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Segue 9: Fall 2010  ||  Eric Arnold


about the author


Eric Arnold grew up in Texas and now lives with his wife in San Francisco, where he is currently training as a psychiatry resident. His poetry and short fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in many print and online journals, including New York Quarterly, The Saint Ann’s Review, Elimae, The Labletter, and Rust+Moth.


about the work


I like to think of the poetry I write as casual observation and passive experience, amplified. If you (here I go in the second person …) turn up the volume of the dull and droning world loud enough, you are given a swarming mass of perceptual data. Not just the car salesman talking to his wife on the phone, but the flapping swats of the giant American flag, the raw daylight soaked by the tinted showroom windows, the slight vibration of the linoleum floor when the air conditioner kicks on. You filter out some salient pieces of that data, trying again and again until you arrive at something of a pattern, something with its own skewed physics, something like the start—but never the completion of—some great truth, a personal science of perception and emotion.

The challenge is to find a way to balance the acts of focusing, to create the content of the work, and abstracting, to create the affect and tone of the work. To somehow deliver a summation of the poem’s emotional and physical architecture that is striking but not overbearing. There is the task of having to give weight to each word line or stanza without weighing the whole piece down. In writing “From his memoir, The Attributes of Loss,” I had fallen asleep with the window open. Try it: open a window into a tranquil spring afternoon. The wash of noise in near infinite space can be somehow overwhelming and debilitating. How does one describe this helplessness? What physical laws does one ascribe to it? I can start with pure descriptive narration or raw emotional outburst, but I’ll ultimately have to draw a map between the two if I hope to achieve anything with the work.

Poetry is a deeply personal exercise. I can hope my work, my personal science, resonates with others, but I can’t ever count on it. It is a way not to be bored by the world around me, a reason to look out the window and a reason to look at the window itself, and the streaks of condensation in its corners. And then sometimes, if you are receptive, the act of writing or reading poetry can reveal the outline (or perhaps the shadow) of a bridge between the emotional and physical worlds. From Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Blues Chant Hoodoo Revival”:

    bad luck isn’t red flowers
    crushed under jackboots

This is the start of the great truth that you will never be able to see, describe or understand fully. It is a glimpse, that’s all.


Eric Arnold on the web








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