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Sarah Mangold: 'Writing, Moving, Practicing'


Things were astounding enough/the passenger ferry/the steeple/enough to make you die of astonishment
Sarah Mangold, from "I meant to be Transparent"

To be transparent, if it is a material, is to let light pass through so objects behind are made visible. To be transparent is also to transmit heat without altering bodies. To be transparent in computing is, (I imagine), a world where computers are so present and so invisible that the individual is not aware how problems have been solved. Transparent is "shining through" from the Latin transparere. It is to "appear."

The appearance or disappearance is shot through with motion. Invisible or visible is a movement that may alter perception or position. What is a poem whose borders are meticulously redrawn, a poem that is self-consciously a process of processing what it is not seeing? A poem that keeps an eye on the periphery might require a form of astonishment or stillness, or a doubled vision, to catch the fleeing or the fleeting in its particulars.

In her post last month on National Poetry Month (NPM) Daily, Sarah Mangold wrote, "For the last five years, I head in to work an hour early and spend that hour in a nearby coffee shop writing. Everyday. Even if I’m not in the middle of some spectacular idea, I’m writing, moving, practicing."

These sentences have lingered in me for the last few weeks. They lead me to her work. I read her poems in fragments on a computer screen because that is how I move through poems these days, five minutes here or two minutes there. This form of reading does not follow the kind of intention that Sarah Mangold maintains in "writing, moving, practicing" but it makes me think about the appearance and disappearance of "things" in poems. I'm trying to think about the perceptive eye, the roving body, and the intention that is practiced as I look to versions of the world around. My eyes are crossed in peripheral terms, peripheral times, if that makes sense.

One speaks of transparency and perhaps the images that arise signal, in time, to silhouettes, traces, and refraction. The truth of transparency is also the untruth in what falls to the sidelines, and what remains in the shadows.

magistrate building/sitting neatly as adults/the body as message writes Sarah Mangold in the same poem.

One must, in reading these lines, develop a slow-motion tactic, so that one floats with the edges guiding the eye. The static is an illusion or is it a frame of reference to something else? There is very little distance between body and the bodies. I have already admitted to reading with a fragmented eye. What is revealed is astonishingly moving, and as clear as language permits, as clear as one can be when things appear or are brought out of the shadows of illuminated bodies.

An emphasis falls on silhouettes/trenches lilies/substituting for an original body and voice.
Sarah Mangold, from "I meant to be transparent"

Originally Published: May 15th, 2013

Poet Tsering Wangmo Dhompa’s parents fled Tibet in 1959. Raised by her mother in Tibetan communities in Dharamsala, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal, Dhompa earned a BA and an MA from Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi, an MA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and an MFA in creative...