Heidi Lynn Staples
The truth and beauty welcomed in Dog Girl is that nothing lasts, nothing is complete, and nothing is perfect. Staples continues the Joycean, Steinian and even Shakespearean wordplay evident in her first book, channeling it through a dizzying collection of formal structures—“Janimerick” through “Decemblank,” with haiku, sonnets, prose poems, nursery rhyme, and more. She draws her explicit subject matter from her own passionate marriage, her profound engagement with the nonhuman world, and a core-deep grief from a late-term pregnancy loss. Elliptical phrasing, puns, and formal inventions enact a speaker grappling with the limits of language but finding no other way to express her emotions’ extremity. Equipped with the best ear since John Berryman, Heidi Lynn Staples continues to plumb poetry’s ability to awake us to new ways of knowing.
“In Dog Girl, Heidi Lynn Staples dances on a tightrope strung between sense and nonsense, between adulthood and childhood, and the lyricism of her verbal acrobatics confounds and delights in the way only genuine poetry can. Staples takes the existing lexicon and wrenches words into position, then commands them to be other than what they were, much to the joy of her astonished reader.” —Christopher Kennedy
Fonder a Care Kept
I was barn. I was razed.
I was mot this flame with no’s sum else blue’s blame noir yearning down the
No, it was I and I blank I bandit blather that louse that fiddle-dee-dee little lame
chimera that came as the name yes different.
I wracked my refrain, that blousy souse.
I was bard. I was crazed.
I was dog girl’s shame.
So, I culled my maim. My maze read, you heave to rip rove your aim (she knock-knocks my nows and
raves my here a quickened tousle), spell your dreams with a big and, and play for the game.
I was har. I was phrase.
I was aroused by many’s uttered same.
Copyright © 2007 by Heidi Lynn Staples.
“Of the language-powered poets on the poetic landscape, Heidi Lynn Staples is one of the only ones whose heart powers the machine. To quote Franz Wright, she's more fun than a topless rodeo.” —Mary Karr
“Intricate maps of image, comedy, pain. Delicate juxtapositions. Balancing acts (axe). Heidi Lynn Staples writes a dogged poem. Words walk to a reader from unexpected corners, original places. Vibrant. Sustenance.” —Michael Burkard
“Staples’s sophomore collection is informed in equal measure by traditional English balladry and post-modern literature. Her taut lyrics reimagine the English language, pulling multiple meanings out of word-sounds, à la Paul Muldoon at his most nonsensical: I wracked my refrain, that blousy souse.// I was bard. I was crazed.// I was dog girl’s shame.// So, I culled my maim. Throughout these lyrics, prose poems and language sprays, Staples tempers her avant-garde tendencies with a folksy sentimentality. Though every commonplace trope and cliche is worried, torqued and tweaked—damsel in undress, I feels sad tonight, I wore my best address—the everyday matters of housekeeping, childbirth, marriage, sex and death are ever present. Occasionally the whimsy feels forced (an uber tuber super dooper doplar radar) but in her finer moments, Staples’s poems can be truly singular: leaves at full-tilt trillingly / a tremble is a hymn / ‘I’ a humble thrum’s fable.” —Publishers Weekly
“Many poems in the book garner their titles from the names of poetic forms spliced with months of the year, e.g. ‘Februallad’ for February and ballad. Several poems in this book are ekphrastic poems inspired by the Japanese photographer Kanako Sasaki whose photographs feature a lone young woman engaged in slightly subversive behavior. Throughout, Staples addresses themes such as sex, marriage, pregnancy, and miscarriage with the same jubilant wordplay. In ‘Margic,’ a [lyric] prose poem, she splices together the language of grammatical rules with the language of lust: ‘a come pound me subject me, a come pound me prettily, a come pound me sex instance, and a come pound me come sex me sex instance.’ . . . If sex and relationships are ordinary and commonplace, then the way Staples makes them unordinary is through linguistic excesses and ever-multiplying plays on words.” —Rain Taxi online
I was born in Dade county, Florida in 1971 and raised in the rural southeast. After receiving a BA in psychology from the University of Georgia, I worked for a year as an education associate for Planned Parenthood. I earned a MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University, where I was given a departmental fellowship and nominated for the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, for which I was one of ten national finalists. I then spent a year teaching English as a foreign language in Prague. Following my return to the U.S., I completed the coursework for a Ph.D. in creative writing at the University of Georgia. I have served as an assistant editor on Salt Hill and Verse, co-edited Parakeet, and worked as an editorial assistant for The Georgia Review. My debut collection, Guess Can Gallop, was selected by Brenda Hillman as a winner of the 2003 New Issues Poetry Prize. The book has been met with positive reviews in both online and print venues, with poems from the collection translated into Dutch. My illustrated chapbook Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake was recently published by 3rd bed. Dog Girl is my second full-length collection, and I’m at work on a third collection, Homebody. Poetry of mine has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Argotist (U.K.), Best American Poetry 2004, Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, Free Verse, Green Mountains Review, La Petite Zine, No Tell Motel, Poetry Daily, Ploughshares, Slope, and Verse Daily. I review poetry for various national venues and work as a fulltime freelancer. My interests include blogging (mildredsumbrella.blogspot.com), baking, literary fiction, environmental thought, women’s studies, and sleeping in the sun. I live in a coastal Irish village, Rosslare Strand, with my husband and young daughter.
What I enjoy most in an artistic statement are an account of the writer’s process and descriptive comments illuminating the work. What I dislike most are divisive assertions of aesthetic allegiance and grand proclamations. I’m going to say a bit about ideas informing the poems in Dog Girl. But I’d like to begin by asserting that for me a poem is a humble art form, a lot like a hand-knit scarf. When well done, it’s simply appreciated by the recipient and keeps that somebody warm.
During the time I started writing the poems that have gone into Dog Girl, I was reading up a bit on Japanese poetry forms and began experimenting with several. This reading and writing steered me toward the aesthetic values most overtly informing the book—the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which asserts the transient, the imperfect, and the incomplete as comprising the beautiful. Applying such values to communicative acts, few of the poems are austere in the way typically associated with the Japanese tradition.
Around the same time, I got married. A correspondence arose in my mind between my own experience cherishing a dynamic relationship and the definition of beauty put forward by Japanese aesthetics. With the idea of articulating this insight, I let the subject of my romantic partnership prompt my writing. Many poems celebrated the love I’d found. Some grumbled about its commonplace disappointments. A few observed companionship’s quiet pleasures. Then, I suffered a late-term pregnancy loss and was plunged into sorrow. My marriage and my pregnancy loss both brought about in me extreme emotional states. Reporting the facts, narrating the stories, or even employing iambics could not get the joy’s nor the grief’s measure. I think it’s fair to say intensity of feeling compelled most of the innovative strategies employed.
I’m pleased with Dog Girl because the work is unassuming yet ambitious both artistically and personally. Through the repeated act of attention, the writing of the work has made me more welcoming of life’s vagaries. I hope reading the book proves similarly worthwhile.