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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

With Error; Here As I Turn; Water in my Mouth

By: Jessica Rigney

With Error

You’ll not wish to read these lines

For the starlings which have flocked to them

And set up chittering atop the letters

With their iridescent breasts full of themselves.

I don’t blame your reticence

For a world of wings have been lost

Upon the eyes of us looking

And not seeing. Forgive this memory.

What was once taken without error

Is now taken with error intended—

So they say. And so there is seed put out

Atop the posts of the fence line

Just under the cottonwoods where

At sundown their branches appear

White in the light against a pale sky

As though this very same text

Were bleached of its pigment

And made a crown for the coming night.

Here as I Turn

And I’m walking

With this long leg—

Despite. But you see

I’ve stuck my hair full

Of feathers. The doves

Have left and it makes

No sense this warm

Wind. My cottonwood drops

Its branch—here as I turn

It’s dropping. I’ve already

Said too much. And you—

You are breathing inside

This poem. And I am

Alone. And I am not


Water in My Mouth

I hold the water in my mouth

As I have held your tongue between

My teeth—consolidating hunger left and right

In solicitude for this shock of life

As we are living it. And I hold on

To woven years—overlap underlap thin

Breaths betwixt rasps thickening and count

The steps upwards towards your knowledge.

Where you are going I cannot follow

And will remain at the gatepost introducing

Myself to the waft of air indifferent in your wake.

You say kiss me again and I do and can’t

Make out what it is I am to tell you

About who I am in this flux from what felt forever

And suddenly is not. I hold your hands

In mine own. Open palmed you have lifted them

To me for the giving. You place my face

In your grip and for all the world I give away

That which has clung to me in exchange

For this fierce and calmly draught fire.


Jessica Rigney is a poet, artist, and filmmaker. She lives and wanders in Colorado and northern New Mexico, where she films and collects feathers and stones.

Interview With the Poet:

Cathexis Northwest Press:

How long have you been writing poetry?

Jessica Rigney:

For as long as I can remember, I have been a poet.


Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?


My mother let me check out all the books I wanted from the library. By age ten, I was reading Emily Dickinson’s poems.

I typed out the poems I loved on my mother’s typewriter, so I would have them even after I returned the books. I remember being physically affected by this one.

“After great pain, a formal feeling comes —

The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs —

The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’

And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round —

A Wooden way

Of Ground, or Air, or Ought —

Regardless grown,

A Quartz contentment, like a stone —

This is the Hour of Lead —

Remembered, if outlived,

As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow —

First — Chill — then Stupor — then the letting go —“

—Emily Dickinson (FR372, J341)

Its visceral effect was perhaps because I was growing up in Illinois where winters are long and cold. I also understood great pain, even at my young age. It is a poem which continues to astonish me for its imagery, words, arousal of a physical response, beauty of rhythm, and its inherent ‘rightness’.


Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?


I return again and again to these poets.

Averill Curdy, particularly the poem, Ovid In America, from her book entitled Song & Error.

Emily Dickinson’s Poems, As She Preserved Them, edited by Cristanne Miller.

Anne Carson’s works, any of them. My copy of Plainwater is dog-eared on nearly every page.

The prose book by Friederike Mayröcker entitled brütt, or The Sighing Gardens.

Ben Lerner’s books, Mean Free Path and The Lichtenberg Figures.

César Vallejo’s poems, all of them.

I also return to The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks, over and over.


Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in

the zone?


Poetry is for me a physical experience—a form of synesthesia, in that I feel the words in my entire body, in my mouth, and ‘see’ them as waves of color and light as I write.

For this reason, my process is about getting out of the way of the poetry. This is best accomplished if I spend time cleaning, cycling, hiking, moving my body. Then I am able to sit still, to allow the words to come through.


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?


I type quickly, getting words, images, sensations to the page. The form comes after. The poem decides its form, by the gravity of its words and how much space required around each image or sensation.

I have also written with a specific form in mind. This is a different process, also satisfying, fitting sensations and words to a form, as though tailoring a dress to fit the unique form of a single body.


Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?


Read. Read everything—poetry, novels, nonfiction, history, Shakespeare!, the biographies of other writers, all of it. Hearing the words and knowing the lives of all those who have come before us, makes our own path clearer.


What is your editing process like?


I put away a new poem for a period of time. Then I return to it and remove the extraneous, distilling the poem, to get at its potency. Then I rinse and repeat.

Often I record the poem. Reading it aloud allows me to embody the poem, allows me to ‘hear’ the poem’s heart.


When do you know that a poem is finished?


When I’ve recorded a poem several times and it no longer changes as I read it aloud, when I wake up at night and can hear the lines of the poem without asking for them, I know it is done.


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