Renee Angle’s poetics ground immanence in a braid of corporeal plateaus that are connected to the fable and non-sequential congruence of the soul. Here we question what it means to witness. Can we possess witness or the voice of a child? And in the field of the poem how are interchangeable freedoms unable to “lose their souls”? These questions, Angle describes are at the center of her manuscript The Orphans.
The Orphans poems cohere because they don’t fit. This interview identifies the trauma that one can experience in language and how this merges fluidly into a Deluzian denial of transcendence. Here, “truth and absurdity (the absurdity of truth),” are distinctly malleable from the inside out. In this respect, “childhood is no longer of the future, each thought is or is not an orphan, ‘parents,’ if they exist, are interchangeable, temporary, fragmented, gutted of their middles, which is middle too.” There is admittedly “insufficiency” here and yet, the soul is retained. The witness is not a choice, yet it exists.
Renee Angle resides in Tucson, Arizona where she works for The University of Arizona Poetry Center. Her poems have been published in The Volta: Heir Apparent,Diagram, Practice New Art + Writing, Sonora Review, EOAGH, I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing By Women, and in the chapbook Lucy Design in the Papal Flea (dancing girl press).
1.) What were the first inspirations that made you desire to become a writer? Who are your favorite writers and how did they change over time?
I know it gets said a lot, but I didn’t desire to be a writer, I just sort of was.
2.) Who have been the creative inspiration / mentor writers in your career?
Wallace Stevens, Stevie Smith, Frank O’Hara, William Carlos Williams, Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, Laura (Riding) Jackson, Djuna Barnes, and many, many others.
3.) How has your own work changed over time and why?
I hope that my work has become more focused, crystalized, and intentional. In terms of process, I now spend time devising contratints/methods to thwart ingrained habits whereas before I was cultivating habits. I spend time trying to forget what I’ve learned.
4.) Have you been influenced by different genres, and if so how?
I try not to classify books by genre when I read and when I write I try to have the same mindset. I don’t think texts have genres—we give texts genres–and so in that way, while they can be helpful classifications, they are very artificial and more about marketing than anything else. I’ve thought about how both of the words genre and gender come from the same root. They both mean “kind.”
5.) What are your plans for the future?
I’m working on a play about motherhood as an act of plagiarism, a YA novel about child labor and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and a novel based on a 7 hour movie based on a novel in Hungarian.
6.) What are your views on writing by women as it has occurred in the past twenty years?
I’m very pleased and inspired that there is so much wonderful work being written and that I have so many good examples to draw from even before I sit down to write. My general reaction is “more,” I want more.
7.) Who are promising women writers to look at in the future?
Honestly, I read mostly dead poets. I also think most third and fourth graders have a lot of contemporary poets already beat.
8.) If you were asked to create a flexible label of yourself as a writer, what would it be?
Writer. I sometimes like artist.
9.) In the poem, “WITNESSED,” we pull the poem apart in the fashion of a fairy tale. For instance, “the way the blade can cut the length you like. and then there’s red. red can cut the same. crop circles with circumference built in, or the line established to help you do the math.” The poetic line manifests a feeling of linearity while it is also alluringly an invitation to untriangulate and play with the message. The poem ends, “climb in the bed made of the alternative comfort of the hearted. her circle skylight. able to wish water or sand. // exclusively ours!, exclusively ours!, exclusively ours!,”. To witness can always be “ours” if we choose this path of wander. Can you please discuss how the architecture is structured to rest the mind of a child and how the poem interacts with this both in the melopoeia and syntax?
I don’t know if “witnessing” can be “ours.” I’m thinking of the Celan poem “AshGlory” and the line “Nobody / bears witness for the / witness.” I also don’t think witnessing is something that is chosen. I align myself more with the fable and its important differences from the fairy tale. As G.K. Chesterton suggests, “fables repose upon[…]the idea[…]that everything is itself, and will in any case speak for itself[…]It is the limit and the loss of all such things that they cannot be anything but themselves: it is their tragedy that they could not lose their souls.” The concept articulated here by Chesterton is at the center of this manuscript. In terms of the syntax and the melopoeia, I write with my ear and I have an interest in sound poetry. A question I’ve been thinking about a lot is why children’s literature isn’t written by children. I find it inauthentic to present the voices of children as rendered by adults, though that is the task of any writer, in large part, to make voices, characters. My intention wasn’t to present the mind of the child in any of these poems, but to cultivate playfulness that can evoke childhood for some readers.
10.) The form is comprised of wonder and terror. Take for example, “SCORPION, BIT PART,” that begins, “the hardest piece to make was / my boyfriend // who limp headed / and exit with / love and boldly draw / it was a piece i found on his / floor his exit his scalp hint Whitman / i started and stooped a dozen like / i was baking a leem long longer longest time / i had concern i would no hurry up or heat.” Boyfriend turns to heat turns to scalp turns to baking. Archetypal figures are submerged spirits in the dark. Why are these poems as the title seems to suggest, orphans?
The title of my manuscript is The Orphans because it speaks to the lack of formal similarity between the sections as well as its obsession with names and the unnamed in children’s literature. It is a group of poems that coheres because of what is absent and what doesn’t fit. The parents of these poems have been discarded because of their unsuitability. The learning and coming into language is traumatic and that experience correlated, somehow, with the narrative of the poem.
11.) The poem, “RADIO DREAM: THE INDIAN CHILDREN ARE TOLD; CONCLUSION OF THE MYSERY,” utilizes the Deluzian plane of immanence. We read, “except the mermaids dry inside as dreams // a layered record of the Christian symbol all stories slipper the fish // the drying stream filling with silt and ash from fire // issued fear light to send the children through.” Can you describe how this poem in addition to the book unhinges ethical boundaries and aesthetics?
I’ll talk about what you refer to as the Deluzian plane of immanence which dove tails nicely with what Chesterton is saying about fables (“It is the limit and the loss of all such things that they cannot be anything but themselves: it is their tragedy that they could not lose their souls.”) Deluze “denies transcendence as a real distinction” and I think the fable is basically an example of that. I greatly admire the idea that, “It is only when immanence is no longer immanence to anything other than itself that we can speak of a plane of immanence.” It is true, at the same time it feels completely absurd to me. Truth and absurdity (the absurdity of truth) are also qualities of fables. This particular poem you are quoting from is highly fragmented and is essentially the story of a group of women who serve as guardians of an ocean that is quickly becoming a desert. Gilles Deluze’s theory on the rhizome which states that there is no beginning and end, only a middle or plateau is another way to look at this poem. (And many contemporary poems for that matter). There is a narrative arc but it’s more like a series of plateaus. Any plateau can be related to any other plateau “its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature.” Deluze says “never send down roots.” I couldn’t agree more. To consider everything as coming from the middle has changed my concept of time and time as it is represented and happens in the poem. If everything is a series of middles, childhood is no longer of the future, each thought is or is not an orphan, “parents,” if they exist, are interchangeable, temporary, fragmented, gutted of their middles, which is middle too. Agamben claims, “one cannot write sufficiently in the name of an outside.” I try to grapple with that insufficiency in these poems.