Sunday, May 27, 2012
Poet Amaranth Borsuk: Talking with a visiting scholar at the Sherman Café
By Doug Holder
On any given day at the Sherman Café you can watch a passing parade of poets and writers while sipping your morning cup of java. Recently I have chatted with Julia Story, Joe Torra, Richard Cambridge, and Bert Stern to name a few. While at my usual appointment in the said café the parade stopped and left off Amaranth Borsuk. Borsuk joined me at my table and we discussed her life and work as a poet. Amaranth is a slight, 30 something young woman, with an engaging manner and an elfin smile. She is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT. She has a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California, and has been published in such journals as Field, Colombia Poetry Review, Colorado Review and others. She has a new collection of poetry out titled Handiwork that was selected for the 2011 Slope Editions Poetry Prize. Borsuk is particularly interested in the use of writing technologies by modern and contemporary poets.
Borsuk has been in Somerville for over a year, and resides in the Davis Square area of our town. She is originally from Connecticut, but has lived in Los Angeles while she studied for her PhD. She feels the poetry community in the Boston area is much more connected to academic institutions than the LA scene is. She regularly attends poetry events in the area such as the recent Mass. Poetry Festival and readings at Harvard. Part of her duties at MIT is to teach and she encourages her students to attend poetry events in the community.
Although Borsuk is a serious scholar she does not feel it has a negative influence on her artistic side. She said: “My scholarly work makes me more engaged. My deep analytical work helps me forge my own poetics.”
Borsuk is not only interested in the word, but also how poets throughout the years transfer the word to the literal and virtual page. For instance when the typewriter came into play it affected the writer’s style. Lines became more staccato-like—perhaps they were influenced by the insistent, sharp pecking of the keys. She is also fascinated by the way contemporary poets use borrowed texts from newspaper clips, legal briefs, to Holocaust testimony, and other bits and pieces to create poems. The poems are in essence made up by these selected and borrowed texts. Choice becomes part of the art of the poem.
Borsuk also experiments with a hybrid of digital/print forms of publishing. One of her innovative poetry collections gives you a website address where you can view yourself opening the book… talk about the whole reading experience!
Borsuk will be leaving Somerville in the fall but I am glad that she had the chance to bask in the rich artistic milieu our town has to offer.
What Is Withheld
I was entrusted with throwing bread
ahead of the weighlock so the boats
could skim a mealock without being
scenes. The one I loved had sea eyes,
made me green. When I say
boats, I don’t mean goats, but dogs.
Each one had several shames
so we called them Come-you,
from the glottal, a private stutter.
Come-you’s father gave me a letter
to toss across the sands. This was
long after apples disappeared
from shops. I was entrusted
throwing grass into moss. My favorite
thing: to eat book after book while
reading apples. The letter said wait
by the viburnum, which looks
away, then jump. His father paid.
A signist by trade, he rendered
the boards in local idioms
as Come-you changed. This was
many years before we met again
in the hearken, a marked growl—
before the stave and tale. When I say
hall, I don’t mean all or hole: a place
where every empty thing is saved.
Boat, boa, bowie, buoy, beau.
This was before they made the dogs
dig up their bones. Sometimes it is
not to believe. If it wouldn’t
happened to my loved ones I wouldn’t
--- Amaranth Borsuk