The most unique editorial acclamation you achieve running a poetry press is this: knowing the violet slough. You pay careful attention to lines or pieces of punctuation, yes; double-check uniform majuscules, weigh fonts, kern, re-kern, save the kerning for later. This is a rare acclamation—one fewer and fewer editors actually immure in, considering their books—but not the singular one, sister. And with our eighth book, Kwak’s sur vie, I’ve become a new fungus, rowing with spores in the slough.
Attention is the boat you use to enter; you want to attend the poems and still keep your body—you don’t dream you could lose it. You print the manuscript and pore over it, chat via cam with your author—starboard. Next week you’re with the poems again, alone, and read through for the twentieth time. In that reading, past twilight, without even a moon to see by, the glyphs ravel to reveal their second and fourth dimension. I slipped into the slough to stay warm—half-consciously. And half-consciously my temperature met the swamp’s, and attention met the lines in new ways.
In accordance with trees, ever green, their
Arrogated scent that did not break me, would not
Break for me, waft and willow, lodgepine, whistle, now
I am free.
—not with that easy complicity, it wasn’t that I became ‘free,’ but I entered something like Kwak’s world-in-making, or what my own world could imagine hers to be—and was changing for the close, companionable attention I gave. I became less an arbiter of what Fathom was publishing, and Fathom became much more sur vie, Swarm Queen’s Crown, Become a Name—even my own volume, BAD ZOO, infinitely exceeded my ‘editing’ in this cooperation. My melt was edited by the slough. I was reading the lines with gills:
When all is still
it clambers close
enough to touch, stink
of sewers dripping
claw to skin, its scent surrounding
evulgates the raw coordinates: Found.
. . . & that I find myself drawn to lines from sur vie so consonant with my metaphor here—with so many speakers, so many environments to choose from in Kwak’s book—consoles, resolves me to the truth of my hypothesis: we are changed for our close, painstaking, wide-open attention to practices, objects, spaces—utterly changed. And Kwak’s book is a mighty enzymatic.
Youna Kwak’s sur vie is available at pre-publication price through March 10; books ship by April.