Circuit Theory

by Emma Bolden

Bolden.Circuit Theory

[Editor’s Note: Click on the triptych for a full view.]

Emma Bolden is the author of Malificae, a book-length series of poems about the witch trials in early modern Europe, published by GenPop Books in April of also 2013. She is also the author of four chapbooks of poetry — How to Recognize a Lady, published as part of Edge by Edge, the third in Toadlily Press’ Quartet Series; The Mariner’s Wife, published by Finishing Line Press; The Sad Epistles, published by Dancing Girl Press; and This Is Our Hollywood, forthcoming in The Chapbook – and one chapbook of nonfiction, Geography V, forthcoming from Winged City Press. Her poetry has appeared or will soon appear in such journals as Prairie Schooner, Conduit, the Indiana Review, the Greensboro Review, Redivider, Verse, Feminist Studies, The Journal, Guernica, and in Copper Nickel. She has been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. Currently, Emma is an assistant professor of creative writing at Georgia Southern University, and she maintains a blog at A Century of Nerve (EmmaBolden.com).

What do you make of your triptych experience?

When I was a senior in college, I took a drawing class because I thought that I was pretty good at drawing. After twenty minutes of our first class meeting, I started thinking that I might not be pretty good at drawing. After thirty minutes, I started thinking that I might in fact need to drop the class. We were all drawing a column of desks stacked on top of each other. On my classmates’ drawing boards, I saw columns of desks stacked on top of each other. On my drawing board, I saw several squares and several lines. Things were not going well.

I started thinking that there must’ve been something I wasn’t doing. As the class went on, I started thinking that perhaps there was also something I wasn’t seeing. When my classmates talked about their drawings, they talked about shadow and texture. They talked about gradient and light. When I talked about my drawing, I talked about tables. I talked about several squares and several lines.

Because I am a very stubborn person, I stayed in the class. I am also a very curious person, and I wanted to know what my classmates were seeing. I wanted to know if I could see the same thing, if the tables would ever turn into shadow and texture and gradient and light. I failed at the tables, and miserably. I failed at the potted geraniums. I failed at the series of bottles and at the series of chairs. I failed at the seashell – at first. And second and third. But some time around the sixth seashell, something changed. Suddenly, I wasn’t just looking at the seashell: I was looking around the seashell. I looked at the space it occupied, at what the light did in that space. I looked at the seashell and I saw what the light did there, too. Suddenly, there were so many kinds of light. The object was important, yes, but the light and space around the object were every bit as important.

This is exactly the experience I had when writing the triptych. The central piece was important, yes, but so what the space around it. I could use that space to open up a moment, to show how thought and narrative aren’t isolated elements, to show how one moment and one thought and one narrative can create more moments and thoughts and narratives. I could let the reader in on that process; I could show how the mind words, how it connects and re-connects, how it creates and re-creates new meaning. Suddenly, there were so many new possibilities of and for and in language. There were so many kinds of light.


Congrats to Christopher Allen for having a work from HOUSEHOLD TOXINS being chosen to appear in BSF 2019 from Sonder Press.

Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

New titles available from Robert McBrearty and Tori Bond.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now CLOSED. Check out our new category triptychs! The submission period next opens March 15, 2020; submit here.


01/20 • Francine Witte
01/22 • Jennifer Delisle
01/23 • Maureen Alsop (4 of 12)
01/27 • Abby Manzella
01/29 • Lynn Finger
01/30 • Maureen Alsop (5 of 12)
02/03 • James Ducat
02/05 • Kathleen Hellen
02/06 • Maureen Alsop (6 of 12)
02/10 • Nicole Hebdon
02/12 • Steve Cushman
02/13 • Maureen Alsop (7 of 12)
02/17 • Madison Frazier
02/19 • Gail Geopfert
02/20 • Maureen Alsop (8 of 12)
02/24 • Kenneth Pobo
02/26 • Miranda Campbell
02/27 • Maureen Alsop (9 of 12)
03/04 • John Meyers
03/05 • Maureen Alsop (10 of 12)
03/09 • Grant Faulkner
03/11 • Maureen Alsop
03/12 • Maureen Alsop (11 of 12)
03/16 • Tara Laskowski
03/05 • Maureen Alsop (12 of 12)
03/23 • Kim Chinquee
03/25 • TBD