Amaranth Borsuk
September 2012


Amaranth BorsukAmaranth 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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