About the Poems
by Marcela Sulak
"Market in Ceske Budejovice (and how things get there)"
Two concerns guided my writing of this piece: 1) the limits of the lyric as a genre, in particular, the relationship between the internal world of the lyric poem and the external world which produces it. 2) the use of figurative language as a medium between the internal and external worlds of the poem.
Wallace Stevens’s address to pale Ramon, in “The Idea of Order at Key West,” captures the spirit of what I was trying to do, in that it addresses the interaction between the poet who creates art out of the environment, and the environment that produces the poem, but in Stevens’s poem the poet, the ordering principle, wins out, and the sea becomes abstract. In my poem, the physical objects spill out over the ordering principle—and the command to “imagine” a city contained in a soap bubble is overcome by the physical objects that are contained in the city. The poem moves from rational imagining to sensual experience.
I set the poem in the Czech Republic because several battles between ideology and material realism have been played out on its soil since the Hussite wars and the Habsburg Monarchy’s eventual invasion and domination in 1621, which lasted until WWI, and the unfortunate Soviet period which lasted from WWII until 1989. I simply wanted a poem that, in part, celebrates the power of sensual objects.
"A Body in Labor" was inspired after a reading I did with Deborah Bernhardt, whose book Eccholalia seriously reshuffled my brain. The challenge of the post-narrative or associative style of poetry is to write a moving and human story by supplying only the external elements. The image I have is that of the police outline of a body and a bag of evidence, and the reader must construct a narrative from it. But this poem was actually set in my hometown, a railroad town on the Texas Gulf Coast named for one of three French sisters. The town next over was supposed to be the work camp for the railroad, and it became a town, too, but retained its provisional name: El Campo.