Recent Alumna wins National Poetry Series

This past September, Berkeley alumna Laura Wetherington (Class of ‘04) was notified that her manuscript A Map Predetermined and Chance was one of the five winners of the National Poetry Series’ Open Competition.  The Open Competition was established in 1978 to recognize and promote excellence in contemporary poetry by ensuring the publication of five books of poetry a year through a series of participating publishers. Five distinguished poets each select one winning manuscript for publication.  In a moment of well nigh poetic coincidence, Berkeley Professor Cecil Giscombe selected Laura’s manuscript, despite not having known her while she was an undergraduate here.  Her book will be published by Fence Books in the fall of 2011.

Laura is a Virginia native, but moved to California where she attended Cabrillo College before coming to Berkeley.  She is also a graduate of the University of Michigan’s MFA program. She co-founded and co-edits, an online journal of experimental poetry and sound; she currently teaches creative writing at both Eastern Michigan University and in the University of Michigan’s New England Literature Program.

Laura describes her book as “fairly short, as books go – about 50 pages.”  It was written over the course of 6 years, and she says that a few of the poems come out of the time she spent at Berkeley.  It’s a varied work that is split into three sections.  The first is rather sexually explicit with frank images of gendered bodies.  She wrote it, she said, “as a response to the many talented male writers who refer to their manhood as a metaphor for their genius. If genius = genitals, I’m putting my bid in here.”  The second section consists of a series of “vaguely dark” poems that address the violence we do to one another, while the third section is a long poem “meditating on cultural otherness and war.”

Laura describes the motivations of the poems in this book as an attempt to “drive the grammar engine off the tracks. The book overall, I would say, grapples with the difficulty of relating and sharing experience, usually in the context of intimate relationships.”  She went on to list a number of questions that sparked her composition: How can a person feel at one with another and yet never fully inhabit their perspective? If subject and object are never able to occupy the same cognitive space, what does this imply about one’s capacity for empathy? How does one ever get to know someone else? What constitutes a satisfying human connection?
Laura has also had some of her poetry appear in online publication.  Two of her more sexually explicit poems appear in Verse magazine and follow below, while others have appeared in Oxford Magazine and Just Magazine.  Please join us in congratulating Laura on a very fine achievement and a promising career in poetry.

In the day I dream in future tense: past sedative plus perfect

the present is a pasture:
a funny joke about pointers. it points to itself.
my vagina is a closed circuit television.
but how can one question with a period.

there is no narrator, no barrier.
I know how to see with my cells.
oscillate does not mean vacillate. both could mean masturbate:
my vagina is an electrical engineer.

Quiet people are crazy in bed

All orgasm is just me clapping for myself on the inside.
We are sound waves reverberating in the chambers of our skin.
We are sound whales crooning the universe in.