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Tender Journal Issue 7 Deeply Impresses

By Harriet Staff


Q: Where can you find an epistolary interview with Juliana Spahr, led by Sandeep Parmar, covering the intricacies of U.S. and U.K. poetry, race in British arts and culture, “[r]evolution-aligned” literature, statelessness, and more; poetry by Aisha Sasha John, Lindsay Turner, and Vahni Capildeo; and generous cover and contents images from Bunny Rogers? A: Tender, Issue 7: “A Quarterly Journal Made by Women.” An excerpt won’t do the interview justice, but let’s try anyway. There’s a lot more goodness to behold at Tender Journal.

[Sandeep Parmar:]

This brings me to your That Winter the Wolf Came, which I can’t stop reading. ‘It’s All Good, It’s All Fucked’ and ‘Turnt’, the final two sections of the book, are for me where the resistance is at its strongest—and the least lyrical. No doubt the lived experience of the Oakland Commune and a kind of witness (from afar but in incredible detail) of the BP oil spill run throughout the book offering moral ballast. But I was surprised to see how literally the book was being read by certain reviewers—as testimony or witness or simply activist poetry conveying ecological and political facts. This poem is true. I have texted I love you and its variations over and over.

Sometimes I barely knew you.
But the names are not true.
This is not a coterie poem.
Is it a milieu poem?
Can it be a movement poem?

(from ‘Turnt’)

It seemed instead to me that you were moving between several different borders. Authenticity. Form. To name but two. I’m curious about the ‘authenticity’ of the book. Can you tell me about the book’s boundaries?

[Juliana Spahr:]

Dear Sandeep,

…When the Oxford poet and refugee poet work together, can they write a border destroying riot into existence? Or does the Oxford poet provide the refugee poet an example of a how in Oxford, poetry is not written for the riot? In terms of borders in my work… Ugh. I become more and more convinced that literature is nothing but national. And yet I keep writing it. I think this is counter to what one is supposed to do. Or on twitter (about a press that I’m a part of): ‘IF POETRY IS USELESS THEN WHY WRITE & RUN A POETRY PRESS. TO MARKET YR REVOLUTIONARY POET BRAND NAME? #BROETRY.’ It is hard to get nuance on twitter and there a million ways to answer this question (among them the claim that poetry might be a minor part of somewhat revolutionary moments and there are a lot of reasons to try to understand how the state often recuperates literature as part of the counter-insurgency if one is committed to this relationship). And I’ve never been devoted to a politics of refusal or purity. I seem to write in a sort of improvisational form that our culture calls poetry more often than it calls it prose. I’ll keep doing it probably despite being nervous about its relationship to the state because there is no meaningful way to opt out of these relationships. I will also keep eating food despite being nervous about how the green revolution is destroying the environment. And I will also keep flying on airplanes despite… I wish I had meaningful choices. But until the borders go down (aka until there is no more capitalism), I don’t. But one of my interests in migrating birds, which seem to show up in my work more and more, is that they have got no interest in the Peace of Westphalia, no respect for its legacies. And I wanted in That Winter the Wolf Came to try to suggest that these moments of resistance that where happening outside my door not be seen as isolated from say the resistance in Gezi Park. Not that they were necessarily the same. But that there is right now a flickering global possibility. Can we call it into existence? Probably it can’t be called into existence through poetry. Or prose. Even as if it were to happen, poetry might be a part of it or show up in close proximity to it. But a poem can notice it if nothing else. And I think I want, in conclusion, to ask you maybe something similar. Something about Enoch Powell and the river of blood and his being a poet and the tradition and the back and forth of tradition in Eidolon. And I wanted to think about Helen of, as you put it, ‘no known address / of no known nationality / refugee of no known conflict / stateless.’ About Whitman too.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, February 25th, 2016 by Harriet Staff.