Still Something Rattles
Sock Monkey Press 2016
I had the pleasure of interviewing poet, Terence Degnan while he sat on a bench in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. For those unfamiliar, we refer to Sunset not as a park, but as a still slowly-morphing section of the borough.
It is not difficult to find an entry point into Degnan’s writing, just as interactions with him can feel effortless.He understands the nuances of communication on and off the page and manipulates them into something familiar and comfortable. He is also a poet of such dedication that he went back in time to acquire a Gary Snyder quote for an epigraph, such perseverance that he drafted 300 poems to get down to the 30 or so that grace this collection, and such conviction that he lives his life as he lives his art.
With the ambient noise of cars and people and the wind threatening rain, we spoke about the beauty of his collection Still Something Rattles (Sock Monkey Press, 2016), about trees, about lineage and language; we allowed the stimuli of what was happening around us to enter our conversation as we do our writings– all life is art in motion.
The three sections of this , “Letters From Purgatory,” “Unicorn”and”Rome,”were written concurrently, but with three different minds. Degnan followed the trajectory of a piece or an idea until it was exhausted and then rebooted, reset and listened for the next internal cue.
We learn quickly, in the first section, how the poet intends us to receive his work, even though he would resist the idea of a poet exerting will over a piece that has been released into the world. Maybe the poet is letting us know how he needs to be received:
strange, you, revelation that my
feral self stays here in the body’s
trappings (how it pines to prowl)
strange, you, boundaries
you starry membranes
that hold back prayer
how the arrows ascend
this home yet this
if you meet me tell me my name,
point me to my loves which seem
to be in each direction
Degnan first discovered his love for poetry through Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,”so it is not surprising that he says “language is the conglomerate” and it is important to resist our impulse for pleasantries. Talking about difficult things can be a form of bettering ourselves.
Pick up this work by a poet who is at ease with himself, his writing, and the place that each inhabits in the world, as adversarial as that may be. The poet’s place is often one of friction, doubt, and constant shifting–for many, this is better than apathy, complacency, and stasis.
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