What makes poetry musical? What makes poetry pleasing to the ear? Poets use a variety of tools to achieve the musicality of poetry. In this selection from a long poem by Sina Queyras, she uses anaphora, the repetition of the first words of a line, to build both musicality and a strong, supple power.
Queyras repeats the words “out of” and sequences a series of nouns that build throughout the poem. Queyras makes connections that leap and spin on the screen in this poem; she invites readers to imagine both the concrete—apples, sparrows, wood and nuts—and the abstract—kindness and interestingness. Through this cascade of language, Queyras ultimately challenges us to imagine “a way out.” I am enchanted by the image of finding a way out on “loud red waves.” I hope you will be as well.
Sina Queyras is the author of the Lambda Award–winning Lemon Hound, Expressway (shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award), and the novel Autobiography of Childhood (shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award). She often writes for the Poetry Foundation and runs the online journal Lemon Hound.
From “Fleet of Nouns”
Out of kindness comes division and out of division comes apples and out of apples comes seasons and out of seasons comes gin and tonic.
Out of gin and tonic comes sparrows and out of sparrows comes nuts and out of nuts comes wood and out of wood comes a heated blanket.
Out of a heated blanket comes earwax and out of earwax comes a spinal column and out of a spinal column comes an orange cone.
Out of an orange cone comes Cormac McCarthy and out of Cormac McCarthy comes a long green ball of yarn.
Out of a long green ball of yarn comes an origami kayak and out an origami kayak comes blue stone.
Out of blue stone comes an elastic heart and out of an elastic heart comes a mauve conduit and out of a mauve conduit comes a black knot.
Out of a black knot comes gray interestingness and out of gray interestingness comes a folded compel.
Out of a folded compel comes a loud red wave and out of a loud red wave comes a way out.
“4. From ‘Fleet of Nouns’” Copyright Sina Queyras, reproduced with the permission of the author.
Julie R. Enszer, Ph.D., is a visiting assistant professor of women’s studies at the University of Maryland. She is writing a history of lesbian-feminist presses from 1969 until 2000 and is author of Sisterhood and Handmade Love. She is editor of Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. She has her MFA and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. She is the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.