Kim Garcia is the author of The Brighter House, winner of The White Pine Press Poetry Prize 2015, DRONE, winner of the 2015 Backwaters Prize, Tales of the Sisters, winner of the 2015 Sow’s Ear Chapbook Contest, and Madonna Magdalene, released by Turning Point Books in 2006.
Getting to know Kim Garcia and her new books Drone & The Brighter House
When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
It was in the air before I could read it from the page—children’s books, readings in church, rhymes. We’re all born into such riches, and I remember being in thrall to sound, the weave between what was said and how it was said, from earliest memory. I think many children are. It was later in high school that I started answering poems as poems. I didn’t want to be a poet—I had no models, no way of imagining such a life—but I had a desire to answer intimately what I read and heard.
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
I do, although I’m constantly patching the holes my own inconsistency makes. I write early in the morning. I like the quiet before sunrise. It feels like time out of time. I write many different places—in bed with a huge mug of coffee, at a desk made of a door and two file cabinets, into a sketchbook resting on my knees as I’m out in the world later in the day, listening to people talk.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
Images and sound, almost always. If I have an idea, I wait until it starts haunting me as image and sound, a sort of body sense. If it doesn’t incarnate in that way, it may be essay material, but it’s unlikely to be a very good poem.
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
I read the Bible early in life, and those rhythms and metaphorical landscapes still feed me, those creative collisions between urgent personal yearning and vast ego-diminishing wonder. I read Elizabeth Bishop in Nova Scotia; Darwish, Ahkmotova, and Amichai in bad political times; Transtromer always. This last year I read Ross Gay and Solmaz Sharif, wonderful young poets writing at the height of their powers right now. That vibrancy is its own kind of hope-inspiring influence.
Tell us a little bit about your new collection(s): what's the significance of the title(s)? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling them? was it a project book? etc.
I was haunted by every mention of drones for several years before I consciously started writing about them. I was deeply disturbed, and I wanted to understand my own disturbance. Why this weapon more than others? Was it the creeping sense of surveillance and slipperiness? The ever-present screen lives of us all, the Siris and smart phones turning to smart bombs? I had this tremendous sense of complicity, that things were happening in my name as a citizen, but I didn’t understand them. I didn’t get a chance to sit down with the page until 2013 at Hambidge Center for the Arts, but once I started to gather poems into a manuscript, I discovered that my uneasiness with how drones changed our perception of airspace, of what warriors and war might be, was already there in poems I’d written over the years. In that way writing DRONE was partly discovering what was already there and partly allowing new poems into the mix.
The Brighter House
This book was assembled over many years with the gracious feedback of early readers and constant revision. Poetry allows narrative to flex and grow over time, and that has certainly been true of this book. I think of it as a book about spiritual reconstruction, using myth and metaphor as a way to rework the architecture set early in life. I was not writing to a theme, but what I most needed to learn created a certain heat and focus. I was also writing this book for my sisters, so the love and loyalty I have for them and the truth of their experience was a powerful tide always pressing me to dare to tell our story with honesty and precision.
I am no longer running.
Who would chase me? who wants to go
there? where the ones I have watched
are watching me.
in a state almost like love,
almost trance, a hovering—
They are almost dear to me,
All is understood
at last. No one speaks. I am moving
towards them without moving,
and they come towards me
from far off, a heaven
where the past—our irrevocable
past—has been waiting.
They are patient,
stones without rancor or affection.
I belong to them.
In My City of Z, Forgiveness
In the City of Z, I was scarred—three lines, sternum to solar plexus.
They wept and festered and would not heal. How else can you be beautiful?
asked the angels of that place. I had hoped for something more
than my own body handed back to me, still barren, still bargaining.
My mouth was stuffed with manioc. My belly gave up its worms,
still I would not abandon the pictures hope twisted from my dreams.
They threatened to crush my skull, to feed me to the fish. I pressed
small children for a word of the world in the other country, a physics
of speech not equal but opposite. So they teased me with nonsense,
birdsong, their own alliterative names made strange by my longing
to speak strange, be strange, all at once familiar, while my abdomen
bloomed, egg-laying insects, boring to blood, unhinging the last bone.
I kept a final word under my tongue, belligerent child. Shook my head.
I didn’t want to. Wouldn’t. Not even silence could enter my lips, gentle
as she was. I’d paid my way cross-river. I had to be worth something.