Notwithstanding (poetry), Brit Washburbn. Published by Wet Cement Press.
110 pages, 4.25"x 7", Perfect Bound
Pub Date: 11/1/2019
Brit Washburn's Notwithstanding introduces a true talent, every well-crafted poem is as wise as it is earned. It is a book of love and loss and the sensuality of food and nature, qualities often blended in poem after poem. It's a book that stays home, “one season slipping into the next...” about which she says, “I’ve been through this before: I know how to eat and swim and sleep alone, how to savor a sensation without sharing it, how to carry on.” An exquisite sensibility at work here.
—Stephen Dunn, author of Whereas: Poems, (W. W. Norton & Company)
Each time I return to Brit Washburn’s sublime debut, Notwithstanding, I am reminded of Alain de Botton’s remark that literature is an instrument that sensitizes the reader to her world through the lenses of writers with “sophisticated radars.” To view the world through Washburn’s particular lens, is to perceive the numinous in the ordinary objects, routines, and constraints of domestic life. In a voice at once intimate and controlled, the poet takes pleasure wherever she can find it: soup, sex, fugitive fruit, the cant of light on a bed, the music of language in her mouth—even grief is made exquisite in its power to return her to the sensual world. Whenever I am inside Washburn’s poems the world grows realer, I feel more alive, sensitized again to all the beauty and precarity of my fleeting life.
—Lisa R. Wells author of The Fix,
(winner of 2018 Iowa Prize for Poetry)
If Brit Washburn were a painter she would be like Vermeer, following a certain slant of illumination into a dimly lit interior, drawing our attention to the pear on the table, or the child’s tiny curled hand. Here is a poetry of clarity and finely wrought detail, that never fails to render what is present, regardless of its tragedy or beauty, and insisting on both. The poems in Notwithstanding, hover, as the title suggests, between the presence of what is, despite that which is not. A lover whom we long for despite our leaving, the golden child we knew inside the troubled young man, the lives we build that fail to nurture us, what we ate, remembered, forgot to remember. Few poets venture into the shadows of romantic love and motherhood with the courage that Washburn brings, examining a decade of choices and their results with a clear-eyed measure. The language here is constantly pressing against the safe path, arguing for a life that is lived fully, tragically, joyously. What is the pleasure of now, these poems ask, the taste of ripe fruit, a child’s embrace? And what if now is all we have?
-- Barbara Roether, Editor, Wet Cement Press
In the Darkness
Again the voice comes that says
If I must fail, Lord, at least let it be
in private, quietly, so the defeat won’t be
compounded by the witness of it. Another
animal impulse, perhaps, like that
which makes the house cat leave the house
to die, thereby sparing its keepers
the unseemly grasping for breath.
Not to be dramatic. Life goes on and will,
more or less, it’s just
so tiresome sometimes, and
as Frost put it, I’d like to get away
from Earth awhile. Or at least from people,
with all of their well-meaning hopes for us,
their unspoken expectations, like that we continue
to put one foot in front of the other,
when maybe we’d rather not, maybe
we’d rather step aside, let the others go by,
just close our eyes for a moment
and float in the darkness.
Which reminds me, we never did
make it to that sensory deprivation
chamber you told me about.
It sounded scary, but intriguing, too,
and there’s the rub: the one that chafes
the brain on days like this,
existence a coarse robe the mind wears,
and all of us postulants.
But there I go again—
Forgive me. I’ll be quiet now.
Brit Washburn was born and raised in Northern Michigan, and educated at Interlochen Arts Academy, The New School, University of Hawaii, and Goddard College. She works as a writer, editor, indexer, cook, and baker, and lives with her four children in Asheville, North Carolina. Her poems and essays can be found in various magazines, journals and reviews, and at www.theoryandpracticeofbeing.wordpress.com, which consists of a reader’s reflections on religion and relationship, with recipes.