Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of Open Interval, a 2009 National Book Award finalist, and Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, a chapbook collaboration with Elizabeth Alexander. She is currently at work on The Coal Tar Colors, her third poetry collection, and Purchase, a collection of essays.
Statement about Process
Everything sang to us—: the pointed paintbrush tops of the cypress trees; the single palm; the dogs like clockwork each night for hours; the doves; the gravel walks; the swift scurrying lizards and the slow, armored beetles; the bats, swooping past as we walked down the stairs and circling our heads as we played; the ping-pong balls and the metal net; the sunset-colored melons and the marble table; the arbor; Volte’s clinging vines, heavy with bees; the crickets mocking the haying machines in the secret garden; the humming birds; the ripe figs; the fresco cycles; the laurino; the nocello, darkening day by day; the pink stones in Arezzo and the creaking green funivia over Gubbio; the goats; the sprinklers; the hummingbirds in the purple herbs; the breeze; everything sang to us. And we sang too. This is what I loved, what drove my work, what I will remember most about Civitella.
“To Believe in this Living…”
All time is wasted.
I withered mine to space, nights
imperfecting formulas. Elegance
as :—: as
being both the church
and funk of always—:
always that rumpled quilt we can’t imagine
sharing. I can’t turn to
the way flowers wilt, immediate
impulse toward peonies’ pink lilt,
their lying down, a silkening. And then the urge to slink in
a pink slip. An elegance
in letting myself
whither?—in that degree, to that
extent :—: as
the churchy hmmm of background singers
humming their assent—
heat directs this leaf
towards a seizure of the night
in which it may be held