Saturday, January 21, 2017

Poem366: THIS COALITION OF BONES by Cori A. Winrock

I had exactly one friend on Friendster: poet Cori A. Winrock.

Back when I was editor-in-chief of Mid-American Review, I knew I had to have a poem by Winrock. In fact, it was such a good poem that I was desperate for it. Not many poems like that come along in an editor’s life, and when they do, you’ll move anything in your path to make that happen. 

Cori’s contact information wasn’t working—the e-mail was defunct, maybe?—and because of a looming printing deadline, I had to reach her quickly by other means. If I remember correctly, she had listed her university information, but she was no longer there, and from where I stood she was simply lost in space.

I turned to social media. For the youngsters reading, before everybody universally decided to use Facebook, there was something called Friendster. I saw that a Cori Winrock (and really, how many Cori Winrocks could there be?) had a Friendster account, and so I friended her, or Friendstered her, or whatever you called it.

I accepted the poem via Friendster. A weirded-out Cori Winrock gave her permission for us to print the poem. She kindly disguised the weirded-out part, for which I am eternally grateful.

I should be ashamed of that story—Friendster-stalking a poet—but I’m not, for two reasons. One, Friendster membership shaves at least twenty years off anyone’s estimate of my age, and today is my forty-eighth birthday. Twenty-eight looks good on me.I’ll take it.

Reason two, though, is even more to the point: When you encounter the poetry of Cori Winrock, you know you’ve found something special, and you’ll go anywhere to get it. You’ll even stumble aimlessly among the indy bands and artsy happenings promoted at the grandfather of all social media platforms.

I spent much of this historic day of women raising their voices reading Winrock’s first collection, This Coalition of Bones (Kore Press, 2014), and it was just what the occasion called for: a woman’s sensibility, probing deeply into the physical and metaphysical world.

I found a blurb by Deborah Fries to be particularly apt: “Winrock’s scientific knowledge fuels a sensibility of uncovering the skin of the world, interpreting how interiors work. … Sometimes we escape our suburban homes by shining a light on our hands.”

I’ve been flipping through the book, looking for a perfect handful of examples of Winrock’s style—but what I found was a distinctive poetic voice that comes through in numerous styles. A meditation on feet formed the framework of a poem I found striking, so I offer this excerpt from “The Anxieties of Feet: 52 Rroma Bones”:

The cold runs beneath
this bridge
of ball & heel.
Why ask the worry
of toes? My bare feet
are as silhouette
as zigeunernacht
birds, they fly off
as ash. A beautiful pair once
arched as the f-curve
in a cello. 


Inside this house, this soft
gray matter of your heart, the only thing
I see is a death of ancestress: footboys
chattered through; the long yawning
of winterings.

Winrock takes her topic to such an unexpected place, and that’s something she does again and again throughout the collection.

So many of Winrock’s poems are nothing short of heartbreaking, like in “The Flatness of Our Landscape Gives the Sky a Chance”:

You sit in the drained pool of our backyard:
water & loss are things one gets

used to in small doses—
         teaspoon to teaspoon.

I stand in the windcurrent of our once living
rooms, the house now burned

down to bare plot. We sleep on
         the lawn until snow.

At night the flashlight dilates
beneath your webbed toes—the red itself

webbing. & every so often I leave you 
         a note in the galaxy

of your hair’s receptors—I don’t want to be
         an example of lost evidence.

There is such longing in those lines, so sweetly painful to encounter.

Just as notable is the very close attention to the body Winrock offers, with arresting images on every page, as in “Pulling the Ocean From a Harmonium (II)”:

Sometimes the little tender-meat-
noise, baby—toothache & plink
then tendon: an organ playing

Win rock also describes “Thick night caught like hair / in a drain,” or notes, “cows thump our car blindly—caskets knocking loose in a marsh.” There is just so much to see in these poems, and though the work in this collection is very diverse, I recommend all of it.

And I don’t just say this because of the Friendster thing.

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