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Segue 9: Fall 2010  ||  Curtis Bauer


about the author


Curtis Bauer has published and has poems and translations forthcoming in Barrow Street, The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, Circumference and Tar River Poetry. He has been a finalist for the New Letters Poetry Prize, The Willis Barnstone Translation Prize, and The Glimmer Train Poetry Open. He won the John Ciardi Poetry Prize for his first poetry collection, Fence Line, published by BkMk Press in 2004. He teaches Creative Writing and Translation at Texas Tech University and is the publisher of Q Ave Press Chapbooks.


about the work


I have a little office at the back of my house in Lubbock: it has windows on both sides, one looking south, toward the main house, and the other looking north, toward the part of the country where I used to live. Depending on the season, and of course on my state of mind, I’ll move my desk for a change of perspective. The poem “Weather Sick” came about after one of those moves. It was fall, and I wanted to watch the trees in the yard; I hadn’t lived there long enough to realize that autumn wouldn’t be as dramatic as in the north; leaves don’t turn different shades, but die suddenly and fall down or blow away in the constant West Texas wind. The other poem, “Weather Sick,” is also about looking out, but in this particular case I was looking at a photograph of a child standing beside the ocean. One can see immediately that the kid wasn’t accustomed to the waves, to walking on the shore; there’s a certain fear and uncertainty in his gesture and posture, and he’s just a little speck in the photograph’s landscape. I spent a long while looking at that picture, wishing I were a little closer to the ocean, or at least some large body of water.

I might say that these two poems attempt to capture feelings of loss and anxiety, that they are methods in an attempt to explore how place possesses a transformative power over the observer. At the same time, music and play are important for me. I had been reading a bit of Wallace Stevens at the time of composition—I think that’s especially obvious in “Anecdote of the Sea.” I’m a fan of his craft and music and imagination, how he travelled so far without ever leaving his rooms, a bit like Proust, like Walser, and of course Pessoa (three other writers who are highly influential in my formation, whose voices are always conversing in my head). So in a sense, I want the poems to not only travel or possess an element of movement, but they should also provide music that captivates and carries the reader forward. I’d like to say that “Anecdote of the Sea” does this especially well. I see the pressured syntax and rhythms as jarring, sometimes rough, like waves in the tide moving in and out. That’s how I hear it anyway. “Weather Sick,” on the other hand is a poem that doesn’t have as much playful and conscious rhythm as it does jarring juxtapositions of time and space. The poem attempts to capture how we are constantly moving into and out of a remembered place by identifying its relationship to the space we inhabit. In a way, it’s a bit like collage, how putting diverse images beside each other can create a new image; concentrated reflection in the midst of looking at the mundane.

It’s challenging to bring these ideas out in language. When the syntax is slightly quirky, like it is in both of these poems, a poem runs a risk of confusing the reader, so there has to be more than text and music to hold together the structure of the poem; there must also be some thread the reader can hold on to that will slow down the reading, force the reader to be more conscious of other tools at work. Part of my writing process involves reading lines and stanzas over and over, listening to how they sound by themselves, but also in the context of the whole, how they build a foundation. Hearing the poem helps me identify its strengths and weaknesses and this allows me to revise the poem accordingly.


Curtis Bauer on the web









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