Poem-a-Day - "Echo of Origin" by John James

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November 7, 2022 

Echo of Origin

John James

wedded sepal

               lupine pearl strung

 

with toothhole                    petaled tendons

                              or

pelvis split

in ardor’s labor                 swirling blacksmoke

             coins in the sea

the eyes                           hawkmoth

 

a bible palmed across                  granite telling

 

gin river parable                            the muddy

              waters rising over

 

rotted apples                    liver carved

 

             by eponymous

                                                                  wind

Copyright © 2022 by John James. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“‘Echo of Origin’ responds to Roland Barthes’s claim, in Mythologies, that ‘In wrestling,’— intellectual grappling—‘the gesture severs every parasitical meaning’ and produces ‘a pure and full signification.’ ‘Such emphasis,’ he claims, ‘is nothing but the popular and ancestral image of the perfect intelligibility of reality.’ I wanted to imagine a language that recalls that ‘perfect intelligibility’ by severing once-arbitrary signifiers from the system of signs that burdens them with meaning. Because we live in such a system, however, there is no pure signification. Instead, the poem forges a stream of disparate signifiers, firing at each other in loose association.”
John James

John James is the author of Winter, Glossolalia (Black Spring Press Group, 2022) and The Milk Hours (Milkweed Editions, 2019). The recipient of fellowships and prizes from the University of California, Berkeley, the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, and the Academy of American Poets, he lives in Berkeley.
Winter, Glossolalia

Winter, Glossolalia
(Black Spring Press Group, 2022)

“Burn” by Janice N. Harrington
read more
“Water Music” by Robert Creeley
read more

Thanks to Jake Skeets, author of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers (Milkweed, 2019), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read or listen to a Q&A about Skeets’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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