National Poetry Month Spotlight: Charlotte Pence

PIG AND A BOTTLE

********—Funeral sacrifice in Sulawesi, Indonesia, June 2011

The blood, too fresh for flies, a newly skinned
Skull left to dry, but otherwise this dulled
Dirt-patch where animals are sacrificed
Is just another piece of empty ground.

I’m ten thousand miles from where I grew up
By S.D. Johnson Elementary.
At recess, we would search for a kidnapped girl,
Also named Charlotte. We each hoped to get

Lucky and be the one to find her skull.
See, Dad would say, We’re all the same. Don’t act
So goody-goody. Who doesn’t wanna see
The fat behind skin? Watch a person die?

In front of me, the coffin shimmers under
The spread of red silk hand-stitched with one-inch
Mirrors. If I approached, I’d see pieces
Of myself. So, I watch a boy and his wiggly

Muscles struggling to lift a pig who’s strapped
To bamboo—its grill and grave. It thrashes out
Of its rope, which sends the men scrambling away.
And right when I cheer this pig’s escape, a warmth

Wets my leg as a machete opens a buffalo’s throat,
Its blood spraying like water from a sprinkler.
Dad loved to tell me what he could do with
A beer bottle’s broken neck. Take the glassed

Peaks to the throat:
********************It gives like a pillow.
I’m not a pillow, I’d say.
********************Not today.
Tell me whose neck you took the bottle to?
********************Homeless guy. By the river after I bought him
********************a beer. And what you need to remember, Miss
********************Goody Goody: No one ever noticed.

Q: What is your writing process?

A: There’s nothing fancy to my writing process: I close the door. And I get to it. Since I revise heavily, a draft is always waiting for me, which makes my office an inviting place.

Q: Is there an exciting poet (emerging or established) whose work you just discovered this year?

A: Joseph Harrington’s Things Come On: An Amneoir (Wesleyan University Press) is an exciting first book of poems. The book combines memoir and amnesia reflecting on the speaker’s mother’s breast cancer and the Watergate scandal. What I love about it is the inclusiveness; we have condolence cards, political transcripts, diary entries, etcetera, that all result in a tightly interwoven whole. I wrote about the book on my blog.

Q: If you could go on a one-week writing retreat anywhere in the world, where would you travel?

A: I adore writing residencies and have enjoyed a few month-long visits to residencies in Virginia (VCCA) and Costa Rica (The David and Julia White Artist Colony). If I could choose my dream residency, I would return to this tiny island in Malaysia that my husband and I visited a few years ago. It’s called Pulau Pehentian Besar. When the boat pulled up to our cove of six little thatched huts that didn’t have electricity or plumbing, I remember feeling giddy about the beauty and the isolation. There was nothing there but the sea and the sun and the palms. Our hut’s windows were simply holes. At night, we would swim to cool off, and the cove was full of ocean phosphorescence so that as we moved, our bodies sparked. Yes, that’s where I want to return and write.

Charlotte Pence is the editor of the newly released Poetics of American Song Lyrics (University Press of Mississippi). She also is the winner of the Black River Chapbook competition for The Branches, the Axe, the Missing, which will be released by Black Lawrence Press in May.

2 responses to “National Poetry Month Spotlight: Charlotte Pence

  1. So visual and disturbing in a thoughtful way of knowing things go on we really don’t want to know. Beautifully done and I see it all.

  2. Visually stunning and even though the subject matter is disturbing, I want to keep reading!

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