This is the afterlife, but I’m not dead. I’m just here in this field. —from “Death of a Child” Jenny George
THE DREAM OF REASON
HOW IT BEGAN: The inquiry in these poems is shaped by the question: How much of our aliveness can we bear? Another way of asking that is: How much of our own capacity for violence must we tolerate in order to be fully awake? At the same time, I was very interested in humans’ complex, emotionally charged dependence on animal life and in the relationship between animal consciousness, dream consciousness, and childhood. These threads met in my work.
INSPIRATION: Fields and rivers; pigs and cows; object relations theory; Texas Hill Country; silence and solitude; Carl Jung; farming manuals; mystic traditions; conversations with my sister; dreams.
INFLUENCES: I grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, the town where Emily Dickinson lived her whole life. Dickinson’s language was some of the first poetry I heard; that musicality and compression is still very much in me. I love Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich for political work with beauty and formal rigor. And Brigit Pegeen Kelly for restraint and mythic intelligence. I also read a lot of psychoanalysis. I read it like it’s poetry, in other words: to be moved, arrested, brought into relationship with my own interior.
WRITER’S BLOCK REMEDY: I remind myself that language isn’t my job. Writing a poem isn’t my job. My job is the human job of waiting and listening, and language is just what poets use—like wind chimes—to catch the sound of the larger, more essential thing. Wind chimes themselves are not the point. The point is the wind.
ADVICE: All the best advice I’ve been given is some form of the same advice: A writing life is a long process, and engagement with the work itself is the antidote to fear and to anxiety around your career. The practice is to move without attachment in a purposeful direction toward what it is you don’t know.
AGE: 40. RESIDENCE: Santa Fe, New Mexico. JOB: I work in social-justice philanthropy. TIME SPENTWRITING THE BOOK: Eight years. TIME SPENT FINDING A HOME FOR IT: One year.