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Excerpting Senior Writers: Justin Wymer '12

Wymer reflects on writing his poetry thesis.

By Justin B. Wymer, Contributing Writer


My thesis is titled Genius Loci, and it is precisely that “spirit of place” that sparks and organizes my poems. How a poem takes shape to me is the direct product of the place where I write it. The season, the weather, the accent, the landscape, and the type of flora and of fauna are important. Also, the rhythm, the pace of speech, the nature of the dusk, and the colors of the places where I write poems have a compositional- arranging effect. Writing poems to me is a process of looking hard, of sensory mosaic. It’s all about image progressions. It’s a matter of allowing the senses to rove, to impinge upon and collide with things, and then to gather the queer echoes that come back and to try to describe them as accurately as possible. If abstraction comes in, it’s only if images create a friction when they rub against others brought into proximity on the page. Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to the masters of the deep image and to the Spanish surrealists, Lorca and Vallejo in particular.

The thesis itself consists of 51 poems, divided into 5 sections. I wrote them while back home in West Virginia, with the tulip poplars and the mountain ravines; in lower Manhattan and in Brooklyn, with their faster heterogeneous landscape; and while in Spain and in Massachusetts. I found that the form my poems take depends on the landscape surrounding me, and also on the seasons. Spring is a season that exfoliates itself, that breeds, that never stops expanding. So the spring-poems in section II of my thesis have lusher imagery and have longer prose-like lines, punctuated largely by em dashes, because spring never lets the senses rest. Conversely, in winter, the poems took the form of spare quatrains with sparse imagery because the season left the senses naked, cold. And while in New York City, the poems became short and descriptive, in an effort to organize the expansiveness, the suddenness, of the constantly-fluctuating urban microdramas.

The Murmur

And always the murmur begins—

the embedded trance

ripping to

and rising—the moth-

wing letting empty of dust—And

the skin will be part of it, the worst

skin, the desertflesh, the whiskey dunes of

shoulders—and seen from the

back—birds pausing  to consider diving to eat—

So hasp the hedgerows they are improper—and

the fetid burbling of hermit thrushes crack

open in wind—Be at home in them—

Just now, the faint bone-

system of the wicker-broom still held in scent

from the oil

preserves the tan-blond

nerves of hard silhouettes—sour now—

there is no food for them—

If one bends to see the blown glass

laying its trance on each of the ribs

the motion closes, the breath

builds skin, pocks—at once the fingers are dank

root systems—uncover

foxmilk, spoils, troves of ash—

cavernous purples—

Could I ever ferment—and the nature of

my roundnesses soften—the oil-

slicks of May be re-

possessed—Now here, in the crenellated

pause preceding laughter—the magnolias

shriek open—where the old

owls laugh—Leaflessness was never

a prophecy—Pills of

snow curl into their own throats

and lay claim there, intrude on their own

blanched flesh—This ripped light

slits open, releases, cauterizes

every hole —The larvae’s tongues harden somewhere—

the blood-ice seems smudged with


and everything is a wetness—and

the forehead feels the

sky permit it—Then

a reddish silence claps over everything—

moths drown in that well, their strong ligaments

dissolve into curs barking—

If I can protect you it can only be from

the blurts of knives—the spacious

licks of mauve—The dolls’ heads

that roll out of them and away

are not without eyes, no one has yet to

eat them—So I ask you to

lean in—Know the cold is just-done from

the bleached semen smell of chestnuts

blooming—clean splinterish light that threads

over everything—I ask you to

listen—you can never possess

the loudness of a tossed cigarette—

Reuse the wicker’s oils, crawl into

the leaves, into the wefts of snow—

in greenish light—I tell you

this: Court the beautiful

tone-deaf woman who stops every day to clench and

pick up a leaf—just outline—

Imagine how she could ever vow for

anything—And know—Nothing

in this brackish ice-lit time was ever



This collection of torches convulsing in ink:

it is not what I wanted to give you.

All whites look older at night and yet

the tapestry has to include them….

I wanted you to sip this one swatch of light

that stands singly, and

the tan peasant wind that catches and fans

the thin milk of its undergarment, and

how morning blood un-hasps

the hatches behind sleep's cogs, flooding

and the blasted furnace that risks ecstasis

according to… Is this truly the color of my hands?

I wanted to give you the searing first glance

again, wanted you to grab and fold

into that one swatch of cloth

and stay and raise your hands

and your children's hands later when

I melt into cadenza and we waft hoarsely past these

pinewood rafters, records of starlings—then—

till chance is at last served raw to stirring gods,

till I can’t name the scent of any ripeness

and no longer know what cool water means,

I will needle my eyes into

the position of afterstars. I will make

light trip and sift off sandstone in

the quarries. We have witnessed

too many rutilant past tenses.

Now I shall be the saver of pauses.

We will need breath later.

We erred. Sky should be easier.

I thought this would be different, this looking up.

I thought there would be a granary.

Justin B. Wymer is an English concentrator in Currier House. He completed a thesis in poetry titled Genius Loci. Next year, Justin will be attending the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

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