Literary Manifesto

Jan 17, 2020 | Bubbler

  1. If I think a poem or collection of poems is good and I want to be certain, I measure myself in the doorway. If I was 71 inches before, I am at least 71.001 after my encounter. Or, I’m wider. On the scale, it depends. Is it calibrated to record the gain or loss of a feather?  
  2. Poets are crazy about birds, our emotional taxonomies. But how do you feel about squirrels? Scientists say they eavesdrop on their fellow tree dwellers without exactly knowing the language. They listen for the “all clear” in those bare ruined choirs. 
  3. Jays and crows? Songbirds both. 
  4. A good poem is probably inappropriate, or inappropriately. You can put that adverb before a lot of adjectives.  
  5. Similes can be beautiful, like a print. Even a signed and numbered print.  
  6. The problem with fact is that everybody has one.  
  7. Metaphor is the multiverse, Schrödinger’s cat. The cat in its box is the poem. Cats and boxes can also exist poem-to-poem and among poems. (Sometimes what’s in the box bears no relation to cats.) 
  8. Eros, Agape, Tintern Abby, []. Pick your keys to the city.  
  9. I accuse myself: all content, no form. But I believe in revelation. I have a real complex about it, but I also can’t help doing what I like. 
  10. Please no tut-tutting someone for taking their aunt out to Applebee’s if that’s what she likes or your neighbor for splurging on their anniversary or a what-the-hell-let’s-do-it $150 prix fix meal.  
  11. Country, pop, folk, R&B, rock, rap. I love the huge historical hits that come out each year. I’m not anti-history, allusion, quotation, 13th century obscurity, the canon. See: quantifiable (welcome to the 21 century, big baby!). See: inappropriate. 
  12. Poems about collective trauma that move me are as deeply imaginative as they are personal. That personalness is part of their imaginative quality. They begin with things like weed and Xbox, rose- and chocolate-flavored ice-creams, or end, somehow beautifully, with a Western, a colonoscopy.  
  13. That a poem inspired by possible events in a writer’s life is more or less driven by ego than, say, an “impersonal” poem about more “serious” issues is something I cannot quantify, unlike a good poem. 
  14. Julius Caesar is the non pareil re: the dangers of someone “remembering” you. Don’t handle something too heavy alone. Stuck? May I suggest talking to the neighbors? 
  15. The world is always upside down. There is my bird, eating my cat. The squirrel I call Lucky.  
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Jessica Murray writes in Austin and her poems have recently appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, Booth, and Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review