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Indigenous Knowledge Commons


Laurelyn Whitt’s Poetry: Interstices



Much of the poetry I have written to this point explores various types of interstitial spaces: those brought into existence by efforts to assimilate indigenous peoples and cultures; by the experiences of immigrancy and the tension between new and old worlds; by the co-existence of the natural world and the spirit world (i.e. of life and death); and by the constant mending and rending that is so often the stuff of love. More generally, my work addresses what is at stake (personally, politically and culturally) in the drawing and crossing of boundaries. Boundary-drawing, like boundary-crossing, is a process riddled with subtleties, ambiguities and hesitancies. The poems acknowledge this, respect it, but also resist it. They attend to various things: to the spaces that interstitial beings make for themselves within boundaries; to their diverse transgressions of them; to their unique responses to mediating what is bounded; and to the ways their own existence sustains, even as it challenges, the existence of boundaries. These themes continue in my current work. Academic, or scholarly, research tends to play a significant role in my work. When writing poetry about a particular phenomenon, I frequently steep myself for long periods in various studies (legal, historical, scientific, etc.) of the topic. I do not, however, try to import these into the poems; they are what bring me to the poems. And often what carries me through them. So I tend to end up bringing shelves of strange books with me to residencies: Black’s Law Dictionary, histories of immigration and of imperialism, research on animal behavior and cognition, texts on endangered languages, and studies of death and dying.

Raves and reviews for interstices:

“I’m reading Laurelyn Whitt’s beautiful new book in the light of the setting sun. A breeze thinks itself into desultory existence. A plume of smoke drifts over Utah Lake from a fire in Goshen. I decide to listen to some jazz while I read. But when I reach for a CD that feels wrong. The poetry is its own music; and the cricket-structured gathering twilight is perfect for these delicate poems about borderlands, interstices, ecotones, ambiguous creatures, immigrants hopeful and uneasy, displaced natives, uprooted languages, lost and remembered companions. …

… When the night finally falls and I can no longer read, I listen to a recording Whitt made of the poems, a response to the request of a sculptor sharing a residency in Maine. The voice is soft, precise, unassuming, powerful and personal. Intimate.“ — Scott Abbot, Catalyst

“Reading Interstices produces a sense of meditation and concern about the "gray areas” in life and culture. The poems deal with the black holes that thinkers peer into, the ethical twilights that confuse human beings, and the cracks that real people fall through in contemporary society The book deserves a careful reading. Indeed, it may need two readings to fully appreciate its depth. … The collection consists of three sections of relatively short, vertical poems surrounded by conspicuous white space. Deceptively simple, the poems proceed with restraint and elegance as they grapple with the ambiguity of borderlines, boundaries and indeterminacy.“ — Elinor Benedict, Mid-American Review

About the author: Laurelyn Whitt’s poems have appeared in various journals in Canada and the United States, including The Tampa Review, Puerto Del Sol, The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Malahat Review, PRISM International and The Fiddlehead. Her first book of poetry, Interstices, won the Holland Prize and was published by Logan House Press in 2006. Two chapbooks of her poetry have been published: Words For Relocation (Will Hall Press, Winner of the 2000 Norma O. Harrison Chapbook Competition), and a long dream of difference (Frith Press, Second Place in the 2000 Open Poetry Chapbook Competition). She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Science from the University of Western Ontario, is a Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Integrated Studies at Utah Valley University, and lives in the Rocky Mountains near Spanish Fork, Utah.

ISBN-10: 0976993503 ISBN-13: 978-0976993506, 89 pages, $12.00 Logan House Press, Winside, Nebraska: 2006 Holland Prize Winner