The American writer M. Bartley Seigel is in residence in Tartu from February until May 2015.
M. Bartley Seigel is the American author of This Is What They Say (poetry, Typecast Publishing, 2012). His poems have appeared in numerous places including DIAGRAM, Forklift Ohio, H_NGM_N, Lumberyard Magazine, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Wheelhouse. He is the co-founder, co-publisher, and co-editor at [PANK] Publishing — PANK Magazine & Tiny Harcore Press, and associate professor of creative writing and diverse literatures at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michign, USA. He is currently a visiting professor at Tartu University where he teaches courses in American literature and creative writing.
Seigel’s first book of poem’s, 2012’s This Is What They Say (Typecast Publishing), articulated a poetics of untold working class desire emanating from the derelict factories and abandoned barns of America’s upper Midwest. The poems represent an accounting of how it feels to grow into adulthood amid a first-world wasteland: the slow burn of homemade liquor, the bone-deep ache of a cavity, and the keen of metal against glass.
“This Is What They Say introduces us to a poet of intensity and passion who sings against the backdrop of a world we know intimately, but which he has shown to us with new eyes. Dark and humorous, these pieces revel in language as they illuminate with imagery. M. Bartley Seigel is an important poet writing about a time and place that matter.” –Laura Kasischke, author of National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Space, In Chains and The Life Before Her Eyes
“These graceful miniatures of the rural-minded and heart-weary are stirring, subtle, and true. Seigel, with his startling observations, will have you swearing to pay more attention to the world.” –Deb Olin Unferth, National Book Critics Circle Award-finalist for Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War
“Seigel writes poems that aren’t afraid of the dirt under their nails—that stink of cigarettes and rotted wood, abandoned gas stations and stagnate water, of leaky faucets and kerosene, ex-lovers and old parole officers, of black eyes and bad blood.” –John Pursley, author If You Have Ghosts
Artist-in-residence statement: I will be using my residency to complete work on my second book of poems, under the working title The Tenement Sonnets. I was told once by a mentor that a poet should never excuse or explain away a poem, but as an artist-in-residence statement demands a certain kind of justification, I’ll venture, however tentatively, that these poems in their current state of evolution are reflections upon the obsessions of middle age, upon time, love, family, and desire, upon the body’s location in nature and myth, mixed up with a mounting sense of doom, and set amid the beautiful confusion of our current moment. If my first book was a collection of prose poems wherein the form and language was intended to capture a snapshot of a particular place and people at a particular point in economic history, in this new manuscript I am experimenting primarily with open form sonnets, most constructed simply of 14 10-syllable lines, which seems like a pretty good working metaphor for my subject matter, like our bodies, like language, balanced in the present between the formalities of the past and the possibilities of our tomorrows.
selection from The Tenement Sonnets
If I could learn the ticker tape ticking
from between your clenched teeth, fathom the words
inscribed there, I might snap my fingers bright
in the light moment, crack the lock on this
bone box and tattoo you again in moons
above the velvet of my trembling fear.
Would you help wipe away the weeping ink
with your heart, rewind the spring assembly
to set gears in motion again? Gypsy
moth, candle light, this night of stars, this hiss,
this stink of singed hair, I wear juniper
against moments like this, to remind me
of when we first rose flushed, grand, and naked
from the dark waters of our hidden lakes.