M

Magnetic

by Heather Altfeld

Who returns to the same place
as though the anniversary of its absence
was in need of a reminder of its presence?
Birds and murderers, stricken as they are
by the power of wings and blood.

Heather Altfeld is a poet and essayist. Her first book of poetry, “The Disappearing Theatre” won the Poets at Work Prize, selected by Stephen Dunn. She is the recipient of the 2017 Robert H. Winner Award with the Poetry Society of America and the 2015 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. Her poems and essays appear in The Georgia Review, Lit Hub, Narrative Magazine, Conjunctions, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, ZYZZYVA, The Los Angeles Review, and other literary journals.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Magnetic”?

My name is Heather Altfeld, and I have a long-form problem… That is to say, I have very, very few poems that are less than a page long, and I feel somehow that my work is ‘incomplete’ if it is short. I am usually not much of a candidate for the Compressed Arts! But I began a longer poem about the idea of “returning” earlier this summer and decided to see what would happen if I broke the poem into several poems rather than trying to exert my usual stretching force upon it. San Quentin is the imagined setting here, with its strangely gorgeous view of the entire San Francisco Bay, the cacophony of marsh hawks and herons and humans who suffer and caused suffering all present in the same landscape.

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