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Diode Editions is pleased to announce that Nancy Chen Long's full length poetry collection, Wider than the Sky, is now available for preorder.

WIDER THAN THE SKY by Nancy Chen LongWIDER THAN THE SKY by Nancy Chen Long

In her second book Wider Than the Sky, Nancy Chen Long explores the porous and slippery nature of memory and mind, memory’s recursive and sometimes surreal qualities, how recalling one memory resurrects a different memory, which then jumps to another memory, and then another, all connected by the thinnest wisp, as well as the breaches in memory—gaps, erasure, holes, disappearance. The book’s title is from Emily Dickinson’s poem “The Brain—is wider than the Sky—For—put them side by side.” In addition, the Dickinson poem provides a scaffolding for the book: Each of the book’s three sections opens with poems titled “‘Your Brain Doesn’t Contain Memories—It is Memories’.” Together, the three poems comprise a poetic sequence that is a golden shovel of the Dickinson poem and a meditation on memory, touching on the familial, generational, and epigenetic aspects of it.

One of the main motifs of the first section of Wider Than the Sky is that of memory as it relates to a child or childhood or when one was younger. In this section, a dying general remembers a particular mission when he was a fresh-faced fighter pilot in World War II, nymphs speak to Icarus’ father Daedalus after fishing Icarus out of the sea, and the youngest of a sibling group speaks to her missing brother about his twin sister: “Dear brother who has been lost for fifty years, / she’s spotted you a hundred times // wandering barefoot in the mud with a secret in your hand. / But she never finds you.” The second section continues with the motifs of the first and adds into the mix the mind in distress—the confusion and denial experienced by a young adult who is being sued, the aberration of revisionist history that distorts a social group’s collective memory regarding historical events, an adult recalling how she hid in a desert as a child. The third section carries on the preceding motifs, for example the individual and collective mental aberration that attends war. This third section also more openly explores the role of story and its impact on memory, mind, and identity.

Through form and content, the poems in Wider Than the Sky mimic memory, its recursive and sometimes surreal qualities, as well as memory’s mutability—conflicting memories among family members, changes in the collective memory of a society, a buried memory that is resurrected when one catches the scent of a forgotten perfume. The collection explores the role of memory in identity, the human brain’s need for story in order to make sense of the world, and how who we are is, in one sense, a narrative. “If light is to the eye as language is to the / mind, then memories are stories written upon the brain, / & to be written upon is to be forever changed.”

From Rebecca Seiferle, author of Wild Tongue and Bitters:

Reading Wider than the Sky is to encounter a world and a sensibility. With each poem firing as precisely as a synapse, interwoven into one shimmering neural net, Nancy Chen Long’s collection is a richly varied, acutely embodied exploration of how “our life is what our thoughts make it.” Eidetic moments, as vivid as the “star-nosed mole, / its many-fingered nose –a fan of proboscises” ground these poems where a child, finding a perfume bottle that once belonged to her grandmother, is “Suddenly…eating fruit in my memory, faint yellow slivers of stars, / juice running through my fingers.” The universality and specificity of human experience is profoundly felt in these metaphysical poems, interrogating and celebrating how being persists, “forever/home, forever foreign,” despite subjective and collective erasure –its aberrations, its genetic inheritances, its “scorched language,”— “creating/ourselves as we go.”

From Jessica Goodfellow, author of Whiteout and Mendeleev’s Mandala:

Empathic polymath Nancy Chen Long considers wide-ranging topics—from neurology to Emily Dickinson, from the big bang to Bible stories—as she interrogates the role of memory in the formation of our narratives and of our selves. Long portrays fleeting scenes from childhood onward—scenes which momentarily shine a flickering light on life’s big topics: the links between story and belief, forgiveness and biology, society and violence, language and loss. The reader experiences this unforgettable book in the same way a memory is experienced—as incomplete images infused with emotional wholeness, images that swell and recede and leave us changed for having been momentarily immersed in the intimacy between past and present that we call memory.

Further Reading from Wider than the Sky

About the Author

Nancy Chen Long is the author of Light into Bodies (University of Tampa Press, 2017), winner of the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry, as well as the chapbook Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2013). She is the recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship. Her work was selected as the winner of the 2019 Poetry Society of America Robert H. Winner Award and featured in Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Indiana Humanities. She works at Indiana University in the Research Technologies division.

nancychenlong.com

Laura Van Prooyen

Against Nostalgia

I’m not convinced that standing in the cemetery long enough for the slow dark to draw lightning bugs,

their fluorescence pulsing over my parents showing me their newly erected headstone, and where they’d like me to plant hostas and geraniums in the earth that will cover them

will do anything to relieve the coming grief.          They’re ready. Forever                               I’ve turned my eye to the future, blinked toward the new.

Once I thought tragedy would define me, something stray, a fast-moving object lodged into my brain.

What defines me is constancy of place, and my urge against it.

I’ve been going about this the wrong way, licking the same sore, gnawing on childhood, trying to bite away the fleas.

Laura Van Prooyen is author of two collections of poetry, Our House Was on Fire (Ashland Poetry Press 2015) nominated by Philip Levine and winner of the McGovern Prize and Inkblot and Altar (Pecan Grove Press 2006). She is also co-author with Gretchen Bernabei of Text Structures from Poetry, a book of writing lessons for educators of grades 4-12 (Corwin Literacy forthcoming 2020). Van Prooyen teaches in the low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program at Miami University in Oxford, OH. She lives in San Antonio, TX.

Read more in the Diode Poetry Journal

Updated: 3 days ago

From Rosebud Ben-Oni's Verve {In} Verse: In Conversation With KC Trommer:

Rosebud Ben-Oni: How do maps play a role in the collection? What is the speaker trying to find—and/or what is she trying to avoid?
KC Trommer: When I was little, my father used to hand me an atlas and deputized me to help us figure out how to where we were going. (More often than not, we were taking an epic ride in one direction or another between Maine and Connecticut.) I’ve always been fascinated by maps, especially by the blueprint-blue nautical maps that document all that you can’t see but need to know in order to travel safely along the coast. I wallpapered my bedroom maps torn from National Geographics, too, dreaming of other places to get to, so I suppose this has been a long obsession of mine: trying to document known places so as to navigate them safely, trying to find new places and stories. From a young age, I came to understand how much of the story we live in and tell ourselves is bound by place and how much changing the setting can change our lives. Maps do what I try to do in poems, to offer an account and exploration of what I can see and also to name and gesture at what can’t be pinned down—where the monsters and teachers are.

Read the full interview at The Kenyon Review

We Call Them Beautiful is a vibrant debut, filled with emergencies and responses to them. “This, all this,/is the making of you,” the poet KC Trommer writes, reminding us that what we live through changes us and the stories we tell about our lives. In these poems of love, pleasure, and survival, the poet navigates the cold menace of the Atlantic Ocean, the wild terrors of sex and carnival rides, the bittersweetness of watching her sleeping child’s quiet breathing, all while mapping the power, joy, and dangers of being a woman in the world. Drawing its strength from discovery, We Call Them Beautiful explores the necessary making and remaking of the self, through art and stories, while looking unflinchingly at the ways that time works on us all.

Praise for We Call Them Beautiful:

Rejoice all lovers of the word for the generous, gorgeous, and timely gathering that is KC Trommer's We Call Them Beautiful. The world needs these poems right now for they are fostered alike by Beauty and by Dread and they do what only real poems can: they leave us changed. We come away from reading them somehow feeling like the recipients of a benediction that makes us more merciful, more tender towards the world, towards ourselves.

—Lorna Goodison, Poet Laureate of Jamaica

KC Trommer’s brave debut explores the power in doing: seeing, naming. touching, marveling, grieving. Some of the most heart-wrenching poems in We Call Them Beautiful explore divorce—the rage, alienation, and disappointment. As Trommer writes, “Now is a matter of thinking of what tense / I choose to know you in.” As these poems wisely suggest, past, present, and future are all imperfect, but there is a hopeful courage in the voice: “Wherever I go, I am this woman.” This woman—this poet—is a force.

—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones

To be “broken and mended, broken and mended,” the poet, KC Trommer, writes for all of us, as she fearlessly and poetically confronts the corrosion—and tender maternity—of love’s scarred and unfathomable existence. —Emily Fragos, author of St. Torch

Assured and masterful in its compassion, KC Trommer’s poetry is a salvage and positively shimmering balm, always open to the quite miraculous, the delicate negotiations in realms of home, heartbreak, the Cape and city blocks, layers of subways and museum havens. If you are like me, repeating to myself her turns of capture and release, you will find these lines etched long in memory: these poems are a net of light, piece-by-piece bringing up the best in all of us and unmistakably making the day sing. —Douglas A. Martin, author of Acker

Among KC Trommer’s poems, one finds emergences, tests of bravery, and dollops of trust. Her poem’s utterances—sometimes turning on display, sometimes mercurially floating in a consuming element . . . sometimes nervous peerage into traps, sometimes celebrations of the security of confederation—are always a suspension of self-possession; hers are songs of the unrepressed and the eternal.

—Scott Hightower, author of Self-evident

KC Trommer is the author of We Call Them Beautiful (Diode Editions, 2019), as well as the chapbook The Hasp Tongue (dancing girl press, 2014). A graduate of the MFA program at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, she has been the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and her poem “Fear Not, Mary” won the 2015 Fugue Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in AGNI, The Antioch Review, Blackbird, Octopus, The Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry East, and in the anthologies Resist Much, Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance (Spuyten Duyvil, 2017) and Who Will Speak for America? (Temple University Press, 2018). She is the curator of the online audio project QUEENSBOUND. You can find her at kctrommer.com.