Philadelphia Poets: JenMarie & Travis Macdonald

Our place-based and occasional series on Philadelphia poets continues today with 4 collaborative poems from Bigger On the Inside by JenMarie and Travis Macdonald. Look for more in the future, curated by our resident Philadelphian, Zach Savich.



Statement on the Poems


We once conducted a collaborative interview with Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop about their collaborations, and, at one point, Rosmarie said, “It is true that our collaborations do not quite sound like either Keith’s poems or mine. Which shows once again that the BETWEEN is fertile ground … our reality is no longer substances, but systems of relations, ‘no longer things, but what happens BETWEEN things,’ as Charles Olson paraphrases Whitehead.” And at another point we quoted Jacques Roubaud who said, “when Keith and Rosemarie write poems together, whose are those poems? They are the poems of a third poet, whose name and gender and origin and language we do not know.”


What we mean to say is that, while we are not comparing our poems to Keith & Rosmarie’s in any way, we are getting to know the fertile 3rd person sitting between us. When we trade a notebook back and forth between us we’re writing on the lap of an intimate stranger.


Because we are collaborating on poems while binge-watching Doctor Who episodes, we’re also writing in the space between entertainment and ekphrasis. Rosmarie said, “The most obvious way relation affects our language when we collaborate is that we allow ourselves to play with the other’s manner.” And we do play with one another’s manner, but we are also playing with the manner of the actors, the television writers, the scenery and costume people. The whole of the BBC. etc.


On how many strangers laps have we written? And who is it exactly that lurks in the gaps between the letters on each line?


The empty presence of the third poet in collaboration is the same way we feel about the characters on Doctor Who. They are real enough that our mind (for fleeting one-hour periods, at least) imagines them actually living in the world. Or if not THE world, then a similar intermediary space that we, the perceivers, create between our perception and the screen, between every single exchange of the page between us.


What are they up to right now? The Doctor and our third voice? Both are too real, too present to only exist at the sites of evidence: the computer, the poems, the stranger sitting between us…and then you there, reading this.




The Exterminator’s Downfall


The children of time work
against us with words dipped in rift.


What’s the last thing
you remember? The descendants assume


formation. The medusa cascades
and swallows the trail
of the bees’ disappearance.


A sentient piece of software
stands by its actions. Home
at the end of the world,


the subwave will
bring us together.




Falling in Flight


And the earth was no more
or less responsible for the last
transmission’s charge,
raging the rift and slant
against. The end of everything
is strong enough to hold the paradox
box open, long enough
to get out and pick the ring
up from the ashes of the ending.


Stuck in the center of the dingy
Titanic x-mas skyline.


Stay here while I ascertain
the information angel damages.
Cauterize your time
wound, tossing off its razorblade halo
into the host’s lonely drift.
Reflected in the doctor’s grimace:
an echo of atoms kissed.




Inform the Cage: We’re Headed Down


Patch us in. The com
system fell to earth. On Ascension
Island, patent a binary


vascular current. Calculate one
hundred thousand million combinations
in a second flat. You’ll get rusty
following the primary
order of instinct. Drag


down and label the stars.
They’re all dead
because of you


and contaminated, saved.
Function locked and loaded, I can feel
so many ideas. Exterminate my sickness.


I win.




Vashta Nerada


The library runs on
wishes. Never land on Sundays—boring!
A million million life forms’ silence


left a note from the courtesy node:
count the shadows if you want to live.


Cry for help with a kiss and a screwdriver
that won’t do
wood or resurrection
banks. Pick a face for your security
camera consciousness.


I thought we were an exclusive expedition? Tear up
your experience contracts. It’s death
for the river song. Spoilers


flying off the shelves
hold an impression: the brain waves
in a footprint tide pool.


Let’s all meet the shadow meat
feeders ghosting, a swarm
in a skeleton suit. Move
the console signals if


there’s a teleport bridge
collapse. Your imagination escape plan


hatches and builds
a nest of its own.



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