I had the pleasure of meeting Sandra Marchetti last summer, when she graciously came to read for Paging Columbus. At AWP this year, I was finally able to purchase her beautiful book of poems, Confluence (published by Sundress Publications). As I'd anticipated, this book is delectable.
There is a richness and tranquility to her work (in both sound and content)--these are poems to read slowly and savor.
NOTE: Below, you'll find a mini-interview with Sandy, as well as two of my favorite poems from her book. These poems appear with the permission of the author.
Q: I noticed that so many of your poems are highly sensuous. When you write poems, how do you consider image/sound/taste/touch/scent?
A: What a novel, keen observation, Hannah! Thank you. There are probably two principles that guide the sensuality in my poems. First, the poems that I love are ripe as fruit, they are tangible, and they are fragrant. I love poets like Li-Young Lee and Mark Doty, who shape the world into the poem-object so tangibly. I'm thinking of Lee's "Dreaming of Hair" or "Eating Alone" here as well as (of course) Doty's "A Display of Mackerel." In fact, I just finished a fantastic book-length meditation of Doty's on this very subject, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, on the recommendation of my friend and fellow poet, Sara Henning. Looking back, I am not sure how I wrote Confluence without Doty's book, because it encompasses so much of what I believe: that great still lives, either painted or written, transcend their stillness, especially in the quality of light projected, they way they stir us from the world of art into the tangible world of food, pleasure, and sexuality.
As you can see from the cover of my book, "Still Life with Flowers and Fruit" by Jan Van Huysum (1715), I aspire to still life--I want my poems to conjure that fragrant melon, so fleeting in its ripeness. So that's the first idea, I suppose, that poems can be (and should be at times) about the human pleasures. I want to feel like I'm surfacing after I read a poem; I want to feel the poem click shut as a box, as Yeats said. That pleasure is what I'm in this for, perhaps shamelessly so, and I measure it in felt experience. I try to pass that on to the reader. The second guiding principle of sensuality in my poems is that I believe images do not necessarily seem to be visual. We often talk about "images" and "sounds" in poems as two separate things working together. However, I think of images in terms of sounds, smells, tastes, and textures too. And so, in my poems, I attempt to envelope the reader in a felt experience. The sonic and visual images play most prominently, but the others apply too, especially when I write about food or the outdoors or sexuality. "Lunch" and "Silver" seem reflect those senses, and also reflect that pleasurable quality of light mentioned above.
TWO POEMS FROM CONFLUENCE
Wheel and lock,
your irises drop
into mine and sink.
My skin a new bird,
white in the morning-bright
and newly downy.
a shoulder scrape,
then release between
an arm and under.
I pull up toward
the triangles of our bodies
lie, then slide.
A light writes out
from us and dies
where we cut
Oh hum me to a crest,
so we buzz with each
a cicada’s clean song
After a two-mile walk to the stand,
I open a spigot on the raspberries—
blush hearts in the hand.
The crackers brick against my lips,
slide through a stick of butter;
I rub dirt from the tomatoes.
Sorting the demands of red-orange,
pink, cream, I flick stems on the bank,
watch them wash downstream. It is noon,
the bees are circling for somewhere to land.
Fruit breaks on my teeth, spreads
through the mouth’s star—a galaxy expands.
ABOUT SANDRA MARCHETTI