Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kathleen Rooney's "For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs"

The writer and poet Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs, and reported the following:
The Page 99 test appeals to me as a form of bibliomancy—the use of a book in divination. As fate would have it, page 99 of For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs contains the first page of an essay that you could say is about apartment-o-mancy. It’s called “To Build a Quiet City in My Mind,” and in it, I attempt to visit all the New York City apartments of my favorite poet, Weldon Kees (1914-1955?).

Divination, of course, is “the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of a standardized process or ritual.” In New York I was trying to gain insight into what Kees’ life in the city might have been like, and, more broadly, what might have eventually driven him either to commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, or to vanish to start a new life in Mexico.

The essay begins with an epigraph from Kees’ poem, “Return of the Ghost”: “Your absence breeds / A longer silence through the rooms. We haunt ourselves,” and the first sentences are: “I am in love with another man, but my husband doesn’t mind. I have come to the city to find this man’s apartments. Over the course of the week, I will seek out all nine—one in Brooklyn, eight in Manhattan—but I will never find the man himself. I am in love with a dead man.”

This piece is the sixth essay (out of eleven total) in the book, and Ford Madox Ford’s method applies in that it does give an accurate impression of the quality of the whole. The book operates as kind of a memoir in essays, but I did my best to avoid making it only about me me me, and to try to give readers a sense of wider subjects. I hope that in reading this particular piece, people who don’t know about Kees might be intrigued enough to seek out his Collected Poems.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen Rooney's website.

--Marshal Zeringue