What Sparks Poetry

Books We’ve Loved

What Sparks Poetry is a serialized feature in which we invite poets to explore experiences and ideas that spark new poems.

In Books We’ve Loved, we’ve asked our editorial board members and select guest editors to reflect on a book that has been particularly meaningful to them in the last year, with the intention of creating a list of book recommendations for our valued readers.

J. Michael Martinez on S*an Henry-Smith’s Wild Peach

After reading Dylan Robinson’s excellent book Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies1 earlier this year and being introduced to the work of artist Peter Morin, I was impelled to explore and interrogate how I listened to my immediate world, from which positionalities I heard my morning—from the squee of an ash-winged robin sitting on a branch outside my office window all the way to the silent stone at the tree’s base and, later, to how I listened to Lonelyspeck’s “Brine” for the 500th time on Spotify.

                        I’ve         listened so

        Settler-eyed, how would I vision otherwise?

In thinking about the image, in my continued experiments in decolonizing my own understanding of the “poetic image,” in my attempts to “listen otherwise,” recently, I’ve kept returning to S*an D. Henry-Smith’s Wild Peach. The alliterative recursiveness whirls me in such succulent oceans. In my mind, each time I reread “running around & away,” it’s as if the vibrant emotional urgency of a Twombly were rendered with the precision of a Seurat, an emotional pointillism blurring me into its renderings.

I cannot say if I’ve “extracted” a decolonial method from Wild Peach. I can say each time I pick it up, I’m immersed in and as its worlding, delighted in its light, lost in its “seamirror,” my worlding renewed.


1 For a great overview of the book, I recommend reading: https://amodern.net/article/sensate-sovereignty/

Writing Prompt

Martinez discusses an awareness for the “positionality” of his listening. Write a poem that tries to describe a sound unusually, or from “a different place.”

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J. Michael Martinez

J. Michael Martinez

Longlisted for the National Book Award, winner of the National Poetry Series, and a recipient of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, J. Michael Martinez is the author of four collections of poetry, Heredities (LSU Press), In the Garden of the Bridehouse (University of Arizona Press), and Museum of the Americas (Penguin Press), and, forthcoming from Penguin, a new collection, Tarta Americana. An assistant professor of poetry at San Jose State University’s MFA in Creative Writing, he lives in California. More at www.jmichaelmartinez.org.