Welcome, Renée Ashley!

This month we are featuring the poets and writers who have signed with us in the past twelve months—all writers who submitted work during one of our two annual open reading periods.

Today we bring you Renée Ashley, whose poetry collection The View from the Body was accepted in February and will be released next spring. 

Renee1033About the Author

Renée Ashley is the author of five volumes of poetry: Because I Am the Shore I Want to Be the Sea (Subito Book Prize, University of Colorado—Boulder); Basic Heart (X.J.Kennedy Poetry Prize, Texas Review Press); The Revisionist’s Dream; The Various Reasons of Light; and Salt (Brittingham Prize in Poetry, University of Wisconsin Press), as well as a novel, Someplace Like This, and two chapbooks, The Museum of Lost Wings and The Verbs of Desiring. A portion of her poem, “First Book of the Moon,” is included in a permanent installation by the artist Larry Kirkland in Penn Station, Manhattan, NY.  She has served as Assistant Poetry Coordinator for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and as Poetry Editor of The Literary Review. Ashley teaches poetry in the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing and creative nonfiction in the MA in Creative Writing and Literature for Educators Program at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and two dogs.


Unmerciful the woods beyond the lawns where
narrative constructs and continues
(a queer permission) and you thrown over sorrow’s
shoulder like a satchel or like salt.  The sky
is hovering like a plateful of sky.  The sea
disappears.  Sublimed. And here I am again,
sackful of spirit and shit, suspended in the fact
of failing again.  Again, nothing but what I am.
It has come that I am broken (the tongue
is a dissembler, is a sophist).  I see now
what love might be—care has come to un-
pick my locks (language, language, clarity
is overrated; the tongue is tied to itself).
I have not earned the right (my love offers
the unspeakable) (my love offers the un-
imaginable) but I take it.  You take it.
Quietus and all blessings thereof.  And rest
(the tongue flails, bedsheet of desire).  School
of the wholly, school of the not at all:  This moon’s
just a hole in the sky.  Aperture, garden of stars,
some pale disorder (spiritous) (rag of elements,
coating of dust).  Everlasting.  (Threadbare.)
It is as simple as this:  No thing surrendered
in the woods last night.  Everything surrenders.
I cannot hold such emptiness
—the only meaning, the meaning
we make & the way time tugs
the body down, the body named
bone, named brain, the color
of dust and tremor, the soft meat
and the bag it lives in.  We beg
from the body; it shivers and
spits—we settle for desire, in-
commensurate sorrow, for a life
like too much water, shallow & wide,
for enough salt to make a little sea.
Not in the eye but the literal pools of trespass and trial, and she not up
to myth in any form.  Here is the name: reborn.  Spade a spade. Think
of her as lost.  Think of her as confounded, consumed, completely
undone.  She is the ghost of her own ghost and you can’t find her.
She can’t find herself.  Think Hansel and Gretel, think witch with
a dick, think Narcissus and his goddamn pool.  Think unquenchable.
Or drowned. She tells it from a distance, tells it like this: all those little
gods, their small mouths clapping. Grief like a trencherman. Grief like
a consummate humor. She tells it: This would not be a story had they found her.


The Workspace

My office at home, and this isn’t one of the bad days. My mind is unruly, chaotic, sometimes rude; my office continues to be a manifestation of all that, alas. It’s my Portrait of Dorian Gray (not the 50 Shades Grey!). Mostly I can find things. Yet I can nearly always clear a spot both on the desk and in my mind to write. It’s just life that gets away from me.

On Writing the Book

The View from the Body was composed at the end of a rough decade. I was still reeling and the poems reflect that, I think. When I couldn’t control the life—when could I ever control the life?—I could control the line. Those writing years are pretty much a blur; I knew I was transitioning to something new, but I had no idea what that might be. I think The View from the Body may be my testament to balance or the effort to achieve it.

FullSizeRender-2The Attendants

The best beasties: Steve (black) and Mona (brindle)