Unsprung is a collection of poetry threading themes of awakening, uncoiling, and unfolding as part of the transformative process of discovering poetic voice experienced in the School of Letters Program. The word “unsprung” has been with me throughout the past four years of study, perhaps jumping into my mind the first semester as an eastern racer snake darted across the path on a hike to Morgan’s Steep. It became “the summer of snakes” with a languid rattlesnake by the mailbox on Clara’s Point the first week, followed by multiple kingsnake sightings and sentience of anything snakelike on the trails. A metal pole masquerading as a rusty cobra startled me most every morning along with endless Moses snakes (sticks that look like snakes). It was the beginning of a heightened awareness, a feeling of waking from a long sleep into creative, kundalini-type energy.In Hindu mythology, the term kundalini is associated with snake imagery, something that is coiled. It is also associated with female energy, emanating from the base of the spine, “a fierce and powerful energy that works according to her own sense of timing...that can be thunderous, destroying whatever energetic attachment is obstructing her free flow.” Seeing a plethora of snakes and continuing to hike past the fear each day took some gumption. While each summer semester was different, I realized I had to release control and allow myself to feel unhinged to get fully into embodied writing.This collection of twenty-six poems is divided into three sections: Awakening, Uncoiling, and Unfolding. Each of the three sections has an epigraph to further anchor its theme. There is a mixture of styles and formats throughout, weaving narratives of past, present, and future in the same way memories ebb and flow. It is the movement of remembering, past and present, reality to magic surrealism, humor to blunt truths—that move the reader through the collection, uncoiling and revealing, in the same way life unfolds.In the first section, Awakening, the collection begins with present action in “Beside Myself,” a poem that pulls with the first line of “breaking a dish was satisfying,” and flows without terminal punctuation as syntax runs over each line hung by enjambment. Sometimes, one must break something to fix it. The image of shattering an object once perceived valuable felt like a good opening for a collection of self-discovery.The first section continues with standard narrative stanzas of metaphor and alliteration, weaves to poems of childhood memories, moves to short bursts of prosetry, and caps-off with “Awake,” set in the present. In deciding the collection’s arrangement, I created metadata tags and notes of repetitive themes as an ordered flow. The poems carry themes of waking up, drowning, December, coming of age, treatment of women, death, wanting to be released, freedom, and interconnectedness in nature and life. Ultimately, I think the section addresses the question of “can one re-wake from what once felt dead inside.”
Section two is titled Uncoiling, and engenders movement of release from a tightened state. It begins with “Ophelia, the Rattlesnake Goddess, Speaks” that addresses the empowerment of women, while being misunderstood and placed in an agitated state as the character of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Section two continues with poems of female anatomy, ideas of missing body parts, vulnerable women in “Well-Traveled Nothing,” tough, country bumpkins in “Tao of Misti,” and women questioning relationships in “To a Wonderful Weekend @ 35,000 Feet.” There are themes of travel, movement, and starting over in life.
Section three, Unfolding, reveals and discloses more intimate life details as narrative continues to unfold, moving between past memories and present. It is a familial bond in “My Nana’s Pajamas,” seeking meaning in “Vestigial Digit,” life unfolding in “Symphony in Pink,” and larger questioning in “Dear God” and “Grim Reaper.” There are poems of body awareness, feeling hobbled, and feeling free as the section winds to the purpose of writing in “Ars Poetica.” In the last poem, “Antipode,” themes of the collection are pulled together and collection images such as snakes, beaches, dishes, pizza, drowning, tears, travel, feeling upside down, and rescue are repeated.Each semester of study, my writing was influenced by courses in literature. Modern British Poetry brought the character of Salome, a temptress referenced across literature genres. Kurdish Poetry & Translation brought introspection of the delicacy of word choice. Did the character “exhale” or “sigh”? It matters. Faulkner gave permission to weave words and thoughts without apologizing for the Southern Gothic writer inside of me. Autobiography led me to think about how we tell our stories, what we leave in and leave out.Ultimately, it was Poetry Workshop that honed my skills as a writer. It taught me how to read poetry, provide constructive feedback to colleagues, and discover my voice as a poet. Imitation exercises, generative writing prompts, sensory writing, and exploring concepts of duende and embodiment made this possible. Each semester was unique as classmates’ varied backgrounds and styles. Reading other’s writing and sharing the process of editing made for a fuller experience. Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the unique, academic setting nestled on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau.It was on the trails of Sewanee that Unsprung was born.