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Welcome, Carrie Bennett!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired in the past six months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Carrie Bennett, author of the poetry collection Lost Letters and Other Animals, which will be published in 2020.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies) and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

The Author

Carrie Bennett is a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellow and author of biography of water (The Word Works, 2005), The Land Is a Painted Thing (The Word Works, 2016)and several chapbooks from dancing girl press. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including Boston ReviewCaketrainDenver Quarterly, and jubilat. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently teaches writing at Boston University. She lives with her husband and daughter in Somerville, MA.

On Writing Lost Letters and Other Animals

In 2009, I reunited with my estranged grandmother only to discover that she was entering the late stages of Alzheimer’s. During two visits with my grandmother in Northern Minnesota, prior to her transition into a memory unit, her ability to navigate the world—both physically and verbally—significantly declined. Her “new” self saw the world through a lens that held equal parts magic and tragedy. Each evening I recorded our day together, attempting to capture her way with the world— a strange tune she hummed at night, how she fumbled to describe her feelings. These entries became the foundation for the section “Animals in Pretty Cages,” which would eventually become the heart of the entire project. 

My writing process is slow, and over the next nine years, I experimented with poetic forms and ways of thinking about memory, language, and loss. Sometimes these experimentations were deliberate, as with “Brainbox Portraits,” while other times I excavated and revised old work, such as creating erasures of my own prose poems. I was interested in arbitrary formal constraints that pushed me to think about alternative ways of constructing or disrupting memory. The unrelenting process of Alzheimer’s disease grinds away meaning from language in a haunting and violent way. What happens when our ability to narrate and navigate our world fails us? I attempted to enter this space of uncertainty and imagine the decline on a metaphorical level. 

Words still persist like ghosts. Just as my grandmother’s hand still existed even with fingers that had forgotten how to open a door. Or that the door held a knob to turn. And eventually that there was even ever a door or a hand.

Excerpts

from  “Brainbox Portraits”

The brainbox is divided from the body like a photo graphs an image. Press a flower in between each hour to preserve the exact measurement of loss— outside the throat breath becomes ghost, the mouth holds the wind like a light bulb holds light. The processing begins when the mind rewinds. 

*

In the first stage the sky explodes into an enormous purple web, forests of coral bloom from the ground. In the second stage all the rivers flood and birds grow horns. Thick sheets of algae cover buildings, power lines echo cooing sounds. In the third stage humans forget how to walk.

*

In the fourth stage the brainbox becomes a sun. Humans turn into a tribe of deer and there is only one language. At night the deer shine from the fireflies that live inside their bones. Each day ends with the trees losing their leaves and each day begins with the leaves growing back.