To end this cycle without limiting myself to just one book at a time, I am attempting to curate the books that litter my home. I’m trying to cluster books together, to avoid, as best I can, the erasure of what I have read by what I am now reading. Memory instantly improves if you build a network of relations surrounding the remembered object, my theory being that the more I categorize a group of books together, the easier it will be to remember them all. And the categories, rather than being static, are constantly shifting. Certain books, I am finding, harmonize better than others. Certain books, when read together, satisfy all my literary cravings. Certain books start a conversation, one that teaches me how to read, think, and write better.
Having consoled myself in damp pubs in London, creaked across frozen lakes in the deep freeze of Minnesota, and coughed my way through Philadelphian afternoons that could never decide between rain or sleet, I can tell you: there are many different kinds of cold. It’s something Wallace Stevens knew well. His poem, “The Snow Man,” is probably the most famous winter poem in modern poetry, laying before us a “distant glitter” and, within it, the full presence of winter’s unique nothingness.
“The process of making a poetry comic is vital, since I don’t plan out in advance; don’t plot and storyboard. The process is where the piece determines itself. It’s a lot like composing a poem on a blank page: you have tools (language, memories, obsessions, sound) and you work with those in a sort of simultaneous process of improvisation and intent. So, even if the poem is already written, it’s going to become something totally different in the end.”
We saw her for the last time in 1944—frantic, wild-eyed, twitching about in her tree. Or rather, 23-year-old wildlife artist Don Eckelberry saw her, having traveled south to Louisiana’s Singer Tract to sketch America’s last Ivory-billed Woodpecker. It was a less than ideal situation. After all, National Audubon Society president John Baker would have much preferred to have found a way to save the bird rather than dispatch a man to sketch her. However, after negotiations with the Chicago Lumber Company broke down (“We are just money grubbers,” the company’s chairman allegedly said), Baker wasn’t left with much of a choice. Since the land couldn’t be spared (and by extension, the bird), Baker sent Eckelberry south in the hopes the artist might preserve her image.
“In the body’s own words, it cannot live like a vegetable in the country.” I am twenty-one and sitting on a bunk in a shotgun house in Mid-City, New Orleans, reading C.D. Wright. After a few conversations on the phone with a professor at the University of New Orleans, I have come here, weeks after graduating college, to help with an oral history project about the experiences of people who lived through Katrina.