Welcome, Hilary Plum!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Hilary Plum, whose poetry collection Excisions is due out in 2023. 

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June 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), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 



The Author

Hilary Plum is the author of the novels Strawberry Fields and They Dragged Them Through the Streets and the work of nonfiction Watchfires, which received the 2018 GLCA New Writers Award. She has worked for a number of years as an editor of international literature, history, and politics. She teaches at Cleveland State University and in the NEOMFA program and is associate director of the CSU Poetry Center. With Zach Savich she edits the Open Prose Series at Rescue Press. www.hilaryplum.com




On Writing Excisions

I thought that if I wrote a book of poems I would be a writer in a more final way. Finally I would answer to something that had let me be more alive. I wrote prose poems that could be mistaken for emails and emailed them. I tried different shapes. I kept close a phrase from Lindsay Turner’s great translation of Ryoko Sekiguchi: Ghosts don’t need to arrange their meetings, but for you it’s still necessary. A sense of threshold: after death we won’t control our separateness from one another. We will join one another, by losing ourselves. Whether this is freedom is a tender question for the living. The dead know necessarily. This was a time in my life when I had to come to new terms with mortality, not my own. Our kitchen and backyard filled with friends who came to speak of mortality and of going on. One friend often stood in the night in the lit threshold of the kitchen, the door that opened onto a small patio, talking to me while I boiled alive the maggots who invaded our trash can and who were reborn, out of absolute nothing, by the hundreds each week. That summer an old-school hip-hop station had taken over the city. You could hear it, each song continuously playing through different doors as you walked down the street, from different cars at any stop sign. Then, in some corporate metamorphosis, it was gone, it became something Christian. We still remember it, we talk about what life was like then. I was looking for a syntax that could preserve the form of an inchoate emotion. The feeling of threshold. When something is excised from you, though it was you, you are what remains.




Dusted toy soldiers
in the crèche                located silver
spheres of mercury
in glass             scattered glass

Read the heatmap to find
everyone at the covert
base                 everyone
in the world with a product
lit up

If you can’t say where
dark place like this
that’s where     missiles
cereal boxes and missiles
counted pillows

Chose not to tell you about it
no shirt in the kitchen
chose to free the little mouth
from my warm hair    


This neighborhood is still known by clouds. You break the silence between us to tell me what becoming immune to my speech has made you immune to.

I finger my own wounds, as not even Christ did. Into the sky bare trees on a ridge are a row of fine lesions. In any hospital if you sit long enough bedside the doctor will call you mother.

The irony is that no creature evolved to live in the Arctic may see the colors today’s melting allows. Have you had a child, the nurse asks, looking over my shoulder as the video replays on the phone. The irony is that none of them want to go to America. A drone was invented to stay aloft in only this weight of cloud. 

I finger the tomb, which artists are only beginning to depict in the new style. The interval is sweet after which I realize the finger in my mouth is the cause of your silence. The irony is that a swipe of the tongue could play the video. When they say encrypted they do not mean the tomb. You would be the one to tell me what the irony is. Artists would come to this city because they can’t be heard over the wind. Some call this technology encryption.
A vacuum necessitates the drain and, in time, the orgasm. The irony is that nothing smells more like you than the fear this architectural moment arose to deny.



Your cries in the night have begun to sound like the Zamboni calming the ice. My apology has the smack of red plum against concrete. This sidewalk leads more or less to the lake, where ships haul up ships that have sunk to the bottom.

Sometimes I feel that the crew has laughed at the wrong time. Sometimes, for no more than our pleasure, the doctor has made a pie. 

Could it matter that the only skater is the driver of the Zamboni? We have divided our time into before and after before. I hope to keep moving away, you say, denoting the nonessential. It is only winter that ripples the skin of the fruit.

It is only lobbyists, their teeth smooth as a rink, who call the lake too big to fail. This is before, this is after. This is the work of the Russians. This is the discharge, effervescing, this the sugar damp where there was pie.

This was before. You slid down the stairs on the belly they would after cut open. He vomited so much I stopped skating. A doctor saw everything, but that was before, and what pulls the mouth of each tube from you is only a hand. What lowers the diving bell is a system. In the hold some fruit rots. It is now that water held in the mouth will not freeze.