The poems “Root” and “Wave” come from a short series, "Meso Cantos," which belongs to a longer body of work made up of groups of these cantos. The label “cantos” is not only a response to The Canon (I was reading Pound, thinking of Ovid) but also a descriptor of how I view these short, lyrical works—I want the poems to sing, to combine rhythms, sounds, and images to produce lyric beauty. The different groups of cantos (Nano, Micro, Meso, Magna), organized by scale, mostly respond to scientific or natural phenomena; however, to borrow from Forrest Gander's writing on George Oppen, they also attempt a “meditative investigation into intersubjectivity,” a consideration of world through the body, through the human eye, through the observer's awe. They are poems of perception that struggle with the question of how and what to perceive in our surroundings: at what scale, according to what theory, in which world?
The "Meso Cantos" derive from what I consider middle forces—somewhere between universe and bacteria—currents, winds, atmosphere, waves, root systems. The elements vary in terms of global reach but are connected by their roles as carriers (of force, water, life) and the wide-scale effects of what they carry. When I write one of the cantos, I begin with two types of material, my own preconceptions and scientific research—though I used the Latin terms in “Root” less for their scientific meanings (which are quite bland) and more for their acoustic zing—the i's, s's, r's. This music elevated what for me is already a wonder—the roots themselves. In the moment of writing, I am often drawn to scenarios opposite to the ideal I initially imagined. I begin to incorporate vulnerability or subtle violence. I feel it is necessary to interfere with flat beauty or my own naïve awe.
The titles are important starting points, but they must transform in order for the poem to work. One of my colleagues once described this type of transformation as “self-revision,” a term I find interesting: the poem revising itself, not the poet revising the poem. In “Wave,” I began with the “real” world and moved into the imaginary. I live on the coast and spend a lot of time watching the waves arrive. I was thinking about where the force that forms the wave originates, if there even is such a place to pinpoint. The unpredictability of waves compared to the very predictable rise and fall of the tide in the harbors and beaches, as well as their unseen forces, led the poem to the incalculable consequences of war and the deep seas’ historic use as nuclear test sites.
With their short stanzas and frequent enjambment, these poems' broken, riddled forms allow space, I hope, for the reader to meditate on an image or to read multiple meanings. I want the poems to move beyond the page, as Barbara Guest has said, as opposed to resting in it. Their success depends wholly on the reader's terrifying leap from page into ___________.