First off, thanks to everyone who read. Most people who do probably land somewhere on a scale from denial-of-nerves to repressed terror. Everyone on this video is worth watching, every single one of them, and I picked two people out of an amazing group to discuss how wonderful their creations are.
Brittany McDonald’s poem starts at 3:45. It’s called “In Response to My Dog Having Cancer, I Light a Cigarette.” That title deserves applause by itself and it perfectly sets off the rest of the piece. It’s exposition, mood, brilliant word choice, like a mini-poem of the poem itself. And her first line carries such weight: “Cremation is the endgame of the universe.” That is so punchy. The whole work has this quiet fogginess. It’s sad, but more than sad; it’s poignant, but more than that too. There’s despair, but that’s not all. The details that Brittany chose give off an ambiance. The universe is cruel, life and death are cruel, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, so all these feelings turn into smoke…or smoking a cigarette. It’s defiant and defeatist at the same time (due to cigarettes aiding the cremation of everything).
And then there’s the dog, too tired to move, sharing death with her best friend.
Haley Tanner’s poem “Conscious” begins at 28:40, and tears immediately into a fantastic extended metaphor/ personification of a relationship/ something literary like that. Different body parts represent the feelings of a relationship: the need, the damage, the things a person does to stay connected even when it hurts. Haley uses ribs and arms and brain to describe a broken love. “Don’t forget about my arms, please, my arms, make sure that they get circulation…” It’s so plaintive. And her blood is like their love, coming out of wounds. And her blood is like her conscious, directing itself to every place. It’s both at the same time. It’s a striking example of ambiguity used not to confuse but to entice. I also enjoy the play on the title. While the speaker is trying to be more conscious and noting the places she’s hurt, tracking the progress of her own loneliness, the other person is not conscious at all of the wounds he inflicts.
Again, thank you for giving your hard work and your bravery to Helicon West so we get to experience things with you. You are all magnificent.
-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger