It seems that the medium of the blog has come full circle or full bloom and one is now solicited, and renumerated, for one’s formerly private or random or sketchy thoughts. In this venue, in the next few weeks, I’ll be publicly thinking about: my new gray kitten, Myshka (that’s Russian-in-English for “little mouse”); the imminent homebirth of my oldest, dearest friend’s first child (a single mom at 42 and I’m going to be the “birth partner,” ie, hand-crusher); Jennifer Moxley’s new book Clampdown; some great private ideas I’ve had over the years; and some of the joys and woes of being a one-woman publishing house—I’m the editor and publisher of Fence, a literary journal, and Fence Books. I’ll start in soon on the woes.

. . . Days and days later, I apologize for my delayed start-up with the best excuse in the world, or so it seems to me: After thirty-six long hours of labor, three hours of pushing, I am a godmother. Being in the room for all that was possibly the most fun I've ever had in my whole life, not counting the time I've spent writing poems (I wonder how many hours that amounts to?), which counts not quite as effort, not quite as recreation, and certainly not as labor, though one labors to create certain conditions in order to be able to write poems.

Welcome to little Jack, 8 pounds 14 ounces, a most chill little boy. A strange sense of the ending of possibility accompanies a new child, and I found myself thinking today that it might be related to the recklessness with which we call a poem a poem. When a new child arrives it is the death of imagination: No, this is the child who was waiting there for you, inside you, or at the orphanage, or wherever you get your children. Not any other child. None of the dreams you had or the unnamed phantasms is your child, and none of those will come to bear. But this, most particular, most finite in its self, though graced of course with whatever portion or quotient of infinite possibility can still manifest in a human (probably not quantifiable). Similarly, or so it seemed to me today after leaving mother and new person settled comfortably, visibly bonding even through all their limitation, the poem that one grabs or wields, or musters, is a more than a little bit of closure. But the closure of birth, unlike that of death. Orgasm, now orgasms, that's a little bit of death, right?

Next time maybe I'll tell you about my feelings of inadequacy reading Lisa Robertson's Magenta Soul Whip. That lady grabs the words out of the ether with infinite composure.

Originally Published: July 10th, 2009

Born and raised in New York City, Rebecca Wolff earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She authored Manderley (2001), selected for the 2001 National Poetry Series; Figment (2004), winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize; The King (2009); and One Morning— (2015). Her work has appeared in BOMB...

  1. July 10, 2009

    Ah, Rebecca Wolff! Wonderful to read your great private ideas! Look forward to more in the series.\r
    --FormerFenceIntern, Thom Dawkins

  2. July 11, 2009
     Gina Browning

    Hi Rebecca,\r
    I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts, and congratulations on becoming a new "God parent"!\r
    We adopted both of our kids, the last one, a daughter, from China. And let me tell you, I had plenty of poetry to write during that whole (LONG) process!!\r
    Looking forward to viewing your post some more!\r

    Gina Browning\r
    (A children's fantasy bed-time story written following my hysterectomy!)Inspired? For healing? for closure? don't know.......

  3. July 11, 2009
     Margo Berdeshevsky

    Yes for "la petite mort" & your metaphoric ellipse to it, Rebecca. There are women for whom birth is orgasmic. & My midwife friend concludes that post-partum lasts for the rest of a woman's life, each time. Then how many deaths she carries in her, as well as lives... La petite mort, French for "the little death" = post-orgasm, pre-spiritual release.I've often been interested in its different meanings--to men & women.\r

    Back to birth: a mother, a parent, mostly believes the child born--is hers/his, forever. As poet--I often prefer to believe that once written, the poem is no longer mine but the readers' & hence released, dead, & alive, both & at once...maybe a mental exercise, but it can clear the path for a next. \r

    best, \r

  4. July 11, 2009
     Sina Queyras

    Oh, I hear you on the feelings of inadequacy reading Lisa Robertson's Magenta Soul Whip. Looking forward.

  5. July 14, 2009
     Eileen Myles

    I don't get the inadequacy. You mean jealousy or envy? How can a reader be inadequate. I am also a Lisa fan. . .

  6. July 15, 2009

    I think she means inadequate as a writer, not a reader.

  7. July 15, 2009
     Rebecca Wolff

    Yes, I am feeling humbled as a writer of poetry. I'm just blown away by her range of vernacular, erudition, confidence, dynamism, energy, etc. I guess this means I'm also humbled as a reader since, what else am I when I'm reading the text. I don't have it here with me at work today but later I'm going to site some of the actual words.

  8. July 16, 2009
     Maggie May

    I love the cardboard Fence cover- the cardboard art and other raw material arts are fitting right in with the suck economics.

  9. July 16, 2009
     tom ze

    homebirths rule.

  10. July 16, 2009
     Rebecca Wolff

    Hey, yes, thanks. The cardboard art (and the work inside) is by Jason Middlebrook, an artist of great range and ingenuity.

  11. July 16, 2009
     Rebecca Wolff

    They do! Even the ones that end up in the hospital, as this one did. I've never seen such a relieved-looking midwife.

  12. July 16, 2009
     Gail White

    I'm more into kittens than babies.\r
    Send a picture of Misha!

  13. July 18, 2009
     Eileen Myles

    Yeah Matt, I think it was obvious I understood what she meant. Cool insertion though. Since both Sina and Rebecca cited inadequacy I wanted to ask what that was about. I consider them both friends and Lisa too so I wanted to prod a little. I thought Lisa's greatness shouldn't lose her readers. Maybe the "inadequacy" was inadvertantly a critique? Now I am asking for trouble.

  14. July 18, 2009
     Sina Queyras

    Hi Eileen, \r
    I've blogged about my reading of Lisa Robertson quite a lot over the years, and spoken publicly about the sense of apprenticeship I have felt as a reader of her work. I constantly marvel at it. The inadequacy is certainly all mine. \r

    Having said that, while one might feel inadequate as a reader of LR's work, that need not stop anyone--the texts are infinitely inhabitable. \r

    I've learned an enormous amount through my--by now long term engagement with the texts. It's ongoing. And very pleasurable.