Poet Of The Week

Marina Greenfeld

     February 1–7, 2021

Marina Greenfeld is a poet and editor living in Carrboro, NC. Originally from southwest Florida, she has lived in North Carolina mill towns for the last ten years. With an education in poetry, early modern lit and Slavic languages, and a long history of working in the service industry, Marina is currently looking for a new humanities discipline to resurrect. You can find her work in wards and the Elevation Review, and forthcoming in the South Carolina Review. This past fall, Marina was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in Natalie Eilbert’s MFA Application Bootcamp.

Author photo by Ziola Kowzan

How Else

 

You should have seen the deer here—

one came right up to me

that first afternoon I walked

to the Safeway, like it knew I was

only a temporary obstruction.

There are seals too; they bob

along the docks and blink

their snowy eyes right into mine.

Everyone here knows just what

to look at. The mountains

rise up out of the ocean

like white-capped tsunamis

except they never break.

I saw black fins cut the surface

of the stormy waters, and promised

I’d never speak of it to anyone

because how wonderful it’d be for once

to keep a secret for myself.

But I know you’d have liked them

even more than me. Did you ever

see anything until you knew

it was someone else’s? Did you hear?

I said the light through

this window is not golden.

It is white spots on the glassy

leaves and cool stirring stars.

Every time I look, I know

I won’t be here next time

the cherries ripen and drop

like angels to the sap-soaked earth.

 

Brooklyn Poets · Marina Greenfeld, "How Else"

Tell us about the making of this poem.

This poem came from a series of notes I’d made while working for a few months in a completely new part of the country. In it, I’m interested in the competing desires to authentically represent an experience that defies language to an absent other party, and to fail in doing so, thereby maintaining sole ownership of that moment. The poem uses the second person and takes the form of a fractured address in order to evoke a tension between intimacy and distance, what is desired and what is withheld.

What are you working on right now?

The last year has felt something like relentless transformation. I’m just beginning to write again after many months of feeling like getting by was the best I could hope for. I’m excited to be ready to talk (to myself at least) about some of that time. I am also fortunate to have other writers in my life who are supportive of the many forms that productivity can take.

What’s a good day for you?

There are so many things that could make a day good. I could find some new music that I love, read something great, go for a bike ride, do my laundry. If I manage to go to bed tired and wake up not tired, I’m very grateful.

Where’s home for you? How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other places you’ve lived?

The first home that I have chosen and made for myself is in Carrboro, NC, which is a small music and arts community adjacent to Chapel Hill, where I went to college. It’s a great town, and it’s been a warm and creative home for the last five years. This has been a difficult and uncertain time for us and many other towns with an economy so dependent on service industries. There’s been an ongoing struggle to preserve restaurants, venues and other businesses that are precious to the community, and I’m proud of the efforts people have made to care for each other here.

Spent any time in Brooklyn? If so, when and where? Share with us your experiences, impressions, etc.

I haven’t, but my grandfather, like so many American Jews, was born there and managed to raise several generations of Dodgers fans because of it.

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that where you live? Why or why not?

My corner of North Carolina is nestled between several large universities, which has resulted in a vibrant literary community in terms of readings and programming, but this last year, in the absence of that, I feel that my poetry community has become much more diffuse. I’ve been able to connect with both new and old poet friends virtually, which has been such a gift in an otherwise isolating time. Brooklyn Poets was one wonderful part of that effort!

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

Donna Masini and Miller Oberman.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

I’ve been fortunate to have many kinds of mentors in my life, and all of them probably influenced my writing in some way. That said, all my undying gratitude to Alan Shapiro and Michael McFee for their unparalleled dedication to not only poetry, but to education. Having teachers who truly loved teaching as much as writing has been a blessing I’ve carried with me after leaving their classrooms. They both instilled in me the importance of poetry’s social dynamic, and made me want to pay forward the generosity I’ve been shown in this community.

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

It feels perverse in this season of our lives, but I’ve circled back to Celan in the grief of the last months, and his “Corona” is resonating with me.

It is time the stone made an effort to flower,

time unrest had a beating heart.

It is time it were time.

It is time.

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

I have a theory that printers don’t bother wasting ink on the last two-thirds of Middlemarch anymore, but I can’t confirm it because I’ve never gotten that far. Otherwise, some poets on my list to dig into this year are Clifton, Nemerov, Cummings, Strand …

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’ve already exposed myself as a Middlemarch dropout, but otherwise I always read cover to cover, and sometimes have a few books going at a time. I never plan what I’ll read next, and if I do, I don’t stick to it. I tend to get in deep with an author and read all their work, only to wallow when I run out, until the next thing comes along. I always read physical books, and I never get rid of them when I’m done, which makes me really bad at moving. I take lots of notes on lots of little tiny pieces of paper. There’s one next to me now that says “his mind grinned inward at itself,” which is probably Steinbeck, but I’m pretty lax about attribution.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

I’ve taken up a few other voices in my poems before, but more or less they’re me. In the very long-term future, I’d like to experiment with how close to fiction I can nudge my poetry. On the other hand, I’m also interested in docupoetics. I think, though they operate differently, both docupoetics and novels-in-verse interest me in their focused exploration of a subject, and the way they open up potential beyond the scope of my voice.

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I really do love coffee shops, especially if I have a good window table. That can be great for writing. I like to read on the bus a lot, or in the car, if I can get someone else to drive. I’m very glad that I don’t get motion sickness. I’ve also perfected different ways to read while working at various jobs over the years, which adds a bit of a thrill to it.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate a flatter path,

And what I sowed you reaped,

For every scrape of the soil fills me as good as empties you.