About the Poems
by Deborah Poe
"Neon (Ne)" - Soham Patel introduced and encouraged me to try working with the Vietnamese form, Luc Bat. I generally do not work with such formal constraints, so the experiment was especially interesting to me. Luc Bat literally translates to six eight. Strictly speaking, a Luc Bat alternates between six-syllable and eight-syllable lines. The last word (sixth syllable) of an odd line rhymes with the sixth syllable of the even line and the eighth syllable rhymes with the sixth syllable of the next odd line. The final even line rhymes back to the first line. In Vietnamese, there are also tonal requirements for each syllable.
“Sulphur (S)” is part of my collection Elements, based on the periodic table. I wrote the piece originally as a 2” x 3” handmade book in response to Patrick Durgin and Jen Hofer’s collaborative, handmade book Tangelo. Tangelo is provocative and presents many questions. Of those questions, I was most interested in exploring, through “the element of war,” the ways in which expression and collaboration might provide “buoyancy” for the weight of language—language that so frequently legitimizes violence and extols American exceptionalism.
In February of 2009 I heard a Democracy Now story about playwright and activist Eve Ensler and Congolese gynecologist Dr. Denis Mukwege’s efforts to raise awareness about the enormous number of women being raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The story continued (and continues) to gnaw at me. Several months later, I was reading Another Kind of Nation: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry—specifically “Letter from the Open Sea” by Cao Shuying. That particular piece wedged itself into heart and mind and provoked the beginning of “Niobium (Nb).” “Niobium (Nb)” is one of the two elements in coltan—a metallic ore used to manufacture cell phones. Coltan has played a significant role in Congo’s ongoing civil war.
The italicized above (left) in “Gold (Au)” is taken from a handmade book I made as a gift for Kate Schapira. I cut words from early 20th-century Life Magazines and then assembled them to create the piece. Text right is from a written response to Matthew Klane’s manuscript “Secret Caves.” I wrote the two pieces a couple of weeks apart, and in my mind the two pieces began conversing. This is that conversation.
"Uranium (U)" - Hurley’s painting "Pumpkins" was one of the more compelling pieces for me of the many spread across the The Hideout’s bar walls several summers ago. The poem is as much a meditation on limitations of a spectrally-obsessed age as it is a consideration of feeling like a tourist (or citizen between worlds) in one’s own country.