Cathexis Northwest Press
The First Protests; Prophecy (Judgment Day); The Fine Print (Dido Aeneae)
By: Angela Wei
The First Protests
Our water is breaking
into street infants
swum in firecrackers &
Prophecy (Judgment Day)
Where there is grass, sin. All flesh
and fat fish snapping in the pool.
Here I come to lull my head
and wallow waist-deep
in the sweet mirror of myself
swimming upward at me—
eyes the sparrows
cutting red berries in the air
to peel off the skull. Red fists.
Have they music? Timbre?
She sits. Sits with her hands on her knees—
viola, violence, violate.
Sways faithfully, her eyes shut to water,
the mirror-green miracle.
The woman is a forty-foot yacht
and the same amount of money.
Her violet cocktail glass
unshattered in the red hour.
When she is dying
she goes to work in a shiny black car.
I am working toward the dying
like a cat struggling out of the bag—
toward the rhapsody of my body,
the billowing of a laundry-line
burial, on broadcast news, a cable
to unwilling memory.
I mistress the word
someone called poet. Someone called
mama. Mind her manners.
Watch me & her
in the pool, only— me.
Open my eyes, Tiresias,
we open-mouthed prophet,
we glassy-eyed and weathered,
we the inviolate grass between graves,
again the sparrow, waking
to the violet past— sleeping
to the TV future— we worship,
O judge, until we dying
forget our cups
and dream of underwater light
The Fine Print (Dido Aeneae)
An arm’s length of*
What Juno’s thunder
slipping under vagrant
syllables, lifting the hem
of the toothsome hour
to lips and tongues—
what our vowels
stole from the gums,
howling. Every memory
an unwilling mistress,
pressed to the neck, wound
by the rhythm
of open palms.
A back, etched
in marble, colliding
beneath the square
of back-pocket libation
victa, the uncertain ax
falling as a sentence—
Mea amor, why every
sinner leaves, & April,
tastes of soot.
* first line taken from Diabolic by Cornelius Eady
Born in San Jose, Angela Wei is a full-time student at Groton School. Her poetry explores identity and its conflicts with the past. She enjoys baking, reading, and painting. She currently lives in California.
Interview with the Poet:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I’ve been writing poetry since I was very young (and figured out that you could just write anything you want, anywhere), but never really got serious until two years ago or so, my sophomore year.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. There are specific lines in there that you just feel with your whole body, like the sky like an etherized patient, or your life like coffee spoons, or rolling the universe into a ball. It showed me what a poem could do (like Neo and the red/blue pill situation. Mind-bogglingly mind-opening).
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Definitely Ocean Vuong and Eliot, overall. My favorite specific poem that I like to tell people to read is Danse Russe by Williams Carlos Williams, or Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
If I sit down and write, I like to dim the lights and light a candle, or when the weather’s nice, to work outside, watching the clouds and birds and etc. But it’s usually never that pretty: when I am struck by the urge to write, it’s just the hard nitty-gritty headache-y process of writing and deleting and writing on a blank word document at an inglorious desk, or just absolutely vomiting all over the page, word-wise, until I get somewhere interesting.
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?
Unless I begin with a constraint (like a duplex or sonnet or villanelle situation, which is rare enough and usually just an exercise), I start writing a poem and let it tell me where to go. My poems are almost always free verse, but I’m always open to trying out new ideas.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Don’t worry about voice yet. Write whatever you feel like first – definitely try imitating and stealing from other poets – and eventually, what you are interested in, how you think, will shine through. But craft, I think, comes before voice, not after. But I’m in no position to tell poets how to write; I’m still trying to figure it out myself.
What is your editing process like?
Because my first drafts are usually word vomits, I use the editing process to hone my vision of what the poem is “about” (cutting out words that interfere with that, adding words that add to it). I also pay attention to the way the words sound together and the overall “rhythm” and logic of each line.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
When I get tired of editing it.