Amaranth Borsuk is the author of Handiwork (Slope, 2012), selected by Paul Hoover for the 2011 Slope Editions Book Prize; Tonal Saw (The Song Cave, 2010), a chapbook; and, with programmer Brad Bouse, Between Page and Screen (Siglio Press, 2012), a book of augmented-reality poems. She has a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California, and recently served as Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at MIT, where she taught classes in digital, visual, and material poetics. Her poems, collaborations, reviews and essays have appeared widely in print and online. She is currently at work on a critical book, “The Upright Script: Modernist Mediations and Contemporary Data Poetics.” She joins the faculty of the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics at the University of Washington, Bothell this fall.
Statement of Poetics
These poems from
Handiwork are crudely-wrought. Ronald Johnson famously said of his
brilliant erasure text Radi Os, “I composed the holes.” I wanted to work
with holes in this book—to leave gaps for the unsaid and the unsayable.
Therefore, I think of it as a cold book that keeps trying to get warm. Because
Handiwork treats the juncture between personal and cultural history (one
series of lyrics mythologizes family stories about the Holocaust and another
series of erasures draws on actual stories my grandmother wrote about her
survival), I tried to avoid coherence, which seemed unfaithful to my actual
experience of how these tales are transmitted. History is problematic, and so is
subjectivity, so I try to acknowledge my own complicity in mangling this
material through the hand poems that run through the manuscript. I also try to
scatter salt throughout the book—as offering and as curative. In the salt
gematria poems, all titled with an empty square, I use mathematical constraint
and sound play to suggest the possibility of healing through/despite a language
so fraught with problems. Even if words don’t do the things we mean them to,
perhaps their very disobedience can be fruitful.
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