by Sarah Kirstine Lain, Poems2go Assistant Editor
The P2G Winter Quarterly is here! When Poems2go’s founder, Christine Jones, and I were discussing potential themes for the P2G Winter Quarterly, the idea of reinvention spoke to us both. I think of phrases like reinventing the wheel and nothing new under the sun. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first use of reinvention is referenced in the March 1719 issue of the Weekly Medley: An Art now so long lost, its Loss so lamented, and its re-invention so much coveted. This concept is closest to my consciousness, though not without consideration to the former idioms. To me, poetry offers a space for reinvention like none other: word into image into idea into social reform into conversation with another poem, law, art form, technology, etc.
Recently, I have been meditating on André Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism, particularly this thought: “I would plunge into [art], convinced that I would find my way again, in a maze of lines which at first glance would seem to be going nowhere. And, upon opening my eyes, I would get the very strong impression of something never seen.” As poets, what is the secret sauce in the cosmic hallucination art supper that leads to envisioning futures that can reshape landscapes of human freedom? How do we reinvent the tools that reinvent the wheel? Or perhaps, on a less epic and more anchored level: how does a writer take the stuckness of road construction on a morning commute, and during the delay, imagine the driver that led her there as the Future Princess of New Fruit in a Multiverse of Non-atomic Pink Matter? I don’t know how everyone else does this stuff, but for me it takes a poem.
In the coming months, we’ll be highlighting ways in which poets address reinvention in this issue of Poems2go. We’re thrilled to share work by poets Tara Betts, Clarissa Adkins, Jennifer Martelli, Panika M.C. Dillon, Wendy Drexler, Mary Makofske, Susan Cavanaugh, Lillo Way, Sean Lause, and Mary Makofske. For starters, Jennifer Martelli’s Pachydermianism turns an elephant’s forehead into a gray sky with a blue diamond in it, and then immediately there is no diamond! First, the elephant is Asian, and then it may be African, etc. All of this is reinventing matter in the course of a few lines, and then – The diamond may be a diamond formed by squeezing coal for a million years or formed by a child’s / pointer fingers and thumbs touching. Suddenly, a diamond is no longer an elaboration of an elephant’s forehead; instead it is the work of a child. The concept of Pachydermianism (a genetic disorder causing the skin to thicken) grows so imagistically complex in its capacity to foster simultaneous emotions, not for a diamond or an elephant, but for the child’s pointer fingers and thumbs touching in order to produce what can be worn for another’s elegance.
In Panika M. C. Dillon’s playful beware the feather boas, the speaker’s hair is a room where the reader can try on clothes and pull out loose change, enter it into a gumball machine and pull out a tongue. An absurdist image like this gives space for multiple interpretations, but what it accomplishes beyond that is its ability to take something as everyday and visceral as hair, and turn it into some respun C.S. Lewis wardrobe with a creepy gumball-tongue twist at the end. Similarly, in Mary Makofske’s In the Braille Garden, a blind person experiences a garden through braille, where roses have fangs; the twigs of burning bushes are winged, and a lamb’s ears are furred leaves. We can enter into these images, though we’ve never seen them before, and isn’t that integral to the blind experience?
I am asking: can we consider the substance of poetic work by writing what we witness through a lens of what we have never seen? What is more real: the brown freckles I see on my hand while typing this or the pink octopus-shaped beauty mole I see on my imaginary enthroned head while typing this? I think of Salvador Dalí, who achieved reinvention in so many ways. He claimed that he liked to sleep with intense light on to reshape his dreams. Consider some of the titles of his art: A Shattering Entrance to the USA, The Laser Unicorn Disintegrates the Horns of the Cosmic Rhinoceros, or one of my favorites – Martian Dali Equipped with a Double Holoelectronic Microscope. None of that exists! – or it didn’t, but it does now. Dalí’s art has reimagined my own aesthetic, dreamscape, and so on. In the same way, may these poems provide intense light for a deeply necessary reinvention.