Laurie Saurborn Young is a poet, writer and photographer. She is the author of Carnavoria, a book of poems, published by H_NGM_N BKS. She holds an MFA in poetry from the low-residency program at Warren Wilson College and studied in the Program for Poets and Writers at UMASS-Amherst.
Her poem "Draught" appears in Issue Thirty-Six of The Collagist.
Here, Laurie Saurborn Young talks to interviewer Elizabeth Deanna Morris about a noiseless sound, refrain, and fantasies of rain.
1. How did you end up writing this poem?
“Draught” was the product of cabin fever and fantasies of rain, during a long, hot Texas summer. There are no day trips out of the heat—no way to escape—so I spent much of those four months inside. It’s like deep winter but in a bright and sunny hell. Rain was a memory. What it sounded like on the roof, I no longer knew. All I could hear were bells. Though that may have been an air-conditioning-induced hallucination.
As well, the poem is about dreaming—it could be read as an Ode to Dreams I Would Rather Have. Most of my dreams are about falling from nervous heights. I’d rather dream about Nietzsche and rabbits and leaves. And water.
2. The line “I dream I am the sound of a hand / pulling a bell” is particularly poignant to me in this poem, because it’s the first time that we encounter isolation that follows. To dream that one is a sound (a wave in the air, something from something else), and a quiet sound at that (not the bell, but the hand, pulling), is so far from what we’d obviously think when imagining a hand pulling a bell, that its loneliness resonates. Could you talk more about this isolation?
Good question. Perhaps I was considering how we are not only what we perceive ourselves to be composed of (the bell, the pulling), but also the singular elements often overlooked (the hand that creates the ringing, and the life of that hand). The sound the hand pulling the bell makes—inaudible to us, but not to a more highly attuned animal—exists at the same time as the noise of the ringing. It’s not dependent upon our perception.
By the end of the poem, these isolated particulars become their own operatives. Here, sound can cause a direct action, one we would normally reserve for a hand and arm—pulling the bell.
And sleep is a generous isolation. Although many people share the experience of dreaming, dreams create worlds we each process on our own.
3. You repeat the line, “Much happens every day until it disappears” once after it opens the poem. How do you think this line works the second time around?
Repeating, “Much happens every day” makes it both crystalline and common. In the poem I feel it operates not simply as a soothing refrain, but as a method of marking subtle shifts in the perception of time.
The first time, the line is: “Much happens every day until it disappears.”
The second time, the line is slightly different: “Much happens every / day and then it disappears.”
“Until” implies an unchangeable change—an interruption—has occurred. “Until” is the Big Bang.
“And then” holds some promise, realized or not, that there is a possibility of passing back and forth between states—times, places, ways of being in the world. “And then” is a line of begets. It’s also a way to remind oneself that even if the tragic hinge of “Until” appears, time passes and a new string of “And then” begins.
I feel certain that while working on this poem, in my subconscious lurked two lines:
In Lawrence Raab’s poem, “My Soul is a Light Housekeeper,” the speaker says, “On almost every day / nothing happens.” This “nothing” is my speaker’s “much.” I don’t think they contradict one another.
And as Éluard said, “There is another world, but it is in this one.” Where the sound of a bell can pull the bell.
4. Have you devoured any good books lately (or mulled over one for a long period of time?
Devoured, yes. I have to force myself to mull.
Virginia Woolf’s On Fiction and On Being Ill
Roberto Bolaño’s The Insufferable Gaucho
Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories
Jac Jemc’s My Only Wife
Maggie Nelson’s Jane (a murder)
Lydia Davis’s The Cows
Bruno Munari’s Design as Art
The Collected Stories of Leonard Michaels
As far as poetry goes, I just read Jenny Browne’s The Second Reason, Betsy Wheeler’s Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room, and Charles Simic’s Jackstraws.
5. What else have you been writing recently?
This summer, I’ve been very lucky to have time to focus on a variety of writing projects: a poetry manuscript, a couple of short fiction stories, and several creative non-fiction/memoir pieces.