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 43
Bracelets absorbed slippery light across the room. Glimpses
spite long wrist muscles twitching to moods. Laughs muddle
burning hot voices. Sirens kiss wet cheeks with drops of cold water.
A chill pressed a gaze. Now quite dry eyes inebriate homes
with a slight smile. A profusion of bones sat up with animation, talking
about art. A lowered voice under skin talks with more pause
than breath. Slipped eyes push back fleshy
windows. Life crushed the body into reflection, losing
bright intimacy. The spark of night cut the eyes slowly. Yellow plucking
opened dark red music. Pleasure hooked
a lump of ginger in a slim elegant jar. Matter tipped untouched. Shipwreck
makes its appearance a kind of charm. The neck locking to whirl a spark in silence.
Grey coils fasten to time’s upper body, hooking the eyes
back to the light. Glass stiffens about tongues, descending.
Voyage Out Sonnet 44
The world floated in a dream. Ashtray sleep shapes
feverish red escape. A vision flames glass over the dust. Hot
silence murmured with dogs on a river in the sky. Sleep
touches careful chills in cheeks, leaves crushed chatter underneath the home.
A small sun stood between ruins. Rivers strode to empty
light beneath the diving night. Murmuring
sleep smelled of smoke. Cigarettes undressed
the darkness. The sky shapes landmarks into unknown mornings.
Red shrieks strangling high night. A chuckle flickered
and narrowed like a cathedral. Leaves fruit groans. Covered green
silence ate beneath the shore. Hot scents lace the stems of eyes. Drowsy
reflections of snakes shade the hour. Yellow creepers crimson
the sunlight circling red fruit. Animals patch sunlight with late fingers.
Bodies edge the river rocks for scraps. Dogs smoking a cigarette remember a stable yard.
Voyage Out Sonnet 45
Gnarled emotion ran through peace.
Eyes, a coil of rope. Legs gaze on the hot morning.
Cold light spoke with scattered rust. Springing
waves open hard laughing. Eyes fix the world
beneath a purple tie. The shape of fingers
like bent trees, crack breezes, drop a bolt of grass.
Broken figures remember who they were.
Bone hollows shape the plunge of speech.
Water rings the sun lifted from the lips. Light
shapes the withdrawal of an echo.
Time, half-choked with ordinary pianos heaped
great masses of human music. A series of sonatas returned
with a final chord. Rain exploded the sharp bark of the sun. Creatures pearl
old bone. Owls spark at the tops of trees. A torpedo choked drowsy the globe.
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.