Welcome, Sarah Giragosian!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired during 2018. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Sarah Giragosian, author of the poetry collection The Death Spiral, which will be published in the spring of 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

Sarah Giragosian is a poet and critic living in Schenectady, NY. She is the author of the poetry collection Queer Fish, a winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize (Dream Horse Press, 2017). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as The Offing, Ecotone, Tin House, Cosmonaut’s Avenue and Denver Quarterly, among others. She teaches in the department of Writing and Critical Inquiry at the University at Albany-SUNY.

On writing The Death Spiral

I discovered the “death spiral,” also called the “cartwheel display,” while conducting research for a poem. The “death spiral” is a courtship ritual among eagles. Locking talons in mid-air, they cartwheel toward earth, risking death until determining when (or if) to let go. If they survive the stunt, they validate the fitness of their potential mate. If not, the test can end in a fatal collision with the earth.
Like the eagles in their precarious death dance, we are each of us mutually dependent upon one another, entangled, and yet survival in this age, the Anthropocene, may be a practice of letting go, learning a position to one another and the earth that is less rapacious. For me, it is a practice of letting go of the world as I have known it; The Death Spiral is part-love letter, part-death notice to the earth and its creatures. It is also a search for sources of resilience in the queer imaginary and queer intimacies, some of which extend beyond just the human.
This manuscript asks what it means to human in our age, to be at once a meddler, a tinkerer, a destroyer, a killer, as well as a rehabilitator and steward. It is addressed to those who are interested in re-thinking our role in the natural world from a position of dominance to one of co-existence. I write for those concerned with re-imagining our planetary citizenship as one defined by an ethics of responsibility towards one another, the earth, and its creatures. The Death Spiral asks what is “Nature” but something of us and beyond us? It is the incarcerated bittern so isolated from her own species that she falls in love with the zoo director, the seacucumbers slick with oil, the smokestack-studded sky, the scientist toying with the extinct mammoth’s DNA.


Out of Step with Songbirds and Normals,
E. kept the spiked seedpod, Devil’s Head 
in these parts, secreted away
in her pocket for power. Clogger of water-
ways, gouger of toes, it should have stayed
in Asia, but the invasives, they say,
keep spreading. E. took to it, as she took to all hanger-
on’s & spiders, and like most talismans,
the secret grew inside her, even as she stopped it
from glutting another river. Left to grow,
it would become another riot
of aquatic rosettes, buoyant bladders
hogging water surfaces, plunging
water nymphs & terrapins,
sturgeons & salamanders, in-
to one more weaponized world.
Unchecked by insects, it would mean
another millpond flooded with millions
of pods, their silhouettes shaped like bats,
their ears real, flesh-cutting spines
that would snarl & still goose feathers.
E., ward of the seedpod, outsider
still, grew more & more beautiful,
grew into the guardian of an entire world.
Terlingua, TX Haibun
In the ghost town, a way station until E.’s wedding, you keep your vow to a dry-tongued silence. You heed every rustle of snakeweed and honeyed blessing, stay clear of cowboy eyes and jackknives, freshly sharpened. If secrecy is the heirloom of the desert, I will plant ours in the mouth of a horned lizard.  She’ll puff out in the sun or weep tears of blood, making herself difficult to swallow. You’ll drink in the mountains, the Chisos to the east, and the side show below the patio: a pair of baby heads growing toadstool red and a couple throwing shade with their glances, desert-toughened from the inside out. Later, we’ll pick our way through the basins, touring despite all there is to watch out for: crumbling adobe walls, toxic ore, the parts of rusted-out Fords, their fenders and sheet metal left out like offerings to some burnt out god above. A stray dogo circles and circles the back lot, pisses steam, and wanders free. Tethered, a toddler tries and tries to pluck the reddest rocks, the killing ones, against the tug of a fraying leash. A woman pulls a drag on the other end. Back in the good days, the bar man says (meaning the war), our miners fished out cinnabar by the barrows from the desert. And Lord, what a time. Mercury ran in their veins. The government money flowed in like a salve. Your eyes tell me that the smell of him is under your nose: car grease and dinosaur climate, the underwing of a turkey vulture. They say not far from here, just south of the border, women go missing. Deep below us, I can feel the earth absorbing Mariposa Mine molecule by molecule, easing the metals back. We keep our hands pinned

down.  Our eyes thump
against each other like moths
keeping under wraps.