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Lauren Eggert-Crowe Adventures into Sawako Nakaysu’s World of Ants

By Harriet Staff


At Trop (rhymes with “drop”), Lauren Eggert-Crowe delves into the mysterious, mythical world of ants with Sawako Nakayasu. Eggert-Crowe’s review shares her early experience in the audience, watching Nakayasu read at the University of Arizona, and provides a close-reading of Sawako Nakayasu’s newest book: The Ants (recently published by Les Figues Presse).

I’ve waited seven years for this book.

In my second year of grad school at the University of Arizona (or MFA-Land, as I came to call it), Sawako Nakayasu read her poetry in the Modern Languages Auditorium to a hundred or so Creative Writing students. She was last in a lineup that included Deborah Bernhardt and Catherine Wing; all three were loosely grouped together as “language poets,” a label I found confusing and redundant. At the time I was still weaning my poetry from the school of grand, dramatic thesis statements. I was hungry for oddity, craved permission to loosen the grammatical grip on my own work. So language poetry it was.

Nakayasu’s poems fucked with fragmentation and run-ons. She threw parentheses into enjambments like a punk e.e. cummings. Her poetry was highly cerebral and kinda mathy in its breakdown and reconfiguration of linguistic forms. She read a lot of poems about bugs.

The poem that stuck in my mind for the better part of a decade was “Desert Ant,” which begins:

Says ‘and’ with every step, so that it sounds like this: ‘and and and and and and and and and and and and,’ and so on. By the time I make my way to the same desert, I have been collecting and carrying an accumulation of nouns over the past, oh I don’t know how many days, and so I insert them in between the steps of the ant.

And ends:

I thought we were doing okay, but before I know it the ant is out of sight, and then before I know it, the ant has made a decision, and then before I know it, the ant is in my mouth, and mouth, and mouth, and mouth, and mouth, and mouth, and mouth.

You can find “Desert Ant” in Nakayasu’s new book, The Ants, along with ninety or so other poems that explore the mythical lives of formicidae. […]

Continue reading at Trop! (It’s our newest favorite habitat.)

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, June 19th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.