Michael Dumanis and Cate Marvin: Journal, Day Four

By Michael Dumanis

Cate Marvin and Michael Dumanis recently edited an anthology together. This week, they’re trading journal entries about the process.

Michael here. I'm going to post once more. Cate'll chime in. And then we'll answer a few of your questions on Friday.

When I look at a poem I want to the opportunity to be blown away before I even know why I’m being blown away. I spend most of my time feeling relatively secure and safe in side a downtown condominium in my own cornerless box of Lincoln, Nebraska, and the most exciting moments in my day are the moments I let a poem I’d never read before come into my life like a new piece of music or a work of visual art. Also, when I have something burning inside me, something I can’t necessarily fully grasp or articulate to a friend, I say it in a poem. I let the poem take over, burning, attempting to create something that hasn’t been created this same way yet.

Three years ago, my friend Cate Marvin and I were discussing the poems of our generation (she was born in 1969; I in 1976). We felt as though something new and exciting was happening in the work of the poets we most admired at the time—Olena Kalytiak Davis, D.A. Powell, Joshua Beckman, Lisa Jarnot, Larissa Szporluk, and Kevin Young, among others, poets who were approaching writing in fresh ways, creating beautiful rooms for us to get lost in. What these young were saying about the world was not necessarily much different from what other people say about the world, but Cate and I found the ways these poets were expressing themselves, the new architectures they were forming, breathtaking. We wanted to create a book for a general audience that included as many of our favorite poets in one volume as possible—to curate, through an anthology, the equivalent of a gallery show of our favorite young writers, so that a wider readership could access the beautiful lines they were stringing together, the windows opening into these poets’ souls. When I see something beautiful or moving or haunting or bizarre enough that I can’t stop thinking about it, I inherently want to share it with everyone, to say, “Check out this image. Listen to this breathtaking line.” Cate and I spent a year creating an anthology of particular poems that seduced us, hoping that you, the reader, might find a portal, for a moment or two, out of your daily life in your own personal Lincoln, Nebraska, to listen to Olena Kalytiak Davis when she says in her poem, “All the Natural Movements of the Soul,”

“the swan dive
the back flip
the jack knife

the way it wants to lean over things—”

or listen to poet James Kimbrell say of an empty house—all empty houses—“Maybe it’s true that everything/ Leads to this, a night in which silence displays its own//Hidden architecture, the hewn gables, the untranslatable/Syllable of moon in a tilt above the roof, only to show/how absent the self is. How picked of words. How near at hand.” The untranslatable syllable of moon… I love that.

Originally Published: January 26th, 2006