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 A Closer Look at What You Should Be Reading


This past month I found myself reading a lot of poetry, going through old books, new books and re-reading work from authors like Kim Parko, Bin Ramke and Lisa Robertson. That prompted me to go one further and re-read work that had been published in various journals and magazines. I’d long wanted to read work by Sara Veglahn and now I had the perfect chance. Letter Machine Editions had published her work last year and so I began to read. The writing that exists in these pages ignites something in me to drop what I’m doing and go write, even if it’s terrible. I want to sit and type or pick up a pen and scribble down random thoughts and hope that they’ll turn into something as impressive as a work like Another Random Heart. Each word, thought and phrase feels as though it were plucked out of obscurity and placed on the page just for you, the reader. I find myself envious of the beauty and the perfection of a poem. For me, poetry reminds me of what I find inspiring about being a writer. I want to keep turning the page, pick up the pen or start over at page one with the knowledge that I could be on no other journey than the I’m on. I think in examining what lurks on so few pages here, we might find some light shed on why poetry remains one of the most beautiful and challenging forms to conquer.

A Peek at the Past

Sara Veglahn’s latest work, Another Random Heart is the kind of work you find yourself wishing you’d written. This short prose poem spans only twenty-five pages but carries with it the depth one might see in work from Lyn Hejinian or the like. At first glance, this piece seems an easy puzzle to figure out, but as you turn the pages of this poem it’s clear that Veglahn has layered this text with complex images and voice. While this piece is a short read, it’s not for lack of substance. The text and its interrogative voice will keep you analyzing  the words and their meanings while being captivated by their arrangement on each page. The writing seamlessly depicts the abstract and examines the inner-workings of the mind; A questioning of our perceptions, of the link between strangers and organs. We are able to clearly see the patchwork filling in the holes of the mind’s unpredictable path . What’s  so captivating about Veglahn’s poetry is her awareness of the fragility in human emotion and dialogue. Her work breaks down all barriers, forcing us to look the narrative voice. There’s non-descript “you’s” and “I’s” addressed throughout this prose poem causing the reader to wonder about the meaning behind these summons.

“Your morning has gotten away with murder. Your daytime reveries aren’t the workings of a slow machine. You’ve got different methods for searching. A fortunate prize, these notions. They want the document in their hands. They want proof of their involvement. Try to understand: just like the sharp flashes before my eyes (blue), I balanced on the ridgepole. I wanted to move inside the frame you had created, my mangled corpse of a heart taken to the cobbler (heart as shoe). If I had another story, I could reveal to you another story: a papoose a writhing a moonlight serenade.”

This is a complicated, euphoric poem that breaks boundaries while rearranging the everyday scenarios we breathe in and live out. Veglahn’s work manages to entrance readers, leaving them unable to combat the maze of unexpected sentences and repetition of nouns that emerge throughout. The narrative of this work asks the reader to put chaos and connectivity under the microscope. Veglahn dissects disjunctive melodies and turns them into poetic word harmonies that exists for us in a way that makes music in our minds.

“Lady of situations waits in windows at stations on platforms. Balances on branches, inside leaves. Moves with bells, with sifted salt between fingers, butter caught in her throat. With hands outstretched moving one long finger. With aching eyes, with small teeth in still air. In postal abbreviations, in atomic numbers of chemical elements. In large hives. In the stone cities. In a swarm. She was in someone’s house, her voice in a microphone. It’s a state of affairs (the location). Walking rituals (a place to go). A stapled reminder embraced in string and everything on wheels, everything a joining force.

Another Random Heart reminds us that the heart carries weight only in its physical state of connectedness to all the other organs that require one another to feed from each other so they may function properly. There is an ebb and flow that takes place inside each of us. Veglahn paints an intriguing portrait of what the heart looks like when disconnected internally, attempting to operate solo. What makes each of us simultaneously connected and disconnected from our own hearts and one another is our inability to function without the steady pace and balance provided by a constant  fluttering heart inside each of us. Without it, the organ becomes obsolete and as the title suggests, an object of random necessity.

Sara Veglahn breaks all barriers with this work and like many of her contemporaries, plays with language and form in startling and provoking ways that leave you wishing she had written another 200 pages, but you’ll catch yourself still digesting the first twenty-five many weeks later.

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ANGELA STUBBS lives in Los Angeles and is a freelance writer and MFA graduate of the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Black Warrior Review, esque Magazine, Puerto del Sol, elimae, Marco Polo Quarterly, Lambda Literary, The Rumpus, and others. She is currently working on a collection of short fiction entitled, Try To Remain Hidden.

5 responses to “Between the Pen and the Paper, Vol. 3”

  1. Joe Daly says:

    I’ve always felt intimidated by poetry. As someone who has not read much in the past twenty years, apart from some Pablo Neruda and Hafiz, I find myself shunning the genre, simply because I don’t feel like I have the skills and awareness to appreciate it. Your piece here has done the remarkable in not just piquing my interest in poetry, but helping me understand ways of relating to it. Thanks! I’m going to check this out.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Read much poetry, that is. 🙂

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Joe, poetry should engage you immediately. You might need skill and awareness to wring every bit of value from a poem, but it should also speak to you on an immediate level, so that you know such effort is worthwhile. Sounds as if you’ve found a couple of poets who do that for you. I recommend seeking out poets like that, or finding people whose recommendations you learn to trust.

      If poetry is ever intimidating, it’s the fault of the stultifying “theory” and other such muck. Poetry should be a pleasure, not a chore, or it’s not doing its job.

  2. Joe, I felt the same way for a long time about poetry. it was always totally daunting for me and then something happened . . . I started really liking writers who played with form and somehow it made it easier for me to digest in terms of form. I had a difficult time with structure, etc and because I’m not as schooled in the ways of poetics, I always shyed away. But now, I adore it. Even picking poetry to review is completely intimidating. I am humbled by the work of good poets. Ms. Veglahn, i’m looking for you when I get to Boulder 🙂 You’re my new favorite!

  3. Uche–I agree! It’s great to finally have fallen in love with poetry and those who write it so well!

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