Elyse Brownell’s “where poetry thrives”

“I went to graduate school at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics for the lineage that, because I am a 2013 graduate with an MFA in Writing & Poetics, is now mine. ‘Where poetry thrives,’ is the phrase I have tattooed on my right forearm. I decided to keep the comma to allow the suggestion of the future, of what comes after: a gesture. Writer and Naropa Instructor Bhanu Kapil defines commas as the ‘hooks’ within sentences, something to bring you back, to make you stop, to breathe. When I look down at my arm, I remember to breathe. When I look down at my arm, I hear Anne Waldman’s voice reminding me of community, of poetry, of the archive, and of ‘keeping the world safe for poetry,’ all of which are apertures into a life I discovered at Naropa. When I look down at my arm, I am reminded how deeply poetry is embedded within me, how being a writer is a curse. Elizabeth Willis said, ‘I would like another life I don’t have to write down.’ I see that, too, when I look down at my arm. And how so terrible and so lovely in its happenings, this is the life I have chosen. This tattoo is more than a tattoo: it is a connection, a node, a place on my body I can touch and not feel alone. This tattoo is a reminder that, as Juliana Spahr claimed, there is a connection to everything with lungs. This tattoo is for every deleted line I’ve ever written.

The single star is representative of the self, of the black hole in the self that forms at the end of a collapsing star’s life. This star hovers off to the left of the phrase, hovers off to the left of my own body, like a shadow, like a hologram, like a memory, like holding onto something you have now more than when it was actually happening. The single star, like the body, is an all-encompassing figment.”

Elyse Brownell

Elyse Brownell’s “where poetry thrives”

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