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Hello, friends! My guest today is Ren Powell, who is here to share a poem from her new collection, Impermanence, and a little about how it came to be. Please give her a warm welcome!


This/that now has already
flowed like a river around your waist
and into your hands
– you caught what you could and braided it

like water flowing into the patterns
     of fish bones
like mycelium routing nitrogen
     favoring a sapling

you created one identifiable
                    X
from the infinite possibilities

But it spilled from of your tongue
slipped through your fingers

the X you wove into the world
warping and shapeshifting
so inevitably, incrementally
that you look up day after day
surprised by the foreign landscapes
of your own making

The poems from Impermanence aren’t easy to tease apart. They speak to one another. All of them grew out a year of daily meditations on the theme of inevitable change, and how we suffer when we resist it.

This was one of the first poems I wrote for the collection. The morning I began the draft, I’d run along the trail by the lake and I stopped to watch a small creek flowing into it. I noticed how the water mimicked a fish’s soft skeleton in the shape it formed. I loved the parallel realities – it was more than a metaphor. The idea that this is like this in fact, not in concept.

The water-skeleton disappears instantly if I step in the stream. The fish bones will decay over time. I think it’s an illusion that one is more real than the other. We give time too much importance when we make our value judgements. Especially when we consider that every moment is already over by the time we’ve acknowledged its existence. We work so hard to make sense of things that we want them to stay as we’ve determined they “are”.

The trail around the lake also has groves of trees. The trees with the saucer-like mushrooms wedged in the bark are dying. I can’t see it, but I know the network of mycelium under the ground is already moving the nutrients from the dying trees to the new trees. The fungi don’t recognize ownership over the requirements of life. The shape of the forest shifts so slowly that we think we see trees dying instead of a forest growing.

We impose our will on the world every moment. We tell ourselves a story about every passing instance: an X of meaning.

I think of the pride of a small child finally getting the family dog to “stay”, and then the frustration and anger they experience when the dog runs off.

I think we contribute to the world, but we don’t shape it as we think we do. We might set something in motion, but the river of time – like the dog – doesn’t “stay”. 


About Impermanence

The poetry collection is actually a conceptual poetry book. The artwork in the hand-bound and paperback versions aren’t illustrations. They are integral to the book. The bust in the photographs is covered with lines of poems found as text in the book. The handwriting on the photographs present erasures of the same poems.

The bust was filmed disintegrating under a waterfall once the book was finished. It was a practice in the kind of attitude I was exploring in the book: letting go is a healthy thing.

The book (both hand-bound and paperback versions) can be purchased at renpowell.com.


About the Author

Ren Powell is a writer and teaching artist. She is a native Californian – now a Norwegian citizen settled on the west coast of Norway. Ren has been a member of The Norwegian Author’s Union since 2005 and has published six full-length collections of poetry and more than two dozen books of translations with traditional publishing houses. Her poetry collections have been purchased by the Norwegian Arts Council for national library distribution, and her poems have been translated and published in eight languages. Ren is currently focusing on handbound poetry collections and mixed media experimentation as Mad Orphan Lit. Learn more about Ren Powell. Follow her on Facebook.


For more about Impermanence and to follow the blog tour, click the image above.

Thank you, Ren, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your latest book!

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