groggily we awake in the eyes of a girl,
fifteen, perhaps animal and perhaps human, maybe alive and possibly dead. A
hybrid text, After-Cave contains
poems and fragments, sentences and paragraphs, experiments in sound and syntax,
as well as visual poetry and cartographies. Language moves over the speaker
like weather systems and migratory birds, troubling notions of linear time and
traversing the spaces of human-made and "natural" disaster. More
pressing than hunger is the need to know what “cruelty” means and how one might
live in its absence, a series of torsions that displace us from a surface and
convey us to its underside, which is to say that After-Cave is a book about the impossible. How to make the impossible hospitable, and
thereby, in one’s way, to prepare oneself to meet one’s friends: human, animal,
the always alive and the already-dead. A feminist, feral-poetic odyssey,
purring and covered in mud. The words pace themselves on cave time. The better
to welcome an encounter that changes us as we wish to be changed.
Detorie extracts a poetics "against dying" out of a landscape of ruin and wilderness in this spirited full-length debut. The book comprises three long sequences concerning questions of shelter, destruction, and agency, which, though formally mercurial, remain linked through a single speaker who describes herself as "15. Female. Human (I think)." Materiality becomes a place of confluence for the bodily and the external universe, the man-made and the feral: "we are skin, snow, unpacked/ boxes opened like petals, skin// ... I held a line, a pail, my pockets/ becoming full, the moon/ blood red and lined with fur." The poems remain grounded in the subjective "I" but resist a linear sense of time, leading instead by sensation and image, and sometimes using formatting and typography to invite the reader into an unconventional experience of text, page, and physical book. This sense of play is punctuated by moments of direct assertion. "To insist that something—someone or some being—cannot be imagined is, in fact, its own form of oppression," Detorie writes. Indeed, her poetics struggles against such insistence in service of possibility. Where "The failure to occupy/ breaks apart like soap/ sand salt all/ the things we need/ to name," Detorie wrests a vocabulary of compassion. (Sept.)
After-Cave is the narration of “an adolescent female who may or may not be human,” an odyssey feral, feminist, and ecopoetical. More pressing than hunger for this speaker is the need to know what “cruelty” means and how one might live in its absence. In this way,After-Cave is a book about the impossible and how to make it hospitable, and thereby prepare oneself to meet one’s friends: human, animal, the always alive and the already dead. Using language that moves over the speaker like weather systems and migratory birds, troubling notions of linear time and traversing the spaces of human-made and “natural” disaster, Detorie in this first book introduces us to the distinction between a state of being and an act of being.
“Michelle Detorie betrays the false presumptions of our times to vivify and reinhabit the very spaces they have denied and marred. However ‘marred’ is language already discarded here. Without old-fashioned judgment, she sets us inside her testimony, which is a scored preamble, an alchemical cartography, girl-spirited and dense with data, all-atune. The book’s dystopian ferocity and knowledge make its bearings even as it trembles with a deep and feral hope. Hers is the tenderest, the most specific report.” —Elizabeth Treadwell
“Like Helen Adam before her, Detorie sings this afterlife-life, often via attention to noise, meaning that ‘voice’ here picks up some unnatural instruments: ‘Tumbleweeds or / teeth? [ . . . ] Fur / for a mouth.’ I make my way through After-Cave as I’d enter a woods where ‘the trees have decided to grow underground’—certain that finding my feet will involve a death to one nature or another. In this kind of apocalypse, it’s the ideology of ‘the natural’ that’s haunting the house—not any actual fact of organisms. Or (if you like ghosts) maybe it’s the natural’s propensity for systematic violence that leaves us with such fiery spectral lives.” —C.J. Martin
“Michelle Detorie writes through the animal to reach another place; there, we encounter ‘reluctance,’ ‘kindness,’ trailing ‘ribbons.’ I was very moved by the link Detorie makes between feral life and the ecology of shelter. As she writes: ‘Digging underground, I disrupted homes that did not belong to me but wound deep and tethered together.’ How this profound non-belonging is in relation, always, to the sensation of touch when it comes; touch that in After-Cave precipitates encounter, like the stages of soft palate growth and experiment that precede language: ‘Your hand like a little lock reached through—.’ What a tender and complicated book for someone to write. A book that is ‘silky, frayed, gleaming: a continuance.’ A book that hurts a little bit to read. A book saturated in the kind of longing a girl might typically not admit; a desire, in other words, that starts to change the outline of the body: ‘my glass jaw bobbing.’ The intensity also lies in the way Detorie takes us close to what is not us and what will change us to be with in another way, across the species frame: ‘I thought of taking off my clothes and sleeping with the wolf.’ Communal, imaginal, soft—the book goes on and takes us further in, until we reach the ‘meadows still blue with the asphalt glitter that rained down.’ And get to go. And get to lie down.”
My "Notes Towards A Feral Poetics" essay is included in this omg awesome beautiful collection from eohippus labs http://eohippuslabs.com/8/stealth
Thank you Andrea Quaid, Juliana Leslie, Amanda Ackerman, and Harold Abramowitz for this beautiful work.
My "tinyside" (like a broadside, but tiny), Feral Thing, is now available as a pdf from Maureen Thorson's Big Game Books. & just look at all those beautiful covers! Maureen is not only an amazing poet and publisher, but a truly gifted designer. I feel lucky to have a number of these tinysides, as they are truly wonderful objects to look at and touch.
something I want to fix it's impossible deep in the body where I can't see it like the marrow of a nervousness a fringe just touching just barely the body is so soft and pliable I feel it creaking the slackening and unslackening of my limbs I forget myself forget to bring the body its getting so old so heavy I shouldn't complain no don't let them hear you even your inner monologues should be edited what if someone hears you its like making a wish for satan to come and visit to pull back the covers and oh look your body is perfect your body is because it works don't think anything unless you wish it to happen your corruption is showing already you are ruining everything it would be better if we could all just go back to sleep
This is how you know
you can trust me. My hypnosis
the breath of all the babies
I'll never have. My hips
unfold a feral-scape
full of consonants
and struggle. The pine wreath ferns
with lilies gushing tiny troubles: electricity:
pulse and bubble.
The water purples as lies
lid the leaves' eyes
you unfettered so carelessly: grown to
More than: I told you so. More than: Make a baby.
What comes up empty: nuclear, cloudy. Another.And Another.
underground is best where I can disappear
the smokestacks have so many eyes so many
numbers ticker-flicking. debris scattered
in the garbage-grave of gears and pipes and conveyors.
Those machines we trusted and loved, how they
were formed to fit our bodies, hand and hip.
I have no babies:
only this self I drag around in the automobile
of my belly full of gentle plastics.
In the gray line
above the sea the trash birds weave
and underwater whales shrug their soft
skeletons. how much holy do I need? Am I so greedy?
Look how full my fist is.
Her red testament: hairs
spilled to ghosts. Her heirs
but rats -- those tiny teethers.
Her kin, her kind, contort
the tunnels, towers
bewitched together, whisker-
blessed and twisted, pawed
blue as the omnivore begets
pups and sisters. That purse
flap lifted. Look in.
You'll see: we are so similar.
Just subsisting. Twin vermin
vectoring the cistern. A miniature
system. Zodiac of plunder.
Calculus of convection.
Reflecting on the ecopoetics conference. Lots to sift through and think about. Thought I would share my abstract here. I'm already thinking of ways to amend and refine the ways I would describe a feral poetics, so consider this a work in progress.
Troubling the Field: Feral Poetics, Feminism, and the Politics of the Anti-Pastoral
Representations of nature and creaturely life, both in poetry and in the language of
environmentalism, remain haunted by the pastoral tradition. As a feminist, I am often concerned by the tacit acceptance of a pastoral frame in writing about nature. In my work as a writer and reader, I have experimented with a feral poetics as way to trouble pastoralism’s duplicitous and highly gendered fantasies of nature as "wild," “pure,” “unpopulated,” and outside of historical and political time. A feral poetics destabilizes these fantasies, and feral texts articulate and recover the subjects otherwise contained or made invisible by pastoralism’s narratives of nature, nation, state, and species.
In this presentation––part of a continuing project that meditates upon the politics of interspecies affiliations, affinities, and alliances––I outline the contours of a feral poetics, situating it as both an aesthetic and scholarly project of refusing/resisting pastoralism, recalling that pastorlism has often served as the warrant for settler colonialism, racism, and imperialism. In light of a feral poetics, writers, thinkers, and creatures as diverse as Bhanu Kapil, Claudia Rankine, Bernadette Mayer, Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Grosz, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Audre Lorde, Lorine Niedecker, Emily Dickinson, the feral ponies of Assateague Island and New Zealand’s celebrity ovine “Shrek” the sheep can be seen as co-conspirators in a common endeavor.
I was tagged by Elizabeth Treadwell. She is awesome. She sent me a copy of Virginia or the mud flap girl and it is awesome. I am supposed to send her a copy of my book in return. Even though I don't have a published full-length collection. I will probably send her some chapbooks and a valentine if I can get to the post office soon.
THE NEXT BIG THING
Right now, I have a 105 page manuscript with three sections: Fur Birds, Havens, and Notes from the Land of Hurt Feelings
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
It came from the mess of glass and glitter that is the sort of the flotsam and jetsam of the broken and brakish swampland of nostalgia and other fantastical longings. A longing for an unlearning that might take me back to creatures. A longing for dirt. A weaving through an affective geography that effectively maps states of emotional intensity without losing too much to narrative or conventional rules of grammar, syntax, and other linguistic forms.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry. Mysticism. Cozy Catastrophe.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
It would be a way of looking at people and things and not so much about the actors.
5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Time is with the animal. It has a politics.
6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
This is difficult for me to answer because my writing process is closest to that of a compost heap.
7. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Living in this world. Animals. Capitalism. Spending a lot of time in the South Carolina woods when I was a teenager.
8. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The narrator(s) may or may not be human.
but the doubleself is help. I've let the one slip inside another, hoping for a respite. Today, I've taken to my bed. All this wondering about being ill, all this...hoping for an explanation. I'm letting myself sleep as much as I want, and it is ... a lot. hours upon hours. I have no desire to go outside. yes the sun is lovely and I notice the bees now at the lavender and the birds trilling in the hedges, but it's like looking at everything through a window -- this fatigue. I write but the letters look alternately like bones harvested from an owl pellet or temperamental metal filings arranging and rearranging themselves around frenetic and rhizomatic poles. I can't help thinking "who cares?"
I'm not telling anyone, except myself, in a code I'll call latin, though most of the vernacular is language I've stolen from the dog. I cannot take credit for it.