After John Clarke
If not threads
pick words you tight guttural
The industries and sister
gas holes over easy listening
abridge themselves to en passant
offer road running as alternate
but rough design
Our land of deafening orange
trim has no relation
that turns the upper bridge to foam
once we note
of cosmic lust
and chronic rail travel*
*cosmic and chronic are interchangeable. Please switch them in your mind and reread the poem. Or don’t, I won’t tell anybody.
This poem is part of a series titled Whistle Stops: A Locomotive Serial Poem, which adopts the methodology of a Spicerian serial poem. Jack Spicer’s conception of a serial poem as “projective,” a term Charles Olson coins to describe dynamic verse, is, I think, particularly suited to a series of train poems. “Nov. 26th” is after John Clarke’s Fathar III poems. Clarke was a scholar of Olson’s work who died the year before I was born.
Whistle Stops works within a larger tradition of railway poetry. Think Philip Larkin’s “The Whitsun Weddings,” Thomas Hardy’s “On the Departure Platform,” and Allen Ginsberg’s Iron Horse. These male poets all incorporate the train as phallus image into the railway poem tradition. The Olsonian style of poetry has also been masculinized or deemed masculine over the years. So I stuck a vibrator in my poem (not the one above; you aren’t missing anything; it’s in another part of the series). My work is not a reaction against the railway tradition or the Olsonian tradition, but an unapologetically female addition to a movement that is and should be still in motion.
Emily Izsak recently completed her first year of U of T’s MA in English and Creative Writing program. Her work has been published in Arc, House Organ, Cough, The Steel Chisel, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and Hart House Review. In 2014 she was selected as PEN Canada’s New Voices Award nominee. Her chapbook Stickup is available at woodennickels.org (although there aren’t many copies left and if you message her on Facebook she will send you an e-copy for free).