PRESERVE (2018)

An exploration of poetry and preservation: from the preservation of poems themselves, to poetry’s ability to preserve us. Inspired by lines from “The Waste Land,” by TS Eliot: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.” The poet gathers together fragments of literature that have meaning for him—lines of poetry written by others—and melds them together into a new poem. In so doing, the poet not only preserves the poems themselves, but also preserves himself (shores himself up) against the devastation wreaked by the first world war. Musing on these lines, I wondered, What poems would I choose to preserve? What poems would help me preserve myself?

So I began to put up poems for a time when they’re needed. There is work in preserving: women’s work, historically—just as women have so often preserved memory, and genealogy, and story. Fruit must be seeded, and sliced, juiced and sugared, cooked; and so a thing is preserved, but in a different form than that in which it began its life. And so in putting up poetry for a later season, in creating preserves of language and image and beauty, I took care to slice the poems thinly, line by line, and stirred well to mix them. They were poured into glass jars, and labeled with their contents and date. When the jars are next opened the poems inside won’t be in the same form in which they began life. They could be reassembled; but they can also be enjoyed in a new way, as each line intermingles with new fellows—fragments creating a new whole, a new flavor.