In “Domestic Study,” ordinary objects
and spaces become light bearers. In attic-light and door-light, the
typical feminine domestic moves are reversed: cabinets fill with dust,
for example. In spoon-light and button-light (both of which are soft
feminine shapes), the hidden pear ripens. What is the relationship
between light and femininity in your poems?
I wouldn’t say the connection’s
consciously developed, but in this particular poem there’s a kind of
desire to uncover aspects of life that tend to get shut away or
ignored. The link between the public and private self is a continual
preoccupation for me: what we do when no one’s around, what’s hidden
behind the bookcase. How we decide what to share with others. Light can
be a source of relief, but overexposure can be damaging. Pears go bad,
lives become subject to scrutiny.
This piece grapples with a need for exposure—opening notes, unfolding
clothes—whereas in other poems there’s a wish for escape or
invisibility. A poem can be a way of negotiating these two impulses. It
can also, I think, be a way of exploring the game of hide and seek we
play with the world.
“On Symmetry” feels elegiac in that it mourns the loss of a double. Is
absence a part of all symmetry?
Absence, disjunction, interruption—these
are all things I think about when I think about symmetry. Something’s
got to disturb the mirror. Someone’s got to stick a finger in the still
pool, get in the way of perfection. I don’t know why.
For me this impulse carries over to formal issues. I went back and
forth forever about how to structure this poem—wanting it to be
visually and logically symmetrical, then wanting to disrupt that
impulse. For a while I even considered having the entire thing function
as a palindrome, but realized that breaking my brain regarding form was
counterproductive. It ultimately didn’t matter; the reader will find
her own symmetry, her own form. In this poem what’s been lost is a
sense of wholeness or completeness; what was there is not there now. A
sense of a mirror that’s disappeared, but that the body left behind can
survive, can grow a new tail.