Manipulating Manifesting
(Re)generating Landscapes

Abigail Chabitnoy

copyright ©2019 Abigail Kerstetter

I buried my bones.
              No trace was left.

I buried my bones and the landscape
              became settled in [its] disturbances.

There’s no telling where the hand that digs might
              unearth the outline of a dwelling place,
                            the shape of ivory in the process [of]

becoming human.
              It is not evident.

I buried my bones in the fault
              [where] they were of little consequence,
                            more matters to settle

in the end.
              The land remembered only now.

I want to live somewhere old
              in the earth. On the water
                            now there are many boats, [but] the vermin

they are hunting [is] dead
              with metal feet. His pelt
                            [is] already sinking out of reach.

Old in the water. Let me sink
              [mine] in enough earth to bury [me].

Mother, it was my fault. I buried each of my other selves
              until I couldn’t see [ ] the earth was full.
              I was born(e) in this wound mother.

Singing made i[t] so. Steel singing. Destined
              men singing mercantile songs, manifesting
              swindling songs.

Singing say you see. Singing beautiful
              spacious skies, singing
              the brave in d(r)ead silence reposes.

You sang this land for me, (m)other. Each night
              I must find a new way to lay these arms
              stiff under the weight [of] my body.

I don’t know what I expected but at length I found myself a loan. I found
myself a part in a room of my own making, susceptible to drowning, to cave-ins.
I couldn’t hold a shape my own among so many bones and matter besides.
The field turned relic into me.

                            like this, Apaq?
can I wear these faces? which [way]
              shall I bend these bones?
does my skin show [through] these furs?
              do my metal feet b(ear) too much weight?
can I bend my arms in light of mo(u)rning?
                            can I bend them in name for what I (k)now believe?

Return every (last) bone to the l[and]
              I will shape my body in the sound [of]
                            waves breaking the shore

[if] singing made it so
              these days will not be many

I wonder if you hear me, Apaq.
              I wonder if I say your [right] words.

Michael, will you row the boat (a)shore and dig a womb-shaped home
              with my arms
              for your arms
              for all the world worn arms

[until] the waters b(r)each our skin and skin these bones
              in their weight
              in the sand
              to begin again without blood in the print?

Notes on the Poem

In the 475 weeks we've celebrated Poems of the Week associated with Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted poetry collections, anthologies and related works, we have regularly reflected on the power of poetry read aloud. It's fascinating to compare the words on the page to how you hear it as you read it to yourself and how others interpret it as they read it aloud. "(Re)generating Landscapes" by Abigail Chabitnoy from her poetry collection How to Dress a Fish from the most recent Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist is just one of many examples where putting the page and the audio rendition side-by-side is an intriguing and revealing exercise. Every year since 2001 - save for that one year about which the less said the better - we've celebrated the Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted works with public readings. We've extended those readings to as a wide an audience as possible by providing selections from those readings as individual videos and by livestreaming them (since 2012) and making those livestreams available for playback after the events. We were deeply disappointed to not be able to present the work of Abigail and her fellow shortlisted poets and translators in a live setting last year. However, we were eventually able to capture some of the delights of readings by the poets by melding exclusive audio recordings from their works with specially designed video treatments and interpretations. Abigail's beautiful reading radiates from this arresting video setting: and videos showcasing the voices of the other shortlisted poets and translators are found on their individual web pages and on the Griffin Poetry Prize YouTube channel linked above. How much does the layout of the text on the page influence how the words play in your mind? And how surprised are you when you hear the poet or another presenter or performer read the words aloud? Let's look, for example, at how Section I of "(Re)generating Landscapes" has an entrancing flow as it is laid out with regular indentations and spacing of stanzas down the page. Keep your eyes on that text as you listen to the poet read the same words. Does the rhythm and cadence of her voice support or contrast with how the text appears on the page? Is it what you expected? The Academy of American Poets web site ( offers generous advice on how visual and sonic approaches to poetry. From "How to Read a Poem", there is this:
Before you get very far with a poem, you have to read it. In fact, you can learn quite a few things just by looking at it. The title may give you some image or association to start with. Looking at the poem’s shape, you can see whether the lines are continuous or broken into groups (called stanzas), or how long the lines are, and so how dense, on a physical level, the poem is. You can also see whether it looks like the last poem you read by the same poet or even a poem by another poet. All of these are good qualities to notice, and they may lead you to a better understanding of the poem in the end. But sooner or later, you’re going to have to read the poem, word by word. To begin, read the poem aloud. Read it more than once. Listen to your voice, to the sounds the words make.
When you've finished this piece, we bet you'll be curious to go to YouTube and search on "robert creeley reading" ...! A year ago, when live events and performances of all kinds were being shuttered, not only were our own annual celebrations suspended, but we realized we had to update our International Poetry Events Calendar (here and also on our home page). With sadness, we added "postponed", then "cancelled", then removed a lot of events, so as not to create confusion. But then the tide rapidly turned. Artists of all kinds moved online and swiftly strove to replicate the power of live performance - including readings and spoken word - presented in various formats. Those events, then and thankfully still ongoing, were and are mounted with varying degrees of success but with consistent determination, commitment and resourcefulness. In the glow of all those sometimes fatiguing zoom screens, moments of connection, emotional resonance and true magic were and are still possible. Kudos and much gratitude to all the poets, publishers, booksellers, reading series, providers of venues and more who have given and continue to give us countless opportunities to hear poetic words lifted off the page in wondrous ways ... even if it's just coming from our laptops, tablets and phones right now. Soon, very soon, we look forward to hearing poetry ring out with the gorgeousness and subtlety and power of Abigail Chabitnoy's reading here, in concert halls, bookstores, pubs and more.

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