Issue 19 – Winter 2011 – Carrie Etter

Carrie Etter


Poem for Two Voices (1)

This is the normative 

                                                                                             not I 

talking about a mode 

                                                                                             of being? 

I hadn’t thought of that 

                                                                                             which is to say 

Did you see clouds scrape the spires? 

                                                                                             mice in the fields 

Live near cornfields, you want cats 

                                                                                             normative is not 

I never thought of myself as normal 

                                                                                             or normative 

Insignificance can’t be normative 

                                                                                             you would say

Cultivate beauty 

                                                                                             like the young

Oh with them it just happens 

                                                                                             leopard print 





leopard print 





                                                                                             you would say 

talking about a mode 


I’m cultivating beauty 


I’m cultivating beauty 

                                                                                             would that you were 

shut up 

                                                                                             we’re not getting closer 

it would be too easy 

                                                                                             to ask what’s normal 

it would be too easy 





                                                                                             yet recognizable 


                                                                                             I’m not redefining 



I know that tune


Poem for Two Voices (2)

I began in depth 

                                                                                    where’s the paddling pool? 

nuanced by contrast 

                                                                                    making a handle 

every time I retold the story 

                                                                                    meaning keeps moving 

colours grew sharper or changed 

                                                                                    sometimes edging beyond the visible 

upending the usual connotations 

                                                                                    the story’s colouring 

creating new enigmas 

                                                                                    had something to say 

over and over again 

                                                                                    a matter of habit 

of circumstances 

                                                                                    of need or a hunger for 

the retelling 


until I can’t recall the original 

                                                                                    if there is such a thing 

palimpsest, the traces of erasure 

                                                                                    an awkward transition, a 

the unconscious decision 

                                                                                    a kind of frame 

in the starting point 

                                                                                    feeling apologetic 

once upon a life 

                                                                                    for all thus lost 

not that story 

                                                                                    invented her own Golden Age 

the stealth of recognition 

                                                                                    in the retelling 

what is depth? 

                                                                                    the colour of 

ambiguous all the same



American expatriate Carrie Etter is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her first collection, The Tethers (Seren, 2009), won the London Festival Fringe New Poetry Award for the best first collection published in the UK and Ireland in the past year, and her second collection, Divining for Starters, will be published by Shearsman Books in February 2011; these poems are included there. She has also edited an anthology, Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010).