Posts Tagged ‘Laura McCullough

03
Apr
17

“Love Waves” and Doors: Associative Pattern Making in Laura McCullough’s The Wild Night Dress

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in a future issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics.

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Laura McCullough -- The Wild Night DressIn the “Series Editor’s Preface,” Billy Collins notes, “One requirement for poets is the ability to write about two different things at the same time. Seamus Heaney turns writing into a kind of digging. John Ciardi intertwines marriage and the structure of an arch” (ix). In the 2017 Finalist Miller Williams Poetry Prize book The Wild Night Dress (The University of Arkansas Press, 2017) , Laura McCullough does this, too, and she informs the reader up front in the Prologue’s poem, “The Love Particle,” “Love Waves is the name given to shocks / across the planet’s surface after an earthquake, what we / who are not at the epicenter actually feel” (3). She’s aware she’s going to share some intense personal experiences from her epicenter of grief and pain and her readers will experience her emotions in those Love Waves.

The two opening poems of “Part I: Passage with Hardboiled Egg” – “Feed” and “Toward Something Larger” – inform the reader what is at the epicenter of McCullough’s grief: her dying mother and her departing husband. Both create voids in her life, but more of the book revolves around her mother than her ex-husband. Perhaps this is because the bond with a mother is stronger than with a lover, which as a “long marriage / cycles predictably” (7), whereas with her mother, there appears to be a deeper intimacy of unspoken understandings, such as when her mother had “thrown up / in the water, perhaps a first sign.    Signs // in language are made of signifiers and the signified. / Mother and daughter are a kind of language” (19). McCullough will also build signs and symbols for the reader, which I’ll get to obliquely.

The poems in this collection are interconnected in the immediacy of one poem moving into the next and across the breadth of the whole collection. In fact, this book of poems would be a good one to use in an advanced poetry writing workshop where students are trying to organize their own poems into a manuscript. In the poem-to-poem movement, an image, word, or idea appears in one poem and the following poem, such as the appearance of “residue” and “bees” in “Soliloquy with Honey: Time to Die” (14-15) and “Across Which the World” (16), language in “I Am Calling You” (17), “What He Said the Russians Say” (18), and “Hunger Always Returns” (19), and “door” in “Ceremony of a Commonplace and Unremarkable Moment” (25), “Passage, Revolving with Boots” (26), and “Revolving Door” (27). Additionally, some words and images appear in poems far apart, such as “water,” “salt,” and “ocean,” but with the distantly echoed images, or conceptual harmonies, associations are being created within the self-contained universe of the book. For Instance, in “Water : Waterfall :: Equation : Proportion,” McCullough creates relationships between “soul” and “water,” “ocean” and “human,” and “salt” and blood,” so that later on when we read “water,” for instance, we have a built-in associative memory to “soul.” Certain words and images, like “water” and “soul,” then carry a relationship throughout the book.

With the image of “door,” which appears at least 12 times in the collection, it accumulates multiple associations, so much so that it behaves like a symbol. “Door” first appears in “What He Said the Russians Say” (18):

I was just a girl
who hadn’t lost enough to understand
            language
as a door we stand at pondering,
 

trying to get it open, say what we mean,
and how we are afraid that no one
is even on the other side. (16-22)

Here, “door” is an obstacle to expression, as well as a place of meditation, mystery, and fear. Later, in “Revolving Door” (27), she is able to see what’s on the other side of a door – a gardener “cutting leaves” (11). Still, there is a sense of being afraid, as she can barely see him, “his eyes meet no one’s” (8), and because “his sneakers were once red” (9). The once-red sneakers when coupled with the “weapon” he “wields” creates on ominous moment, because it feels like those shoes are covered in blood, but in fact, the blood-colored shoes have been soiled by his cultivation of plants and keeping them alive. The “door” here then begins to set up the feeling of a liminal place between one living world and another living world, so when we get to “Body a Doorway” (35), where McCullough wants “to make” her “body a door though which she [her dying mother] might pass” (9), we understand she wants to mediate her mother’s death and make it pleasant for her. However, the door still carries a fearful emotion, because “in these last seconds my [McCullough’s] mind rebels, / and I barely hold back the small selfish voice: No, don’t go. // Then it is done” (10-11). She couldn’t mediate for her mother. The moment was too overwhelming, too scary. She instead watched her mother pass away to “the other side.” Much later in the collection in “Lake of Sky: Refrain” (71), we see how McCullough “prepared” herself “for being / a doorway” by bringing her mother’s favorite books to her, as well as “myrrh,” “a battery operated candle,” a “scarf,” and other intimate items. But here the “door” works in reverse. While McCullough can’t cross over, her mother from the other side can, as she now has her mother’s “face inside of” her face (19). The image/symbol of the door gains new layers of meaning and associations as we move through the collection, as do other images. In essence, in developing self-contained associations and image/concept harmonies, she creates the “Love Waves” as well as she can through language so we can feel the ripples emanating from the epicenter of her experience.

Throughout The Wild Night Dress, McCullough is in the crosshairs of two griefs while attempting to stay whole, and her writing of this book, so it seems, is an attempt of making a new wholeness for herself amid the absence of her mother and ex-husband. As you move through the poems and the wake of “Love Waves” in The Wild Night Dress, be sure to have a box of tissues and leave your doors open.//

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McCullough, Laura. The Wild Night Dress. Fayetteville, AR: The University of Arkansas Press, 2017. Print.

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15
Jul
11

The I-90 Poetry Revolution Begins 9-3-11

The second most important date in the history of American poetry is September 3, 2011, at 7:30 p.m. This is when poets from all over the country will gather at A Different Path Gallery to read poems announcing and supporting the I-90 Poetry Manifesto. (You can read the manifesto here  or as PDF here.)

The I-90 Revolution Reading Poster

Besides reading the poems that will be heard ’round the world, it will be the release party of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics issue 14.

Redactions Issue 14 front cover(Special thanks to Kenny Lindsay for his help on the Tominator style for the letters.)

The final list of readers isn’t complete, but all the poets in issue 14 have been invited, including:

Corey Zeller, William Wright, Joe Wilkins, Antonio Vallone, Bill Tremblay, Daniel Tobin, Claudia M. Stanek, Matt Smythe, Martha Silano, Gregory Sherl, Ravi Shankar, Edwina Seaver, Wanda Schubmehl, Karen Schubert, John Roche, Michael Robins, Joseph Rathgeber, Nate Pritts, Derek Pollard, Dan Pinkerton, Eric Neuenfeldt, Laura E. J. Moran, Lindsay Miller, Philip Metres, Laura McCullough, Djelloul Marbrook, Gerry LaFemina, Keetje Kuipers, Les Kay, Kitty Jospe, Jonathan Johnson, Gwendolyn Cash James, Adam Houle, William Heyen, Andrei Guruianu, Richard Foerster, Jonathan Farmer, Deirdre Dore, Laura E. Davis, Jim Daniels, Charles Cote, Peter Conners, Holly Virginia Clark, Alex Cigale, Jan Wenk Cedras, Rob Carney, James Capozzi, John Bradley, Tricia Asklar, Sherman Alexie, Lisa Akus, and guest editor Sean Thomas Dougherty.

Don’t miss it. As Sean Thomas Dougherty says, “There will be poetry so beautiful it will change your life.”

A Different Path Gallery is located at 27 Market Street in Brockport, NY.

The event is free, but bring a bottle of wine if you can.

If you’re on Facebook, you can add it to your calendar here: I-90 Poetry Revolution Facebook page.

If you want a PDF of the poster, click The I-90 Revolution Reading Poster PDF.

02
Apr
11

in pursuit of the juiciest wine: day eighty-nine (Penfolds Thomas Hyland Adelaide Shiraz 2007)

It’s been sometime since I’ve done an official tasting post, but here we go. Nah. First I want to mention this new journal edited by Laura McCullough – Mead: The Magazine of Literature and Libations.

Mead The Journal of Literature and Libations

This is such a fun a unique idea, and the first issue is strong with these wonderful writers: Stephen Dunn, Richard Garcia, Steven Huff, Bob Hicok, Thom Ward, Ravi Shankar, and Derek Pollard (the latter two will also appear in the next issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics, due out in June). So if you like this blog, you will surely enjoy Mead. Or if you just like literature or libations, you’ll still enjoy Mead.

Now it’s time for me to go to my libations, Penfolds Thomas Hyland Adelaide Shiraz 2007. Shiraz from Australia might becoming a cliché of itself, but I saw the staff at Madeline’s in Ithaca, NY, doing a tasting of this. So, when I found this bottle in New Hampshire, I had to pick it up. (By the way, Madeline’s has the best food in Ithaca, and probably most of mainland New York State.)

The color is dark. A dark purple. It looks thick (if a wine can look thick). It doesn’t smell that special, but it has plums and leather. I think I also get some white pepper, cherries, and vanilla. So this Shiraz has some of the typical traits, and then some.

It’s dry and jammy. My girlfriend said it tasted like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I think it just has the texture of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I like the juicy finish. Juicy, berry finish followed by a dry slide. The finish is actually chewy, or like something you want to take a bite out of.  The finish returns as a tart ghost to haunt the mouth.

There is nothing extraordinary about his wine, but it is good.

I said in my last tasting that I wasn’t going to use the 100-point scale anymore. I forget my reasons, but now I think about the specificity of the numbers. I can tell the difference between 87, 88, 89, and 90, but before and after I can’t. So I want to use what I used for about 27 years of my life – a report card.

Report Card

To me, anything below an 87 is an F, and anything above a 90 is an A. The Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 is an A+.

Besides, why be so exact. A wine isn’t exact, plus I like grades. There is wiggle room within a grade. So let’s give this wine a grade. Let’s give it a B.

A B to me means its better than ordinary. It’s put in a good effort, but more can be expected. It could improve. It also means it’s worth its price of about $12.

What’s keeping it from meeting a B+ or an A? It’s not meeting the full expectations of what I think a Shiraz should taste like. It has the notes, sure, but it’s not playing the Shiraz melody with feeling.

It’s a B, and a B is good.//




The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

Poems for an Empty Church

Poems for an Empty Church

The Oldest Stone in the World

The Oldest Stone in the Wolrd

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Pre-Dew Poems

Pre-Dew Poems

Negative Time

Negative Time

After Malagueña

After Malagueña

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