Late Night Library

Rookie Report: Tessa Mellas and Dominique Townshend

Tessa Mellas | Lungs Full of Noise | University of Iowa Press | October 2013


And now Mary Lou is thinking about body parts missing, and she loses her breath and a shiver crawls through her toes. She panics: where is his arm? She panics like a mother who misplaces a child while shopping. Where did she leave him? And who misplaces a limb? And now she has to know if the arm is under the sheet with Chester or still on the hill with the violets or at the nurse’s station maybe with the cell phones and mugs in a box marked lost and found. She tells herself, look under the sheet. So what if it’s horrid. So what if she doesn’t want to know how body parts come undone. She has to do it because this is a body she clung to when the hours were long and sleep far away, and car lights moved on the ceiling like comets bright for a moment, then their tails of chalk burnt out.

So she does it. She throws back the sheet and there he is. Chester with skin pale like bread dough, his arm hanging on just under the elbow by a ribbon of flesh. All the rest ripped raw, the bone sliced on the slant like cut flowers. The skin covered with lavender streaks. The scrap of a sweater cuff hangs at his wrist. A plaid sweater, though plaid isn’t something Chester would wear.

—excerpt from “So Many Wings”


Lungs Full of Noise

Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or less.

Tessa Mellas: Girlhood apocalypses, kamikaze birds, a green baby, a severed arm.

LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?

TM: Angela Carter and Aimee Bender.

LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?

TM: Mr. Sketch Water Color Scented Markers, red wiggler worms, phalanges, rubber galoshes, feathers, castanets, milkweed, sleet, acid rain and menstrual blood.

LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.

TM: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.

TM: Why do you write? Because I’m too old to skate with Ice Capades or be an acrobat in the circus.

Get a copy of Lungs Full of Noise from Indiebound

Mellas_TessaTessa Mellas’s debut story collection Lungs Full of Noise won the Iowa Short Fiction Award, judged by Julie Orringer and published by the University of Iowa Press in October 2013. Her stories have appeared in journals such asCrazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and StoryQuarterly. She holds a PhD from the University of Cincinnati. This spring, she will teach writing at Bowling Green State University as their Distinguished Visiting Writer. Tessa lives in Columbus, Ohio with a poet who likes bicycles, a three-legged cat who likes broccoli, and a four-legged cat who collects rubber bands.

 

Rookie strip

Dominique Townshend | The Weather & Our Tempers | Brooklyn Arts Press
 August 2013


a change of name

all these are signs of life—
red darkening
mums in a mildewed
cup, a pale candle burned
down by a black and vanished
wick, a bed slept poorly
in then made out
of habit

**

The Weather and Our Temperswe had in common
a long childhood at rest in the back
of a hatchback Peugeot

mine moved me through
torrents of dark East Coast rain
yours up from Mexico

it was summer then for everybody
and we knew what the lines were for

we had in common
a mother who chose names for us
at random or in fear

and made airtight
predictions about the lovers
we’d cling to or let go

**

while the mind
is clear and restful

flawed
configurations

wishful, wistful,

“he used to ______ me”
“I used to ______ him, too, really”

**

I thought nothing
would come of it

one night in a nearby hotel, pretending
we were in Cannes

outside there were local noises, muffled
protesters and the pale crackle of Sunday traffic
you said, I’ll gather hibiscus to embellish the bed

while you lie by your imaginary seaside
wear something blue for the hue of your eyes
and don’t be afraid for your reputation


Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or less.

Dominique Townsend: A document of conversations, families, cities, dreams, sadness, and distance.

LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?

DT: I’d like to think of the book as the child of a quiet lonely poem by the Japanese monk Ryokan and an aching love poem by Anna Akhmatova. The book includes pieces written in response to both of them, so in some sense it is the offspring of their work.

LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?

DT: The will to make light of painful experience without diminishing its sharpness and interest, a fascination with the ordinary things people say to each other, concern with what gets passed down through generations, an effort to stay perceptive and awake enough to find meaning everywhere. I also secretly hope my poems have a sense of humor. It’s rare, but I love it when readers laugh.

LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.

DT: In the Cage, by James Joyce. A friend gave it to me while I was living in Nepal about 10 years ago. I read it that same afternoon and right away wished I could experience the kind of dull shock and recognition it gave me again. It’s a story about the impossibility of knowing whether people can really connect with each other, and about how badly we want to.

LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.

DT: A question I’d like to be able to answer is: why don’t more people read poetry?

Get a copy of The Weather & Our Tempers from Brooklyn Arts Press

Townsend_DominiqueDominique Townsend lives in Brooklyn with her partner Aaron Fox,
who is a painter and wine expert. They have a young son named Sage
William. Dominique has studied Buddhism for many years and she
lived in Asia for most of her 20s. She currently teaches at Columbia
University in New York City.

 

 

Posted on: October 18, 2013 · Blog, Homepage, Rookie Report ·Tags: , , , .

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