Manhattan Twilight

April 9th, 2009 by EKSwitaj

Manhattan Twilight

This photograph, taken on my recent trip to New York represents liminality in terms of both space and time. Sunset, the threshold between night and day, determines the colors of every element. The bars that stretch across the bottom of the image are part of a bridge (the Brooklyn Bridge, in fact), which is a space of transition from one place to another.

The eye of the viewer, as did the eye of the photographer, occupies a transitional space even as it focuses on one of the ends of this space. Is it a look back or a look ahead?

I could tell you the historical truth, but that would ruin the effect and only be half the story (at most) anyway.

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Kit Robinson’s Seventh Street, Train Stations, and Liminality

April 8th, 2009 by EKSwitaj

Over at The Plumbline School, Andrew Shields discusses how Kit Robinson’s “Seventh Street” moves from description to commentary on the description (ie description of description), finally bringing both together in the concluding lines:

“Telling” is not being privileged over “showing,” in a critique of those who would privilege “showing” over “telling”; rather, the inevitable interaction of the two modes is being acted out, through both modes at the same time.

This interaction becomes completely clear in the poem’s final sentence:

…. Your
station stop is
this writing’s end.

The “lazy / description” and the mode of saying “something about conditions” have been kept in separate sentences until now (hence my emphasis on sentences), but they meet here in the conclusion, as the train ride stops and the poem ends. The two modes are not opposed; they interact. And they are, the poem argues, both necessary to the making of a poem, and to its interpretation.

Thus the poem not only occupies a threshold space between telling and showing but actually represents an argument for the necessity of this liminality in poetry. That this argument should be made through the vehicle of a train station is especially appropriate given the liminality of such locations. The crowds in a train station consist of people on the edge of going and at the end of coming, people waiting to greet or to say goodbye. Train station moments consist of transitions into being together or being apart; they begin the liminal state of being (sometimes living) neither here nor there—being, that is, in transit.

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Nearly Sunset, Nearly Spring

April 4th, 2009 by EKSwitaj

city of gold 2
Central Park, March 2009

Is it art or is it trash?

March 29th, 2009 by EKSwitaj

The answer when it comes to recycled art, such as the works cataloged in this post on WebUrbanist, is both. In particular, those works that retain an obvious connection to their trashy origins present a sort of liminality, poised between refuse and value. This suspension is only in appearance and story. A scrap metal dragon has clearly been altered by human hands and skilled ones at that. The real in-betweenness comes when, after sufficient exposure to such art, one sees a pleasingly geometric arrangement of trash on the street.

Is it art? Is it random? Does it matter?

Another question raised by such recycled art is how or whether it differs from the objects made of recycled materials and sold to tourists in places like Cambodia. I myself own a bracelet made of bright yellow papers rolled into beads by landmine survivors. The only difference I see is one of necessity: not that the viewer or owner of the object needs it but that the creator more desperately needs the money that can be earned by selling the item.

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Why Cross-Quarters?

March 12th, 2009 by EKSwitaj

Recently, a few readers have emailed me to ask why CRIT is published on the cross-quarters when it has no explicitly pagan slant. The answer has to do with the way in which poetry came to be my religion, a shift which required first that I come to see religion not in terms of holding particular beliefs but of doing certain acts (this was long before I went to Japan but certainly has something to do with the reasons Shinto appealed to me). Many years ago, while I was doing a very involved solo winter solstice ritual, I was told you’re not a witch; you’re a poet (though of course one can be both).

This meant finding poetic ways to celebrate the holidays that I enjoyed. For the most part that meant, and still does mean, writing marathons. When I founded CRIT, however, I decided that publishing the journal could be another way to mark the days. I chose the cross-quarters specifically because they are between the more distinct equinoxes and solstices. They mark less a turning-point than the state of being between turning points. They are themselves liminal.

Either that or I just wanted a sophisticated reason to publish the first issue on Halloween.

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“And if we touch those warm places, we have love”

March 9th, 2009 by EKSwitaj

CRIT’s poetry editor, Jade Sylvan, has two recent online publications. The Pedestal Magazine has included an audio recording of her poem, Evolution. The title serves, among other things, as a metaphor for how the images in the poem are linked, a slow  shifting growth. Each image is strong in itself and visceral.

This trait is shared by her poem in Word Riot, A-Train, in which “that hideous vomiting girl on the subway” speaks to those who are able to define themselves by their difference (and eventually distance) from her.

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Snow Mixed with Rain, Rain Mixed with Snow

March 7th, 2009 by EKSwitaj

This morning, I woke to the sounds of a downpour running downhill and downroof, yet when I looked outside, I saw not rain but snow—not the feathery crystals that keep their shape on landing but flakes with their crystalline structures already stretched by melt, by their matter entering another state. This is weather of winter edging into spring.

In my own poetry, I use white space like this melt: to create objects that in themselves are liminal. Is it a poem? Is it broken? To prevent it from being all just rain, I rely on repeated sounds, lately repeated lines and phrases have been increasingly common in my work, though it’s often more subtle.

Does your work resemble snow mixed with rain? How so? 

Remember, CRIT will be taking liminal writing and art for its Bealtaine issue until April 1 and poems that use ` until March 20.

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Magdalene & the Mermaids Released

March 1st, 2009 by EKSwitaj

It’s no secret that one of the reasons I started a journal dedicated to exploring liminal space is that my own overarching poetic project consists in large part of exploring this space, a project that comes to the fore in my first collection of poems, Magdalene & the Mermaids, which is now available for purchase from Paper Kite Press. I conceived these poems at a time when liminality had come to the fore in my own life, as I was in the early stages of recovery from sexual assault.

They are, however, only obliquely confessional (indeed, pressed for a succinct description of my poetic style, I have called it experimental confessional). I imagined and interwove similar themes and stories among mermaids and the Biblical figure of the title. The liminality of mermaids is obvious: half-fish, half-woman, dwelling in the surfaces of the ocean because of their mammalian need to breathe. With Magdalene, it was less clear; popularizations of notions about her carrying the Holy bloodline have served to obscure rather than to illuminate her complexity and potential as a mythic figure, making her once again merely the handmaiden of men, even if it is done with a kinder edge than that used by the early Church fathers. I wanted to examine and construct her as herself, though the story I discovered-built was not as any would have wished it.

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