Meg Day, recently selected for Best New Poets of 2013, is a 2013 recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry and the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize (forthcoming 2014), When All You Have Is a Hammer (winner of the 2012 Gertrude Press Chapbook Contest) and We Can't Read This (winner of the 2013 Gazing Grain Chapbook Contest). A 2012 AWP Intro Journals Award Winner and 2014-2015 Steffensen-Cannon Fellow, she has also received awards and fellowships from the Lambda Literary Foundation, Hedgebrook, Squaw Valley Writers, the Taft-Nicholson Center for Environmental Humanities, Point Foundation, and the International Queer Arts Festival. Meg is currently a PhD fellow in Poetry & Disability Poetics at the University of Utah. www.megday.com
Praise for Last Psalm at Sea Level, winner of the 2013 Barrow Street Press First Book Prize in Poetry:
Lovely does not suffice, nor does lyric. Eloquence is only a grasping in the space of ineffable air. There are few words or phrases that do justice to the soul singing its own revelations. That place is where Last Psalm at Sea Level lives, where it is as solid as gold burning itself into light.
—Afaa Michael Weaver
The vivid impermanence of the body is like kindling catching, a source of fire for Meg Day, a poet whose fearless heart is tethered to the world. This is a commanding book and a portent for the vitality of poetry.
The ravishing poems in Last Psalm as Sea Level reveal a world that is itself always more than one thing at a time, in which joy and possibility inhabit precisely the same flesh as trouble and grief. The result is a collection whose perpetual and dazzling transformations are rooted in the world as it is, poems full of mirage and surprise, brash and dizzy with their own discoveries and inventions.
Meg Day writes: "At five, I pressed my lips to the grate of my grandmother's/ Crosley, let broadcasts buzz into the pipe of my jawbone/ & learned to listen with my tongue." And this deep listening is, indeed, what she accomplishes throughout these poems. Meg Day grapples with serious themes—illness, violence, suicide, grief—with admirable skill and approaches issues of sexual orientation, identity, and gender with a true poet's passion, as in her tour de force, "Batter My Heart, Transgender'd God": "Terror, do not depart/ but nest in the hollows of my loins... My knees, bring me to them; force my head to bow again. Replay the murders of my kin until my mind's made new"... This is muscular language, worthy of its inspiration.
In this writing, the poetic is political; through this investigation the body of the person and the body of the poem both move in new ways. "I am not praying./ I'm longing," Meg Day writes in an early poem, and that longing sounds a certain thrum under all the noise of the world: "Come home. Come home."
"Sometimes, in dreams, I lie awake—the helm/ held by my knees—& steer my craft along/ the shore, searching for light to lead me home. " Meg Day's eagerly anticipated first book, Last Psalm at Sea Level, is a search for home shared by both reader and writer. The roads are unmapped, treacherous and full of uncertainty. What we are certain of is the poet's ability to guide us through. Her poetry is at once patient and urgent, provocative and profound.
Hymn to a Landlocked God
Perhaps as a boy
you, too, saw
these stallion clouds
& knew a sky
with no blue
was a sky too
reverent to be
is the moon flag,
not the moon,
& you came
to know praise
as vertical only
because the earth
refused your reach.
There's a tear
in the sky tonight
like the shriek
of a frightened mare
or the long wail
a saxophone makes
on a corner at dawn
& this is how I know
you are a woman:
we are both broken
in two by our own
creations. I have
looked to the west
in search of water
& the sheer faces
of so many boulders
stare back, their bodies
bent in genuflection
at the altar of the sky.
Why have you made me
know the sea?
Make me a bird, Lord;
make me a man.
Make me a barn
with a spine so swayed
it pulls back my neck
to crane toward the sky.
Last Psalm at Sea Level
hiraeth n. a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home
which maybe never was
Sorrow, I have nowhere to go.
We meet at dawn, your face
always the ceiling, your body
its own beast wedged between us,
hooves against my chest,
their weight a violent kiss
made gentle by the gravity
of sleep until the sun rises
A thousand miles
from here there is a forty-three
hundred foot drop to the forgotten
syllable of her name that sometimes
surfaces at night like a buoy in my mouth
& bobs through the jetsam
of homesickness that pollutes
even my dreams:
she is a lighthouse,
& I do not wish to be the sea.
Sorrow, I have cried out my own
name without California's for so long
it might as well have been a prayer.
Sorrow, I'll bury my woman
heart in the hard bed of this valley
& let it sleep like the fish frozen
among the boulders in the Provo River
or the memory of a childhood
desire to be a boy on a horse
with a rifle of his own—
I will follow your hoofprints anywhere
but to the shoreline that made me
a tidepool instead of solid stone. I wish
instead for a field of corn: I wish for a season
that does not begin with the quick tides
of ache. I wish for a compass that leads
me like a horse to water, but leaves me
at the edge of an unfenced field
& I wish the god of this place would
come down from the roof & wake
On Nights When I Am Your Husband
It takes until morning to realize everyone thinks I am
the man you sleep beside at night & scold in daylight
for toilet seats or beard clippings, the man you chose
to bring home bacon & fry it or otherwise participate
in satisfying strange, anachronistic proverbs involving pigs.
Sometimes all it takes is a tie—but more often a suit—
to bind our twosome into something altogether common:
you, in your hourglass & heels, me in my narrow pleats.
I wouldn't call our camouflage deliberate; I wouldn't
wake with recognition if it were. But on nights when I am
your husband—& the elderly woman at the symphony
pats my hand & calls me son—I wish I knew how to be
that man, if just for an instant. I wish I knew to turn to you
with the veneration of a spouse, to feel the law make firm
the ground beneath my knees as your brilliance pulls me
to them. Love, I will have you & hold you for all of my days
but on those nights, let the whole house know it
with their failure to notice; let their oversight be our refuge
& let the privilege of our brief ruse unite us, as some
shared reverie would, when morning finally comes.