The last thing on earth I ever thought I’d do was write about fashion.

I equated the industry with the worst of capitalism: defining human beings as consumers, tricking them into thinking they need the “new look” simply to make a profit. I equated the industry with patriarchy and women’s internalized misogyny: the command to dress as the object of the male gaze, the message that you are subhuman, at best, monstrous, at worst, if you don’t comply. Fashion, it seemed, was the perfect vehicle for what Louis Althusser called the interpellation of the subject by an ideological apparatus.

That is, until I read Valerie Wallace’s House of McQueen (Four Way Books 2018).

 

How’s the erotic poetry business?

Funny you should ask. JUNKIE WIFE, my erotic chapbook chronicling my first, dysfunctional, drug-fueled marriage, has just been published by Moon Tide Press, with a foreword by the great Bill Mohr. I’m reading all over town. (Details on my website.)

1.
when I see I’ve overwatered it again, I jab
the turkey baster into the rust-colored runoff
before the water spills over,
onto the hardwood floor.

in our mid-town apartment,
the harsh light sears the spiky leaves.

it reminds me of summer,
when you left me here on Beachwood Dr.
and I shot Demerol
my rust-colored blood backing up in the syringe,
the same pierce of yellow light,
the sharp spike breaking my skin.

Let’s start with that cover – it is both lovely and bizarre. Where did it come from?

Isn’t it? It’s an illustration from an early 17th-century anatomy textbook on fetal formation by Adriaan van Spiegel and Giulio Casseri I came across in the process of researching historical medical texts. The governing idea of this manuscript was the concept of maternal imagination – that a mother’s thoughts and experiences, especially traumatic ones, affect fetal formation and can be responsible for monstrous births. This illustration seemed to embody both of those – specific anatomical detail of pregnancy combined with that imaginative presentation of the baby blooming from the mother’s abdomen. And I love how the book designer curled the mother’s hand around the C.

Mary Toft knew how it felt with child –
three birthed, one dead – but in the field,
heavy with her fourth, up starts a hare.
The effect is more than Mary can bear:
the rabbit all day long ran in my head.
That August, a large lump of flesh bled
from her body, and by October: rabbits,
litters of them, enough for every Cabinet
of Wonder in London. But was it fair or fake?
Methought they there a burrow tried to make.
Mary, Mother Incarnate, carny
of the most marvelous yarn –
the rabbits all day long ran in my head –
snared hare, lapful of lapins bred
in her Welsh rarebit, follicular,
cuniculous, mad with rabbit fever,
rabid with fervor to birth, quaint
trickster, canny coney, cunning cunt.

Why is there a fish on your book cover?

I like the idea of shooting fish in a barrel, or even a stream. The feeling that I am constantly overdoing it, living with a sense of desperation and the easy way out, which is often messy.

Grateful for the way we once walked through the pines
you, apologizing to the boughs and needles with your gentle heels noticing the light warming one side of the conifers
capturing the way moss sneaks to live on in the dark bark,
tiny holes, vacant homes, thanking the ferns
harmonizing the body with the poplar

I tried to live this way

I am from plywood and Datsun noise
skate ramps and shitty forts
you are from purple milk thistle and where storms are born running high in the Santa Lucia green
With black nightgown whipping
I watch you fall in the coastal fields-
a credit card flopped on a poker table
laughing like it’s all going to be okay

Terry, you have a new poetry collection titled Ruin Porn. What’s the story behind that title?

“Ruin Porn” is a term coined by Detroit writer/photographer Jim Griffioen in Vice Magazine; he critiques the aestheticizing of destruction, which he saw firsthand in many artists’ responses to the devastation within the city of Detroit. By focusing on the “beauty” of abandoned and crumbling buildings and neighborhoods, we ignore the human and economic costs to the communities.

At the same time, we are in the midst of profound disintegration of our society and our culture—the dissolution of gender roles, fragmentation in social relationships and in the psyche, degradation of the environment and of civil society, and the decay of the spirit. I can’t imagine what else to be writing about. “I cannot turn my eyes away…”

Biologists demand a garland
of children, but I have neglected
any theory of origins.
My oven holds another cake,

fluid with cream, a complex miracle
of light and language, Miles Davis
on the radio, friends coming by.
Meaning-filled, the rich batter.

What I’d like to get Romeo to understand
if he weren’t already dead is that
all I do is check my mail.

I do not keep an altar in my bedroom—
candles flicker not around my temporary tomb
I am not allowed to keep a pet in this apartment
so I was thinking icons might actually be someone to talk to or
ask things of

and Leonardo DiCaprio has gotten so young
smoking a cigarette against that orange sunset

When did you start writing poetry?

I started writing poetry in high school as a way to deal with my depression. I realized much later (at the age of 30) that I was a lesbian, but back in high school all I knew was that I felt different and was unhappy. Most of what I wrote wasn’t very good—it was just a way for me to process my feelings. I continued to write poetry in college and I still have notebooks full of poems I wrote over thirty years ago. Interestingly, some of my poems from this period of my life are about same-sex attraction. In my own hand writing! And yet my mind was not ready to accept (and celebrate) who I was.

Because everything is in motion:
bone, ivory, shell. And blood

doesn’t hold on to anything
but itself. Because there are worlds

within worlds—geometries
of ant and whale, girl and boy.

And some infinities are larger
than other infinities. Because iron filings

can reveal invisible lines of force.
And my mother’s last words were:

help me. Because my father loved
Lincoln’s general—the one who drinks

and still wins the War—and the past
is a fine skin that does not protect.

For Anthony Madrid

 

When my footsteps dream me down a street night to the art gallery,
I am wreathes of conjecture among all my salty, caustic alphabets.

In the bright, warm gallery, plastic is the new black is the new gold.
My act is strict. But if anyone asks, it was I who let in the birds.

I’d rather have dogs, but here, birds give my gestures meaning.
They are my only mirror, while I play at godliness in the sun going.

When I am full-bright, in my gate, art goes and goes.
Its path my path parallel. We touch our hands and weep.

Since the prospect of a conversation with myself bored me, I decided to talk with my good friend and fellow poet Jackie Hymes—thanks, Jackie!

How did you come to write poetry? Or, what drew you to poetry?

Like most writers, probably, I’ve always been a voracious reader. And I’ve been fascinated by poetry pretty much as long as I can remember. My parents always had plenty of books in the house, including some old literature anthologies and poetry collections from when they were students. I remember I enjoyed reading through Robert Frost in particular, and also Anne Sexton and this collection of Romantic poetry. Keats in particular seemed to have this interesting charge that kept my attention. It didn’t occur to me that poetry was not a popular interest.

It wasn’t until early in college that I realized there were contemporary poets who worked seriously on their craft and sort of made a living from it (though we all know how that works). Though I flirted with other areas of study like mechanical engineering (I wanted to work on cars), I was always most passionate about reading and writing–and I found in poetry an intellectual and emotional challenge that captivated me.

Fast-forward some years and I couldn’t imagine not writing poetry. It’s such an integral part of my life and I think that will always be the way it is. It’s in my blood; poetry as an art seems to want something from me, though I’m still not sure what.

Bridge

By Cody Deitz

Poem

In the dark corners of my apartment
I see my brother, thin and tall
like a flesh-covered bridge,
standing in a shadow he’s somehow come to own.
I can hear his voice, see his broad shoulders
at the jail telephone,
one hand holding onto the aluminum cord
and the other pressed up against the wall,
his rough knuckles white like brick.