As part of Canisia Lubrin’s (Dis)Order: The Single Question Series, Allison LaSorda answers a single question about her work.
Q: Writing converges different forms of knowing in ways that allow for the possibilities of knowledge to become particularly expansive because this seems to require listening for what is unknown to us. There exists a vitality that moves a thing from language to idea to fully-realized act. We mostly call such a thing vision, which implies form—whether poetry, fiction, stage play, etc.—and an amalgamation of copious other factors. What does this convergence mean for you as a poet—particularly in the context of your debut poetry collection Stray?
When I started to think about this question, I looked at convergence in its scientific sense. In biology, convergent evolution is the process whereby organisms that are not closely related independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches.
If environment is the poem, the organisms that are all of its parts must constantly adjust and grow or shrink. Writing adapts to its own demands for fluidity, arrest, or momentum. In my first collection, it felt more natural to me to be generous with creating, that is, to not impose too much of an overarching, prescriptive vision and let myself move through language and its strange associations. This might mean that I’ve dwelled too long on certain ideas across a number of poems, or that in drafting a new form it has swelled out of intention into a superficial knowing, even an absence. Occasionally, things align. The argument(s) of the poem might not be resolved, but at least I’ve pushed them to evolve.
If environment is the poem, the organisms that are all of its parts must constantly adjust and grow or shrink. Writing adapts to its own demands for fluidity, arrest, or momentum.
When I think about how my writing starts, the impulsivity in generating ideas, I recognize that I must approach from several directions. I need to fail. I stop and start and hold out hope that my crafting and my concept will converge. I turn things around or give up and begin again with a difference, and can end up arriving at a totally similar tone. Perhaps this means I am not listening well enough; on the other hand, it could mean that I haven’t established a firm grip on what I was attempting to understand or why it is inscrutable to me.
There is something to be said for misunderstanding. Listening to what is unknown, and exploring it within the confines of traditionally structured language, can lead to dead ends, more questions, or obscurity. Unrelated subjects and forms and meanings get tangled in their convergence; one can untangle them or one can point to it and say, this is a mess, let’s pay attention, or one can trace back how and why these things became ensnared. In spite of a completed book, I continue to be fascinated by both the convergence and divergence of intention and outcome, and this keeps me writing.