Sunday Poetry - Calculogue by Susan Holbrook
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The most recent edition features Calculogue, a poem from Susan Holbrook's second book with us, Throaty Wipes.
The idea for “Calculogue” came from a tiny word event in an earlier poem. In “Nursery” (Joy is So Exhausting), I’m middle-of- the-night breastfeeding, staring at a digital clock, and “At 3:51 I realize I could spell your name on a calculator.” E, S, and I were letters you could get from those numbers on a calculator turned upside down, as no shortage of junior high boys were eager to impart in 1979, flipping their Texas instruments upside down to display BOOBIES. That I could spell Elise’s name on a calculator sparked the idea that I might try to write an entire poem that way. I do love a constraint! I do love to give Coach House design headaches!
I had B, E, I, L, O, S, Z, and lowercase h. The content could have gone anywhere, but I sensed it being shaped by the feeling I had in seventh grade, that my body wass omething bawdy, and that even though those boys were gentle, tittering, Monty-Python- loving, future musicologist boys, their glee in displaying BOOBIES to me still resonated with the message I was getting from every direction, that I was maturing into an object of androcentric inscription. The poem draws onone of the mainstream patriarchal responses to lesbianism, my later experience so resonant with my adolescence, the sensationalizing and bawdification of 508237. After performing a first draft, and being told I’d forgotten BOOBS and BOOBIES, I realized I had worked under another constraint – not to use BOOBS and BOOBIES!
Throaty Wipes (2016)
In 1934, Gertrude Stein asked ‘What is poetry and if you know what poetry is what is prose.’ Throaty Wipes answers this question and many more! How does broadband work? Does ‘chuffed’ mean pleased or displeased? What if the generations of Adam had mothers? Through her signature fusion of formal innovation and lyricism, Holbrook delivers what we've been waiting for.