This Trip Around the Sun Is Expensive
EW: Hi Sumita. It's awesome to meet you through talking about Gizzi. He's long been a favorite of mine for so many reasons--but one of them is how he handles long poems. For this exchange I chose a short poem, but in it I see something he does in his poem "Vincent Homesick for the Land of Pictures". He rotates, just as we revolve around the sun. In "Vincent", the second half of the poem mirrors the first in reverse. I'm really taken, and I think have been influenced by, Gizzi's depiction of art/creative thought as circular; representation as something that revisits, with a difference. Thought this poem would be great for a snowed in East coaster to contemplate! The sun is so cheap out here in California it presents its own problems. Get back to me with any thoughts when you can! --Emily
SC: Emily! This poem is magnificent, and so is this idea of yours; I’ve a tendency to ramble on in texts and other personal correspondence theoretically limited to brevity, so on a personal level I’m tickled pink to have a context in which such rambling is basically mandatory.
SC: I love what you’re saying about revolving; and there’s such a remarkable poetic history to the word and the idea, you know? The volta; Yeats’s gyre; even all the way back to Georgics, with its planets and with the idea of poetry as plowing, which involves having to turn back around at the end of a row. And there’s a touch of madness and rebelliousness to revolving, right, like the word revolution, which this poem definitely locks right into & grows out of; it’s, well, “viscous,” “flesh,” “Wound bright,” “winter dark blooming.” The land of pictures, of writing - “all time booming.”
SC: God it’s stunning. This discussion is going to be a blast. Thanks so much for having me; I can already tell this’ll be one of the most fun things I’ve done. I’m in Atlanta these days - working the AGNI gig remotely, hanging out down at Emory - so tragically no snow for me, but winter’s my favorite season, and I can’t tell you how great it is to smell it in this poem. S
SC: (Oh and by the way - tell me if there are hours that are off-limits for messaging you? I tend toward night-owling, and I know some people don’t use Airplane mode or Do Not Disturb, etc.; would hate to ramble at you at three in the morning and wake you up!)
EW: No off limits hours! So glad you're on board! I'll return to Gizzi's winter later today.
EW: Yes, Revolution. Yes, Madness. But I hear a cage in this poem. Being shipboard with no where to go. The "viscous air" and the "winter ice" makes me think of being kept in one place, stuck. So the poem revolves and creaks in one place... The trip is expensive, so what is the cost? What's the most expensive trip you've taken, what was the emotional toll?
SC: I’ve been thinking about “revisits, with a difference” from your first message, and the attention you called to the title in your last (that “expensive”) - so you know what I’ve been wondering: what happens to the poem if we take the repeating bits out? so “Shipboard is / what winter is” repeats; “what isinglass / moonlit wave / winter is // Winter surf / all time booming // all time viscous air / not black, night / winter dark blooming // surfs of winter ice” repeats; I’ll count “This trip / around the sun / is expensive,” too, because of the title, yes? so here’s what’s left:
No time away
from igloo ice
hubba hubba like
the proud flesh
When you said “cage,” “revolves and creaks in one place,” “shipboard with nowhere to go” - something huge about that feels right to me, especially since it feels to me like there are big stakes here - the revolution and madness I was thinking about, there’s not much of a risk to it if there’s no cage, you know? So that feels dead on - it’s not inexpensive. There are consequences. Somehow out of the revolution and the cage comes those seven lines that aren’t part of the cyclical rhythm itself, but they grow out of it anyway. (This isn’t directly related, but it sort of obliquely reminded me of this, one of Louise Bourgeois’s cells- I think it came in part from your saying “cage,” and in part from “work / the proud flesh” and “Wound bright”)
SC: oh, and another thought! You mentioned “Vincent,” on rotating - I went to it (I love the long poems, too), and I’m struck by this stanza:
To step into it as into a large surf in late August
to go out underneath it all above and sparkling.
To wonder and to dream and to look up at it
wondrous and strange companion to all our days
and the toil and worry and animal fear always with us.
The night sky, the deep sense of space, actual bodies of light
the gemstone brushstrokes in rays and shimmers
to be held tight, wound tighter in the act of seeing.
The sheer vertical act of feeling caught up in it
the sky, the moon, the many heavenly forms
these starry nights alone and connected alive at the edge.
this I love, that seems to speak to what we’re talking about: “To wonder and to dream and to look up at it / wondrous and strange companion to all our days / and the toil and worry and animal fear always with us.”
and two small details:
The moon’s here too, and the “wave” from “Trip Around the Sun,” it’s here in the “surf,”
The word “wound” here: I read it in “Sun” as meaning “injury,” and here in “Vincent,” it’s “to wind” (and “tighter in the act of seeing” to boot) - so there’s what we’re talking about again! Stakes, massive. Injury and the act of seeing, a freedom - “to wonder and to dream” - and entrapment, almost a claustrophobia, “held tight, wound tighter,” “feeling caught up in it.”
EW: What great thoughts! The Bourgeois cells have been floating in my head all week haunting me. I keep returning to WOUND BRIGHT. Your focus on what exactly the poem is rotating around is so interesting and a way of approaching it I wouldn't have thought of. For me it really hinges on some purity in those words "wound bright". The play in them is crucial, their placement in the poem crucial. And "bright"... Somehow pure, cruel and exposing. The most expensive of experiences. Thank you so much for this great chat. You've given me a lot to think about regarding Gizzi and also ways to apart a poem. Now! Back to our temperate, cheap winters. --Emily