sense: antisense; intervertebral disc; why
By: Lily Rose Kosmicki
i have the ability of gyres to toil, crux,
coil, and turn into: girling anomalies
i trick and craft, after grasping
the genes I’m against, twinging cranberries,
the amalgamations and gradations go into tributaries they are craving
and gathering atrophy of crucifixes, i temper
constituents, i am a trapeze, growing and aging:
tracing chromosomes, altering/gazing,
i grace an auspicious capsule, then i trail-off
into my corpus-talcum: gleaming, but aiming
i am a telescopic cacophony of agony and i graft the
gyroscopic alternating-current of trembling
alleles, i am amid the gaps, i am its tangled catalogs of
creation, i am temporary gravity aching
coping, tweaking, the gasping almanacs
where i am clumsy and tethered to galaxies: appalling
to the traversed chasm of astronauts, gauging
gestures of myself under trellises and caches, what’s transpired?
an ambient genesis
always we show our vivid colors
making the heart a reversal, exoskeleton
time eats us, spinning through space
echoes the dance of blind twins
i come to change through you,
people make themselves out of paper
paper is noah’s ark of people
coloring our eyes through xenogamy, always
you make homes inside of me
exoskeletons shed for a new making
twins are mirrors of solid echos
space is where we feel time
our time is outward space between
us, people soak into paper as
rippling echos, we exponentially twin ourselves
by always bringing eyes, color, here
we make ourselves into exoskeleton series
and i and my you merge
“we” means “you, i,” so “us,”
we have space, time, that’s all
process being: exoskeletons making, shedding, voiding
to capture papers: people with ink,
words are coloring always our days
language, our twin, echoing ways: being
being sings echos, twinning our x-rayed
entities, which i, you, know to
be true colors, always revealing soot
of our time, space, fissured, ipsilaterally
limbed, many people papering wasp nests
our homes making exoskeletons of minds
and the exoskeletons are made artifact
we twin underbellies of echoing sounds
we paper ourselves with people’s skin
and you become my eye, renewal
of space and shared time, death
without color, emptied and always keepsaked
making exoskeletons always colors
time and space with our echo twins
people and paper make us and
i make peace with being you
takes its leave on
our elongated way, we
you sincerely start
hand, ark, mask, star, man,
sad, which sounds means
which its opposite? answer:
the song gradient
rumbles down with
it on clouds, who weren't
meant to speak,
but learned the
of language, decided to sing
Lily Rose Kosmicki is a person, but sometimes feels like an alien in this world. She suspects she frequently experiences a form of hypergraphia and/or graphomania and she is obsessed with language and the body. She is working on translating years and years of notebooks into poetry, makes cut-up collage poem-paintings, and illustrates creatures with accompanying poems that are (sort-of) for children. By trade she is a librarian at the public library and by night she is a collector of dreams. Her zine Dream Zine recently won a Broken Pencil Zine Award for Best Art Zine 2018.
“sense: antisense” refers to meaning of course, alluding to a “rationality” opposed to “nonsense,” and can even evoke sensation/perception or absence of them, but also the names of the the complementary strands of DNA. I don’t pretend to know about science and am wary of it as the dominant and objective truth of our contemporary moment, but it is so rich with poetic meaning and I am rather inspired by it too. DNA, this deterministic and fragile coding for life, is made up ultimately of language. Not only are the letters of the alphabet ACGT (adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine) used to represent the building blocks of life, but the strands of DNA themselves allude to the fundamental meaning-making process of language: sense and antisense. I wanted to play around with all these ideas. Using the alphabet as a muse and honorific, I got creative with the sounds ACGT make and tried to weave the repeated letters into a helix shape in the poems to mimic the DNA form. The poem can take on so many meanings and a playfulness and creativity are present. I feel it is a fundamentally joyful poem, celebrating life and its strangeness and complexity. In my work I think I am always trying to mix up associations and stretch meaning and blur definitions to not be so hard-lined. Here, I am striving for an openness even in alleged biological determinism.
“intervertebral disc” refers to the parts of cartilage between the vertebrae that act as shock absorbers but also allow for movement and connect the spine together. Again, I was very inspired by the rich poetic meaning of this biological factoid. I would like my work to be like a series of intervertebral discs, allowing for movement and flexibility in meaning and association, but also a certain amount of shock, while being ultimately connective. Language and the body are so key and essential to each other, I believe they are truly one than separate or opposing entities. This is a love poem about people in general, but also language.
“why” is like the soft exhale of explanation for the big questions. Why does the world exist? Why do we? Why does anything happen? I just wanted to give an answer laden with beauty and uncertainty. With singing clouds and addressing my diary, and how we learn words and sounds and the messiness of it all. How we start over and over till we end. It is a love letter to words and writing and being alive, but also a question.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
Lily Rose Kosmicki:
I’ve always written. As a child for many, many years I wrote poems for my grandma on her birthday. I stopped in my later teen years, but have tried to revamp the tradition recently. Maybe all of my poems are still for her. In fourth grade I vividly remember writing poems about not liking mustard and New York City, even though I’d never been there. But I didn’t comfortably adopt the mantle of poet until fairly recently and wasn’t always sure that what I was writing was poetry, but I’ve come around to the idea full-heartedly and full-fledged.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
I do love poetry, but I like to think that poem is still out there waiting to be written, just so I have something to look forward to. The poem that keeps coming to mind is Federico Garcia Lorca’s “New Heart,” but I think the poem that truly captured me is and always will be “The Lost Lunar Baedeker,” by Mina Loy. It is one of those poems that resonated as so familiar to me, it feels like an alternate self wrote it, or at least a very kindred spirit. In college I remember my friend was writing an essay about “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and I was so envious that I changed my major from Sociology to English Literature right away. I think I’ve fallen in and out of love with poetry itself many times through many different poems and I hope to continue to do so.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
I love many poets. Almost all of them. Specific poems that stand out definitively in my mind are Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Renascence,” parts of Alice in Wonderland I’ve memorized, “Reincarnations” by Ruben Dario, and Diane di Prima’s “Revolutionary Letters,” and Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue.” As for poets, Lyn Hejinian and Beverly Dahlen are recent obsessions. Andrea Rexillius, Rimbaud, Kenneth Patchen, Rilke, Gertrude Stein, Will Alexander, Hugo Ball, CA Conrad, Apollinaire, Natalie Scenters-Zapico, Anne Carson, Mary Ruefle, and William Blake are all-time favorites.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
I am a diarist. Since I was 6 I’ve kept a diary and I translate these diaries into poems. I reread and cut and paste the prose together, integrating entries from different times and spaces, including the present I am working in. It is a very temporal process. I am a librarian and collect words in books. Every book I come in contact with, be it fiction or nonfiction, for children or adults, I open to a random page and take a few words or phrases that stand out to my brain and add them to a document that is hundreds of pages long. Later I read that document and make associations and have ideas or memories that eventually turn into poems. I sometimes write more narrative poems about my dreams. I write constantly and my writing is very much connected to my fingerprints. Ideas or phrases will occur to me and I’ll assign them a word and then that word will be associated with a finger. The words and ideas will pile up throughout the day and I’ll recite and repeat the list of words tapping my fingers. Something like “dream. stench. elongation. palatable. morphing.” I sort out the original thoughts later, but there are new connections to be made between that list of fingerprint words too.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
My writing is very maximalist, rambling, and generally unwieldy. I invent elaborate forms that I use to control it. Learning that I could make my own forms was liberating. For example, I wrote a long serial poem using source material from my diary at age 6 collaged with the lens of my consciousness when I was 29 years old. I repeated every 22-23 word in stanzas of 29 words and each poem had 6 stanzas. I wanted to incorporate my age at the time of writing. I use time-based limitations a lot actually. A poem with 365 words like days in a year, or 60 words of 60 syllables like minutes in an hour. I like to play with space too in a more sound-based way. I have recently been trying to write short lines and short poems as that is not my tendency. I take traditional forms and tie them to something else, like a DNA sestina, that helixes in its repetition. The alphabet is another big inspiration and a way I enforce form on my work.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
I think finding a voice is a constant process and that voice can change over time. I’m very interested in integrating those temporal voices together, my voice at age 6 with my voice at age 25 or my present voice. I am also a big letter writer and definitely interested in other peoples voices too. I am unsure that voice is something that can be held onto, even when its found. I think my advice is to keep experimenting and to disrupt patterns once you establish them. My advice would be to use your voice, even if you aren't quite sure what it is.
What is your editing process like?
Editing is pretty generative for me. What ends up happening is a great culling and reigning in of my prose-like tendencies, which often results in creating new poems altogether. My whole process is very much a collage. I am inspired by humor and the unexpected so I always try to integrate that while editing too.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
Paul Valery said that poems are never finished, merely abandoned and I think about that a lot. I feel like I know intuitively when I exhaust myself and feel a kind of madness setting in, it is done.