Drew Second Residency Lyric in Times of Extinction

Fairly random notes from a lecture by program director, and astounding poet, Annemarie Macari.

She was discussing poems of resistance and re-imagination by Elizabeth Alexander, Mark Doty, and Theodore Roethke, so a lot of the experience doesn’t really translate into notes. This is my remembered, and jotted down, flavor of what mattered most to me in the afternoon.

Annemarie started out by discussing all types of extinction we are facing, and one of her concerns as a poet and human, the extinction of the divine feminine and the huge costs that has had, most of which we no longer aware. I add to that list the number of languages that are going extinct, and all the knowledge those languages encoded that will now be lost to us as they are replaced by global languages which encode capitalism and colonialism. I’ve been thinking about this a lot after a discussion with my co-poet Kim, who is Mohawk, about her attempt to start a poetry journal in Mohawk only to get no submissions. None, because Mohawk poets are writing in English or French.

“When we got to our real poems,” Annemarie said, “after a long apprenticeship, these poems, the only poems we can write, also write us. We are what we write, we are our language. We must, as poets, live as if language were matter and mattered.” This, in contrast to the insane, techno-device driven world we inhabit, where, she said, “we are being distracted by distraction from distraction.”

Lyric poetry is enactment of mystery. Metaphor is not just a poetic device, it is ultimate thought, the way the human mind moves forward by connecting two things and seeing how they are similar, it is the source of all new insight. It is “instinctual groping,” a phrase I first learned from Annemarie in January and have been using to describe my own movement towards unspeakable mystery ever since.

Later, discussing Mark Doty’s “Homo Will Not Inherit,” she said, “Never to get lost is never to live. To be always sure of where you are is very dangerous for a poet.” Very reassuring for me, of course, as I find myself in a world where I don’t know how I will continue to make a living, who or how I will love, where I will live, or what my life might be in 5 years. Poetry, I know, is how I’m going to go on making a life, all else is as open as a broken store front, raided for clean water after a flood.

“I am not interested in transcendence,” Annemarie said, citing the close of Doty’s poem:

…This failing city’s
radiant as any we’ll ever know,
paved with oily rainbow, charred gates

jeweled with tags, swoops of letters
over letters, indecipherable as anything
written by desire. I’m not ashamed

to love Babylon’s scrawl. How could I be?
It’s written on my face as much as on
these walls. This city’s inescapable,

gorgeous, and on fire. I have my kingdom.

Yeah. My notes, scrawled on the edge, about this and my own life: “Once I’m in this space, I want to write and think and then fuck, and then write more and more. How do I set up that life?”

How indeed.

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