Barn Burned, Then
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By Michelle Taransky
Selected by Marjorie Welish
as the winner of the 2008 Omnidawn Poetry Prize
80 pages, (6” x 9” Paper)
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Marjorie Welish, the esteemed poet who selected Michelle Taransky's manuscript for the Omnidawn prize, explains that these poems “animate the economies and concerns of our lives. Barn, Burned, Then implicates Objectivism in this imagining, to create poems of the conglomerate of bank and barn -- words shown to be made of contingent cultural forces.” In terse, tautly crafted poems that are dynamically contemporary, Taranksy assesses our cultural moment with unrelenting courage and candor.
Michelle Taransky received a BA from the University of Chicago and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. With her father, architect Richard Taransky, she is the coauthor of The Plans Caution (QUEUE 2007). Her poems have appeared in publications including Denver Quarterly, VOLT, How2 and New American Writing. She currently lives in Philadelphia, where she works at Kelly Writers House and teaches poetry at Temple University.
for Barn Burned, Then:
Imagine this: sentences broken into phrases at fault lines of testimony, where the words “barn” and “bank” animate the economies and concerns of our lives. Barn, Burned, Then implicates Objectivism in this imagining, to create poems of the conglomerate of bank and barn--words shown to be made of contingent cultural forces.
From “Building the Bank, Asking”:
Who called the bank
The bank of
Grave the bank
You asked for praying
When she handed us the bill her hands were
Hands of a farmhand.
It’s good to have the image in mind
At the bank
By chance—that is to say, by the happenstance that changes lives irrevocably—are these poems wrought. (What legitimizes happenstance remains in the background.) With Barn Burned, Then Michelle Taransky becomes the worthy winner of Omnidawn’s initial publication of emerging talent.
--Marjorie Welish, Judge of the 2008 Omnidawn Poetry Prize
Michelle Taransky’s Barn Burned, Then explores the hidden economies of a derelict American dream. In this ingeniously unified and mercilessly fractured collection of poems, the barn and the bank – those fundamental repositories of value – become sites for an elegiac meditation on signification itself. What is a barn? “A windowless address / put up to the shadow-maker.” What is a bank? “A way to get more for less.” With uncanny foresight, this postmodern Cassandra’s lyrical utterance warn us about the Ponzi scheme of modernity, while simultaneously “taking care // Of our ailing want / To piece back together // All that has parted.”
Michelle Taransky takes her title from Masahide's 17th century haiku: "Barn's burnt down – / now / I can see the moon." There, physical loss is a gateway to an ecstatic gain of focus. Here, barns still burn, but the haze that hovers over the disappeared structures is more fiscal than physical: banks, not lightning or arson, would seem to be the (in)efficient causes. In two interlocked series, "Burn Book" and "Bank Book," Taransky uses her fluency in frame-scanning, collage, and abstraction to alert readers to the depth of tinder we live amid.