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Welcome, Shanna Compton!

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 Shanna Compton, author of the poetry collection Creature Sounds Fade, which will be published in the summer of 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

Shanna Compton is the author of Creature Sounds Fade (Black Lawrence, 2020), Brink (Bloof, 2013), For Girls & Other Poems (Bloof, 2008), Down Spooky (Winnow, 2005), and is currently at work on a book-length speculative poem, The Hazard Cycle. New poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in the Nation, the American Poetry Review, the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series,jubilatBennington Review, and elsewhere. She works as a freelance book designer and editor in Lambertville, NJ.
 
 
 

On writing Creature Sounds Fade

 
Creature sounds is a term used by SFX designers: it can refer to any animal or monster sound. Growls, snarls, hisses, howls, and roars, but also smaller sounds like lip smacks, breathing, and wounded crying. Sound designers take snippets of real-world sound from one context, rework them, and recontextualize them for wholly different effects somewhere else.
 
I began gradually losing my hearing in my twenties due to a genetic condition, a fade that eventually necessitated hearing aids and other assistive technology, such as captioning. When I first got the aids, I realized how much I’d been missing. The blinker clacking in the car, a dog barking a block away, and especially birds. These things that had gradually faded from my experience were suddenly and beautifully back. I don’t remember now what movie I was watching, but when “[creature sounds fade]” appeared on the screen, I scrambled to write it down as a title. It also happens to describe some of my process—the poems often start with or incorporate snippets from elsewhere like this: a caption, a bit of overheard speech (especially something I’ve misheard), stray phrases from another text.
 
Written over the last several years, the poems in Creature Sounds Fade don’t coalesce around a single subject, but explore interleaved themes of intimacy, landscape, climate change, animality, and our connection to/alienation from the natural world—concerns that often result in hybridized or chimeric speakers. I’ve been simultaneously working on a book-length poem that’s a speculative/fabulist narrative, and these are the poems that appeared independently alongside it. Some of them share a kinship with that other project, including fantastic elements, but overall these are less fictional, more personal.
 
 
 
 

Excerpts

The Eyes Have Woods
 
You woke with a line in your head
You tripped on a root realization
You lost the path deranging itself from fact to conjecture & back again
You grew       hairy with conflict through evergreen thickets
You wore a cape       inexplicably in the warm evening
The woods resinous       with amber terpenes       & something starchy-sweet like gourd
You didn’t know where the trail led
You didn’t exactly want to follow it
You forgot everything else       thorny, dark as pitch, pulsing
…..with the mewling of the mammal       snared in the loops       of your chest
 

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First published in American Poetry Review

…..
Gelid       silver thaw
 

a gliding into sleep
………………….well that’s for someone else
I’m a word on your tongue
coined geologic ages ago:
carboniferous
………………….Deaf like me
means I can hear even very subtle shifts
in you & sound has color the way shade
in the woods has scent
………………….Dominant land vertebrates
innate in us       Which branch are you
The person you are
standing upright in a glaze even storm
………………….A body can be sufficient shelter
even at its weakest moments
of atmospheric density
………………….Cruel pixels
your heart is in the right place
but no mountain         no orbit’s farflung parabola
no all-sucking collapsed star
could be more wrong
………………….You’re an age
that must come to pass
the heating & cooling of the plates
the cooling & drying of the climate
………………….Glaciations scar every tissue
so we’ll know       & grow them new

 

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First published in the Brooklyn Rail

………………….
Desert Valley in Bloom
 
Are we at last awash       friends & unknowns
adrift in the glare       inwardly       inhospitable
each lone star       an isolate smudge         of light
or as the prophet said       we’re soaking in it
 
In the recent past       firemen combed the nearby ponds
as every commercial         flickeringly promised       everyone the body
part & parcel         of the Black Sea       Everyone who left him
in the street for hours       no vapor stranger       all red tape a stranglehold
 
In the desert       cluster birds       & the carton of Earth
yet thrums & brims       with green       & eerie rainfall
Our poor cluster of void custom       We were no good as flocks
in among the milky debt debris       We overwatered       & overpruned
 
& yet       ominously we put our petals out
 
For when the last flamingo       over the misplaced ice floes       flies
& at last expires       she will note it in a raucous song       & all faint stars
their blue retire       in a streak rose gold       a gathering of tenuous strands
so heavily pendant       petal-scented, once civilized       once ours
 

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First published in About Place