BETWEEN REINCARNATION...; ANGUISH : LANGUISH :: LANGUISH : HOW MUCH LONGER; HEATHEN
By: Samantha Madway
BETWEEN REINCARNATION AND EUPHORIC RECALL
Every arrival is an echo after the first.
Desperate to counter diminishing returns,
our investments expand. We pretend to speak
the language of weights and measures, capital and
kingpins. Insurance against chemical con-artists and
cannibalism. Heads displayed on the sharp end of a needle.
Best becomes better. Better gets worse. Dull edges. Steep drops.
Safety growing scarce. There’s so much succumbing going around.
Symptoms include gravity, graying, inescapable grief.
Submerged in something. Walks and talks
like love. Looks like chipping away or
acid rain. Narrowing muscles and
minds and marrow. Narrowing
into nothing, mistaken for
ghosts long before
ANGUISH : LANGUISH :: LANGUISH : HOW MUCH LONGER?
Overexposed, punishment self-imposed,
unknowns out of control.
Solo freak show,
pin through my thorax,
my voice incapable of carrying past the glass.
Audiences rapt, fascinated to watch me
A lone drone bee.
Or the last of my colony,
humping around in an ant farm ghost town,
back buckling, white knuckling beneath some
always-been-there, always-done-that burden.
Diagnosis expired, obscured by dust and
denial, the prognosis anomic and getting worse,
circling the drain, swimming
against the grain, half-Sisyphus, half-scoliosis.
Clickbait K-hole, everyone asking at funerals, well,
how did your day go? Making caskets out of plastic and putting
corpse flowers in the fireplace. Floor model mountain of gravestones.
Instead of a eulogy, invoke the mercy of montage:
take those months spent under the command of a madman—
the first bite, the fever, then the fear, frenzy, fighting, falling, fury—
and convert them into frames per second, watch the horror passing
faster than a few heartbeats, passing like a euphemism for why
we’re throwing dirt at the dead, like passing is a promise
the means have reached the end.
Samantha Madway is working on a collection of interlinked poems and flash fiction. She loves her dogs, Charlie, Parker, and Davey, more than anything else in the universe. Though technophobic, she attempts to be brave by having an Instagram @sometimesnight. If the profile were a plant, it would’ve died long ago. Her writing has appeared in Laurel Review, Wild Roof, Sunspot Lit, Linden Ave, High Shelf, Sky Island Journal, Aurora, mutiny!, Clementine Unbound, SLAB, and elsewhere.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
Some of my earliest memories are centered around those half-lined, half-blank worksheets for writing and illustrating stories. In preschool, I used to do all of my work on Mondays so that I could spend the rest of the week making storybooks and kiddie poems. But my first attempt at writing POETRY-poetry was in fifth or sixth grade.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
I’m sort of ashamed to admit it because I’m generally a compendium of origin stories, but I don’t know that any one poem is responsible for sparking my love of poetry. I have little vignetted memories of lines or pieces that grabbed me early on—“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop, “Dream Song 1” by John Berryman, “Blackberrying” by Silvia Plath—but I actually think my love of music, my lifelong unwavering devotion to learning the lyrics of every song I like enough to listen to more than once, and my absolutely hopeless lack of musical skill are responsible for my cozying up to poetry.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
I have a weird thing about citing favorite poets: I feel ill-prepared to pick a favorite without first having read the full oeuvres of many different poets. (And, yes, this absurd fixation on precision in low-stakes situations is one of the more banal examples of why I have a brain doctor.) Anywhoo, my favorite book of poems is Meadowlands by Louise Glück. I’ve read it at least twenty times. I even have a tattoo of a line from one of the poems in Meadowlands. A few favorite free-standing poems are “Dream Song 1” and “Dream Song 14” by John Berryman; “The House” by Warsan Shire; and “Star Turn” by Graham Foust.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in
To call my approach to writing a “process” would be a really generous use of the term. It might sound almost cavalier, but I just write. A particular phrase or image will pop into my mind, and I write it down. From there, it either becomes the beginning of something, or it becomes a scrap of paper with words on it that I keep in a box labeled “Scrappy-Doo.” (This is not a joke—I 100% actually do this.) The inhabitants of “Scrappy-Doo” may find their way into pieces eventually, or they continue to hang out in the box with the other scraps for an indefinite period of time.
My approach to editing is best described as the mutant offspring of my innate fastidiousness and my obsessive-compulsive disorder. I write everything by hand, then type stuff up in batches, so my first step is deciding whether something is even worth the time it’ll take to type up. Then the overediting nightmare begins. I have to be vigilant to make sure the process itself doesn’t become the focus.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
The best advice I can give is more about trusting your voice than it is about finding it. I’m of the belief that anyone inclined to sit down and write a poem already has a voice and actually does know what it is—the hard part is giving it enough oxygen. These are the things that helped me breathe: A) Don’t buy into the creative genius/artistic prodigy trope. That someone didn’t anoint me “Creative Genius” at birth doesn’t mean I’ll never stack up. B) Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I used to approach writing as if I needed to lay it down perfectly the first time, which was supremely unhelpful. C) It’s never a waste to write something; even if it never makes it beyond the desk, it’s still practice. I like to frame it as “this helps me learn more about what doesn’t work for me, which implicitly means I also learn more about what does work for me.”
When do you know that a poem is finished?
There’s this game I remember playing as a kid: you close your eyes, someone slowly tickles your arm, and you have to guess when they reach your elbow pit. (I don’t know the actual word for that part of the body, but I figure “elbow pit” approximates well enough.) Anyway, you open your eyes, and sometimes you’re way off—way, way off—so you close your eyes again to see if you can detect when they reach the right place. And it’s way harder than it sounds. It can feel like their fingers must be right there, and then it turns out they’re not even close. I know a poem is finished when, after however many times I opened my eyes too soon, I open them once more and discover that I finally landed on the right place.