Online Feature: Evie Shockley, “love life, with stitches”

—after louise bourgeois’ seven in bed that’s how we are in bed: all body and raw with desire. the self we’ve somehow patched together is revealed, voilà!, as hand- iwork, unhandily done: covers snatched back to expose ungraceful seams. we’re arms, reaching past the one who’s holding us close to touch another, whose flesh, in turn, warms to what it can’t quite grasp. we’re our own foes: januses, half-lost in longing or rank nostalgia for some lover past or yet to come—anyone but the one whose flank is pressed against ours: one mouth tastes the wet lips of yes, now, while our other mouth sighs for an unsoft shoulder, unseeing eyes.

 

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This poem appeared in Indiana Review 31.2, Winter 2010.

Anni Liu (Poetry Editor): There is so much to admire about this poem. Being a sonnet with rhyming iambic pentameter lines about love, it is as traditional as they come. But it is also an ekphrastic poem that reads into a fleshy sculpture by Louise Bourgeois. And while this poem’s central claim seems to be about romantic and sexual love, it is also an ambivalent exploration of what it means to make a self through writing and to be a “self we’ve somehow patched / together.”

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Evie Shockley is the author of, most recently, semiautomatic (2017) and the new black (2011; winner of the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry), among other collections of poetry.  She has also published a critical study, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry (2011).  Her poetry and essays appear widely in journals and anthologies. Her honors include the 2015 Stephen Henderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry and the 2012 Holmes National Poetry Prize.  Currently serving as creative editor for Feminist Studies, Shockley is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

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