We’re so excited to welcome poet Tafisha Edwards for the latest installment of Sundress’ Lyric Essentials series. Tafisha reads work from Carrie Lorig’s The Blood Barn and tells us what about Lorig’s work caught her by surprise, what she admires about the book’s unconventional structure, and much more. Thanks for reading!
Tafisha Edwards reads “The Blood Barn” by Carrie Lorig
Riley Steiner: Why did you choose this poem for your reading?
Tafisha Edwards: This iteration of “The Blood Barn” is positioned behind the book’s front matter. I chose it for the same reason it arrested me on my initial and consecutive reads—I was not prepared to answer any questions, no matter where they may have appeared in the text, much less questions about the lyric. My assumptions about my own knowledge of my mind, its composition and capacities are laid bare—the power of this poem for me is in its own assured voice. The ramifications of the question “What happened to the lyric?” are an atomic atrocity, collectively inherited, though not equally dispersed.
RS: What was your experience like reading the poem out loud?
TE: My mouth felt full of words, an obvious and incomprehensible statement. Well, yes, I read the poem aloud into a machine and one can hear my breath, my mouth perform the labor of speech. But there was a heaviness in my jaw while I read and I found myself leaning into the physicality of reading aloud. When I read, “I listened to tradition / canon say that this is why we must continue to preserve and praise memory / as if it were the only thing / the oldest thing capable of song / of beauty / of meaning,” I couldn’t decide on how it should be read, only that it should be read intentionally, should resist the urge to do anything but give respect to each word; there was no sole way to lend another voice to the poem.
RS: In our emails, you mentioned that The Blood Barn is not traditionally structured. Since our readers will only be hearing your reading of the poem and not seeing it on the page (not in this blog post, at least), can you talk a little about what that unconventional structure looks like?
TE: I was not prepared to enter The Blood Barn the first, second, or third read because some of the conventions of a book of poems are upheld—title/cover/copyright pages—and some are absent. I didn’t realize how passive a reader I could be until I didn’t have a table of contents to reference—no way to create any meta-narratives to guide my reading. I surrendered to the experience of understanding. The Blood Barn is more interested in an attentive reader, not the reader who cannot cede control during the experience. Lorig’s work requires your presence.
RS: What do you admire about The Blood Barn (the book) as a whole, and about Carrie Lorig’s work?
TE: Before the poet J.B. recommended The Blood Barn, they allowed me to drift through their copy of the book. What I quickly came to admire is the book’s visual physicality—the way you move through multiplicities of pages, texts and para-texts—because it required I fully engage with the line, with punctuation, with the units of breath and thought.
Should you read The Blood Barn, there will come a place where the lines “This will never look like a poem / to you / or end” are in front of you, and you will have to walk over the ice of those lines and test how well your assumptions about poetry stay afloat. Lorig does not leave room for the reader’s ego—the work is urgent, your attention is required, your body is required immediately, for the book must be read, right now, there is no ideal time to take a break. There is pain, and seldom stillness.
Whenever I encounter Carrie Lorig’s work I think of the momentum of words, how vital they are when grouped together. They hold all of our liminalities of body and mind.
Carrie Lorig is the author of The Pulp vs. the Throne, The Book of Repulsive Women, Nods, and Reading as a Wildflower Activist. She collaborated with Sara Woods for the chapbook stonepoems and Nick Sturm for the chapbook Labor Day. Her poems and reviews have appeared in Black Warrior Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Yalobusha Review, the Atlas Review, Fanzine, Entropy, and many other publications.
Tafisha A. Edwards is the poetry editor of Gigantic Sequins and author of The Bloodlet, winner of Phantom Books’ 2016 Breitling Chapbook Prize. Her work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Bettering American Poetry Volume 2, Washington Square Review, Winter Tangerine, and other print and online publications. Her other works have appeared in Tidal, Vice, Cosmopolitan, and other publications. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland’s Jiminéz-Porter Writers’ House, and a Cave Canem graduate fellow.
Visit Tafisha’s website
Read Tafisha’s poetry in Winter Tangerine, Jellyfish, Split This Rock, and The Offing
Read a review of Not Without Our Laughter, a 2017 poetry anthology by Tafisha and the other members of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective, and purchase the book here from Mason Jar Press
Riley Steiner graduated from Miami University, where she studied Creative Writing and Media & Culture. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she enjoys baking, cheering for the Green Bay Packers, and spending way too much money at Half Price Books. Her creative work has recently appeared in the Oakland Arts Review and Collision.