by Camille Griep
Every once in a great while, a poetry reading can freeze an audience in their seats. This happened to me this past September on a sweltering Fort Worth evening. The fourth annual Arts & Words festival (curated by the fantastic Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam) gathered the work of ten writers and ten visual artists, asking them to create new, collaborative pieces in their respective disciplines. We ranged from contemporary poets to oil painters, collagists to speculative novelists. Some of us had been crafting for years, others were newer to our art.
One thing was certain: when poet Logen Cure had finished with the audience, you could’ve heard a pin drop. She’d prefaced her reading of her poem “Pareidolia” with the explanation of the phenomenon—wherein the mind perceives patterns where there are none. The inward gaze of the audience, who’d just found themselves plunged into a tight spiral took several breaths before bursting into serious applause. Afterward, the friend who’d accompanied me leaned over and said, “You know how I said I didn’t like poetry? I think I was wrong.”
In the pieces we’ll be sharing with you this month, Cure is embarking on her latest manuscript—yes, a coming of age narrative, but, as she describes it, a queer coming of age in a super conservative place. She wanted, she told me, to look at typical moments in a typical place through a queer lens. She said:
I started thinking about Midland. The physicality of the place is remote, there’s really not much out there. The closest big town is Lubbock and it isn’t anything to write home about. The remoteness is a big part of what makes it the way it is, and there are all sorts of bizarre historical things that have happened. The common thread in these pieces is survival in a harsh environment. Everything about it is so unforgiving—the place that it is, the weather, the history is not easy to talk about. So we don’t talk about it. Then there’s my own personal experience of a lot of pressure and hostility.
We talked a bit about coming from spare places, me from the plains of eastern Montana and her from the wide, wilds of West Texas. We agreed that while our love for our homes can be problematic, it’s love all the same.
That love, she says, gives us these stories. Nature poetry isn’t something I’ve ever tried to do, but I don’t want to be just one kind of writer. I don’t want to only write from my own experience. I’ve been doing so much research for this project. What makes a coyote tick? Why does the dust storm do the scary thing it does? What happened to Baby Jessica when she fell down the well? Those things are worth turning my poetic eye toward. As artists, our gift is to see things in a different way and render them for others so that they can see them too.
I, for one, can’t wait to see the world she’s shaping for our eyes. So without further ado, here’s the first taste. Enjoy. —Camille Griep, Editor
by Logen Cure
After you kissed her it rained
for three days. Roads
swelled into rivers, as they do
in towns built thinking
flood isn’t coming.
Out your window, the broad
face of the STOP sign whipped
back and forth, frantic, as if
checking over one shoulder,
then the other.
For three nights you dreamt
sea monsters, shipwrecks;
you woke salt-stung, lungs
bursting, sheets twisted
On the fourth night, she parked
down the block from your house.
She waited on the sidewalk,
avoiding the street light reflected
on puddled pavement.
You slipped out the door so quiet
she didn’t hear. Approaching
her dark figure, you did not know
the content of her nightmares,
what kind of secrets she could carry.
You only knew she would kiss you.