RK: I may be totally off-base, but is there a particular “thesis” about the presence of the dead in our lives that [lapsed insel weary] explores? The loss of a loved one seems to drive a lot of the work, but I didn’t know exactly what to make of it. At times—and I feel I’m on shaky ground here—I wondered if the brackets relate to the sentence the way the poems want to suggest the dead relate to the living: as insistent intrusions, but also permanent connections stronger than the bonds of ordinary syntax. Is this at all what you had in mind?
Susana Gardner: I once was at a doctor’s office; I couldn’t have been more than 18 and only was at this particular office because it was a sliding-scale clinic. While I waited forever for the doctor to appear, I carefully studied an artistic rendition of the female body. In the cavity where the uterus and eggs should have been were hundreds of tiny women, women nested within women and so on, into infinity. It seemed like a genetic and emotional map of mothers no longer remembered in the family tree, an assertion that no matter how hard one’s name was erased, the imprint will always be organically there and undoable. I have searched high and low for this picture, but perhaps it was something donated from another patient like myself, in lieu of payment, because I cannot find it. I sometimes wonder if I imagined it, but whatever the source of its incantation, I still carry the idea of it: the nesting dolls of the female line, born with 5 million or so eggs, eggs within eggs that in some respect were always there as piecework, waiting as well.
Loss does drive much of my creative work. Perhaps because the process of creation is an act toward reconciliation in some way. I tried to write myself out of pain and for the longest time told myself it was working, only later to come crashing down. I eventually realized, especially when talking to Kaia about the long “To Stand to Sea” sequence, that instead the writing had brought me into a very intense relationship with this time of loss in my life. It’s almost too painful to envision ever wanting to put myself there again, whether that “there” be love or writing, even though it was a chosen loss, an almost surreal inextricable living poetic state.
Thinking back to that picture in the doctor’s office, I feel it maps in a way my own occupations, daily: memory nests upon memory, and the act of writing is a way of letting out what is there, or what hopes to be there. Hence the overlaid words, hence the interruptions, the continuance, the not forgetting, as well as the grand departures.
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