Petra Backonja


Poetics Statement:

I take great pains in getting the work to come out right. It is a very brutal process and can go on for a long time, during which I'm working against the poem's natural tendency to congeal. This method is what gives my poems their peculiar overwrought tone, that and the desperation of knowing I'll never finish all the poems I've begun.

To be honest, I read and write poems to slow down time, so my preference is for "difficult" poetry. I apply to it the severest thought I can muster, because I know that this has the effect of intimidating time. I have a positive horror of time. It's a slick alien love-baby always yammering for attention.

The language of the applied physical sciences interests me. For whatever reason, reading across disciplines has had the effect of unrumoring words from fixed meanings and functions. They even sound different. Their odd music is very useful in poems.

My gravest errors are almost always syntactic. I like 17th century prose. When someone said of Robert Burton that he played on a particularly extensive set of verbal chimes, I thought: Hah! That's the instrument for me! So I stretch my thoughts over rather a longer period or a longer line. But little quibble with fragments, glorious rubble.


[The Sea's is a]
Plangent, Grinding Ratio

Increased infeed rate on surface finish
no damage but a slight fracture above the edges
something about the eternal problem of images
eccentric fret behind the saltmarsh bulrush
and of sampling and measuring a good deal
the next hexagonal round: dashed
cobbles strike the hour
why and how the sand moves but
so do our minutes hasten to their end from island
dunes and bottoms of nearby lagoons
mnemonic distortions are cleared away
images in the art of memory no longer confined
to rough machining, to drawn-down planetary powers
bestial music. A beach
is all the sand in motion above and below water
a beach is sand's emotion stirred by water
a non-synchronous system past far-past tangents.

Observe the foam lines. Dwell
at this point 3/4 of a moment
as memory with no tenderness
strikes the ocean's brow.



Far Junkhill


…lost his head. Knowledge failed him, friends failed him, family failed him. Excess and wastefulness of one and one and one: redundancies. Hence (he said) not the home you want but the home you get and a fourth dimension garden bench and a place to fly the imagination. Hence no need nor desire to go anywhere else.

mute, would watch amplified men on horseback cross the visual field singing hymns. But wait. The hymn-singing was a sham, you say? And the crossing a mere mechanical tracking of audio-visual equipment? Then better to call it instead:

Field Cut in Two by the Brutal Y-Axis

For three days the trees were all lit up (he said). What more (he said), what more do you need to know? Call it:

The Fading-Numbers Test

Call it:

The Ice that Botches Chaos

all the bottles on the shelf full to the top and stoppered and his late mother singing hymns and washing stockings in the bathroom sink.

had lead to thought serious. And laughter at the metaphor. That will pass, like the man he was, zero-th component of a four-vector subject of the verb "to be". Who said there's no side-stepping the catastrophe of time? The dialectics of the present and its blasé catalogue of life keep lousy watch. He downed a quart of turpentine.

with the perfection of frost. So that with eyes sewn shut he went beneath-ground singing "Pigs and Fishes All Go In" and that was the end of that, but for the promised return to the old game that made him-and made the beasts of the zodiac too. O, to sleep a long bit in the field of unthinking, be made and remade to some other tune.





Superficial tremors in historic flux characterise the field relations between thought and image. That which stills the wordscape and at the same time re-enchants the wand that blurs it, is negated to neutral by the same illusionist in the Faraday cage who blends into the intense blue-background sky. You know who I mean, the fellow wearing the cerulean spotted hyena skin in the epic True Story of the Electric Wind, the one you can see no matter how hard you try.

Then, consider mental lattices. They knit together the air and belong to a different partitive order. Have you ever peeked through one at "the realm which freeth us from an imagined poverty"? Well, I have. Many times over. Ink spattered and sincere realms I've seen, oh my goodness, again and again, filled with sunsets and birds and otherwise transient sparks radiating from semi-mechanical fixed-point disciplines. Realms that, were you to stack them up, would suggest the shapes of modest hills.

This is so simple that it is confusing, as to a terrestrial observer the phenomenon of the birth of aeroplanes out of clouds is. You will recall that this confusion creates the turbulence at the very core of poetic thought, turbulence composed of those tremulous wattages suggestively called images.


Petra Backonja lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin.

<back to contents>