Excerpting Senior Writers: Justin Wymer '12

Wymer reflects on writing his poetry thesis.


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