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A Mini-Q&A with Muriel Nelson

DOCK Contributor Muriel Nelson shares the secret behind the delicious final stanza in her poem, "On Silent Haunches" 


KJB:   The line from Psalm 19:2  seems to be a perfect companion for the way in which you respond/pay homage to Sandburg’s, “Fog”. Did you find any of the rest of the Psalm informing the poem, or did the line just spring out to you organically?

MN:   If this poem hangs together on anything other than i sounds, it’s the wish to write with light (natural light, not neon or other man-made lighting). I recently discovered that for me, silence heightens the effects of what I see, so Carl Sandburg’s fog came on little cat feet, along with the peaceful diapered cloud bottoms, shushed wind, and silenced radio. No, I don’t have psalms memorized ready to spring out as needed, but I had been working with Psalm 19 for another poem. Unlike psalms full of cries, shouts, storms, and loud musical instruments, this psalm is quiet after day utters. Most important, it has that amazing turn in verse 4, in which God sets a tabernacle for the sun in the words of day and knowledge of night.

Read "On Silent Haunches" 

BOOK REVIEW: wildcold by Ruth Baumann

        Ruth Baumann’s chapbook, wildcold, opens with Rilke’s instruction, “Listen to the night as it makes itself hollow”. Here, I must admit my hesitance to dive into any work that prefaces itself with an oft-quoted (and often misquoted) poet. And here is where I am glad to say my literary-prejudice had its teeth kicked in.

        Winner of the Slash Pine Press chapbook contest, the poems in Baumann’s second collection feel like cupping your palms to receive a handful of singularities; the poems themselves are small, but their weight is undeniable. The book opens with “Prelude I”, the first of five that intersperse themselves throughout the book. In it the reader is asked only one question, “Can the dead smell a storm like dogs do?”, but still forced to consider the beauty and impossibility of a series of thoughts that feel like they came moments before poet went to sleep.

“Whisper tornado into a tornado.
  Imagine art constructed without blame.
   …
   The impracticality of grace.”

        In all of these poems, Baumann constructs small worlds bent on mediating themselves into or out of existence. Her series of “Dream Interpretations” manage to keep their ethereal aura without falling into cliché, and a refreshing “Ars Poetica” reels the reader back in at just the right moment in the collection. The question all of these poems are asking seems well posited in “Prelude II”.

 “You can blow on your hands
   for warmth all night, but what
   does the temporary prove?”

        To find the answer, I suggest you get your copy of wildcold as soon as possible – Slash Pine typically prints only 125 copies. 


-       Ruth Baumann holds an MFA from the University of Memphis, & is pursuing her PhD at Florida State University. Her chapbook I'll Love You Forever & Other Temporary Valentines won the Salt Hill Dead Lake Chapbook Contest. Her second chapbook, wildcold, is forthcoming from Slash Pines Press in 2016. She won an AWP Intro Journals Project Award in 2014, & has poems published in Colorado Review, Sonora Review, Sycamore Review, The Journal, Third Coast & others listed at www.ruthbaumann.com.


Reviewed by Kyle J. Bassett

JUST PULLED INTO PORT: MEGHAN E. GILES | RECEPTION

This months featured poet is Meghan E. Giles, a comrade in arms from The McNeese Review. Make sure you go check it out over on The Dock, then feel free to keep browsing (or maybe even buy a subscription...!)

Enjoy the interview with the poet below:


Q: This poem complicates the issue of domestic violence in a way we’d never seen before. When I first read this poem, the ease with which the speaker ‘receives’ such a violent moment with such a soft-spoken voice was heartbreakingly beautiful. With that in mind, what was it you hoped to accomplish by conflating the domestic, horrible experience with pastoral, natural beauty of native wildflowers?

A: I wasn't intending to conflate this experience, but rather to explore a situation that has happened to me that this poem is closely based off of. I was hoping to explore the complication of being in a relationship with someone you deeply care about although he/she is violent and the relationship is dangerous. Although there is a natural beauty to wildflowers, plants are aggressive beneath the surface, and what we see above ground is a result of that violence. 

JUST PULLED IN TO PORT: Trevor Ketner | Erode

A surprising take on the dance of continents, Trever Ketner's poem Erode is one you're not soon to forget. He is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2015, we're just happy we got to him first. 

Check out the interview between Kyle Bassett and Ketner below, then head over to The Dock for a fresh catch. 


Q: “Erode” seems to take on the whole of human history in such a compact, yet literally eroded poem in terms of format. Your decision to use three major points of reference - the Biblical beginning, the Greek mythos, and a tumultuous present-day - strike me as purposeful. I wonder how you came to choose these points, and if there is a greater significance to the idea that we whittle down history to fit our preconceived notions of the world? 

A: “Erode” is, or at least over time has become, a poem about histories, plural because I think there are multiple kinds of history. There are manifold personal and societal histories—family histories, relationship histories, histories of religion and science and cities, nations, civilizations, geological histories. I’ve lately been interested in the ways these histories can overlap and influence each other, build on or tear down each other so this poem and its allusions came out of that exploration a bit. I was raised in a religious household and studied philosophy and myth in college. There’s even a nod in the second stanza to Fitzgerald’s ending for The Great Gatsby. So much of what has gotten me to where I find myself today (an openly queer, nonreligious poet and writer) is about my intellectual history influencing my personal history. So in essence all of my histories bleed together at a certain point. In that bleeding though, some things often erode, find themselves wasting away or changed by time. There’s revisionism, there’s forgetfulness, there’s repression. It’s important to acknowledge that history qua history is not truth, but a constructed narrative that, as we find ourselves here standing at one end of it looking back at the other end, it becomes distorted in our looking, like the horizon always seen but escaping into the distance.