I’m having trouble coming up with the right word to describe what Carly Inghram does with language in her new collection, The Animal Indoors. She makes nouns and verbs dance, but it’s more than that. Sometimes her sentences veer wildly away from meaning at first glance, but then when we take in the poem as a whole, we see intricacies that make it clear Inghram is absolutely in control of her lines.
Before I tell you more, a quick reminder that in order to receive your early copy of The Animal Indoors, read along with the Poetry Book Club, and participate in our exclusive chat with Carly Inghram, you’ll need to subscribe by July 15!
Here’s an example from a poem in the middle of the book, “America Self-Storage.” The poem begins:
One time I was brave
like any giants’ expectations.
and the sunset in reflection.
A music video with strings
rehearsing for a final note.
So, what’s going on here? The title has me imagining a landscape shorn of trees, covered in concrete and long metal buildings, sun-bleached yellow with gray metal doors one after the other, each of them filled—and this is the cynic in me, no question—with anything but hopes and dreams. But then, the first line feels almost like the start to a fairy tale—“One time I was brave”—and the giants in the second line strengthen that feeling, as do the fifth and sixth lines because the music video reiterates the sense of a story, though the “final note” feels like we’ve jumped ahead to the end. But then there’s a shift, one of many in this poem:
Next time I travel
it’ll be to the stove
or your new mailing address;
the thing I still own of yours.
Ah, there’s a “you” in this poem (but no “we” right now). The idea of traveling to the stove is interesting, as when things are hard even a walk across a room can feel like a journey. And the idea of a mailing address being the only thing left of a person one owns is just wrenching.
The middle of the poem has the speaker talking to this unnamed “you,” and there’s this image of angels floating in inner tubes—mirror-images, in a sense: “Which one can evaporate / as slow light hitting its edge.” As though there are or were two possibilities, and one has vanished.
And then, the speaker is more direct than at almost any other part of the poem:
We are standing by succulents
eating Chipwiches, and I want
your body closer to mine,
want to hear your sudden fall from grace
when the traffic lights change
and I grip your hand with sweat
and wild glee.
That is desire and yearning, no question. The succulents remind me of the landscape I imagined from the first line. I can almost feel the heat rising off the pavement, smell the car exhaust from the idling engines at the stoplight.
But the poem has one more turn for us: “The scissors / in your purse casting stones / on bright water. Do not.” I feel this clash of the literal and figurative worlds here, as though the speaker imagines the “you” of the poem cutting them out of their lives, throwing stones into the pools where the angels are floating on inner tubes, destroying their reflections rather than letting them evaporate. And the last statement, “Do not.” Trying so hard to be authoritative but still unconvincing. What a way to end a poem.
So many of the poems in The Animal Indoors reward this level of attention, and I can’t wait to talk about them—first with our Poetry Book Club members, and then with Carly Inghram. Subscribe to the Rumpus Poetry Book Club by July 15 to receive your early copy of The Animal Indoors and to take part in our exclusive online chat with Carly Inghram in early September. I hope you’ll join us!