Home > Mutating the Signature > rounding up the seasons

rounding up the seasons

April 10, 2009

I want one of those figs stewed in heavy sweet syrup
my mother used to make for winter. you quickly learn

one is enough. served with a glass of water to wash it down.
who still wants “progress”?

uterine wasp’s nest, Fall harvest feels foreign in the city,
obsessed with large,
: it’s metastatic. not cyclic.

such weak mutagens UV rainbow, espresso
summer is a small pithy room we have plastered
with (blank) images.

heterotrophic memory, lined with new walnuts
my father used to crack between rocks and feed to me

forest floor velvet convert lichen:
their advanced agriculture. I need a language
to be able to digest this singularity.

when DNA can’t spell it becomes GMO, grows
Roundup Ready™ into the small vertebrae of Spring.

by Christina Shah and Daniela Elza

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Process notes

Christina and I used to get together to write regularly before she left Vancouver. We wanted to call ourself Burning the Cheese writing group, partly because the coffee shops we wrote in seemed to be burning the cheese all the time. Still we got together. When I saw this call for submissions I thought it would be a great opportunity to really write together.

A good analogy for this process would be that of Cordyceps sinensis, a medicinal mushroom that grows out of a caterpillar. Hence the name, “winter worm, summer grass.” I felt like my part was that of the worm, and Daniela’s was that of the mycelium.  I provided the initial concept, running with the actual Mutating the Signature idea, and Daniela provided the framework.  But this was most definitely a symbiotic (not a parasitic!) relationship.

Most of our collaborating happened over the phone and intermittent emails. We did not seem to haggle much over things, but we kept mishearing words.

Daniela misheard ‘lost’ for ‘wasp’ (3rd stanza) and we kind of liked how that sounded — and played with and laughed with it.  So it would be ‘uterine lost nest’s’ which Daniela thought sounded quite cozy.

When I read Christina’s work, there is always something I have to look up, so at one point I told her I feel I need to take a language course to work with her. She tries to pack so much. So I spend some time unpacking.

Yes, Daniela compared working with me and my tendencies toward density to stewed figs in heavy syrup.

And the figs, and the language and the lost nest made it into the poem one way or another, on the lexical or idea level.

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