Welcome to The Beat, a poetry podcast produced by Knox County Public Library. Today, we'll hear a poem by the poet and essayist Amy Wright.
Wright’s latest book of poems, Everything in the Universe, has been described as Whitmanesque, in that her work is “a celebration of every tiny thing.” Listen for these “celebrations” in the poem she’s recorded for us today. Also note the sense of place evoked by the images and characters Wright creates for us. The title of the poem is “Habitat.”Amy Wright:
Mac and Paulie cling to the mountainside,
sphagnum moss on an abalone camper.
Their father collects disability.
They are ingenious
manipulators of flag girls
in parking lots, track stars in waffle-joint
back booths, french fryers in ferris wheel
at home unable to avoid
introducing them to Pudding
on the sofa, their young mother
who makes them pretend she’s their sister.
cut through a school of crappies,
patch the shallows, sprout
toes sensitive as tentacles
on a slug’s head—
ascend the muck thin-skinned
as newborns, or did back then.
Of course, Mac will grow up,
start a tree-trimming business,
meet Scottie who isn’t afraid
of his wolf pup or long silences,
how a hard storm closes
their exit. Imperiled
water shrews and hellbender
playthings give her something to lose
in that nothing-much mobile—
a freshwater turtle
she feeds periodically
a handful of cereal that crackles
when wet like maggots.
Do you want to move someplace else?
Mac asks after lovemaking, her nape wet,
fan blades slowing with her pulse.
Eddie has a body shop in Lafayette. . . .
Scottie pulls a squirrel’s tail
curl through a hairbrush
she keeps near the bed, like all Peary women.
Away from here I wouldn’t know
what it looks like to be happy,
she says. I would test it
the way a girl will suffer her love
to prove his love real,
wouldn’t hear the mourning dove
or see the Blazing Star
nod its fandango assent from a far
field. No, it is better to know chorus frogs
are in danger, the lake sturgeon
What are those creatures to me
I cannot be sorry never to have seen?Alan May:
That was “Habitat” by Amy Wright. She was kind enough to record this poem for us in the midst of the pandemic, December of last year, while helping out at her parents’ farm in Virginia. Wright’s essays have appeared in The Georgia Review, Fourth Genre, Ninth Letter, Brevity, and elsewhere. She has been awarded two Peter Taylor Fellowships to the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop, an Individual Artist Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission, and a fellowship to Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her nonfiction debut, Paper Concert: A Conversation in the Round, is forthcoming in 2021 from Sarabande Books. She teaches at Austin Peay State University. You can find Wright’s books in our online catalog or call us at the Reference Desk at Lawson McGhee Library. Also look for links in the show notes. Please join us next time for The Beat.Various voices:
Thank you for listening to and sharing this podcast from Knox County Public Library in Knoxville, Tennessee. Music for this podcast is by Chad Crouch. Find all our podcasts at pods.knoxlib.org, and explore life-changing resources at www.knoxlib.org. That's "knox l-i-b." Go to our "keep in touch" page to sign up for newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Make us your essential connection for life-long learning and information.