Wreckage / Gretchen Henderson

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Gretchen E. Henderson is the author of Galerie de Difformité (&NOW Books, 2011) and On Marvellous Things Heard (Green Lantern Press, 2011). She received the 2010 Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer's Prize and is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT.

Gretchen E. Henderson’s Wreckage is entangled as it entangles, netlike, the lonely history of the “wild surmise” (Keats) of colonialism. In ripe language saturated with serpent-like, sea-evoking sibilants, Henderson maps the deterritorializing territory of the ocean, the void, the voyager “In the shallows (wreck- / age) among shoals / of sheol, shell of soul.” In spite or because of the always-palpable pressure of horror, these poems move with abounding grace, like Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, into an ecstatic embrace of “happy living things! no tongue / Their beauty might declare: / A spring of love gushed from my heart, / And I blessed them unaware.” So too are we blessed by these gorgeous and mysterious poems.

~ Joshua Corey


Time passes without notice.
Above berth, you forget acanthus, rip-
tides, gulls. The portolano does not
feature this stretch, only dark
arcs suggest a flock. Birds, mere
blots. All coordinates may be
rumour. The inland is like that:
fabricated. There may be no rivers
or mountains. (Look above, no
gulls; nothing matches—the legend
included a dove.) If the voyage has no
end, maybe it was mistold from
the beginning—
Wind whispers & pivots
slowly, under cloudiness, filtering
curves, shavings, splinters in-
side stars. Compass roses (for eight
winds) cast arrows again. Culpa de—
rhumbs keep tracing moors, anchor-
ages, pointing toward alleged safe seas.

(Under the surface, serpents sleep.)