Evening Farewell

Marceline White

3 Questions for Marceline

What was your process for creating this work?

These pieces emerged from several different processes and sources of inspiration. "Evening Farewell" and "Parted" are from a series of poems I've been working on based on the name, my name, Marceline. Several years ago, I learned of the French poet Marceline Desborde-Valmore who many consider the mother of 19th-century French Romantic poetry. Unfortunately, her contributions and poems are not well-known in the United States. But I have a copy of translations of her poems and was struck by her use of language and diction to discuss romantic love as well as maternal love in other poems. My goal is to include a variety of forms in dialogue with and descriptive of each "Marceline" that I am including in my series. With a poet, erasure seems a great way to be in conversation with the poet and poem. I was struck by these pieces about romantic love and wanted to create new pieces that speak to the way I have felt about romantic love in the past (if not today). I tried using a black-out method with these poems but felt the cut-up method worked better with these pieces. I also liked the idea of continuing the Surrealist tradition by pairing these pieces with freely available paintings that seemed to reflect, comment on, or amplify the erased poems.

In "Dublin on the Hottest Day on Record" I started by taking photographs of everything I saw that interested me that day. It really was the hottest day on record so it was difficult to concentrate to create much that day. But I was able to photograph things that struck me, that I found interesting, that captured the essence of that day that I could return to later. I've been trying to play with different forms to see how the form informs the final piece. I'd read that Haibuns can be particularly good for pieces about a place or travel so I've been slowly working on a series of Haibuns based on my travels in Ireland, Scotland, and England this summer. The opening of the poem came easily and the contrast of the Famine statue across from the river from the signs for a rent strike was poetic in and of themselves. "Tart" was another effort to play with different forms because I find if I don't, I can tend to write long, narrative poems. I love the long, narrative poems but also appreciate the difference in tempo, images, and phrasing that occur with prose poems. The first draft as I mention below was generated in a weekend workshop. I really appreciate taking craft workshops because I don't have an MFA and the workshops allow me to learn from some incredible poets, to try new techniques, in short to play with language, images and words. And almost nothing makes me happier.

What is the significance of the form(s) you chose?

With the erasures, my goal was to create something new from Marceline Desbordes-Valmore's poems that also reflected some of my feelings regarding romantic love. The artwork used provides another expression of some of the themes in her work. I felt as though the erasure form was a way to both comment on her work and create something new from it, which is particularly appealing to me as someone who shares her name and is also a poet. If she is the Mother of Romantic poetry, there is something nice about having her work generate new poems. With "Dublin on the Hottest Day on Record" I had been playing with the Haibun form both because I often write more narrative poems and wanted to challenge myself with compression. I appreciate the way the Haibun form inspires more impressionistic distillations of an experience. I find the form powerful and like other forms, the strictures and limits lead a writer to make choices on what images, language, and themes to keep which makes for interesting pieces. "Tart" was first drafted in a generative prose poetry workshop with Shira Dentz. The original draft was tightened and reworked to strengthen the language and images. I also spent some time trying different ways to end the piece but ultimately liked the way it ends, or really pauses, in this version.

What is the significance of this work to you?

As I mentioned, "Evening Farewell" and "Parted" are part of a series of poems I am working on related to people both real and imagined, famous and infamous named Marceline. The name is an older French name and is fairly uncommon in the U.S. As a child, I frequently wished for another name so that I could find keychains, coffee mugs, and door signs with my name on them. But it's also my aunt and grandmother's name and as I grew older, I grew to love it. It is wonderful to see these pieces out in the world as part of the dialogue I am in with my name. I also hope people will read Marceline Desbordes-Valmore's poems because she deserves to be read and better known.

"Dublin on the Hottest Day on Record" was inspired by a trip to Ireland with my son this past summer. Dublin was experiencing a heat wave and was ill-equipped to handle it. But the heat and smells reminded me of my home in Baltimore. I'm working on a series of poems about my maternal ancestors who fled Ireland during the Famine so the hardships those living in poverty experience today and the echoes of those in poverty across the sea and across the centuries were on my mind. This poem weaves together several themes that are often on my mind in a brief, hopefully, powerful way.

 "Tart" is a poem of place inspired by my childhood in the Midwest and my grandmother, Marceline. I grew up in an extended household. I was very close to my grandmother who started to experience signs of Alzheimer's in my teens. I've written and continue to write about growing up working class in the Midwest, of becoming a teen at a time of rapid change, and my tumultuous family life. I've tried to capture the simultaneous collapse and constant collapsing of our lives as well as the deep and abiding love. I hope both and the tension and dialectic between these poles come out in this piece and in others. 

A Baltimore-based artist and activist, Marceline’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Scrawl Place, The Orchard Review, The Indianapolis Review, Atticus Review, Snapdragon, Little Patuxent Review, Please See Me, Quaranzine, Gingerbread House, The Copperfield Review, The Free State Review, The Loch Raven Review, and others; anthologies include Ancient Party: Collaborations in Baltimore, 2000-2010, and Life in Me Like Grass on Fire. Essays, op-eds and other writing has appeared in Woman’s Day, Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Sun, and Mother Jones. When not engaged in activism, she can be found learning how to better serve her two cats, posting too many pictures of her garden on social media, and reminding her son to text her when he arrives at the party.

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