• The Omega Issue

    Rosie Stockton

    The Omega Issue

    The Grapevine Telegraph

    Rosie Stockton Interview + 4 Poems from 'Permanent Volta'

    Can you tell us about your new book ‘Permanent Volta’? Where does the title come from? Anything in particular you’d like to say about the poems included here?

    This project started a few years ago with a joke slogan my friend Patricia and I would say to each other: “wages for muses.” When I began writing this project, I was interested in the impossibility of compensation for being represented, what it would mean for the artist or politician to have to pay the people they represented, and pay even more to the people that were unrepresentable. How can the (un)represented subject/object revolt from this structural impasse? But then I ended up writing all these love poems instead. Of course the unmused muse doesn’t want wages, they want to abolish the wage. I wanted my love objects to refuse to be represented.

    In my writing process I often set really strict restraints on myself, and write in forms like the sestina or the sonnet, and then let them naturally devolve. The title Permanent Volta is a play on the “volta” of a sonnet – a turn in thought that ends in resolution in the couplet. I set out to write poems that were turning and turning and never coming to resolution. “Permanent Volta” is also a play on Permanent Revolution, although I am interested in what emerges as “revolutionary activity” is different than what historical paradigms suggests it to be. Revolutionary activity is constantly happening and building in clandestine, local, and care based ways. That’s why I ended up writing a bunch of love poems, asking, ultimately, how to be together outside of representation in the political: in intimacy, in mutual aid, in love.

    The poems in Permanent Volta come across as a beautiful torrent of language defying the rules of fact, of the ordinary world “O that I can’t prove even this fact of sky?/ We know it feelingly”, but this is only half of the story of these poems. The other half is the rigorous formal restraints you place your writing under. How are these things related for you?

    We are always afraid of the thing we feel most strongly in ourselves but can’t admit. When I write it is like the flood, like an impossible deluge of language and association. Formal restraint is my ditch. I often write in the form of sestinas or sonnets and see how the poem breaks itself, see what can’t be contained. I like playing out these power struggles in the poem, making them explicit. Constraint can be freeing, especially when imposed from something other than yourself. But the sonnet is a rusted out form. What you are resisting always wins. The water always wins. I think that’s what I had to learn from the flooding canal.

    Can you say something about the process for translating the Rimbaud poem ‘Tale’. What does Rimbaud really say in his poem, or what doesn’t he say, or what were all hitherto translators leaving out of this story?

    This is one of my favorite Rimbaud poems. Translation is a loose word here – I really just read this poem alongside the Detroit River with my friend Addy one day – we talked about it for hours and then we both went to the bar and “rewrote” it from memory.
    The poem is about a prince who was bored with the mundanity of his own power. He goes on an ecstatic rampage in the name of revolutionary truth and love, kills all of his followers, destroys all the gardens, burns down all the palaces, and yet no one complains, they simply cheer him on. All the people he assassinates come back to life and still follow him with devotion. One day he meets this imaginary creature who reflects to him the revolutionary love he was looking for. It is so blissful the prince can barely endure it, so he and this thing become one another, and in doing so annihilate one another. The last line of the poem has been translated many different ways, but I like this version: “There is no sovereign music for our desire.”
    In my version I think about the prince inside all of us, or perhaps the prince we look to elsewhere — I’m interested in this moment in the psychic lives of our desires for a different world, a different music for our desire.

    Tell us about the time you spent in the Midwest fighting flooding in your house.

    For the past many year, I lived in a house on the edge of a canal. The seawall ended two feet outside the backdoor of the house. It had rusted out, so when the water levels rose as the wind changed, water would leak through, flood my driveway and drain into the sewer grate in the front of the house.

    I spent weeks digging a ditch to try to divert the water. I became obsessed with it. I bought myself a brand-new orange trenching spade from Home Depot and dug. The water flowed right into the ditch, and accumulated right at the road, so there was still evidence of the leaking canal, but at least it wasn’t getting into the crawl space. The constantly leaking water totally haunted my dreams. Over the years the water rose more and more. Everybody in the neighborhood had a different theory about why the water levels were rising, but it’s probably fair to say it has to do with global climate destruction. The final year I lived in the house the backyard was entirely flooded and the ditch didn’t matter anymore.

    What are you looking forward to seeing happen in the world in 2020?

    I’m hoping this avocado tree in my backyard starts fruiting.

    Best and worst political scandal of 2019?

    Best: Stephanie Hoefeller leaking her dad’s restricted files.
    Worst: The things that didn’t come out to the public as scandal are probably worse than I can imagine.


    i’ve been up all night
    trying to figure out how to want
    loud enough to tie myself up
    and out into the after all
    of this luxurious thralldom
    that keeps me in the way
    of myself and my poem’s perineal body

    autonomous bottom seeking
    non-sovereign top
    spit up into me
    so my digestive track
    can get a full night’s sleep
    while the stars’ algorithm
    churn out millions
    squeezing lightyears, inciting a humming
    that clocks my little shapes of pain

    they look different erupting
    out of this sinkhole of massive unseeing,
    my right now controversy
    on lock

    i am all submitted to you
    like you submit to the blossoming
    that happens in the siloed collective gut
    and gray water, a bacchanal inside us

    we found each other under here
    so we return the symbols we bought
    we concoct new drives and partial objects
    we barricade the speedbumps
    disentangle the mission of highways

    there where we are mother of each other
    where we are brothers
    baby birding disobedience
    to our sense of self
    cashing in on the Real’s residue

      but here call it stardust, call it umami,
      call me nobody, blur me out


    (after Tale by Arthur Rimbaud)

    dildonic my massacre
    a neo-gloryhole’d liberal fantasy
    chafed, devotional and shadowy
      this truth
      this piety
    generous my justice, a snapped little twig
    oozing like dry ice, the other side of desire

    embellished the oxytocin that could ever
    honeycomb an inbox toward revolution
      in total coming together
      in synchronic transmission
    of global and mountainous deprogrammed love

    with my poetic prosthesis in your most laced crevasse
    i slash the throats of my parking spaces
       my metric days
       my meter fees

    i’m always so on time for you
    i walk around the block
    with the smashed plastic sea shore flooding
    past the rocks to the downtown of my heart
    just so i’m not too early
    and you know my minds tied up
    in imagining the casual riot
    where the fence isn’t chained to fence
      isn’t keeping out our staged stamina
      keeping track of our charging cycles

    i am dissolving in the waiting room
    of the toyota dealership
    an oil change splashed on my pronoun
    possessive adjective on corporate forms
    waiting out the twisted suspense
    of a law firm bailing out
    the logic of bail

    better to destroy the boat, my aching trees,
    than patch the sinking hole

    let’s start over
      my ride
      my tectonic edgeplay
    with the concept of who i am showered in
    petroleum veins like
    i want to be together
    but I also want to be left alone
      my INFP commie conundrum
      my introvert version of togethering
      my close to death daisy, my weeded bouquet

    lilac’d evening approaches
    my gilded horror so unspoken
      i can finally speak

    look now
    the evaporation of trauma’d bank accounts
    where we annihilate ourselves
    to mediate our dyings

    this shadow self locked up in self love groupons
      this medicaid appointment
      a sacherine elixir of redaction—

    together in cinderblock’d health
    we lack the form to want each other rightly
    so my wonder spreads egoic and planless
    not wanting to pass as reform

    in bonfired bunks & bedridden poems
      i ask again, more quietly
      rejuvenate my cruelty


    my ability to conjugate is rocky
    swapping melted water for genetic grain
    cracking sweet stains  & seeping wild
    winged condensation into my cluttered
    speaking patterns   all caesura’d out

    my inch wants   a mile   it wants to
    balloon that gap all O’s in there
    machining a   nothingness to

    loop and loop under the fountain’s infrastructure

    where of course   i crave
    the imperceptible   stone

    i used to speak a language that
    shone in   the galvanized pipe-
    dream of me, a subsidized starlet

    my breath indiscreetly   unknown

    i loved and loved that crusted neglect
    that secret punishment   so sweet where
    water fell   so water   so dusty
    with all that caked up future conditional

    recycled and trapped in the same water
    as last year   the year before

    my machine yearns   for flood and for
    fire that can’t be put out   with piss

    imagination   some great stalwart
    of discipline   like a strict fungal network
    on molly   in the timespace of the marble pores
    of being here   holding your hand

    a sadness   is stalking me
    its the shape of a chorus   its glitchy
    double vision   gone when you look at it
    the darkside of the gushing’s
    shadow   it’s down the drain
    it’s briny cornucopia of   feeling

    a total entanglement seeps out of me
    i’m drinking gallons of it
    i am   chugging it   i am hydrated
    strange and pissing   all the time

    this body   a fountain   of filtered rocket
    fuel and helping verbs   unlocatable

    i let my caesura grow long as
    that old fork   in the road
    where the   wood pile rots

    when fire   loses interest

    his mother always told him
    the squeaky wheel   gets the oil
    as if oil   hadn’t already ended the world

    i say   let the wheel squeak
    let us squeak until
    oil is obsolete let it rust
    while we uninvent the wheel
    let us fall in the wheel’s caesura

    let the fountain   seep over stone
    till we feel the damp tips of our shoelaces
    puddled & enmeshed a marsh to touch

    on every surface   the light can’t find

    pause spewing pause
    to learn the grammatical fact—
    there is no going   forward alone


    if jesus had been
    more of a kisser
    and all his friends too
    were sitting at that hang
    kissing each other
    judas’ plan wouldn’t
    have worked out so well
    & the cops wouldn’t
    have known who to arrest

    Rosie Stockton is a poet based in Los Angeles. Their first book, Permanent Volta, is the recipient of the 2019 Sawtooth Prize, and is forthcoming from Nightboat Books in 2021. Their poems have been published by Publication Studio, Monster House Press, BigBig Wednesday, Flint Magazine, A Plume Journal, and WONDER.

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