The Tide Pool of Panic


ManleyIn one of my favorite interviews with James Galvin, he talks about writing out of the fear of not knowing verses writing from a sense of knowing. Though none of us can predict our own futures there are distinctive factors, individual and collective, that may forcibly turn our attention toward the uncertain. In these poems from my forthcoming book—Brightword—the speaker, a mother, contemplates the microcosm and macrocosm of dissection. Physically, the speaker’s son lives in constant risk of a life-threatening cardiac event. Environmentally, the son, obsessed with nature, bespeaks his fears of eco-catastrophes. Through lyric exchange, images become the principal of repose. 

How do any of us—as writers, readers and human beings—move toward, rather than away from, our own disquiet? And where do we house such unknowing?  When I write, I am conscious of two things: the feeling in my stomach (I’m not speaking metaphorically here) and the fluidity or shallowness of my breath. For me, disquiet made manifest is a physiological entity. A barometer of authenticity for the poem. If, on occasion, that feeling (let’s call it the tide pool of panic) is absent, I will consciously trigger it by memory, image or music to keep it close and true. What I’m talking about is far from self-inflicted suffering. Rather, it’s more like a faithfulness to an authoritative utterance with no artifice, no whitewashing of fear.

Kimberly Burwick

Kimberly Burwick was born and raised in Massachusetts. Burwick earned her BA in literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and her MFA in poetry from Antioch University, Los Angeles. She is the author of five books of poetry (her last published is available here) including her new collection, Brightword, forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2019. She is Clinical Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Washington State University. She lives in Idaho with her husband and young son.

Kimberly is featured in our upcoming fall issue, Volume 303.4

Illustrations by Matt Manley. Matt has been working as a freelance illustrator for over twenty years. His illustration is primarily figurative and symbolic with surrealist leanings, and past client work includes editorial, corporate, medical, book, and higher education. Though in the end his work is technically digital collage, the process integrates both traditional and digital media.