Marjorie Welish

Thinking about the poet Marjorie Welish, whom I met this week, and whom I will introduced Tuesday when she reads for belladonna (don’t miss this!). Educator, critic, ARTIST, Welish is one of the most exciting poets I’ve come across in a long time. Her mind is active on the page, a great, imaginative, analytical lyric quality:

The here of actual space, addressed
in face, to face
proximally yet aesthetically in pencil
like an eyelash

an eyelash addressing the canvas
which tantalizes.

And so forth.
“And so forth,” meaning “setting out”
reiteratively from the heartland.

–from The Annotated Here and Selected Poems

Perhaps it’s the fact that she is an artist (from what I’ve seen, her paintings are large and abstract) but her work has that quality of wonder that does not stay at the surface, or bounce back self-referentially, but rather spurs off into a more resonant, and specific intellectual inquiry. Like Stein’s ability to lob off, or suspend meaning, Welish slashes through language, making words strange and new.
Structural, and playful too:

Insert brick in life.
Insert syllable in life, black ink only.
Immerse book in ink-flushed syllables, ink-fleshed syllables.
Borrow terminology from rainwear.

Welish is an embodied thinker, present on the page the way that Erin Moure is. And what an astonishing presence. This is the kind of poetry that excites me, even as it sends me spiraling in ways that require much more thinking, and reading, to catch up with the poet as she strokes her way through the book. It isn’t a poetry that lets you sink back into the sofa and feel good about yourself in the world: it makes you want to get out in it, and into the ideas of its architecture–which will require, for most of us, a trip to the library…bibliography to come.
You can hear Welish read here.