National Poetry Month Spotlight: Erica Wright

You almost want her, too,
for the way she speaks of land farmed
as a girl, how she learned machinery
and rusted tools that still do the trick
if you know which way to pull them.
Away from you, she says, taking you in.
It’s the hour of filling voids with bread
and house red wine. It’s any other restaurant.
Flushed and unsteady, you rehearse how to begin,
how best to save face when he agrees.
You fantasize scenes of collapse,
but know you will shudder the sorrow home.
Later Daniel comes to town with his face fixed.
You recall an actual moment of least worth
when you botched the severing with sincerity
only possible when partial truths are told.
The weight of someone sometimes too much
for a small frame that craves receipt.
Then the pleasure of finding yourself
after eluding satisfaction from others’
fingers and tongues, of realizing,
while it’s not their fault, it’s not yours either,
and there’s your body in your eyes grown used
to the rich, red city darkness through the blinds.

Q: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the day you wrote the above poem?

A; I don’t recall the exact shows, but I think there were crime dramas in the 90s that make me associated blinds with sexiness. Not just any old blinds, but those cheap, plastic ones that make light streak across the walls. Silk Stalkings, maybe? I watched a lot of Silk Stalkings as a teenager because it came on after La Femme Nikita. Anyway, I had successfully installed blinds on the two windows of my studio apartment. They looked out over West End Avenue, which appeared to have perfectly normal nighttime lighting, but for some reason, it was red-hued when it came into my apartment. And that was the image that triggered the poem.

Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?

A: I finished Nicholas Baker’s novel The Anthologist last night and thought to myself, “I’ve been doing this writing thing all wrong! It has to be more casual.” But this morning, I decided that poetry can’t be casual. That was a bit disappointing because I had already imagined myself writing these little off-handed pieces about, say, mailboxes or giraffes. A book of poems that is deceptively casual is Mark Yakich’s The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine. He’s got it right. To give an overly specific answer to your question, Tadeusz Dąbrowski’s poem “The other part of truth” made me want to write. His book Black Square will be published in English (with Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translations) this spring by Zephyr Press.

Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?

A: I am a disaster in the kitchen. Over-cooked noodles and burned anything are my specialties. So I eat too much Chinese takeout. Anything home-cooked is sublime. I also accept leftovers.

Erica Wright’s poetry collection Instructions for Killing the Jackal is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press.