These poems are from a longer work titled The Voyage Out Sonnets, a page by page erasure of Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out. During the process of erasure, I moved chapter by chapter and then formed what I had into 50 experimental sonnets. Solmaz Sharif has convincingly linked poetic erasure to government censorship, which every erasure project certainly risks replicating. Woolf herself had to censor herself in her novel in order to get published. Since the intent of this project is to celebrate rather than censor, I was careful and mindful not to redact but to highlight Woolf’s words. Rather than physically blackening out words during my process, I left Woolf’s original text clean and instead circled words that I believed revealed the multiple possibilities in the original text. I highlighted language over narrative and provided agency and voice to animals and inanimate objects, which Virginia Woolf often does herself in her later work, such as “Kew Gardens.” For the most part, I did not add anything to the text, with the exception of the rare addition of an “s” at the end of a word. I also occasionally cobbled together a word from individual letters. That said, Woolf’s individual language remains mostly intact and unadulterated in these poems, which intend to pay homage to Woolf’s original text.
Voyage Out Sonnet 40
The landscape lashed a cry against
the night’s Black bars. The waterfall alarm
was justified. Curious sensations plan
accidents. Love plays the analysis now.
On a note of approach hangs a god
of light drawn across a calm shaped rhythm.
Mute ghosts could not slow down breath
Without clasping clocks. People moved in
blue-cloth light, blessing jars of oil.
Ugly wrought the mild chords struck
with water paler than the Lord’s Prayer.
Childlike smoke ghosts homes with slips
of fingers. A psalm mood devoured
teeth, rooted out of language.
Voyage Out Sonnet 41
Schoolboys, returned, to experimental words, part the pattern
of poetry. People float out of half-shutting eyes. Pursuing
mist misrepresented the damp leaves. The face carefully
produced eyes obstinate with religion stuck to a rock. The mind
revealed lips clever in mood as though a row
of legs occupied with light. Prayers chanting
disturbed a glance in the thin pale gulp with an Amen.
Meanwhile, the pulpit spectacles a very large egg
with weighty significance. Beauty rambled
under skin. Wireless words touch eyes composed
of a long breath of water. Creatures compass
millions in the earth. The universe alters through whipping
tones blessing the light. Curious people clear
the atmosphere, drawn along the flushed plucking.
Voyage Out Sonnet 42
Glass gazed with strong white teeth proceeded to frighten
the yellow paint. Abrupt earth could almost see
the maker break the air. A pause flung a swarm
of tortoise-shells about London. Trees peirce a long river, lustre
the old days, violently opened. A slip of figure with a prepared
smile quailed opposite the sketch of smooth gods.
Repetition inspired temper, eyes in love with hovering
glass. A bird rooks the space out of doors.
A blue-white hum heated the wooden sun. Branches struck
wet dust raised by flies beneath a net. Flicked love attracted
quiet sweaters flying at aeroplanes. Years bickered
Covered by spoilt gardens. Punctual lights pulled up
The trunk of a tree on dry grey eyes vacant in freedom
like arms coolly dropped to the ground in desire.
Erik Fuhrer is a Pushcart Prize and Best Microfictions 2018 nominee. He holds an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and his work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Maudlin House, Ghost City Press, Cleaver, and Softblow. He tweets @Erikfuhrer and his website is erik-fuhrer.com.