portion of the artwork for Stephen Massimilla's poetry

Stephen Massimilla’s Comments

These poems came in succession in the autumn two years ago, and I reworked them the following winter. Whatever was happening to me went into them. They are dark and fragmented. There was something unrelenting in the weather.

“In Pieces” takes place near a duck pond on the island where I grew up. It documents the limits of observation by presenting a lens that shatters.

“Cathedral” is partly about writing in the midst of flux and loss. It interrogates the notion that articulating what cannot be redeemed is itself redemptive. The blade of grass at the end of the poem harks back to Whitman.

“Frank Dark” is addressed in part to an old frenemy named Frank and in part to the dark side of the psyche, Himself. The opening was inspired by keynote lines from Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday.”

“Cynewulf Beneath the Hemlock Trees” bears the fingerprints and footprints of Arthurian lore. The title character may be a post-form of Lancelot as well as a stand-in for an archetypal poet. The female figure may be a hybrid of Morgause and the Muse. The poem was inspired not so much by everyday events as by the gorgeous impurity of the human condition as preached by a shade with the hair of a pythoness. She preaches about preserving self-startling signs of love, fear, loss and recklessness without embalming them.

“Southern Undertow” suggests an interaction between a husband and wife in Louisiana. The poem is informed by recent catastrophes in the region but is more about a state of mind than explicit occurrences. The center of consciousness moves from the mind of the husband to that of the wife to that of the former as pictured in the latter.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 31 | Winter 2011