March 4, 2013
‘Commiserate’ is an experiment in poetic collaboration born out of SJ Fowler’s Enemies project. As part of his reading series at Rich Mix, he invited Kirsten Irving and I to collaborate.
March, 2013: Kirsten Irving
Kirsten says: I loved collaborating with Ryan. His initial suggestion of a title fired up plenty of ideas, and the process was pretty organic. It’s actually the most enjoyment I’ve had from writing in ages – it had the feel of a versus game, which really fitted the theme – and I’d love to do it again. The final piece was a mixture of pathos, strangeness and dark humour, reflecting both of our personalities while taking us both off at an angle. You need these kinds of collaboration to refresh your work and remind you that poetry can be massively enjoyable and surprising.
When we performed live Kirsten brought a mournful cello backing track and nemesis slide show:
“Notes to a Nemesis”
Notes to a Nemesis
And yet, I want to see you again if only
to wrap in my arms if only
to hear one last breath, your eyes
green as shame before closing
How I worried when I met you that
my third ear, my garish legs
would fast become a gripshift
for those neat-nailed hands of yours.
a smile is a shield
and like a shield can cover
or casket. Our minds contain
space and oceans dark
if you miss the tear
you miss the point
So come to me
when the clouds crawl in
like spectral sloths
when the pyrex cracks in the oven. Meat.
We are nothing but meat; hot on the table,
cold on the ground.
Where were you
when the police came?
When they took me away
in standard issue cuffs
and made me fill forms
as though I were not a day-god.
Back when I was engaged
with Frost, it was easy
to imagine an ice palace
a globe of glass and snow
delicate and easy to drop
what now, but rain, what now
but a globe of fire and ash?
Back. Back, I say,
and the worst thing is that you obey.
Maybe you have found yourself
and no longer fight as I do.
Maybe I should help the trapped blackbird
who, having hopped under my bike cover,
is frantic and sevenbird, all a-seizure,
dashing his fine wings
against pitiless plastic.
Onward to the parade
let the wild rumpus begin
the sad, constant
march never ends, oh
the broken hearted living
the red balloon sagging
in a corner, what is heavier
the human heart or
the bald tires of a dozen
You burned my house down
I’d do it again.
I’d hold my hand to the fire’s black heart
as though I were commanding it.
And when you came back, maybe
you’d think I was commanding it.
Twisted dishcloth of my belly!
Half-buried bulb of my jaw!
I would wrench off the furless front of me
and guddle out all the kinked guts
like yards and yards of chewed calamari
if it would help. If it would change me.
Wasn’t I a painter
blue canal, red smear
of breast, a wall
of black you could fall into
a dot of light on the horizon
a train shuddering
loose, a light you wouldn’t
hope to see.
And wasn’t I once a meteor’s harp,
tucked in its megafire arm nook,
bombing towards this planet
in my jazzy silver suit?
How I wish for my old stance:
the conch shell of my chest,
feet shoulder-width apart and chin
tilted up, catching adulation
and hatred, soaking it all up
under my slashed-in grin?
But it will not come again,
like the off-course shrike
blown to British marshes
en route to Russia, who will
leave us tensing behind binoculars,
as soon as he has gathered
his thoughts like bright little stones.
And the guy who was the most popular,
sexiest man alive in 1889, in 1949? No one knows
who the fuck that was. My wings bright and wide
between the water tower and the moon
and how many looked up, who shuddered
the name Vulture? I was not put down
by the blue-eyed, by the pale yoga smile
if I must go, I go in the arms
of the one with the black cloak,
the one with sharpened fin,
the one I called brother, he
who we all must serve. he
I served well.
As I served you.
Sit with me, do, as the crow of night
tucks into the bones of the day
and I will show you just how well I work.
Even now, tingling with ambition.
Ryan says: I have long been amazed by Kirsten’s work. I first encountered her as an editor of the ambitious, pocket-sized, magazine Fuselit circa 2005. Since then, she (and editor Jon Stone) have built an invigorating publishing house specializing in curious team-ups, highly original anthologies & multi-media dazzle. (Seriously, check out Sidekick Books if only for a beautiful, affordable, micro-anthology). She is as inventive an editor as she is a poet. Her début collection ‘Never Never Come Back‘ was published by Salt in 2012 and, as we do here, melds the tragic and ludicrous. Often during this experiment, she kicked my ass and caught my breath.