"About the Work" with Jay Yencich
In our "About the Work" series, Olga Mexina and Gbenga Adesina ask recent contributors for insight into their writing or for current sources of inspiration. Read Jay Yencich's poem "The Field of False Horizons" in SER Vol. 41.1.
Local oddities are a soft spot of mine; not just the knickknacks of Americana, but the locations and landmarks that collect their own private histories. The Mima Mounds of central Washington state were one such attraction for me, a space where the prairie bubbles up in erratic domes.
I’m a poet whose writing thrives on research, and a particular detail that kept surfacing about this landscape was how there were many theories of its creation, each inconclusive. That left an impression on me, in tandem with all the other phenomena (and people!) that exist around us and which we never investigate since they’re no concern or threat to us.
Taking the lines “the reasons / are mere pretense to the possible”—a blend of sibilants and approximants that trail off into silence—I wanted to poetically entertain the various origin stories. Early on, I decided that the spilling-over quality of tercets would suit the shape and that the line breaks ought to be semantically disruptive, a process of ongoing discovery. I needed to provide these formations a sort of mythology, because to mythologize affirms its object as capable of teaching us something essential.
JAY YENCICH has published poems and reviews in venues such as Best New Poets 2021, Mantis, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, and The Seattle Review. He earned his MFA from the University of Washington, where he received the Academy of American Poets Prize, and is presently a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he studies Old English, early modern British literature, and ecopoetics.