Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Topography of Poetry: How the End Begins--at Blunderbuss Magazine

Every book has its own texture, materiality, and topography. This is not only metaphorical; the process of creating literature produces all sorts of flotsam–notes, sketches, research, drafts–and sifting through this detritus can provide insight both into the architecture of a work and into the practice of writing. Blunderbuss is excited to run this series, in which we ask writers to select and assemble the artifacts of a book in a way that they find meaningful and revealing. In this installment, Cynthia Cruz discusses how Lars Von Trier, Jean Genet, and Venice informed How the End Begins, published by Four Way Books. ...


New Essay, The Vanishing, up at Poetry.org, Harriet

I have been thinking of ways in which writers have vanished—the way they have vanished themselves from the literary world and from the world itself. I have been thinking, specifically, of how writers who have experienced marginalization have left either because they could not manage to make their voice, their language, cohere to the major language or because, though perhaps they could conform and assimilate, they chose not to...


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

Poetry Foundation Blogs

For the past two years I have been a student at the School of Visual Arts in their MFA Program for Art Criticism & Writing. It is an amazing program. The past two years have been the best  two years of my life. I am currently at work on my master's thesis titled "Keine Neue Welt Ohne Neue Sprache," which is taken from Ingeborg Bachmann's novel The Thirtieth Year. The phrase translates as "No new world without a new language" and in my thesis I've been exploring the work of Marguerite Duras, Clarice Lispector, Hanne Darboven and, of course, Ingeborg Bachmann. In particular, I have been looking at how these writers have gone about making their own language(s) utilizing stutter, hesitation, repetition and silence.

For the month of April I will be blogging for the Poetry Foundation's blog, Harriet, and will be continuing on this theme. I've called this series of blogs, which will serve as a kind of laboratory for me, a place for me to negotiate meaning with regard to this topic.

Stay tuned as I will be posting links to these pieces as they become live.

Here is the first one:

Sibylle Bergemann

Gerard Fieret

Clare Strand

Origin Unknown

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Interview up at Lumina

in which I discuss writing, my new book Wunderkammer, the Gospel of Saint Thomas, God, Jesus, Carebears, Michelob, Iggy Pop, Paxil, and all sorts of other things. 

Take a look at the interview, now up at Lumina: 


Friday, October 18, 2013

Not in Fashion:Photography and Fashion in the 90s

I'm obsessed with this book, the catalogue for the show of the same name from 2010 at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. I came across the book while I was at the bookstore in the Hammer Museum in LA last week. I have been pining for it ever since.


Three new poems at Body

Cynthia Cruz


The boat of death moves soundlessly
Across the room.
Then the terrible gift:
The white veils lowering
Slowly before me.
A lifetime inside the killing,
And sweet
Darkness, she
Loved me so much: kissing
The glimmering
Hive of my mind, finally quiet.



I go out. I come back.
I am practicing my words, again:
A bouquet of wilting flowers.
Feigning English, barely
American in my waistcoat and fur
Thunder boots.
Swoon, I say
And the swallows fall from their elm,
I said I wished I were
Drowned. But this time
Not just in dream.
The clock clicks, I sleep on.
I swim past the breakers—a radio
Song unfurling in my head.
Daddy, will I ever see you again.



You are beautiful in snow
Boots, your long hair, black
Electric, and chasing
Karen Carpenter’s Superstar
On the short wave radio.
What was I
For five years
And why
Let me drown in a dream
Of turning, snow
Globe in a child’s hand.
You waited five years
In a basement in the Cleveland
Suburbs before the same white
Wall, all sound and light
Snuffed out. Just a faint
Hum inside the infinite

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Review of Marni Ludwig's PINWHEEL at The Rumpus

Pinwheel by Marni Ludwig

Reviewed By

Marni Ludwig opens her debut collection, Pinwheel, with the dedication, “For my horrible, horrible girls.” And from this first proclamation, we know who the book is written for. It’s written for the girls.

The dedication reminded me of Tori Amos’ album, “Strange Little Girls,” a concept album consisting of covers of songs written and performed by men. Amos has always been pro-girl and anyone who knows anything about Tori Amos knows most boys don’t like her. But like Joanna Newsom, who has also suffered similar attacks, Amos never seemed to mind it. Both Newsom and Amos enter their songs and sing, unabashedly, from the perspective of a woman. Their stage presence is similar, as well: both court femininity without losing their incredible power and strength.

It takes bravery to stick to your guns. One risks appearing weak or silly—criticisms both singers get all the time. Ludwig’s choice of opening her book with this dedication demonstrates her strength. A weaker writer would have succumbed, would not have allowed for such transparency. It’s clear from the start, she’s not here to make friends, or to be popular. And we know this much already before we’ve even begun reading the poems.

Anorexia, heroin, and, later, a bad case of alcoholism helped me sleepwalk through the majority of my life. Anorexic at the age of eleven, I discovered alcohol at the age of thirteen. I see myself, from the age of eleven until my late thirties, blind, in perpetual white hospital gown.
I had been under the delusion that starving myself and alcohol use would somehow “keep” me. That under the warm white spell of starving (or drinking) I had entered a kind of limbo—a netherworld between this world and the next; that I was in a holding pattern, and that, soon enough God, or whoever was in charge of this enterprise, would shuttle me back to when this all began, back to the beautiful bright world of childhood. And though I knew this voice was delusional, the voice that hovered above me at all times promising me I could return, I was unable to make it stop. I spent most of my life struggling between the voice of delusion and the clear voice of reason.

In her collection, Ludwig explores these twin voices, dropping in and out of both of them. For example, in her poem, Lines from a Southern Airport

I wake and fix my shot and look at you.
I wake and fix my shot and look at you.
The heart beats its clinical name for slip,
A salt lake skipping its best ghost.
No one dreams herself empty-handed.
I steer the red bicycle I rode as a child.

Here, the first two lines are direct. There is no question what’s going on. The speaker is shooting drugs. And she tells this to us twice. The doubling here sets a kind of reverie, the result, of course, of using. Too, the double relays a sense of compulsive repetition, a repeated theme throughout the collection.

Then, in stanza two, we are told that the heart skips a beat—the result of the drugs—more direct, clear language. But in line four, we are suddenly transported. We are now in reverie, memory, or hallucination. What we are not is here. By the end of the poem, we have returned, miraculously, to the pretty kingdom of childhood. Magical thinking, and the result of the reverie resulting from using.
By compulsive doubling or repeating, Ludwig signals to the reader that we are dealing with a shadow, with two combating voices, one mimicking and interrupting the other. The book is packed with these doubles, these stutters. For example, from “Among the Living as Among the Dead”:

You died twice in a lace dress,
in a folding chair,
you didn’t hear the door.
You died twice, the trickle
of your smile sinking
like a miracle as you
let your eyes adjust.
You died in a lace dress—
the story is an excuse
for the voice. Begin again
the chorus of your carefully
reordered childhood.

The repetition of “You died in a lace dress” creates a kind of magical thinking. The first time we encounter the line, the “you” dies. The second time, negation erases the event; the “you” comes back to life. But then, the third and final time, the “you” dies again. Similarly, the last sentence in the poem, which begins with, “Begin again,” another doubling, introduces the idea that with death, one will be restored to childhood, and this time to a “reordered, better version of childhood.
This stuttering or doubling is, as I said, packed into the poems throughout this book: repeated statements, repeated words, doubles, even the word repeat. Here are some examples: “ In school I was good in death and math,” “Would you rather be dead/than bored? Dead/than loved?,” “Wisteria, wisteria,” “Hush/money, bullet/money,” “Ditch, ditch,” “Where was my house when all I was seeing/was smoke where was my house,?” “”I’m a saint really which means I give in quickly./I’m a saint. I should have died/five years ago on the stick,” and so on. You get the idea. Repetition serves as a reminder. But it also negates and, in addition, serves to fuse disparate meanings together.
The collection opens with the quote, “Being born is going blind,” by Townes Van Zandt, the singer songwriter who died from complications stemming from years of drinking and drug abuse. The poems in this collection introduce a kind of blindness, or what I recognize as a series of blind spots—moments of reverie or nightmare that interrupt the speaker’s moments of bright lucidity. For example, in the poem, Clinic:

I wish you were dead
or near. My paper slippers
glide down the shining hall
where my friends on the walls hang
their names. The shift clock blinks.
I don’t think I’ll get better. Outside
itinerant clouds nod and the lilies
twist in their beds.

We are in the hospital, rehab or a psych ward, we aren’t sure. What we know is the speaker is wearing the slippers one wears in detox, rehab, or a psych ward. But the slippers are gliding, they are not being worn. The lucidity is being cut with surrealism. Again, with the next line, the speaker’s friends are on the walls, hanging their names, not that the names of her friends or photos of her friends are hanging on the wall. The next two lines are lucid, clear but then are interrupted, by more surrealism, a kind of blindness, “Outside/itinerant clouds nod and the lilies/twist in their beds.”
These moments of surrealism are enacting blindness, the blindness that has baffled the speaker that has got her in the situations she is in. Like walking into a parallel universe and finding one’s self “nodding out in a hospital bracelet/humming some third harmony.”

The blindness Van Zandt speaks of, the moments of blindness we find ourselves in when we can no longer swallow what the world doles out.

Unlike other attempts at recovery literature, Ludwig’s collection aims at a looseness, a more complex series of experiences of what it means to be human. For example, when specific narrative details appear in this collection, the blinding, sometimes in the form of a metaphor, sometimes in the form of surrealism, almost always interrupts them. For example, in the poem, A Reenactment, “A good deed meets us at the corner,” rather than, for example, “the dealer meets us on the corner,” and in Cigar Box, “In school I was good in death and math,” rather than what the reader expects: “spelling” or “chemistry,” for example, “and math. “ The actual narratives are broken, the lines veering away from the topic at hand. Rather than telling us point blank, the poems describe and imply. As a result the book never feels reductive; never reads like a “recovery” book, though we understand, in fact, that it is.

There has been talk, of late, of a new breed of poetry—what has been coined variously “Post-post modernism,” and “the new new sincerity,” a lyric poetry that, though neither confessional nor narrative, does not shy away from revealing that the poems are, in fact, written by a person, a poetry that utilizes the “I,” but ventures into a new room of writing, one that plays with language and does not shirk from beauty. Not surprisingly, I find this work to be exhilarating, a breath of fresh air in a large room of poetry that often trumps sterility and smarts. Other poets I would include inside this aesthetic are Louise Mathias, Allison Benis White, Quinn Latimer, Lucie Daniel Anderson, Saratoga Rahe, and Lucie Brock Broido (in particular, Trouble in Mind). Ludwig is also, I believe, of this ilk.
Ludwig’s collection is a gorgeous and brave collection, one I have been awaiting years for, since I first encountered her work in Lucie Brock Broido’s course anthology. I carried an early rendition of Ludwig’s’ poems with me for years and loved, especially, her poem, Expert on Shadows. The ending I memorized and, in times of debilitating sorrow, I pulled the tiny scraps of paper upon which I’d handwritten the poems, out from my purse and, I swear, her words saved me.

Each day I wake from a dream
of stones. Nights I walk
and repeat
for myself the prayer
against shame I copied down.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mini-interview on The Kenyon Review's website with your's truly regarding my 3 new poems in the current issue--take a look:


Monday, December 31, 2012

 Thank you to New York Times for this wonderful review of The Glimmering Room:


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Winter Poetry Salon

I am starting up another round of poetry salon mid-December. The salon will meet once a week on Saturday afternoons at my home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We will read and discuss poetry, as well as workshop one another's poems. In addition, I will assign in-class writing exercises to generate new work.

Email me if you are interested: cindyskylar@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I am so grateful to Quinn Latimer for including The Glimmering Room in her piece, The Year in Books, in the November/December issue of Frieze Magazine. 

"If contemporary poetry is often noted for its intimacy, it is just as often derided for its lack of engagement in the less lyrical and more quotidian world. Yet two recent books of poetry take the task of implication seriously, and in quite different directions. Though Cynthia Cruz begins The Glimmering Room (Four Way Books, 2012) with a quote from the Gospel of Thomas that thunders, quietly, ‘If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you,’ the poet’s second book is mostly concerned with the things without – particularly those that damage and destroy. She marries the tropes of lyric poetry (nocturnals, gospels) to an American underclass populated by truckers, laundromats, Seconal and desert. Recalling the glittering, impoverished milieu of Denis Johnson’s early poems and the noun-awed theatrics of Lucie Brock-Broido, Cruz’s ‘traveling minstrel show / called girlhood’ is articulated by the relics delineating its emotional and material deprivation: ‘an old black motorcycle and crutches / Someone left leaning / Against the limb of an oak tree’."