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Transom:
Your poem draws language from diverse sources – Kazakh and akim come from central Asia, whereas jellyfish velum is a pretty obscure part of the creature’s anatomy. How important to you is it that your reader have access to the literal meanings of this somewhat idiosyncratic or private language?

Carty:
My process for writing is often an assemblage of fragments and observations, from both the physical world and what I've been reading. As best I can tell, this particular poem includes a number of such phrases and images that I have tried to piece together.

The first line, for example, is taken from a Zbigniew Herbert poem, “Farewell to the City.” Through visual association of “saluting smoke”, I recalled photos I'd seen of the Darvaza Gas Crater (which is actually in Turkmenistan). These photos reminded me in turn of the word akim, which I’d looked up recently in a dictionary (the same is likely true of velum). As this progression demonstrates, I’m not so concerned that the poem represents a literal truth as much as there be a facility and logic to the way the disparate pieces fit together.

In the case of these particular words, I think a large piece of their logic within the poem is their sound/rhythm, and I think that’s something that a reader can approach without necessarily having the dictionary definition on hand.

Transom:

Writing that progresses through assemblage often seems to make intuitive or sonic sense, but rarely narrative or rhetorical sense. But part of what attracted us to this poem is that it partakes of all of those kinds of sense. In the second section, for instance, the last two lines strike us as simultaneously surprising and inevitable—as if they’re the natural conclusion of what came before, even though their subject matter (the brother) is brand new. Is this effect an explicit goal of your process? That is, do you know what the hell we’re talking about?

Carty:
I’m happy to hear that you felt that there was an organizing logic to the narrative of the poem, because I would say it is definitely one of my goals. Poetry that includes juxtaposition and surprise are appealing to me, but I also want there to be some sort of guiding logic or theme.

I think this is one reason that I find myself often writing serial poems—I think that the format allows a narrative, however disjointed, to build over the course of several poems without putting narrative pressure on each individual poem. Additionally, a large part of my writing process involves creating an imaginative landscape, something perhaps akin in spirit to the “triggering towns” that Richard Hugo talks about. My sense is that having gone through all that trouble of creating a place, why not stay there for a few poems?