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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.
And always the murmur begins—
the embedded trance
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
foxmilk, spoils, troves of ash—
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
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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