104.1: Michelle Taransky:: After The Timber The & How To Picture This Place Where & Blood Bank 104

Years ago, a favorite professor recommended that I read the same poem at different times of day and in different locations. “You won’t believe the difference,” he told me. I didn’t believe him and didn’t take the assignment seriously until very recently. Michelle Taransky’s poetry, in fact, is one of these recent cases. I took these selections with me to the living room in the morning (easy enough), then to the woods in the afternoon (I’m on vacation in Georgia), and finally on a back deck in the evening (many many bugs). It turns out my professor was right, especially in the case of poetry that somehow “gets” the landscapes it describes. And Taransky’s poetry definitely “gets” landscape.

While doing a little research on Taransky, I came across an essay she wrote on behalf the Poetry Society of America. In this essay, she quotes Whitman's claim to have discovered the “law” of his poetry in a natural formation. Unlike Whitman, Taransky does not go to nature and find a law; rather, she goes to nature in the manner of Williams’ farmer—a sort of poet-antagonist, working the land “into plots.” Readers need look no further than Taransky’s line breaks to understand how radically she plays with this idea of working language into plots: reading this wonderful and strange poetry, one has a more distinct impression of corn mazes than rectangular monocultures.

Taransky’s drift from “law” to “making” and from natural formations to agriculture suggests her keen awareness of the postmodern wilderness. Yes, Taransky has internalized some of the best insights from Zukofsky (the poem as a definite thing) and Ginsberg/Williams (we need more poetry, less news). Yes, her poetry is as surprising at times as a snapped twig or the sudden sounds of military aircraft flying overhead. But we should also not forget Taransky’s commitment to rendering the experience of a strange place, the way that wonder lingers in each work. Read these poems once. Twice. A third time. Aren’t they different now? Ryan Winet

After The Timber The

harm was caused
already–there also was
made up of neighbor who
is othering habits they
have no scars to trace
even looking in a mirror
no scars or scratch. I
turn to you now the you
a house where we are
holders that see but are not there
there the tree does not know us
and we are looking for her old house
we pictured like a black hawk
we don’t know how to call
differently than the wind
we cannot live on that
narrator thinking cause is caused
and no other way to consider
forests being said and
saying look, and looking, looking at the
forest now, what do you see now
isn’t it different now

How To Picture This Place Where

Ash is strong and looks
Like chestnut—A tree is like a steer.
There are many kinds of cuts. Gentle polishing
Exposing the figure of the wood.
You will be surprised when you place
Light wood in hot sand. Watch the wood
Slowly burn. Refinish a found chair
To appear new. If you wouldn’t strip
A fine painting to the canvas, why,
Then, with woods?

Blood Bank

where else would you expect
the collection to be connected to
the way the holder struggles with the
want to hold back explaining

one can only run back to the other
so many times before saying I see blind
sums instead of an empty account
where your memory is the same

as what is happening behind locked doors
that isn’t about what they would say
had they known you were the one
counting this deciding what to consider