Friday, February 7, 2014
On Creativity: Sarah E. Colona
I can’t imagine a more fitting book to enjoy right now (in the icy tundra and snow days that many of us are currently inhabiting). Hushed and reverent, mysterious and playful, the poems in Sarah E. Colona’s Hibernaculum want to share their quiet magic with you (and also to tuck you into bed with a dark fairy tale or two).
NOTE: After the interview below, read “Now I Understand,” “The Custody of Ghosts,” and “Whispered into a Statue’s Ear,” all of which appear with the permission of the author. Order your copy of Hibernaculum here.
Q: Silence and secrets appear in so many of the poems in Hibernaculum. As a writer, how do you view the quiet, the whispered, and the unsaid? How do you decide what to say or not say? How does secrecy work in your poems?
A: Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my work, Hannah. I’ve never outgrown an early fascination with storytelling: fairy tales, myths, parables, and family moments. In all stories, there’s a bit that remains untold.
I remember listening to conversations held over my head. Like other children, my siblings and I would try to decode the adult world’s euphemisms and facial expressions. A teacher’s hitched brow could play like a sermon. Even at home, some truths were tucked away until maturity yielded understanding.
Navigating what to say, or not say, complicates every possible type of relationship, especially the one we create with an audience. When completing my degree, I grew to respect poets Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Bishop–also J.V. Cunningham, who excelled in concision and the epigram, a form I greatly admire.
Handling the unsaid becomes a kind of skill set one must refine. I grew up in a larger family, where privacy was a luxury. Necessity and frugality required sharing. In close quarters, one accepts oversharing; but I became curious about what wasn’t shared, what was whispered, what was considered inappropriate. I think many of these poems, and those in my chapbook, Thimbles, aim for compression and restraint.
Winter invites silence and secrecy. It’s a season of interiors, bundling up, and conservation of energy. So, in the spirit of the season, I’ll let the poems do the talking from this point on.
Three poems from Hibernaculum
Now I Understand
How did the wolf come to be so hungry?
How did the forest, replete with creatures,
Fail to feed such a cunning beast? Winter,
Not spring, had bitten him quickly—
Pulled her cloak of fur taut over his bones.
Bracken calligraphy swipes canvas.
There now, the path to Gran, frenzied white.
Our girl, a spot of blood, wrung from beetles.
Carmine. Scarlet hood—just so—against the cold.
Have a care with who made introductions.
Motive aside, the wolf politely inquired
After Red’s health and of those she loved.
Evergreen bears no blossom: only votive
Rag tied by our girl’s rosary-wrung hand.
Illness, the word on Red’s lip. Illness, ash-
Written in smoke above Gran’s cottage roof.
Exeunt Red pursued by the wolf. Far off,
An axe with a predatory grin sparks and sharpens.
With the soft clink of Gran’s jewelry box clasp,
Winter closes her jaws—hush now—about her prey.
The Custody of Ghosts
One look within and the living trust
My heart, a locket at their disposal.
This face I wear—my mother’s face—
A watch that keeps in perfect pitch
With those desperate for benevolence,
Attracts (not as one would wish)
strangers. I field their secrets,
Bury tears in cemetery eyes: Mother’s
Other gift. I cannot help but hate her now
Nor abide the custody of ghosts.
Whispered into a Statue’s Ear
I have nothing to prove. That I was here
Matters little in the end. The mess remains
What is remembered most. I disappear
With lipstick and whistles, breath on a mirror,
Rubbed off without trouble; besides these stains,
I have nothing to prove that I was here.
The photographs, you ask, the souvenirs,
All these I kept within myself. Complaints
Were whispered into a statue's ear.
You doubt that I have lived at all. You fear
For your own memory. One last refrain:
I have nothing to prove that I was here.
You think there must have been someone dear,
A lover perhaps, someone whose name
I called once, fully expecting to hear
A soft response. Some faults are past repair:
I never loved enough to make a claim.
I have nothing. To prove that I was here—
A message in breath upon a mirror.