Excerpts from Elisabeth Workman’s poetry manuscript, You Always Live Again, a finalist for the 2015 TS Book Prize.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elisabeth Workman is a poet and writer with a background in dance. Originally from the pharmaceutical suburbs of Philadelphia, she has since lived in Boston, rural Pennsylvania, the Netherlands, Qatar, on/around the Standing Rock Nation of the Dakotas, and now Minneapolis. Her chapbooks include a city_a cloud (a text/image/form collaboration with visual artist Barbara Campbell and graphic designer Erik Brandt); Opolis (a text/image collaboration with Erik Brandt); Maybe Malibu, Maybe Beowulf; Megaprairieland; ANY RIP A THRESHOLD; with the poet Michael Sikkema, Terrorism is What Whale and the forthcoming Moon Poon; and, very soon, In the Event of Not-Having-an-Answer. Her first book-length collection, Ultramegaprairieland, was released by Bloof Books in 2014. YOU ALWAYS LIVE AGAIN is due to come out with Dusie this winter 2015/2016.
In July 2012 I had recently re-read Bernadette Mayer’s Memory, her own July project published in 1976 that sought to document via photography, sound recordings, & most dominantly, text, as much of each day as possible. At the same time Fanny Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans kept resurfacing to the top of my bedside pile of books—maybe compelled by wanderlust & frontiers & the lawlessness they foment, maybe because I was feeling a stranger in my own country while taking on the role of trying to raise a new citizen, or maybe, most simply, because I was in love with the name Fanny Trollope (that it was—to crudely translate from the British—a pussy slut who satirized early 19th century America). It wasn’t exactly writer’s block I was struggling with, but the hungry aporia of motherhood & poetry, the coincidence of the protective impulse to nurture & the creative impulse to destroy. My premise was simple—each day type a single-spaced page following Bernadette Mayer’s premise of writing non-stop whatever surfaces, knowing—& here I depart from BM—that I would return to these pages & redact, distort, or vandalize as necessary. Whenever I paused, I would pull from Fanny Trollope’s chapters on Americans, & integrate her language into my text, using it to spur a continued stream-of-so-called-consciousness. It was a way of sharing syntax with her, so that the consciousness was not exclusively my own, nor exclusively hers, but more of a messy permeability, a new memory of a non-event, a mutual decomposition. YOU ALWAYS LIVE AGAIN is sprawling and mutant and a response to the institutionalized misogyny, ~isms, and general fear of difference of a patriarchal creative writing complex.