Posts Tagged ‘Exclosures’

Philadelphia Poets: Emily Abendroth, Pt. 2

Emily Abendroth, whose poems appeared on THERMOS last Friday, speaks briefly here on being a poet in Philadelphia. This place-based feature, curated by Zach Savich, will continue occasionally in the future, with poems accompanied by brief commentary. Look for Emily’s first full-length book of poems, ]Exclosures[, out from Ahsahta in May. — AS

I’ve never considered myself to be a regional writer or to fit into the category of a “writer of place,” at least not to the degree that one thinks of such categories as entailing a committed affiliation to residency as a significant component of one’s artistic identity. For lack of a better way to say it, I’m definitely more a “poet who lives in Philadelphia,” as opposed to a “Philadelphia poet.”


Far more than the geography and natural environment of Pennsylvania, it is my engagement with the various communities of Philadelphia writers/artists, community organizers, human rights activists, and friends/comrades that have most impacted the shape of my artistic practices here in this city.

Further, the current dynamics of Pennsylvania politics profoundly shape my understanding of the existent obstacles that preclude our achievement of individual and collective health, well-being, self-determination, and, ultimately, emancipation (be it cognitive or physical in nature). This, in turn, informs my sense of what art has a mandate to attempt to, first, make legible and, then, to confront, even as the means and modes of art are very different from those of traditional organizing. I don’t by any stretch think this is art’s only mandate but, from my perspective, it is a primary one of them.

In the context of Pennsylvania, this includes such life-destructive details as: the widespread implementation of hydraulic fracking which is, as I write, poisoning our watershed and ourselves for millennia into the future; the insufferable fact that spending on prisons has once again outpaced spending on higher education for several annual budgets running; the dovetailing reality that this state has more people who were condemned as youth to sentences of life without the possibility of parole (or “death by incarceration”) than anywhere else in the world; and the monstrous truth that our current Governor prefers to leave tens upon tens of thousands of people uninsured and without health care access of any kind, rather than to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid to poor people.

I don’t mean to say that these intentionally engineered calamities of social neglect and outright violence either directly predict or dictate the form/voice of my poetic work in a narrow instrumentalist or journalistic way. That would be, I believe, a demoralizing defeat for the creative imagination. My poetry is not “about” these things in that strictly documentary sense; however, its concerns and contours are absolutely invaded by and responsive to those realities.


Philadelphia Poets: Emily Abendroth

Emily Abendroth’s first full length book of poetry, ]Exclosures[, is forthcoming from Ahsahta Press in May. In 2012, she was named a Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow and in 2013, a Pew Fellow in Poetry. Her works are often published in limited edition, handcrafted chapbooks by small and micropresses such as Belladonna (New York), Little Red Leaves (Texas), Albion Press (Philadelphia) and Zumbar Press (San Francisco).

from whereupon, the henchpeople’s ZEAL did SPUTTER


It could be an unduly hard move sometimes to assign
which were the zones of inhibition or auto-impingement
versus which were those of open growth or co-exfoliation.
What was an area encysted in muscle and what was an area insistent upon it.
A hard move sometimes to separate that which soothed from the ruthless –
gelatinous sheath, contractile vacuole, oral groove.

We had been asked once again, and politely, to please believe
in the benevolent hegemon only to find, rather violently, that we could not.
We might as well have refused water, the clutter of slaughterhouses,
beguiling bile ducts, unctuous rivalries, or our very own trial dates
with all their accompanying and premeditated punishments.

Sleep deprived, we waggle danced continuously, but often less than accurately.
We – the discalced, the baretushed, the squishy.
We learned that as a public act the inside of your body often wants to stay inside.

                                          By “inside” I mean, of course, “velvitized”
                                                                I mean “ideological leniency”
                                                                I mean “fruiting”
                                                                I mean “longer than was strictly necessary”
                                                                I mean “hairy and emboldened (be it with or without cause)”


For this audience, it is the stain that most gainfully demonstrates
the fundamental features of being. We notice the pattern of greening
and of blanks. We notice the soft patter at girdle view
wherein the renewed application of resin is a true necessity
if we are to make out anything at all. We notice the fall of tissue
which gives rise to a new and oozing issuance which gives rise to prancing
                                                                                                      followed by flight.

Her finances in complete arrears, she reared up at first, but then was flattened.
She shoved a quick fatty in her back pocket and ran. Such unplanned desertions
do occur. They are the tradition-shattering components to tradition-bound activities.
They release their infeasible call for more insubordination of the materials,
of our arterials even. And such desertions do occur. They unfurl.
Hurling themselves forward at midvein, midtangle, midtemper, midepidermis…

                                                                        per surface area of ocean
                                                                        per surplus tanker of gas
                                                                        per pine-edged casket of talismans
                                                                        per samsonite duffle
                                                                        per cufflink
                                                                        per quagmire
                                                                        per person cuffed or bound or gagged