In an article for the Cleaver Magazine titled ‘The Poet’s ‘I’: Distance through First-Person’, Katie Rensch talks about how the poetic ‘I’ can simultaneously be intimate and distant. While reading Aimee Lowenstern’s poems, I was reminded of Rensch’s ideas on how the first-person in poetry can be employed to capture varying degrees of presence of the poet-speaker’s self.
Aimee Lowenstern’s poems employ ‘I’ as an almost invisible presence in the face of more powerful forces. For example, in ‘In this Room, A Forest’, the ‘I’ appears only once, to say I wouldn’t know. Similarly, the solo appearance of the self in ‘Museum of Ice’ is to stake a claim on the street: my street is a hallway. The ‘I’ is ever present and observant in Lowenstern’s poems but constantly evades the spotlight. In ‘Moments of Rest’, the speaker observes the dog, I see briefly, and then the focus shifts entirely on to the dog rather than staying with the speaker: but she does not move,/ so perfect is her pleasure.
How apt then that in ‘Transcendence’, the speaker meditates on the smallness of self in contrast to the vastness of nature, leaving us, the readers, also to ponder the question: it might lift me on its fingertips/ to see if there is any spark or sparkle/ in this. In me.
— Aswin Vijayan
The Bombay Literary Magazine
Moments of Rest
My dog lies perfectly still
on the floor, in the sun,
her eyes closed, as if dead.
She will be.
She is the color of dough
half-baked, turning golden.
I touch her side, and she is
as warm as that. Her lashes
flicker, and I see briefly
the dark of her iris,
but she does not move,
so perfect is her pleasure.
I lie down beside her,
on the floor, in the sun.
It fills my vision,
the white-yellow of egg wash
catching the light.
Does that make sense?
The sun catching the light?
The sun catches itself,
and catches me, too.
I close my eyes, fall
as if dead.
I will be.
In this Room, a Forest
In this room, a dozen people;
in this room, twenty-four hands.
In each hand, roots of brain
thrum, nerves electric, spanning
meat and bone, twining
up twenty-four arms
feeling twelve kinds of fabric,
itchy or soft
against the hard and skinsome
bend of an elbow. Twenty-four
shoulders may be aching,
I wouldn’t know,
but below each ear are conduits
and for blood.
See the throats, awash with air
inside and out, both holding up
and becoming the mouths,
which, like the eyes and nostrils,
are blooming with sensation,
delicate organs moved
by a speck of dust,
by a misplaced
I had Time to Write a Poem
earlier today, but instead I took a long
hot bath. My skin rhymed with softness,
my knees edited their enjambments,
my breasts smelled like grapefruits.
It was a kind of poem, in a fleeting
and personalized language,
but I’m too busy to translate it now.
I’ll try again tomorrow.
There’s a profound discomfort I feel
when faced with the obviously beautiful.
I can find glamor in the delicate legs
of roaches, yes, glints in the lining
of discarded candy wrappers, laughing in
I can pan for gold in the sewer
all day, place each treasure carefully
at the inset of my pupil, but
what am I to do with a forest,
a mountain, a waterbody
Every thread of it an angelsong
loud enough to burst my eardrums.
Every glance of it vast and proud enough
that it might lift me on its fingertips
to see if there is any spark or sparkle
in this. In me.
Museum of Ice
Coming out of the second or third
largest winter on record, it’s no surprise
that in April, my street is a hallway
between marble walls
carelessly constructed by plows.
Snow doesn’t melt evenly,
growing shorter the way
it grew tall: it is a jagged
lessening, and every day
a delicate white boulder
is sloughed to the uncarpeted floor.
Each mass carves itself
into an abstract ice sculpture,
using chisels of dappled sunlight
and its own surreptitious erosion.
Snow stones become effigies
of their saltier, foamier cousin.
They are more dynamic
and filigreed in their stillness
than in the blizzard
that tossed them here, a flurry
of quartzlike flecks.
Birds pass by
on their museum dates, chittering
about the meaning of art, or love,
or when the exhibit will change.
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [source]
Gerrit Dou: Hond in ruste (Dog at rest), Date: 1650, oil on canvas.
Gerrit Dou (1613-1675)’s work is now classified as part of the Dutch golden age. This is the age of Rembrandt and Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan Steen, and Gerard Ter Borch. It is the age of Hugo Grotius, John Locke, Rene Descartes, Christian Huygens, and Baruch de Spinoza. The seventeenth century belonged to the Dutch, and as their world hurtled inevitably towards modernism, Dutch artists (and the immigrant community that gathered around them) froze the universal moments of their time in oil and pigment and shadows and light. Like Aimee’s poems do, with words.
Aimee Lowenstern (author)
Aimee Lowenstern (she/her) is a twenty-five year old poet living in Nevada. She has cerebral palsy and a chihuahua. Her work can be found in several literary journals, including Fifth Wheel Press and Tower Magazine.