Spotlight series #32 : Stephanie Gray

rob mclennan
Dec 3, 2018 · 4 min read

Curated by Canadian writer, editor and publisher rob mclennan, the “spotlight” series appears the first Monday of every month.


I am mystified by how language works and the mysteries it holds in both its breaking apart and its words coming together. What really happens in the spaces between? What does it really mean to read between the lines? And if everything happens in between the lines, sometimes I wonder, why should I even write anything?

I find myself digging into the nebulous and mysterious ground between fact, fiction, and desire — riffing and sampling off a flotsam and jetsam of phrases and colloquialisms and speculation. What is underground of the unknown lurking beneath the reading surface? Quiet moments bubble up, leading to a real-world, real-time, real-people epiphany. It’s an elevation of high and low culture done wrong and right at the same time.

I am fueled by: “How can it be a poem if you already know where you are going?” What does it really mean to work between nostalgia, time, and memory, like improvisation, like jazz? What happens in between, like rubber bands? Gertrude Stein says you know how you are feeling inside you to the words that are coming out. That’s often what I think I am after, even if I do not always know it or what it is I’m after.

Two recent prose poems

From the memory-repetition series

In other words, your mind can now find the outlines more quickly than it did before because now you have memorized them through repetition…

You have now memorized them through repetition-

Try to write something for every letter you hear. Try to hear something for every letter you write. Try to know something for every word you take (thanks sort of Police, not). Try to feel something for every syllable you jot. Try to remember what that was without the memory of it. Try to know what that was without the muscle of it. Try to jolt what that was without the meant of it. Try to write something for everything you think. Try to remember something for everything you don’t know. Try to remember something for everything you do. Try to don’t something for everything you thought. Try to sing Our Lips Are Sealed without eye rolls. Try to ensure each repetition clinches your knowledge of the outlines. Try to out line the edges of Rockaway where things were pre-Sandy. Try to think outlines faster without memorizing with repetition. Try to remember your memory without an outline. Try to outline your remembering without a memory. Try to memorize an outline without memory. Repetition practice multiples the value. Try to remember repetition is a valuable factor. Try to remember every practice minute is a fruitful speed-forcing minute. Try to write for top-flight radio announcers. To said top-flight radio announcers: how high did you have to fly to get your voice so low? What was the top of that flight to the lowest decibel? Would you have met Eddie Vedder in another flight(life)? Try to write for a few minutes slowly in order to retain your ability to write good notes. This is important.


“I couldn’t think of what to say / words just vanished in a haze”

… Thompson Twins

Words are what you get

That’s what you get for wanting time to stand still. It’s like the mafia — even if you’re out, you’re in. They don’t do nothing. We are in the red every single month. There is a muscle memory to it. Don’t you remember? It’s when your mind breaks but your muscles don’t. Even if they’re sore you don’t notice like when the sky is sort of blue and sort of white, now that you look at it, but you’re not. You’re just noticing. And just noticing is not the same as knowing. And just knowing is not the same as feeling. And just feeling is not the same as realizing. And just realizing is not the same as understanding. And just understanding is not the same as really getting it. And just really getting it is not the same as living it. And just living it is not the same as having been through it. And just having been through it is not the same as you were there. And just that you were there doesn’t mean you really were. And just thinking you were really there doesn’t mean we think of you any differently. And because we don’t think of you any differently, you don’t matter. And because you don’t matter, we don’t listen to you. And because we don’t listen to you, you are annoyed. And because you are annoyed, you ignore us. And because you ignore us, we disappear.

Poet-filmmaker Stephanie Gray is the author of six poetry collections including full-lengths Shorthand and Electric Language Stars (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2015) and Heart Stoner Bingo (Straw Gate Books, 2007) and four chapbooks: go under the surface (above ground press, 2018); A Country Road Going Back in Your Direction (Argos Books, 2015); Place Your Orders Now! (Belladonna*, 2014) and I Thought You Said It Was Sound/How Does That Sound? (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2012). Her poetry has been published the Brooklyn Rail, Boog City, EOAGH, The Recluse, among others. She often reads poetic texts live with her super 8 films and has performed at the Poetry Project and Segue series, among others. Her critical work on poetics and music has been published in Jacket2, Reconstruction, Futurepost, and Coldfront. Her films have screened internationally at fests such as Oberhausen, Viennale, Antimatter, Ann Arbor, Chicago Underground, Experiments in Cinema, Onion City and venues such as San Francisco Cinematheque, Microscope Gallery and Mono No Aware, along with a retrospective at Anthology Film Archives in 2015.

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