ion unnatural — a poetry chapbook for #poetryjamF

In news from an unexpected direction: I just published “ion unnatural”, a chapbook of 13 poems, free to read on for the Poetry Jam February 2020. The poems are titled:

1. langurous
2. the sound of the ending, repeated
3. psychopomp and circumference
4. quartered
5. yellow like a king
6. spearheads into figleaves, 1972.
7. pour one out for
8. interval
9. eosphoros
10. that yellow light
11. uxore
12. roachkin
13. manifest

It’s Sri Lanka’s National Day today, and that’s what prompted these poems set against it; they feature war & war-machinery, nationalism & ideology, grief & mourning, many ghosts, sex, death, & monkeys. Most of them were written specifically for the poetry jam over the last few days, while listening to the planes rehearse overhead. A few are reworked versions of unpublished poems I already had with me. I had published very little poetry to date—seven poems in the last eight years—so this nearly triples my poetic output, lol. I am pleased about having more poetry out in the world, though this output business is rather an ugly way to think about it.

One of the reasons I haven’t published a lot of poetry is that I don’t know how to sell it. (I may also not know how to write it, but that’s a separate problem.) My poems tend to be intentionally hazy and twisty, much more so than my prose; I get a lot more rejections for them. So it’s good to be able to write poems without worrying about their publishability or sellability or whatever—the things that make no sense in the first place but are somehow still difficult to ignore in your head, where they thrash around like beached sharks. What appealed to me about the Poetry Jam was specifically that it encouraged writers to sidestep those questions, and that it took an anti-press, anti-industry, anti-respectability stance from the outset. At least in my poetry, that’s a space that feels comfortable to me.

Apart from the text, I also indulged myself somewhat—haha yes you did says everyone who’s seen the pdf—with the chapbook format, and the rare-to-me opportunity to actually design the book, the typography, the layout, the graphics and so on. There was absolutely no reason not to go over the top, so I did not restrain myself, at least on the scale of what all can actually be done to a pdf in one afternoon. The chapbook also includes a couple of visual poems integrating graphics, something I’ve never done or even considered before.

I wouldn’t say the process of writing/creating this chapbook was enjoyable exactly, because much of the book is made out of bile and spite and the long-simmering sick horror that is our national heritage, but it was cathartic to write and make. If you read it, I hope it has something to say to you.