Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: Night is Simply a Shadow

by lizard

A book of poems is usually a selection by the author, and shaped through the editorial process. Greta Wrolstad didn’t get that chance, so shaping her posthumous collection, Night is Simply Shadow (Tavern Books, 2013), came down to others.

I received my copy a few weeks ago, and before getting into the body of it, I checked any kind of guiding notation on how the book came to be. At the end of the book, the Editor’s Note describes how “accomplished” poems came to be excluded:

It is important to note that Night is Simply a Shadow is not a miscellany or “selected poems.” Rather, this book represents one answer to the singular question facing any editor of a posthumous volume: How does one create a book on behalf of an author without their aesthetic oversight and editorial input? Our answer was to view Night is Simply a Shadow as an individual volume, a unified vision. We found ourselves making the difficult decision to exclude some accomplished poems that we felt didn’t serve the overall trajectory of the book.

I’m a little disappointed to read this. In my first run through Greta’s posthumous publication, the voice of a young woman not even 25 years old is there, vibrant, and leaves me wishing for more. That more isn’t possible because of her death is one thing, but that accomplished poems were consciously excluded is, again, disappointing.

That said, I’m happy to finally be in possession of this collection, because it’s one I’ve been anticipating for years. In a post I wrote last summer, I said this:

I never met Greta, but we shared a mentor. Her tragic but sadly not uncommon fatality on a Montana highway snatched this young woman just getting started with her verse, her life. I imagine the poems that will never be written will forever ghost the margins of those who knew her.

This weekend, with the summer heat finally arriving in force, lots of people will be seeking relief by floating and swimming in rivers. As people are out enjoying themselves, please be careful. Though alcohol wasn’t a factor in Greta’s accident, it too often is a factor in motor vehicle accidents, so if you see someone too intoxicated to drive get behind the wheel, call the police. If that person is someone you know, talk to them, take their keys, do something, because entirely way too many people this time of year come off the river in no shape to drive, but they do anyways.

Ok, now a poem from Greta Wrolstad:

*

X-RAY

This is the film
where light plays out
its myth of truth
upon the body.
It is heavy under
the magnetic blanket. Standing here, the weight
of my body and this shield
is too much to bear.
You see, they’re mapping me.
It can be done, my skin a territory shielding shapes.
Something has cracked, pushed apart somewhere
in the dimness of my body.
And we believe pain to be a simple lack of order.

—Greta Wrolstad

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