Instructions for Killing the Jackal
Black Lawrence Press 2011
As I waded into Erica Wright‘s first books of poems, I immediately became not only aware of my gender, but the event that is female, woman, girl, and child. In fact, gender – that construction site where culture and biology come together to play out their destructive and creative collaboration – seems at first to be the blueprint for the lyrical arguments made in each poem, but it turns out gender might only be a part of the poems’ machinery. Wright’s speaker, while someone who rejects the wide bubbly grin and feminine pose of the little girl, and indeed someone who prefers dirt under her nails instead of polish painted over them, wants us to understand that the violence of loneliness, regret, and vulnerability have perhaps less to do with gender or sex, but more to do with the fundamental element that makes us all human: the need to be loved and the need to love. Instructions for Killing the Jackal (Black Lawrence Press, 2011) is filled with both poems of confrontation and poems of striking tenderness, humor, and honesty. And yet the poet isn’t merely obsessed with the abstractions of the human interior. She draws heavily on imagery – both classical and contemporary; bleak and lush – to serve as the scaffolding we can hold onto while the speaker whispers in our ears one devastating truth after another. During our chat we talk about the poet’s childhood in rural Tennessee, the themes that drive her poetry, her recent adventure into prose writing, and so much more. I hope you enjoy our talk as much as I did.