In anticipation of the imminent publication of my chapbook Wysihicken [sic], by the phenomenal folks at Baltimore’s own Furniture Press, I am posting two little teaser texts:
1. Remarks I prepared to introduce my reading of Wysihicken [sic] at the 2013 Conference of the Pennsylvania College English Association:
History, in the sense of a record of human events or events impacting humans, as written by humans, is always an attempt to organize, to manipulate, to concretize, the alinear, simmering, fragmenting structures of aging, forgetful memory. This is logical, as sequence holds great sway over meaning. This is true in mathematics, chemistry, biology, and also in narrative, and in testimony. What happened first? What happened next? Who knew what, and when? Who did what, and in what order?
Landscape, as sequence, also holds great sway over meaning, as any historian of any settlement, or battlement, as any geologist or ecologist, plainly knows. Embedded in the human events on and around the Wissahickon Creek is the fact of the landscape. The particular geologic makeup and shakeup of the steep ridges, which, with ambivalent chaos, determine the course of the small yellow-brown waterway, also determine patterns of animal habitation and migration, growth and abundance of plants, and behaviors of the people who rely on them all for sustenance: flora, fauna, terra, aqua. This poem is an attempt to mingle those interlocutors, past and present, in a topology that takes note of sequence and landscape in order to merge them.
2. A re-posting of some of my responses to questions for that “Next Big Thing” blog-meme:
Where did the idea come from for the book?
From solo bike rides up to and into Wissahickon Creek Park in northwest Philadelphia, and from research about the geological and human history of the creek and its banks. The title comes from William Cobbett’s Rural Rides (1821), a post-Enclosure survey of British farmland in which he remembers, in a witchy weird way, a visit to the American creek. Halfway through Wysihicken [sic], there is an edited erasure poem drawn from Cobbett’s text, but most of the composition happened in my head as I cruised the gravel path alongside (above) the yellow-brown stream, as I splashed in the water to cool off, or sat on a big flat rock in the sun to dry and warm up. After getting home again, I’d stretch, rinse off, and then type up what I had been repeating over and over to myself.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ummm…New Zealand. Vermont if we’re on shoestrings. And a young Rutger Hauer as Johannes Kelpius. (Spoiler: his scenes get cut.)
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
We don’t need no stinking sentence: “at the schist there / is unpried // a big old book / left in the rain / to sog / a big / old book left / out in sun / to cement // what nationstory / if the pages / would lift”
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The shapes schist and water make in their slow revision. (I could mention the beauty of the place, but I don’t want to give the impression that this is a work of idyll or bucolic pastoral.) And I owe a lot to the placards along Forbidden Drive – they provided just enough information about the ravine to whet an edge for what I wanted to carve out. Later, I began to owe a lot to Cobbett and Poe, and Sidney M. Earle, and especially David Contosta and Carol Franklin and Gunlög Fur, authors who’ve previously written about issues related to the Wissahickon.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Embedded into the poem is (or is not) a set of very careful directions leading to TREASURE.