Katy Didden






Two go out
on the lavafield.

One invents a city,
one a fort.

One plans a feast,
one a siege.

The rocks start to shine                 
in their eyes.

A plume of steam rises 
like a hired gun

out of the ruin.






I set an ear
to the hollowing crust
where crossing waves
drum trochees.

Meter riddles the earth first.          
I trace weak seams—
as when between
rain-heavy consonants
unbridled air

Like saints in cells,
the stones,
at just a word,
turn into song.




[TWO GO OUT]: Source  Text: Indridason, Arnaldur. Arctic Chill. Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb, trans. Canada; Vintage, Random House, 2009. p. 286-287. Photo Credit: Katy Didden, 2016.  Text and photo layout: Kevin Tseng.

[I SET AN EAR]. Source Text: Verne, Jules. A Journey to the Center of the Earth. New York : Heritage Press, c1966.  Photo Credit: Katy Didden, 2016.  Text and Photo Layout: Kevin Tseng.

When I was looking for an organic form that would help me approximate the voice of lava, I thought of erasure. I like how the process of erasure adds layers onto the existing text, and how the original text shines through like the high points of an older flow. I also like how it puts incredible pressure on language, and to me, it often feels like translation, as I scan my brain for the precise vocabulary that will fit the sense of the emerging poem. I recently returned from doing research in Iceland. One of my favorite day trips was an excursion to the Snaefellsnes peninsula, where you can actually descend into a lava tube. Rumor has it that this is where Otto Lidenbrock, his nephew Alex, and their guide Hans descended into the Center of the Earth in Jules Verne's novel. If you go, take my advice: wear gloves, and beware eruptions. [link]