When a person leaves home to travel, she often gives up the sense of context in which she had previously understood herself and her surroundings. But surrendering this sense of stability can then encourage her to ask questions and to form newer, fuller ideas of the self and the world.
Idra Novey’s first book of poems, The Next Country, is certainly concerned with this aspect of travel—the ways that its discoveries estrange the familiar and make us more intimate with the wider world— but she also imports the instability that characterizes the traveling spirit into other realms that people tend to think of as fixed; those of family, of memory, and interpersonal relationships.
Reading Idra Novey’s work reminds us of how many ideas and identities can feel as physical as a country, how we live inside of those known spaces and what we do when those borders break down and we are permitted, or asked, to travel beyond them.
The poem Scenes From Moving Vehicles, I reads a bit like an origin story for the making of a poet:
SCENES FROM MOVING VEHICLES, I
Darkhaired and given to staring,
the border guards mistook her
for an immigrant, sneaking in
with this swell American family, all belted
into their sweltering Chevy.
Her? Oh, she’s been following us
for years, the father joked
and carried on, relentless, for miles
into Texas. The girl, clement and ready
for elsewhere, decided she was meant
to unbuckle and exit alone.
To escape. And be mistaken.
It is this escape from the familiar in the most innocuous of circumstances—a car trip, a joke— that enables the girl to achieve enough distance from her life to see it as a “scene,” to turn it into art, where it is crafted to be strong enough to bear the serious questions these poems ask. What makes up a country, to what do we pledge our allegiance and what is the role of the citizen and writer? Are we capable of changing and of being changed by the world?
Novey’s spare, elegant poems acknowledge that these questions know no boundaries, that they travel everywhere, and that answering them may not lead us to any steadier ground. Yet, reading these poems gives, at once, the thrill of discovery, and urges the reader, gently, forward into the unknown.
We look forward to welcoming Idra Novey to the 2012 Festival.
For more of an introduction to Novey’s work and to read poems from her second book, Exit, Civilian, which was selected for the National Poetry Series, please visit www.idranovey.com
Please use the “Comments” box below to share other resources you may have found for this poet. In this way, we can build together a mini-wiki-encyclopedia on the 2012 Festival Poets.
For more information on the 2012 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,
visit our website dodgepoetry.org