About the Poems
by Bronwen Tate
These poems start from misreading and incomprehension. To write them, I read Proust in French (which I speak but not perfectly) looking for words that were opaque to me. Each time I found an entirely unknown word, I wrote notes about it, trying to guess at its meaning based on context or sound similarities to other words in French or English. When I'd accumulated ten words, I looked them up in a bilingual dictionary. Sometimes they were uncommon enough not to be found there, and I was obliged to look them up in a French dictionary. Sometimes I pursued etymology or other contextual clues. I used a combination of the guesses and the actualities of these words to write these poems.
Starting from language and moving towards experience helped me to articulate things in surprising ways. Writing these poems felt a bit like discovery as well as creation. Sometimes I forgot a word and wrote it down again. This is why there are several canaries in the book.