The Endearments are poems, mostly small ones, made out of the sweet words we use for the people and other creatures they love. Each poem originates in, plays with, and ends in a term of endearment. Like a beau présent, but with the general term rather than a specific name.
The poems are fun to write. They let me use and think about lots of good words. And I like them, so I am—at times with speed and at times with great slowness—making more. At a similar or even slower pace, this blog documents the procedure, its constraints, notes on the words, visual representations of both the poems and the procedure, and incidental thoughts on the process.
The first endearments, (dreamboat) and (sweetheart), are from fall 2009; the most recent ones, (ladybug) and (butter bean), were completed in 2018. Fun-A-Day NC 2011 helped them along, as have the editors who’ve published some of the poems.
A manuscript of endearments was a finalist for the 2013 Center for Book Arts chapbook contest and for the 2014 New Michigan Press / Diagram chapbook contest, and a semifinalist for Verse‘s 2020 Tomaž Šalamun Chapbook Prize and Gold Line Press‘s 2016 Poetry Chapbook Competition. The project’s ultimate form, I think, is as a chapbook and perhaps as a series of broadsides. Until such a thing is in the world, if you’d like to support the poems, you can do so by supporting the fabulous journals that have published them, enumerated here; or by buying my chapbook Smaller Songs, a collection of poems made using the footnotes of a ballad book, or my first book, Ornament.
When I began writing about the endearments, I imagined that the things they’d lead me to consider would include vowels, flowers, disgust, awkward situations, various foods, cats, and the ocean. These things have come to pass—especially the vowels, the disgust, the cats, and the ocean. But the endearments have also caused me to think about the visual and tactile qualities of letters and words—of these as materials. About how essential it is to me, as the child of people who valued making and repairing things, to bring those physical, practical, and gift-minded strategies into my poetic making.
About Southern speech, its sweetness and its less-sweetness both, and about Southern music. About girliness, boyishness, and the spectrum along which those feelings and qualities sit. About creatureliness. And about visual possibilities—necessities—for representing and thinking through complex operations and interactions with language.
For the most part the constraints for the endearments are set, but the project is a work in progress. New poems emerge, and new aspects of the constraints, whenever I fix my attention and effort on them. Which is often at lunch time, of late.