Poet's Pick April 28
Mina Loy: "Parturition"
Selected by Tiffany Atkinson
National Poetry Month 2015

Letter from the Editors

Dear Readers,

Our thanks to Tiffany Atkinson for today's Poet's Pick!

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Don Selby & Diane Boller

Tiffany Atkinson's Poetry Month Pick, April 28, 2015

by Mina Loy (1882-1966)

I am the centre
Of a circle of pain
Exceeding its boundaries in every direction

The business of the bland sun
Has no affair with me
In my congested cosmos of agony
From which there is no escape
On infinitely prolonged nerve-vibrations
Or in contraction
To the pinpoint nucleus of being

Locate an irritation       without
It is                        within
It is without 
The sensitized area
Is identical              with the extensity
Of intension

I am the false quantity
In the harmony of physiological potentiality
To which
Gaining self-control
I should be consonant
In time

Pain is no stronger than the resisting force
Pain calls up in me
The struggle is equal

The open window is full of a voice
A fashionable portrait painter
Running upstairs to a woman’s apartment
        “All the girls are tid’ly did’ly
         All the girls are nice
         Whether they wear their hair in curls
At the back of the thoughts to which I permit crystallization
The conception                       Brute
        The irresponsibility of the male
Leaves woman her superior Inferiority.
He is running up-stairs

I am climbing a distorted mountain of agony
Incidentally with the exhaustion of control
I reach the summit
And gradually subside into anticipation of
Which never comes.
For another mountain is growing up
Which          goaded by the unavoidable
I must traverse
Traversing myself

Something in the delirium of night-hours
Confuses while intensifying sensibility
Blurring spatial contours
So aiding elusion of the circumscribed
That the gurgling of a crucified wild beast
Comes from so far away
And the foam on the stretched muscles of a mouth
Is no part of myself
There is a climax in sensibility
When pain surpassing itself
Becomes Exotic
And the ego succeeds in unifying the positive and negative   poles of sensation
Uniting the opposing and resisting forces
In lascivious revelation

Negation of myself as a unit
          Vacuum interlude
I should have been emptied of life
Giving life
For consciousness in crises          races
Through the subliminal deposits of evolutionary processesHave I not
A dead white feathered moth
Laying eggs?
A moment
Being realization
Vitalized by cosmic initiation
Furnish an adequate apology
For the objective
Agglomeration of activities
Of a life.
A leap with nature
Into the essence
Of unpredicted Maternity
Against my thigh
Tough of infinitesimal motion
Scarcely perceptible
Warmth           moisture
Stir of incipient life
Precipitating into me
The contents of the universe
Mother I am
With infinite Maternity
    I am absorbed
The wasisevershallbe
Of cosmic reproductivity

Rises from the sub-conscious
Impression of a cat
With blind kittens
Among her legs
Same undulating life-stir
I am that cat

Rises from the sub-conscious
Impression of small animal carcass
Covered with blue bottles
And through the insects
Waves that same undulation of living
I am knowing
All about

The next morning
Each woman-of-the-people
Tip-tœing the red pile of the carpet
Doing hushed service
Each woman-of-the-people
Wearing a halo
A ludicrous little halo
Of which she is sublimely        unaware

I once heard in a church
Man and woman God made them
                                               Thank God.


* Tiffany Atkinson Comments:

Astonishing to think that this poem is over a hundred years old. Its visceral free verse, collaging and unabashedly strange diction, to say nothing of its savage blazoning of female bodily experience over the confinements and euphemism of Victorian childbirth make this poem jaw-dropping even today. Loy, by all accounts a charismatic, brilliant and contrary artist, is nonetheless mostly treated by literary history as the beautiful 'plus one' of male bohemian modernism, when her poetry should be read entirely on its own strange and defiant terms. I hope that this poem will urge readers unfamiliar with her work to seek out more of it.

About Tiffany Atkinson:
Tiffany Atkinson is a British poet and critic, and author of three poetry collections; Kink and Particle (Seren, 2006), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and winner of the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, Catulla et al (Bloodaxe Books, 2011), shortlisted for the Roland Mathias Poetry Award and a TLSBook of the Year, and So Many Moving Parts (Bloodaxe 2014), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and on the shortlist for the 2015 Roland Mathias Poetry Award. She is presently working on a collection of poems exploring people's experiences of healthcare in the UK, for which she won the Medicine Unboxed Creative Prize in 2014. Having lived and worked in Wales since moving there to study in 1993, she has recently moved to East Anglia to take up a Chair in Poetry at the University of East Anglia.

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