Black Lawrence Press
April 15, 2011

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Lisa Fay Coutley

Respiration     

And so it begins, with a slap on the ass,
an open mouth, and something foreign.
We say air where once there was water,
but that isn’t right. Pretend you’ve been
asleep at sea with a navy in your chest,
in your Unterseeboot. To wake is to begin
them moving your cargo through hostile
waters, with a promise of never leaving
the vessel, of maintaining radio silence,
and with a perfect naval crew, you neither
fall nor float. Your officers shift their hats
and deal gin rummy in a teardrop hull
that never crackles, in a shallow seabed
where they never strike a rudder or time
the missiles. They are geared up but never
engaged in combat, and they seem happy
enough. Until one day. Say someone loses
the king of spades or steals a porno mag
from a bunkmate. It’s been too long with
no word from home, waiting for a war
that never comes. It ends then, with a fist
in the face, dogpiled men caught
in a promise to neither leave nor love
one another, a fire lit in an airtight vessel
where no one can open the door.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?

A: Boring though it may be, I prefer to write on my laptop. At my desk. In my office, which is large enough for turning cartwheels when all else fails.

Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?

A: Gosh, there were so many early on. When I first started reading poetry seriously (as an undergraduate), I felt like every poem was opening up an entirely new world to me, but the two that come to mind (I can’t choose just one, sorry) are T.R. Hummer’s “Where You Go When She Sleeps” and Marie Howe’s “How Many Times.”

Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to me in the past twelve months?

A: I suppose it was the last weekend in July of 2010, when I moved my two teenaged sons, my cat, and myself from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Salt Lake City, Utah. The day before we were slated to leave, the movers called to say that they wouldn’t be coming. Ever. So at the last minute I rented a U-Haul, and—with the   help of some wonderful friends—planned to move myself. Then the U-Haul was too small to fit all of our stuff, and the cat boycotted the move by hiding in (yes, in) the bathroom wall, and just one ridiculous mishap after the other made it seem as if we’d never make the trip. Eventually, of course, we did, but anything that may have been interesting before this 2,000-mile, pseudo-nightmare move with two kids and a cat is a blur to me now. Sad though that may be, this is the most “interesting” thing I can conjure from these twelve months.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of In the Carnival of Breathing, winner of the Fall 2009 Black River Chapbook Competition (forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in July of 2011) and Back-Talk, winner of the ROOMS Chapbook Contest (Articles Press, 2010). She is a PhD Fellow at the University of Utah, and her work has appeared most recently in Best New Poets 2010, Hayden’s Ferry Review, RHINO, Poet Lore, and on Verse Daily.

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April 15, 2011

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Lisa Fay Coutley

Respiration     

And so it begins, with a slap on the ass,
an open mouth, and something foreign.
We say air where once there was water,
but that isn’t right. Pretend you’ve been
asleep at sea with a navy in your chest,
in your Unterseeboot. To wake is to begin
them moving your cargo through hostile
waters, with a promise of never leaving
the vessel, of maintaining radio silence,
and with a perfect naval crew, you neither
fall nor float. Your officers shift their hats
and deal gin rummy in a teardrop hull
that never crackles, in a shallow seabed
where they never strike a rudder or time
the missiles. They are geared up but never
engaged in combat, and they seem happy
enough. Until one day. Say someone loses
the king of spades or steals a porno mag
from a bunkmate. It’s been too long with
no word from home, waiting for a war
that never comes. It ends then, with a fist
in the face, dogpiled men caught
in a promise to neither leave nor love
one another, a fire lit in an airtight vessel
where no one can open the door.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?

A: Boring though it may be, I prefer to write on my laptop. At my desk. In my office, which is large enough for turning cartwheels when all else fails.

Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?

A: Gosh, there were so many early on. When I first started reading poetry seriously (as an undergraduate), I felt like every poem was opening up an entirely new world to me, but the two that come to mind (I can’t choose just one, sorry) are T.R. Hummer’s “Where You Go When She Sleeps” and Marie Howe’s “How Many Times.”

Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to me in the past twelve months?

A: I suppose it was the last weekend in July of 2010, when I moved my two teenaged sons, my cat, and myself from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Salt Lake City, Utah. The day before we were slated to leave, the movers called to say that they wouldn’t be coming. Ever. So at the last minute I rented a U-Haul, and—with the   help of some wonderful friends—planned to move myself. Then the U-Haul was too small to fit all of our stuff, and the cat boycotted the move by hiding in (yes, in) the bathroom wall, and just one ridiculous mishap after the other made it seem as if we’d never make the trip. Eventually, of course, we did, but anything that may have been interesting before this 2,000-mile, pseudo-nightmare move with two kids and a cat is a blur to me now. Sad though that may be, this is the most “interesting” thing I can conjure from these twelve months.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of In the Carnival of Breathing, winner of the Fall 2009 Black River Chapbook Competition (forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in July of 2011) and Back-Talk, winner of the ROOMS Chapbook Contest (Articles Press, 2010). She is a PhD Fellow at the University of Utah, and her work has appeared most recently in Best New Poets 2010, Hayden’s Ferry Review, RHINO, Poet Lore, and on Verse Daily.

Tagged: , ,