Why I Chose Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s Interrupted Geographies for the Rumpus Poetry Book Club

Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s forthcoming collection, Interrupted Geographies, continues that conversation. Remember, to receive Interrupted Geographies and join in our conversation, you need to subscribe to the Rumpus Poetry Book Club by June 20! My favorite remains William Carlos Williams’s “Raleigh Was Right,” with its repeated lines: “We cannot go to the country / for the country will bring us no peace.” The country of the imagination is a place not merely of unspoiled nature, but of balance and harmony. &laquo Previous post like this

Why I Chose Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s Interrupted Geographies for the Rumpus Poetry Book Club

By Brian Spears
June 16th, 2017

I still remember the time many (many) years ago, as an undergrad, when my professor dropped Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and Sir Walter Ralegh’s response on the class and launched into a discussion of the pastoral tradition. I hope you’ll join us in discussing   this fascinating book during the month of July, as well as chatting online with Iris at the month’s end. It’s a utopia, which of course means it doesn’t exist. It’s fair to say Dunkle   sides with Williams as well (and not just because the third section is titled “Spring and All” and begins with a quote from that work). Years later, when, as I was putting together a syllabus for a survey class, I saw the many replies to this exhange   which followed. In the section on Pithole, she writes in the voices of women coerced into sexual slavery, the Methodist reverend who tries to bring education to the town’s children, and even about the unclaimed letters at the Pithole Post Office, which at the height of the boom was the third busiest in the state, after Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Dunkle’s geographies are varied but she spends a lot of time in a town called Pithole, PA, which was near Titusville, home to the first commercial oil well in the US. Even those rare places humans haven’t left the dominant impression are violent and cruel to something. Then, tents built from surrender
of white sheets. He is the Poetry Editor for The Rumpus, and teaches poetry at Drake University. and later in the same poem:
Then, on Holden Farm, the wildcatters dug a well deep enough
to find dark secrets that would flow without end. This is from “She Sits Like a Patient upon a Monument and Smiles at Grease”:
Two years ago, Cornplanter Township was barren. Pithole would grow to a town of more than 20,000 at its peak, but was almost deserted only a few years later, the land scarred by oil wells and fire which burned the hastily constructed town almost completely to ash. Cabins blinked small in the dusk. Cabins filled fast. Word spread fast–ricocheted across great shale valleys–
Everyday people came: some on foot, some on horseback,
some sunk in mud to their knees. There were only a few woodsmen who wove
their thin bodies between trees. The peace that Marlowe’s shepherd promised doesn’t exist, not on this planet anyway. Brian Spears’s first collection of poetry, A Witness in Exile, is now available through Louisiana Literature Press, and at his personal website. Dunkle spends even more time on the interruption of physical and spiritual geographies in this book. Dunkle chronicles the short life of Pithole in the second section of this book, and the geographic interruptions are plain to see from the start. More from this author → There was so much smoke. Before I tell you more, a quick reminder that in order to receive your copy of Interrupted Geographies, read along with the Poetry Book Club, and participate in our exclusive chat with Iris Dunkle, you’ll need to to subscribe by June 20!