Black Lawrence Press
November 21, 2018

Welcome, Lindsay Illich!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired during 2018. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Lindsay Illich, author of the poetry collection Fingerspell, which will be published in late 2020.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies) and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

 

The Author

Lindsay Illich is the author of Rile & Heave (Texas Review Press, 2017) and the  chapbook Heteroglossia (Anchor & Plume, 2016). Rile & Heave won the Texas Review Press Breakthrough Prize in Poetry. She teaches at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts.

 

 

On writing Fingerspell

“Fingerspell” is a word familiar to those who use sign language; it means a word for which a sign doesn’t exist, a word that must be spelled out using the ASL alphabet.

I began learning sign language at the suggestion of my daughter’s doctors. From a genetic screening, I learned early in the pregnancy that she had Trisomy 21, more commonly known as Down syndrome, a condition that also put her at higher risk for related medical complications. When she was born she needed surgery to repair a duodenal atresia, was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, as well as an atrial septal defect–a hole in her heart–all of which were terrifying. Those days following her birth, hospital stay, and the season of her infancy seemed underlit with precarity, an intensity that heightened emotions at both ends of the spectrum.I felt every emotion as if through a vivid filter, supersaturated. I was learning ASL, caring for my daughter, and writing these poems, and I began to understand language as embodied beyond the vocal. I was seeing the linguistic and the gestural as participating in a kind of poetic that was unfamiliar yet deeply satisfying. And because I was new to ASL, at a point in the language acquisition process primed for improvisation, trying to make due with my limited vocabulary, my poet brain was being charged with novelty, with new ways to speak. I felt I was under a beautiful spell.

 

 

 

Excerpts

…..
…..
…..
…..
AUBADE
…..
…..
O morning earthsmell like small
bent basil, a child blinking open
…..
wet with thanksgiving a
sky we lay under talking over
…..
birdchatter we spoke the bee
tumble gradually an understanding our
…..
lungs became pockets
handing out the days
…..
saying here take it just take it
in your hand who knew you would
…..
be so good at ax throwing what
aim I love the arc of arm
…..
the fog of morning with my teeth
on your ear, the morning come
…..
through the windows like children
awake now It’s Christmas
…..
all the lights your hand couldn’t
we be opening each other
…..
…..
…..
…..
AFTERLIFE
…..
…..
You could tell I’d been drinking
from the way I tasted, my body
…..
a reverse front range, recognizable
for miles, like the Mariana trench.
…..
I was a calendar I wanted to fill
with your appointments,
…..
your chest a bank of windows, strands
of saffron in the glass tube
…..
of your torso, August over:
there was a child. God bless
…..
those machines I read
easier than her face
…..
and the early morning, when nothing
is on, I hear her soft breathing,
…..
see her nose in silhouette,
the light from the window growing
…..
lighter, the grass beyond,
the Gulf wind, the fronds of our
…..
mimosa, her pink listing
and this life I was after
…..
having somehow arrived.
…..
…..
…..
…..
FINGERSPELL
…..
…..
The sign for shoes,
not a fingerspell.
I hear a plane,
…..
my hand takes off,
obliquely. The shore,
attached to the water.
…..
Tall trees beyond
the road, their roots
Beyond my elbow.
…..
I sign spring.
When no one is looking,
clouds. The rain
…..
deciding who.
Cells, alone with silence
and books of time,
…..
stacked beside
gestures of opening
books. The city beyond
…..
walking up staircases,
inside a room where
no one is sitting.
…..
It’s evening. We
take off our shoes
and listen. I
…..
show you a video
of murmuring
starlings, their rising
…..
and falling. It’s like
this. You
happening in me.