Black Lawrence Press
June 14, 2017

Welcome, Laurie Filipelli!

During the month of June, we are celebrating the authors that came to us during our last open reading period. Today we bring you Laurie Filipelli, author of the poetry collection Girl Paper Stone, which is due out in June of 2018.

lauriefilipelli_girlpaperstoneThe Author

Laurie Filipelli is the author of Elseplace (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2013). Her essays and poems have appeared at apt magazine, Boaat, The Pinch, The Rumpus, Salamander, So and So, Superstition Review, Xavier Review and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Yaddo fellowship and lives in Austin where she works as a writer, editor, and writing coach.

 

 

On writing Girl Paper Stone

When I trace the poems in Girl Paper Stone back to their inception, I discover a flash of anger. At an AWP reading of prize-winning poetry, a woman shared a well-crafted piece about an affair with an established male poet. The poem hinged on a moment when the speaker bumps into the established poet’s wife in the grocery store, looking dowdy and run down, with two scruffy kids in tow. I supposed I was meant to connect with the speaker and her complicated guilt, but there was no getting around it: it was the wife I understood. On her behalf, I was incensed. I don’t claim now that I interpreted the poem correctly (neither my anger nor my memory are known for accuracy). I was biased by my own grubby toddler at home (this was my first solo trip since parenthood) and the fact my dad had died a few months before—after years of my mom’s endless caretaking. No sooner did I leave the reading than I began scribbling a rebuttal, which later became the basis for “Wife’s Song,” as well as part of “Me, and the Invisible Jury.”

In the following months, I jotted down more poems in late-night drafts, facing the fear and sadness beneath my bursts of ire. I also found unexpected moments of comfort. Most evenings my daughter implored that I tell her bedtime stories about myself as a girl, and, when I ran out of memories, I recalled a fond and fictitious past. I never was the girl I wished I’d been, and now I was a wife, a mother, and a daughter who’d lost a parent. Searching for answers, I read Ann Sexton, Rebecca Solnit, Jenny Offill, Rachel Zucker. I reread King Lear. I also started reading tarot cards, a habit I’d pick up in my early twenties and dropped, along with my Pete Seeger songbook, when I ostensibly grew up.

I also struggled for time. In a bid to keep my daughter occupied, I commissioned her to craft a set of image-based cards, a tarot of sorts, which illustrated parts of my in-progress poems. Her glossary included a stone, a tiara, an angel, a monkey, and then whatever else she saw fit. Not surprisingly, her intuition exceeded mine, and our whim took on real life. These cards became the impetus for a series of poems I worked on at Yaddo residency in upstate New York.

Now I have a new set of poem-inspired cards. When I read at events, I ask audience members to pick one. For that moment, I consider the corresponding poem theirs, and look only at them as I read, willing us to cross a divide that renders an internal world visible. I hope that’s what this book does, and if it doesn’t, I hope it makes someone angry, and they write something new.

 

Excerpt

 

Wife’s Song

starts skygreen as a glow in the chest

cracks like a tree branch, her lips

a deluge of lost notes, plastic fossils

a lone mop tumbling down the street

collides with a dirt bike, a pickup curbed

strains the guardrails to remember a name

tumbles like hail on a tin roof, wails

now a river, now a siren rising

from every direction, shifts and turns

ends and the sun, and the neighbor’s trash

lifts like a skirt in the wind

 

From Tarot for the Wife

Mirror

What but memory makes us stare? Through the past like a hood, through our own gloved fingers. Find a wrinkle, and you’ll wish to stitch it over. Find your town, evanescent as a circus, the creek each day stained a different color. No one thought themselves poison, even the manikin turning away. No beauty surpasses your own.

Gold

Such perfect light begins in pain. For days, sun like a yellow brute scratches the glass. A gift is what you covet so, let go. Let go. Coins are falling from the sky. Unto the Earth. Unto the soil. No barrel here to catch the rain. A flood might fill the reservoir and also cause your home to rot. This feeling tight across the skull, a halo’s ugly birth.

Nest

One day you’ll simply assess what you’ve got: a cable sweater drawn from a dumpster, chip from an old board, hair from a comb kept by your mother on her counter for fifty years. You could make snow globes of shaking teeth, but it won’t be enough. With or without claw-bottomed slippers, your footprints are destined to become fossils, your ribs an empty cage.

Cape

O musty relic! You’ve waited long by the museum door, near the elk of gold and the model train. You’ve waited patient as a glove, to be lifted from the ancient pile, to be worn again. Remembered.

 

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