Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 1:45PM
I didn’t know Sheila Squillante when she contacted me less than a month ago, “out of the Facebook abyss”, as she remarked, to pick my brain about possibilities for a virtual release party for her chapbook, A Woman Traces the Shoreline. It is a prose poem sequence, I learned, soon to be released by Dancing Girl Press, the same press that published my chapbook of ekphrastic poems on Modigliani, (al)most delicious.
Turns out DGP editor Kristy Bowen suggested she get in touch with me. So, strangers? Yes. Not even Facebook friends, not yet. But... just the tone of her note to me was exceedingly warm and friendly -- but not saccharine, not overly familiar. We had exchanged a few messages, so I sent a friend request. Then, another message popped up in my inbox, addressed to multiple poets & editors, with one simple request: “Might I write something on your blog? Answer the burning questions you didn't even know you had about my poetry? Appear in person to read poems for you? Would you like to review [my chapbook]? Do you know anyone who would? Can I cook you a meal to say thanks? I would be happy to, you know.”
Wow. Cook me a meal? My immediate response was to want to help this woman, but I didn’t respond right away. My schedule has been pretty full lately, especially the last few weeks, working on compiling and doing the layout for the 2011 Writing From Inlandia anthology, managing some of the blah administrative tasks for the journals I edit, prepping for the workshop I’m teaching, and, most recently, minding sick children this week. But even amidst all of this, my thoughts kept swinging back to her, and so I sent her another note, asking her to tell me a little about herself, and to send me some of her work.
It was nothing short of mind-blowing. In the excerpt that she sent, Squillante packs in themes ranging from the complexity of women’s roles and bodies, literary theory including Bahktin, who I became familiar with while studying the various movements feeding into the Gurlesque, the body as L’objet, the body as a site of horror as well as well revelation, without ever sacrificing the interiority and domesticity of the speaker’s narrative.
When Squillante described her work to me as being “...filled with ambivalence and terror and grapples with the way the female body (particularly the pregnant female body) gets commodified. It has to do with boundaries and ownership, I guess.” , she didn’t know that these themes -- of motherhood, of women’s bodies, of the body as an object, the complexity of women’s roles, of domesticity, are all at the heart of my own writing, my heart of hearts.
Sometimes the universe, or a clever editor, or luck, or whatever, connects the dots.
Going back through my notes, the first one she sent just happened to be on my oldest son, Jacob’s, birthday. Squillante’s chapbook, A Woman Traces the Shoreline, was written while she was very pregnant with her first child, also a son. So, from one mother to another, one poet to another, I enthusiastically await the release of her chapbook, and hope that -- after this sampling -- you will, too.
I stare at my belly and he reads Bahktin. I read about amniotomies and they become potatoes thrown by aliens in my dreams. I’m gonna get you! I dream of old loves, of bears, of circumcision. I dream of women, of my own taut skin. I read around in books. I coexist. I am becoming, they tell me, “wholer.”
Half terrified, I trace the edges of a heat rash like a shoreline from shoulder to fingertips. I only want to read poems by women, I say. This one has me thinking about the notion of hero. Where is my quest narrative? someone asked.
I want to include too much—all the women who write poems, for instance, and birds, les globes terrestive on the shelf with the travel books—un outil de reference pour tout la famille—
A woman with a stepstool steps in, repositions items on a rack, moves off. A woman in her comfy clothes off until Friday from her job in the shoe department. The coffee shop. The retail bind. A woman covered in cookie crumbs—belly and breasts. A woman billowing, blue rayon and flowers. A woman in the parking lot by the dumpster, her arms airplaning. Open wide! A woman with her small red boy, back to you, a “travel pictorial.” A woman checking her messages, suggesting seaside villas, good places to see. A woman terrifying herself with the notion of inclusion. She waits, tracing the shoreline of her body, a heat rash of expectation.
Shirt pulled taut. Skirt pushed softly outward. L’objet. Stranger hands query and quest. Touchez le surface. When. When. When.