Literary

Literary

Unlyric me

A Sunday reading at Native Books by Tinfish Press’s Susan Schultz

Literary / As the title implies, Memory Cards, from Susan Schultz’s newest collection of poetry, is a book of cards representing a place where an event, a phrase, a thought triggers a memory which then triggers another memory until the poem ends, with or without resolution. At the heart of it is a layered look at memory’s many tones.

Tell me about the first memory card.

I wrote my first memory card in the late ‘90s in a series that became Memory Cards & Adoption Papers (Potes & Poets, 2001). It came out of a huge sprawling ugly throw-outable mess of prose that didn’t work until I discovered that small sections could be separated from the rest.

How are these poems different when they’re read out loud, versus read silently?

I remember an Irish poet commenting to me about earlier memory cards, “so that’s how they sound!” as if there were a difference between them on the page and in the air. I suspect they appear very written, somewhat static, on the page. But they’re meant to be spoken–the wordplay that helps generate them comes through better out loud. As do the voices of Little League coaches, protestors, friends, Facebook and my mother’s absent voice on the other side of the telephone.

“details are like roaches….?”

I suppose that means that they are dirty and move quickly and that you can find them everywhere, and that they’re very hard to get rid of… It took me a long time to find in my own work that detail is where the action is. As James Agee writes, “Everything that is is holy.”

What do the cards do for your poetry?

What the cards enable me to do is to take intangibles and write (among other things) about my life in Hawaii, which is in many ways quite tangible–involving children, the workplace, the effects of the military presence and wars on us, homelessness and so on. I wrote a lot about my mother in the cards, who was in the very late stages of Alzheimer’s, and so couldn’t remember anything, could barely speak.

So how about that big Cardinals win?

As a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, I love that this book of cards appeared just a couple of weeks after the Cards won the Series. In fact, some advertising postcards for the book arrived during the seventh inning of game seven at our door. Good memories, those.

Native Books, Sun. 2/12, 2–4pm, [Nativebookshawaii.com], 596-8885
Memory Cards, Singing Horse Press, [spdbooks.org], $15