This is a Mining Town

Prevailing winds mounting,
the uproar of quartz and feldspar shifting underfoot
the indignities of a stripped mountain, flesh cut back
to reveal its inner being
the rooted canals, water long dried to minerals
the mouths of seas rubbed raw
shocks of basalt ballooning and freezing
shelf-life decay
impossible to meet with the eye.

They want concrete, not abstract
every rock an animal, every mountain a waste pile

Drink the iron crunch the anthracites smash your teeth
against the coal make it black make it uneasy make it

a river of expectations toppling like lava
erasure light and airy as tephra settling until hardened
cemented civilizations; this rivulet of fact
Pennsylvania harboured like a stillborn, Appalachians taking
every man in the state underground
blackening them and finally, closing all the lights
the last pull of oxygen from the lungs

When it feels good, suffocate —
suffocate ceaselessly and repeat. Collapse is inevitable,
lung or otherwise. This is a mining town.

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

I think there is this idea that inspiration only comes in waves but what’s more true is our desire to experience inspiration comes in waves. The world is always out there, happening, and it really comes down to how open we are willing to be, how ready we are to take the world inside and truly experience it. It’s exhausting to live in that space all of the time so I think that’s why there seems to be a limit on inspiration; we necessarily limit ourselves.

What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

My writing process for every poem is almost always the same. I sit down to write, spill everything out on the page in one go, and then leave it, hoping that someone else will come along and edit the poem for me. Easily, the editing process is the most dreadful part of writing for me; I spend most of my time pretending I don’t have to edit any of my poems until the time comes when I do. Something useful that I learned from one of my professors along the way is that in a first draft poem, the stanzas are not usually where they ought to be so I tend to start with this when I begin editing. I play with the arrangement to see if I can find a way to better express the intention of the poem or make it more accessible to readers.

This poem “This is a Mining Town” originally appeared in Agency & Affect. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 223 (Winter 2014): 12.

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