Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Top Ten New Mexico Poets: Connie Voisine

Under the heading of "Research and Creative Interests" in her faculty page of the New Mexico State University website, Connie Voisine explains how the subject matter of her poetry has evolved to a fascination with desire and death, coinciding with the transition from her twenties to her thirties. I am envious of the craft and restraint with which she captures these two themes, and the way they interact with one another. This is never more true than in the opening lines of "Anonymous Lyric:"

It was the summer of 1976 when I saw the moon fall down.

It broke like a hen’s egg on the sidewalk.

The garden roiled with weeds, hummed with gnats who settled clouds on my

oblivious siblings.

'A great hunger insatiate to find / A dulcet ill, an evil sweetness blind.'

A gush of yolk and then darker.

Somewhere a streetlamp disclosed the insides of a Chevy Impala—vinyl seats, the rear- view,

headrests and you, your hand through your hair.

'An indistinguishable burning, failing bliss.'

Notice how the images flow in and out of one another as the poem progresses:

Because the earth’s core was cooling, all animals felt the urge to wander.

Wash down this whisper of you, the terrible must.

Maybe the core wasn’t cooling, but I felt a coolness in my mother.

That girl was shining me on.

In blue crayon, the bug-bitten siblings printed lyrics on the walls of my room.

I wrote the word LAVA on my jeans.

'It must be the Night Fever,' I sang with the 8-track.

But the moon had not broken on the sidewalk, the moon

was hot, bright as a teakettle whistling outside my door,

'tied up in sorrow, lost in my song, if you don’t come back . . .'

and that serious night cooled, settling like sugar on our lawn.

I wrote the word SUGAR on my palms.

'I shall say what inordinate love is.'

The moon rose itself up on its elbows and shook out its long hair.

Other examples of Voisine's images that sing of both desire and death range from "bullet holes above the bed," to "the crumbling pyramid's altar top flocked with moonlight," from "the hysterical crush of insect limbs rubbing, animal want, all night bang[ing] against the window" to "the saints, robes heavy with must, with ancient gnarled hands, deserving the nothing they felt their way toward (all from "'The Altar' by George Herbert").

I'm new to Voisine's work, and I'm still investigating it, but what I've read of it so far has earned her a place in my top ten New Mexico poets.

Connie Voisine is an associate professor of English at New Mexico State University, where she directs the creative writing program. Educated at Yale University, she received her MFA from University of California at Irvine and her Ph.D. from University of Utah. Her book, Cathedral of the North, was winner of the AWP Award in Poetry and was released by University of Pittsburgh Press. Rare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream was published by University of Chicago Press in 2008 and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award--from her official bio.

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