Thursday, May 26, 2011

mythical cities, personal museums, and the gerrymandering of memory

On the 16th, a poem that I wrote called "Mythical Cities of Southwestern Minnesota" was published in Strange Horizons. I never thought I would publish a poem. The fact that I have strikes me as funny, bizarre, absurd, and completely satisfying. Stories are one thing, but poems are a different beast.

I wrote it while drifting in the still, still space that followed an unkind breakup. It was my version of sitting in a darkened room with a pint of ice cream and a single lonely spoon. I wrote it because I felt like I was mired on the thinnest skin of empty water, stretching all the way to an empty horizon, without a breath of wind to change the monotony.

I liked the way it turned out. I liked, even more, the way it appropriated the tiniest and briefest of moments from my memory--a split second of something I saw, thought, or imagined--and dragged it outside the territory of life circumscribed by factual experience. They suddenly existed somewhere else, lifted from the messy drawers in my head and pinned, still, to a plain wall. There they were, serving another purpose, rearranged and divided and carefully distorted to tell a story that was not at all what actually happened, but still something I wanted to say. Reading the poem on publication induced an odd kind of vertigo. It set off a spectacular display of interior fireworks, resuscitating details that I would have otherwise forgotten in enormous, full-blown pungency. It was a pleasure. Not because of any particular nostalgia for the moments in question, but just because they were there, rich and saturated and unexpected.

The title comes from an article I came across while looking for the names of mythical cities. It turned out to be about gerrymandering and the census of 1857, and not about mysterious cities that appear and disappear under certain depths of snow.
Kapowski, a band that the marvelous Daisy brought to my attention, is running a Kickstarter to produce a music video for one of their songs. They've already reached their goal, but you should still visit the project's page, if only to hear the song in question, which is an utter charmer.
A rarity:
I hardly ever "plan" stories. I think about them in the car, in bed, in the shower, on walks. I purse my lips over them, rub fists into eyes, make faces, despair. I make a great deal of mistakes, scratch out sentences, tear out pages. But I hardly ever "plan."

The story I'm working on now is doing a number on my head.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed that poem; I think it was something that everyone who has been through a breakup can relate to. It was well-done. Also, planning is the devil. For me, when I try to plan too much, whatever I'm working on begins to feel forced.

Great post! :-)

Megan Kurashige said...

Thank you!

I mostly do not plan. It's an unusual circumstance I find myself in!