Travis Cebula to Brooklyn Copeland
Dear Brooklyn Copeland,
By your intention or not, the works enclosed in Laked, Fielded, Blanked follow
the pace of what I assume to be the first poem’s titular namesake, [Samuel] Morse
[Lake]. You apply your rhythmic key with a practiced and easy hand, tapping out the
enjambment and line breaks, perhaps to convey meaning through pure syllables?
Beat, beat, beat. Beat, beat, pause. Beat, beat, pause, beatbeatbeat. The effect is
deliberate-seeming enough to make me want to rifle through my old rolodex for an
Eagle Scout or octogenarian that can still decipher the embedded code. It might be
an interesting exercise, but it would be missing the point, I think. Your line breaks
are eloquent for their own sake, and perfectly infected with the youth and spirit
of Robert Creeley watching the spectacle of Bobbie Louise Hawkins emerge from
I did not arrive at this sentiment immediately; yours is a book that begins with
the opposite of desire: a simple description of place, a lake where two creeks meet…
one Big, and one Little. You seed Morse Lake with the staccato thump of detritus.
I hear every plunk as you litter the place with everything from diseased ducks to
termites, from broken hammers to dead fish. Oh, yes. This is a place where “all //
silver smells red.” Rot and death pervade the environment.
But this book is absolutely about desire. Why would I say so? Where does the
desire enter the book? It passes through the juxtaposed door between Morse and
Seall, through your beautiful Notes on Vanishing.
Notes on Vanishing and Seall may be set on the shores of the same Lake as Morse,
but the world changes drastically with the turn of a single page. You deftly replace
the corpses of fish with “meadows,” “gravid stems,” and “civil little // sunhaired
blips.” Ms. Copeland, you systematically dismantle the trappings of civilization
present at the beginning of the book (docks rot, boats sink, hammers break, etc.).
When they are finally disintegrated, the Lake begins to “shimmer,” such that I
begin to feel “laked,” a curious proposition, this shift of usage from noun to verb,
or adjective, but a natural state if there ever was one. In the end, though, the true
change in your tone grows (to borrow from the your own expression) from the
single word, “we.” Another person to commune with arrives into the verdant field.
One becomes two. And that, as the saying goes, is what it takes for you to tango. It
is only when we, the we, get “fielded” that desire begins to simmer, desire for a true
field—but one with all of its inherent potential for metaphor as a place for growth
and fertility firmly intact. Moreover—and more important to the specific narrative
of this sequence—your field is a setting that supports a particular human occupation
and fertility (without fear of sinking or drowning). In contrast with a lake, a field
could have shade, grass, thickets, and privacy. Your field has all of these. It is an
instinctive nest for two young people to meet, secure and beautiful. Thus two human
beings form a new confluence where two rivers previously met.
we die we grow—
And out of the death of Morse grow love and lust, gorgeously encapsulated
in a single word: “unmapped,” just as a life is, as passion is. Your characters are
subsumed by biology in all its joyful glory: springtime, summer, frantic, biting,
wet. You make a moment in a field dissolve into a new lake of limbic bliss, just as
evolution, perhaps, intended.
Travis Cebula teaches literature and creative writing in Colorado and soon in Maryland. He is the author of six chapbooks and one full-length collection of poetry, Under the Sky They Lit Cities. In 2011 Western Michigan University awarded him the Pavel Srut Fellowship for Poetry.