girl means bones that glow forever

Angela Dribben

3 Questions for Angela

What was your process for creating this work?

My process is always questioning. If a poem may be comprised of a series of images, when is a series of images a poem? How do our brains interpret image and how do we use that knowledge as artists? These are some of the questions moving my current project. 

While delving into answers, I happened to come across a headline about Jane Goodall’s work from early in her career, “Comely Miss Spends Time Eyeing Apes.” It is infuriating to witness a human being who devotes their entire life to understanding more than just herself reduced to her exterior. Further, reduced to physical attributes with the ugliest word meaning beauty. I can hear the edges of this word cut against my sensibility with its hard sounds. I traced comely’s origin and discovered not just beautiful but also weak, feeble, and scarcely. I hear this energy and am affected by it. 

I had the same experience with the term Radium Girls. Girls? girl means bones that glow forever says the rest.

Which made me wonder, what do we say when we say girl or blue or … mustn’t we question every word? Our every perception? What is unsaid but is howling at us?

What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work? 

I call this form Extraction, meaning to withdraw with effort, meaning to understand origin.  

What lurks beneath our tunnel of tongues? I want to look there. To pull out the subversive patterns that maintain injustice in our culture through manipulation of our psyches. When we see an image, or create an image (text or visual), we have to know all we are making. 

I have several pieces taken from a set of 1939 encyclopedias. Language and its role as cultural construct blows my mind. Through the encyclopedia extractions I am also exploring one minute piece of how we learned what ______ means? 

Language and image have a long relationship that is there for us to use as poets and artists. Language and image also have a long-term relationship in oppression. 

As an artist, I feel an increased responsibility to deconstruct my own understanding and utilization of image and language. That’s how Extraction became the form I use. 

What is the significance of this work to you?

As a white (a word I am also looking to replace) English speaker I was born participating in the act of colonialism. It is my duty to unravel meaning and not perpetuate this harm. 

Angie Dribben’s debut collection, Everygirl, a finalist for the 2020 Broadkill Review Dogfish Head Prize, is out with Main Street Rag. She is Contributing Reviews Editor at Cider Press Review and an MFA candidate at Randolph College. Her poetry, essays, mixed media, and reviews can be found or are forthcoming in The Night Heron Barks, Cave Wall, EcoTheo, Crab Creek Review, Crack the Spine, and others. Her poetry is widely-anthologized.