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Aby Kaupang
Tender Such Reliquary

Threat is a vacant place.  A cove to sleep in.  A solidarity of
no-motion.  I want to sleep

there.   All my mighty babies are sleeping.   Here.   Heavy. 
Violence is always on the shore and away.  There is a deep
mean dam away.  

In the float of partials, rivers feed in retro.   Bodies float
within themselves. A fly rod hooks a fissure. Your body’s
best  this  way  and thick— treading densities,  we  best
maneuver when unzipped.


This is the way you changed the river:  you put your body in it.
This is the way I learn to drown:  I weave my body out.

Trout in the deep can grow quite heavy and pressure often
spoons the concrete sill.  Somewhere on between I slip.  {Such
reliquary of foreheads}.  Sand on my towel, trowel where it
should be. It’s why the trout are in the trees.  Why the river
weans itself.

This is what I do in nothing: I stare at the mica that watch at
you.  By the splay of flint on the bed, you don’t even sense it.  

So autumn.   Not always an action.   I am humming your desire to
autumn.  In the building of a fire you mouth rest.  I am never very
hungry anymore. 


I float your baby inside me.  I have held it.  

For winters, it never comes out.    So much pushing at the
river, every cast a nearly tight wire into several nearly selves.  I
can nearly swim here.  I know nearly    nothing.  

Some six-foot fish suspends it in the elms and we are
breathing so   breathingly.  

We slither.  The trout too slither.  They are slapping down
from leaves.  They are slipping through the gunk.

Congealing low the banks are fumed.  Currents thick today.   
My little baby’s bigger—than me—snake’s bigger belly than
me.   Zippers are jammed with gunk and the when-ness of
rapid solemnity.  

This is the way you changed the river:  I cast my body in it.
This is the way I stay the shore, you proffer it to loaners. 


Is there any tender here?  

We are all desirous.  We swim away.  
We carry a canyon in us.

Elms drown.  We drowned.  Such bondage in a fissure.
Below the silt the waters’ zipper bars back a—  
braces all my—

If River runs
its river fingers
cross fontanels and fissures

then what I want is sleep—

In Our Unbuilt Bodies Beyond DeKooning’s River Door

I am a room rising—a rising that will not be a room.

I am being visited for aways and nears and in unbuilt chambers we appear. 
Here in the slightly scene vanish is not spill is not built is forever still on the
sill of the banks.  Here we emerge and disappear.  

“Flocks of amber geese nest in warm tombs of your side,”
You’ve mouthed what you won’t rumor even.  So we tuck our sublimations
inside envelopes.

This is a found chamber of skin—I stay here.   You pace holloways of its
bones. You hide all your fine creations forged tight as screws in cartilage
boxes sunk in grooves. Here no sofa no lamp no tin by a no stove.  Only
reeds and blue and sometimes scrape.  

Do you know what the geese are plotting inside me?  All the birds have
holloways beyond where we have ever peered and little fingers turning knobs
on roofs to exiting streams.  You are telling me of cant-ing: we are
strumming all our plumes.

I am weaving in the dimness by the banks.

This is the tunnel and this is the runner and this is the roller steel and rusting
as dense as a limb.  Here we’re ambushed in the thistles. You weave a willow
with a willow and wind them till I’m gone.

There are windows in the breezeways of  our ribcage.   There are  shutters
bombing open. There are envelopes in tiny palms in beaks of amber spilling.
There are geese shaking skywings. They are flying in and back and they are
pulsing for our babies curved here in my marrow.  

Sundays Are Inconvenient   God

as value   absolutes away    the dailies    
who delivers the enterprise
call:  when does a product available
     in the night
seen and not    
touched    mannequins respond   

showcase in  showcase  beyond     
pane and glass
praise for a station so apt

resteraunteers sidewalk into morning

much of advertisement wins me
the vendor’s package    angers the vendor
who is angry often
response:  when a catalogue touches back
gets tattoos     makes Kodak the daddies

who borrow  their inheritance
on the weekend       

I hang     and I am     a|part

Poems - Bio - Interviews - Reading

Aby Kaupang is the author of Little "g" God Grows Tired of Me (SpringGun Press, 2013), Absence is such a Transparent House (Tebot Bach, 2011) and Scenic Fences | Houses Innumerable (Scantily Clad Press, 2009).

Her poems have appeared in VOLT, Verse, Denver Quarterly, FENCE, The Laurel Review, Parthenon West, Aufgabe, 14 Hills, Interim, Caketrain, lo-ball and others.

She holds masters degrees in both Creative Writing and Occupational Therapy from Colorado State University.

An Interview with Aby Kaupang by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum
Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum: I think what fascinates me most about these poems is structure. "Tender Such Reliquary" and "In Our Unbuilt Bodies Beyond DeKooning's River Door" look like prose poems broken into stanzas. "Sundays are Inconvenient God" uses a lot of white space, even in the title. What sort of logic are you applying to the structure of these poems? Your use of visual caesura in "Sundays Are Inconvenient God" reminds me a lot of Daniel Khalastchi's poems in Manoleria. In one interview, he maked it clear that he intended for those broken up lines to be read in the stuttering manner in which they were composed. I've read "Sundays" this way and have also read it more like Nick Flynn's redaction poems from The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands. Should I be reading these lines as redactions; visual, stuttering caesura; or something else?

Aby Kaupang: Thank you for bringing these poems to my attention. While Little ‘g' God Grows Tired of Me came through SpringGun just this past year, many of the poems were birth-ed of sorts years ago. As I look at them, what strikes me most deeply is their attention to form and punctuation. I'm not really in the same space now but see how they were the beginning of my enormous white ethers, lack of punctuation and physical over-writes (text on top of texts) that I'm doing now. But to talk about the two forms you've mentioned:

In "Sunday's are Inconvenient God", the use of gap syntax seemed to be the only natural form I knew of to convey the multiple relationships the text was having with itself. I know, inbred. For content's sake, I'll point out the characters: god, vendors, mannequins, advertisement, and daddies. To place them in any linear sentenced space would have been beyond my means of the degenerate clarity I experienced in their collusion.

I wouldn't say the form stutters, per se, but that it lingers perhaps. I'm more interested in saying and then in the saying of more, finding a redaction. Poems built with white space beams have the capability of revealing a parallel dichotomy in their exploration. For example, one could read
the opening lines as apostrophic letter, "Sundays are inconvenient, God..." or as an accusation that "God (if god is taken to be a value) absolutes away" things in the daily, or even that the things we value distract from the actual daily. A lack of punctuation removes absolute commitment to phrases pre- and post-ceding. This technique is not mine but comes to me via Latin studies. Translating Vergil's Aeneid from the original to English was perhaps the most influential guide I've ever had in "sentence" or "meaning" construction.

I find the open form is interested in early exploration of incompatibilities but is calculated and careful with precision. It is an impossible tightness in which deductive and inductive reasoning fail each other.

I am in love with the prose poem. It is quirky and I think a world-making shape. William Carlos Williams writes that, "A new music is a new world." The lyrical and prosaic nature of "Tender
Such Reliquary" and "In Our Unbuilt Bodies Beyond DeKooning's River Door" was a rush of excitement as art and ecologies appeared to me. Both poems were written out of necessity as theirs was a new music/new world which I wasn't understanding as it escalated...turns out that energy-song was an actual baby, a surprise baby girl coming into my unmarried and messy life. This is the magnificence of poetry: it tells you to awaken to the vibrations in your body, your neighborhood, your world. Truly, how daft was I to not know I was pregnant when I was writing lines such as, "I float your baby inside me. I have held it," or "There are envelopes in tiny palms in beaks of amber spilling. There are geese shaking skywings. They are flying in and back and they are pulsing for our babies curved here in my marrow." When I think I am writing in metaphor and I am actually writing in stark actualities, I am excitably frightened as if the Sibyl of Cumae temporarily dropped her hoary mane, scratched the earth and incanted the fallen leaves. That is the prose poem inhabited by the music from the father room that world-makes.

AMK: I really like how the first stanza of "Tender" is composed of four-word sentences until the break after "sleep." When I was first reading it, I thought you might proceed with lines of five words in length or something along those lines, but you veer away from such a structure almost immediately in the following lines, switching to a six word sentence followed by those wonderful single-word sentences. In some ways it almost feels like you're playing with the reader a bit here but then I wonder if I'm not just reading into it way too much. So, to my question: how much do you think about the reader of a poem? Do you like to play with their expectations? Do you try to "guide" them in any way or avoid thinking of the reader altogether?

AK: I don't think about the reader. Considering textually the nature of a line or sentence is a necessary part of the writing, but it is for the text and not some relationship beyond that I'm alluring. I've mostly been a writer falling into renewed sadness. A length of text, be it line or sentence or huddle, should be correspondent (no longer no shorter) than the energy of the impulse within.

I say that, but I've been working on a performance Pancho Villa piece and that of course is very much audience driven. I can't bear to read another poem about dead friends and ennui in an AWP-fueled bar scene.

It is a conundrum, isn't it? To not consider the audience but to make the text its own best which is of course Mobius-ly linked to a reader.

AMK: What's going on with the sections in "Tender"? Are you using them to break up an otherwise perhaps overly-dense prose-ish poem; or are they more like crots in fiction that indicate a shift in time, place, tone, character; or is something else going on entirely?

AK: Mmm. Don't overthink this one. They are structurally used to pull "Little ‘g'" from beginning to end. Each section of the book begins with one unit of Tender. Originally, it was one long poem.

AMK: One thing I love about these poems is the surprising use of language. I mean, some of these sentences and lines come almost out of nowhere and, for that fact, are made all the more present and beautiful. I'm thinking of moments like "It's why the trout are in the trees" and "Here we're ambushed in the thistles." Is surprise (and the delight of surprise) something you work toward in a poem or does it come all on its own?

AK: A poem is a surprise. We are expected to inhabit simultaneously multiple worlds (physical, cyber, domestic, sexual, ecological, spiritual, multicultural, racial) and as we walk about their features juxtapose. They can't help but socialize. It certainly isn't just juxtaposition, the nearness of things, but the smothering, colliding, underlying, internalizing faking and making and praying of it all-they are in one body! Who must work at surprise that is awake?

AMK: These poems all address in one way or another an unidentified you and God and feel as though they are linked to each other more like chapters in a novel or sections in a story than individual poems. Talk to us a little bit about Little "g" God Grows Tired of Me.

AK: You are absolutely correct in thinking that the sections are enmeshed and I'll have to clarify an earlier response; I said that I don't think about the audience but that isn't true. When individual poems become members of a book, I re-shape them very much so for the audience's guidance. I often write poems in small series, say five poems on the issue of vendors, or four poems about Strom Thurman, or six small Latinate translation pieces; they dialogue of course within their groupings. The move I make is to stretch that dialogue across the books span, to include one of each of those series in each section of the book and to experience that "surprise" you mentioned earlier as the poems began to dialogue cross-series. Inter-pollination! Now Strom and the vendor and the trout are wondrously socializing. I like to think this helps our ADD audience as musics/thematics/microcosms are ever evolving on and off the page.

That's a minor way of saying the book is intentionally textured and shifting when periods of writing are not as various. Initially, the book was titled, Tender, which I now think is fey but it was looking at the various definitions of monetary transactions, relationships, ferrying and ships, wound-ability etc... all of the poems seem to fall into one of those categories (but what couldn't???).

AMK: Thank you so much, Aby.

AK: Thank you, Andrew.


Click here to read an interview with poets Aby Kaupang, and her husband, Matthew Cooperman at Drunken Boat





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