Wednesday, September 14, 2011

First Books: A Conversation with Jennifer Denrow in Thermos Magazine

First Books: A Conversation with Jen Denrow

A number of THERMOS contributors have recently published first books. Stay tuned for conversations with them here. First up is Jennifer Denrow, who appeared in our second issue and whose book California was published by Four Way Books in 2011.

TH: How do you see your work in what’s happening now in poetry? Are there other first books out there that you feel like yours is friends with?

JD: I’m always trying to think about that: what’s happening now. Sometimes I will write down the first or last sentences in a book of poems and then do that to other books of poems and compare them. There’s something in the syntax of some of the poetry now—a directness that the language, filled with indefinite references, counteracts with. Maybe it’s an intelligible indefiniteness—I feel like the poems are disclosing everything through the syntax, while at the same time creating, through diction, an environment where nothing can be known.


In terms of how this obsesses me in my own work, I guess the first poem in California can be considered. Or, it may be easier with something smaller: “Things Reappear”:

Because the chair in front of you isn’t a base you don’t touch it when you pass by. The other players foul you for this.

See. What is, isn’t, but it also still is. It’s so hard to tell anything now. Everything means. And it means a lot. Also it is empty. The chair is the base that needs to be tagged because the players are there and they say it is, but also it’s not because it’s just a person standing in her living room. Basically this is what keeps happening through the book. Over and over again. Really in everything I write. I’m always trying to get inside the center of what something is, but I also need it to always have the possibility of being everything, or at least something else. It would be claustrophobic if I did understand something as itself. So I keep doing this thing where I need to arrive at a certainty through my correspondence with what is external to me, but I also need it to never be one thing. Is this about God, I wonder?

Read the whole conversation at Thermos.