I am so pleased to introduce the poet and screenwriter Christina Mengert, who has let us borrow three “Meditations” for the issue 38.1 of Bombay Gin. In the spirit of full disclosure, Christina is my best friend, we went to graduate school together, and she introduced me to my husband by tricking me. (It’s Valentine’s Day, and I am allowed some sentimentality, the derivative of which already populates much of what we think and write, only we metabolize it in ways that make it acceptable to the Outside.) This trick introduction happened twice, the first time was at a 4×4 reading at Naropa. Christina was the DU reader, and I introduced her, never imagining that I would one day teach, advise, and edit a lit journal there. Here is some of what I said about her poems and the manuscript from which she read; these are words that bear repeating:
Late Radiant, draws from the poetics of the beloved—Sappho, Petrarch, and Mary Robinson—and the lyric— the Philomelic violence of the tradition. The manuscript opens and closes with sonnets. And, in the mode of Sappho, the poems in the between space look and feel like fragments. They are pneumatic, full with openings. In the poem/section “Elegy,” individual clauses spread syntax over the course of ten pages. Each page looks and reads like a field that, to take from the lines of another poem, “might grow wings itself and unsteadily sail to us.” There is, also, a profound seriousness to the seeming play of distance that harkens not only to the dislocations of Sappho’s fragments but also to Sappho’s figuration of distance between the lover and the beloved. If it were not for this tug, then desire would have its delight and burn out. But this isn’t all: Christina’s poetry concerns itself with time and space. Celestial bodies and the body that desires; the river as body of water and metaphorical time. It is also a liquid place where the speaker, in the poem, “Forgotten Underground,” looks for memory and love stripped of the body, calling out, “You and I, you and I.” The poetry shows us a convergence of time and space and does not so much reconfigure classical and pre-modern science, as indulge its lost poetic language. And, in this way, Christina’s poetry reminds us of something essential in our so-called reclamation of formal traditions: the sensual language of the lyric is a language of space that breaks open on the page that is a body and of time cast in cadence and, as the poem says, “a chronicle of those that endure.”
In 2011, Christina’s first book of poems, As We Are Sung, was published by Rosemarie and Keith Waldrop’s press, Burning Deck. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say: the book is brilliant as light is brilliant when we go into dark places and experience what light is left.
“When in light, bodily call out what we / see: lapses or shade. Eyes in your lamplight”
“The way, modernly, / flesh turns on like a light. / How it asks / everything and demands / everything”
“most luminous embryos”
A good friend makes one wonder where light comes from and also lights one’s path toward it. As when Christina tricked me a second time. The first time did not take, there not being space for new love. The second time, there was space, but it was a space I would not have known existed had there not been a flame to illuminate it. I think we would all be so fortunate to have a friend who makes herself small and quiet enough to know something about you that you do not know because you are so big and noisy in yourself.
So, I am very happy to introduce my dear friend, Christina Mengert, who can do almost anything, including teach in a prison, through Bard College’s Prison Initiative Program; write screenplays, of which three are currently in post-production and star actual famous people (heart throbs); co-edit an anthology of interviews with poets called, 12×12 Conversations in Poetry and Poetics; and get herself selected as a Best New American Poet by Rosemarie Waldrop. You can read a recent interview with her in The Volta. Also, Josh at The Volta was kind enough to lend us this poem-video of Christina reading from her meditations, which will be posted at The Volta later this year: