About the Poems
by Sarah Bartlett
With the exception of "Character Study 6," all the poems are from my Shanghai Tunnel series, the name of which requires a little explanation.
I recently moved to Portland, OR, and was fascinated to find that there's an old tunnel system here that was used to shanghai people—it even has holding cells where the snatched were kept underground 'til the ship left port. One second you'd be sitting on a bar stool, the next you'd fall through the floor and be forced to join a crew. I became interested in (self-induced) disorientation, and started exploring the concept. The voice really took on a life of its own, and I went with it. We'll see how the project progresses.
"Character Study 6" is an unusual poem for me—politically, thematically, imagistically, etc. The idea that keeping house while a man is at work can be sexually exciting had never occurred to me until I found myself in a similar situation for a day or two. I was so blown away by my own response that I wrote a poem.