June 11–17, 2018
Lucy Ives is the author of the novel Impossible Views of the World, published by Penguin Press in 2017 and selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her writing has appeared in Art in America, Artforum, the Baffler, Frieze, Lapham’s Quarterly and Vogue, among other publications. In 2019, Soft Skull Press will publish her second novel, Loudermilk, or the Real Poet, or the Origin of the World. “Rue des Écoles” appears in the Brooklyn Poets Anthology, released last spring.
Rue des Écoles
Now lighter I took a step somewhere I was going, the streets
parted by a building with a face, and it was 1, noontime, hills
I could remember were definitely in the distance, climbers
you could hear in conversation, the reflected thump of
soccerballs, guides with flags or umbrellas, I remember
that it is moving day, you must meet for lunch, muttering
now, you know, snaps, clapping, it is another
way of saying that what happens next can’t be
seen, whiskers of ironwork form ferns and ivy, cast a complex
shadow over lots of hours: Please say something more, I’m
asking, please tell what comes next, but in a dream it hums and
refuses; dream does nothing, it is either gray
or gleaming nights and someone comes forward in such a
suit, someone is a sparrow or the muse, and I retreat, I mean
in the face of knowledge you can only
feel very sorry. For happiness and unhappiness
are the two proverbial verbs that fly together
and there is such a thing as The Past, so I
may know it, I may be certain of a thing. If someone pretends to hurt
me, I look away into a mirror. “It’s called thinking,” I say and
wash my hands. If ever there were a reason to look up let’s
look down, I’d say. I’d talk into a handheld recording device, yes
that is one way I would do it if … if …
It is late afternoon, I walk where I am meant to go though
it is late, I used to hate being encouraged by others to use what little
talent I had because I thought this would ruin my chances at
being really great at anything, and the person who speaks first at my
appointment is a florist, and she sells
grasses and tulips, she is saying that if she were
a writer, which she is not, she would just speak into a microphone and
later transcribe whatever she felt like saying. She must have
said that, though, “whatever she felt like saying” for I was
glad for her, for I knew she would be a very great writer
but she chose not to be one at all, because of her understanding
that it’s all very well and good, even if all the while you
imagine someone might draw apart the blinds, his expression like a
wave cresting at the mouth, new flesh, and the promise not of
happiness but of attention, adoration, sense, like …
like, not long ago when I felt little or no fear and saw the outline, a
face in profile weirdly twirling on a dangling length of wire, yes, at
this time, not long ago, I became not a singer but someone
who could hear the songs that are misplaced in things, a burden
I guess, but my suburban routes were never good ones, like,
the broken pen in the dirt with its chant about
blue, was I imagining this, was I mad. But the sun was already up, so
was no denying that time at least was passing, and elsewhere everyone
went on. I did not want to stop them from doing so
Please let me tell you, far be it from me. Thus I stood aside and let
the passerby pass me. I let whoever develop one’s career. This was not
merely right and fitting, it formed an integral part of the larger
story I was telling, an essay titled, NEW EARTH, and there where
you told me I was forgetful, I smiled. What could have led me to react in
a fashion I don’t know. What I do know is it was summer,
always summer, whenever you felt brave and said a thing to me
—Originally published in the Brooklyn Poets Anthology, Brooklyn Arts Press & Brooklyn Poets, 2017.
Tell us about the making of this poem.
I began writing the poem almost a decade ago, and I think it took eight years to finish. It’s about going for a walk on a street in Paris, but it is also about an extremely slow-dawning realization on my part that I was a) not particularly happy as a student, and b) coming to the end of a certain personal relationship. I have since completed my doctorate and am no longer in the relationship in question. Actually, it’s funny to write “about,” re: this. The poem may not be “about” anything. It happens to be vaguely concurrent with some events in my life. It’s more like a song than a description.
What are you working on right now?
I’m writing an introduction for the reissue of Lynne Tillman’s novel American Genius.
What’s a good day for you?
Get up. Coffee. Desk. [Two to four hours pass.] Other stuff.
What brought you to Brooklyn?
I was born in New York, in Manhattan, and grew up there. I lived in Queens for a while, too.
Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?
I live in Clinton Hill, but in fact I am about to move. I’ve been here for about eight months, and before that I was in Bedford-Stuyvesant. I feel completely overwhelmed by the prospect of trying to say what I like about things here and what is changing. Real estate has become so expensive that it’s difficult to think of anything else, though that pays no heed to anyone’s lived experience, save for the suffering these prices cause.
Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.
Humbly, may I direct you here?
What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?
I find this question intimidating. I prefer to have friends and let community be a word in institutional letterhead, I think. But, less coyly, yes, I have found some community here. I never lose the feeling of amazement that people who write understand each other so well and so immediately.
Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.
I feel very shy. I’ve met a number of people here who have been important to me, partially because they are great poets but mainly because they are wonderful humans. I’m hoping it’s OK to tell you that such people exist rather than listing their names.
Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?
I’ve mostly been influenced by independent reading and the Internet! I aspire to one day achieve mentee status.
Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.
I’m very interested in Clarice Lispector these days.
What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?
These questions are rough! What are you trying to do to people here? My hands are hurting just thinking about what I have to type or cut and paste into this space. Quickly: the corpus of the American, English and French social novel; all art-historical writing by women in the U.S. in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s; psychoanalysis: everything; American history: everything … I won’t go on.
Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?
I’m trying to read for pleasure more, but I do a lot of research in order to write the things I write, so I’m often working quickly and comprehensively. I’m systematic and, yes, I take notes.
What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?
There are too many things to count! But, most of all, I’d like to try one day to become someone else before writing a poem. That seems nice.
Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?
The subway and various libraries.
What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?
I am a fan of Williamsburg Bridge—for aesthetic and practical reasons. It is good for getting onto the island and for simply looking at. I also like that you don’t seem to be able to hang out on it unless you are a skateboarder or in some other sort of group or huddle. Everyone keeps it moving, which is nice. A little reflection and photography is fine, but not too much, please.
Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:
I celebrate something,
And what I something you anything,
For every something me as good anything you.