Let there be too much. You will know
it when you see it. You will call it
what it is. Most days, the sky seems a kind
of diagram, today’s being
the shape of what you will
not know when you need
to most. More and more, I am
tired, desperate, desiring also,
and waiting. For what? For years,
this has been happening. Once, one time,
I stayed late with him. Night normally
a kind of concession, but not
now. That now that now
means then. We were walking
back along the highway. I looked
at the face of my friend who had the face
of a friend. Who had done this? His hand
wide along the wide
end of the open elk’s neck,
gone because too little
blood left in, too much
time gone, going. The night
was written out above.
What did we know? The field we laid
it down in was blank.
No death was not our own.
Questions and Answers
Owen Torrey is a writer and student from Toronto. His poetry and non-fiction have recently appeared in CBC Books, Hello Mr., Exclaim!, The Harvard Advocate, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere. He has been featured at the Toronto International Book Fair and long-listed for the 2020 CBC-Radio Canada Poetry Prize. Owen is currently studying History & Literature at Harvard University.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
For parts of the past year, when routines of daily life were particularly narrow, I looked for beginnings of poems in the things most proximate to me: neighborhood elm trees, jars of pickled okra, the things I was reading for coursework. I study history, so these readings were often about the past. After losing the ability to write for months, it was both a joy and a surprise to find ideas for poems tucked away in archival sources—recalled scenes, scraps of phrases, other voices to be in dialogue with on the page. One source I read described what might seem, at first, like an improbable poetic subject: a history of elk population management in Ontario. Months later, however, I was surprised to find traces of that reading surface in the poem published here. It was a helpful reminder, for me, that “inspiration” is something that often takes time to accumulate and develop, before it circles back unexpectedly on the page, as an echo.
How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?
I wrote this poem in early winter last year. The first half of its opening line (“Let there be too much”) had been hovering in my head for a few days. I tend to need a firm first line before I can begin to draft a poem—it’s something to grasp onto and jimmy a bit, in order to open up the space of the poem itself. Once those five words were on the page, a full draft followed quite quickly. The most substantial revision the poem then went through was a formal one. I attempted various things: welding the lines into couplets, stitching them together into one uninterrupted stanza. Nothing felt quite right. I ultimately arrived at the poem’s form as it appears here—a collection of separate, single lines—which felt immediately right, for the extra air it allowed the page to hold, the distinct attention it gave to each fragment of line.