I’m excited and honored to be part of this stellar collaborative book, forthcoming next month (January 2022) from Black Lawrence Press. The spark was Becca Klaver’s, and the experience remains among my favorite being-a-poet-among-poets happenings to date, writing through a full day together.
Here’s the preorder link, and more info about the book below. In addition to being one of the coauthors, I’m also the book’s cover artist and book designer. It’s a really special project to me, obviously!
Book Description from BLP: On December 22, 2018, the 40th anniversary of Bernadette Mayer’s writing of Midwinter Day, thirty-two women poets typed into Google Docs titled Dreams, Morning, Noontime, Afternoon, Evening, and Night. Following the six-part structure of Mayer’s book, they composed alongside each other all day, dozens of cursors blinking in a virtual happening. Midwinter Constellation is the result. Part patchwork quilt, part collective consciousness, the book hopes “to prove the day like the dream has everything in it,” as Mayer wrote in 1978, and to extend her vision into a global 21st-century everyday.
A radical experiment in collective writing, the book embroiders, echoes, and blurs the voices of poets across the US and beyond. They wake up in bed together and spend the day writing while nursing babies, grading papers, driving home for the holidays, making meals, and gathering in bookstores and living rooms to read Midwinter Day aloud. While threads of identity can be traced through the repeated names of children, highways, books, and pets, Midwinter Constellation declines to identify who’s speaking when, exceeding the territory of authorship and rejecting the illusion that we are separate.
Midwinter Constellation was written by Stephanie Anderson, Hanna Andrews, Julia Bloch, Susan Briante, Lee Ann Brown, Laynie Browne, Shanna Compton, Mel Coyle, Marisa Crawford, Vanessa Jimenez Gabb, Arielle Greenberg, Jenny Gropp, Stefania Heim, MC Hyland, erica kaufman, Becca Klaver, Caolan Madden, Pattie McCarthy, Monica McClure, Jenn Marie Nunes, Danielle Pafunda, Maryam Ivette Parhizkar, Khadijah Queen, Linda Russo, Katie Jean Shinkle, Evie Shockley, Sara Jane Stoner, Dawn Sueoka, Bronwen Tate, Catherine Wagner, Elisabeth Workman, and Mia You.
Praise for Midwinter Constellation:
Challenging capitalism’s relationship to the world as one of objects for use or ownership, the collective of writers of Midwinter Constellation write in creative participation against forms of certainty, mastery, and possession. Boundaries collapse as new psychogeographies form in modes of response and reflection “for history to be like food / On the table of the window”. A welcomed space of unruly measure. A constellation of meetings, wild and wonderful. —Hoa Nguyen
“Bernadette Mayer is the mother of us all.” Overheard in Brooklyn. Midwinter Constellation, a luminous collaborative poem written on the 40th anniversary of Bernadette Mayer’s epic poem Midwinter Day, is a conversation between 32 women poets and the poet herself. This gathering of poet-daughters continues Mayer’s experiments with form and content to make a portrait of the possibilities of living within the shortest day of the year. Midwinter Constellation raises the bar of what can be written, captures the fullness, the sensuousness, even the tastiness of living with lovers and children. —Brenda Coultas
“In a collection that is two parts feral eco-poetry, and one part stingingly personal reflection, New Jersey writer Shanna Compton uses re-engineered punctuation as the soundtrack to her crucial work. Here, the woods and the animals do not merely appear as backdrops and extras, they are creatures in coexistence with the speaker, sometimes mingling until the narrative voice and the wilderness are indistinguishable from one another.”
“Readers of Camille Dungy, or Mary Oliver fans looking for something with teeth, will find this collection vital to their bookshelves.”
“The latest title from Lambertville, New Jersey poet, artist and book designer Shanna Compton is (Creature Sounds Fade) (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), a collection of poems predominantly built of single-page lyric narrative sketch-works, as multiple of her poems give the simultaneous impression of quick thought and deep consideration. Her poems move across the page at quite a speed, from a human interior to an exterior and engagement with landscape and eco-concerns, enough that the two seeming-poles become nearly indistinguishable. ‘The picked edges of the birches’ / bitter bark,’ she writes, to open the poem ‘Paper Trees,’ ‘Red-gold admixture / of mind a fleeting logical thread / she keeps tangling around / her spindle body [.]’ Compton plays with familiar landscapes and phrases fragmented and re-formed, twisting expectations and direction, constantly darting between lines, between trees, in an out of view in simultaneous outreach and retreat. Compton writes through a voice akin to something wild, something feral, one hesitant to step to far towards an encroaching array of human activity. “My love I am a tangled I am choked & salted,” she writes, to open “Shorn Fur,” “My love I am feeling the itch of the buds soon to burst from my skin [.]”
The official publication date is now November 15, but copies are back from the printer and Black Lawrence has started shipping out the preorders!
I’m thinking of some alternate ways to virtually celebrate, since I can’t do the reading trips I’d originally planned. (Turns out I’m not really all that comfortable on Zoom, reading to an empty room! Not to mention the lack of closed captions, which are kinda essential, considering. It’s such an odd time to try to launch the thing, but here we are, and it’s a bright spot in this dark, weird, disconnected year.)
If you’d like a copy, see Black Lawrence Press or SPD. Here are the links:
I’m working on a series of 50 collages using found imagery and closed-caption sound effects, which will be going to the first 50 people to preorder (CREATURE SOUNDS FADE) from Black Lawrence. A visual take on the method behind many of the poems in the book, the sound effects are more disjunctive in the collages, in the same way they often lag in realtime or live video, referring to imagery that has already flicked off screen. Each is 5 x 7 inches. There are more details (and alt text descriptions) at Instagram.
This collection is, from the get-go, parenthetical, by which I mean layered horizontally in voice, architecture, inflection, and sound—the sound of the ever-fading world, and the soundtrack of the human interior. The tone is a shimmering dread with a backbeat of wonder, and the reigning approach to the line is the caesura—gaps, silences, and redactions. Everything teeters, transmogrifies; even the speaker’s dress shifts from “delicate bushbean pink” to “tufted crest titmouse gray” and then into something like song: “My dress my dress / o mess of shabbiness…” Shanna Compton has managed to write poems that are utterly of the moment—“Oh vomitous intimacy!”— while harkening back to archetype, to the timeless strangeness of the natural world, imagination’s source: “the river/ the gold-green blur of trees,” steadying, sweet, a “clear rivulet of water across the sandy waste.” This collection met my thirst right where it lives. “Fellow navigators,” I urge you to read it. —Diane Seuss
Poems in (CREATURE SOUNDS FADE) slip through cracks into other worlds a little unfamiliar and they insist on the urgency of making what is unfamiliar familiar. You have to see how these poems sound in your head. As private and public exchange places with one another, we’re let in to Compton’s poems, we’re invited to provide the variable. —Dara Wier
Shanna Compton’s poems turn corners you wouldn’t know were there if she weren’t listening for them, locating them in order to give them away, listening to what’s there and what’s left out. Her astonishing feel, sound by sound, for shapeliness sprung from the edges and detail of lived experience, and her intense commitment to deep listening, are antidotes for and tough pushback against the constant threat of total immobility we all face every day. —Anselm Berrigan