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risk :: nonchalance

Laura Neuman


October 2017


Winner of the 2016 Omnidawn Poetry Chapbook Prize
selected by Hoa Nguyen

Seeking a trans poetics in encounter’s work, the interlocking poems in risk :: nonchalance ask: what more do you want me to risk for our art practice? Gesture originates in bodies moving — no, citation — no, on the page — no, on the bus. In wacky, asymmetrical scale, embodiment’s impossible questions hang on fragments of schema, meta juice bogs down tiny lines, and line breaks signal perceptual shifts through which individual and collective gestures rotate. This is a break-up book, if what is breaking up is the notion that there is a lover or a reader or a non-essentializing feminism waiting faithfully outside the poem, immune to its machinations. The poems document two dance process the author participated in, in Philadelphia and Toronto, during the spring of 2016.

A queer and queered series of love poems, risk:: nonchalance carries forward questions about love, art, and philosophical questioning. Contemplative, roaming, loving, wondering, the poems offer pathways even as it offers contradictions, “a map that never stops”.

Hoa Nguyen, judge of the Omnidawn Poetry Chapbook Prize

Laura Neuman’s risk :: nonchalance goes for everything, and the discrete — that is, the writing has the breadth of vision to see the whole moving vibratory insane social structure we over-populate andthe humor to refuse its feints of distillation. Her poetry doesn’t override its questions with control, knows you can’t replace singularity with a bigger one just to play at consolation, gets truly right in-close to being-with as a place the dance comes out of, & has a working playful definition of failure akin to most people’s definition of completion. I love the way this work turns in on itself without alarm & comes out funny and strong, linked to observation in a way that lets wanting “to take you / somewhere so / specific it doesn’t / matter where we / go” be exact and wise and wide open as sound.

Anselm Berrigan

About the Author

Laura Neuman is the author of Stop the Ocean (Stockport Flats 2014) and The Busy Life (Gazing Grain 2012). Her/their poems have appeared in Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Chax Press and Nightboat Books), and in the journals The Brooklyn Rail, EOAGH, small portions, Tinge, X Poetics, Fact-simile, La Norda Specialo, and The Encyclopedia Project. They live in Philadelphia and teach creative and critical writing and literature, variously, at Temple University, Community College of Philadelphia, and The College of New Jersey. The recipient of an award from The Fund for Poetry, they hold an M.F.A. from Bard College Milton Avery School of the Arts, and an M.A. in poetry from Temple University.

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I will misunderstand for a long time
“the costumes make me really mad”
“pissed off about not doing the practice”
a pushing, a pushing away from
your very nauseous intercostals
hook and sink her.
in the wake of failure’s queerest passion
nonchalance is a sinking ship
and you want words that are social for our movement
(the pleasure of love):

well, this text is a body too
don’t say, your work makes me sick
say, your work gives me a physical sensation
i associate with nausea.

the way we can put
a magician inside the dance and a
book in a book
compliment a sweater then
slide hood over face…
how does writing become a poem but
disaster and a failed sea map.
and if failure is when a process ends
and we are left wanting more?

I want to give up this
poor definition of feminism as
approximate nausea.

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