by Erik Fuhrer
Voyage Out Sonnet 17
Artists sat looking into the fire three months ago, eyes leaning
out of windows, looking at the lights beneath them, in a brisk
argument, the fire announcing
the glass compressing light
let into a high yellow wall. On balconies
the streets gathered plaster figures where footpaths pushed
in on private columns of shadow, swept across
deep armchairs, occasionally speaking. A flourishing voice
lost throats tapping, the old rooms creeping
with plump strokes plucking heads in the hall
haunted with electric light, congratulating a cold stone
room with the people scattered, humming somewhat cadaverously.
Luck spectacled lips among ordinary faces,
fixed upon someone unobserved on the gravel.
Voyage Out Sonnet 18
An hour grew box-like above.
Fifty people could be heard reading: a swishing
sound such as that when one turned out the light. An egg-box
is like brushing hair. Love, being glass, wondered
what play followed the evening seclusion.
The hour had been known to jump
into bed: unkindly beauty, the square
ugly hand of the world.
A lawn tennis feeling is not quite prayer.
A cows knees are tall grass. A glance
accustomed to squares of starlight could distinguish
a voice brushing teeth from the faint pulse of an electric
bell woken hungry in the shade of a cigarette marching
through hours with large naked feet.
Voyage Out Sonnet 19
Love from below the pyramid undressed the pathos of stooped bones
sitting to attention with cut toe-nails. They draw circles
round odd conclusions, angular brushing into fireplace silence.
A wonder that the ghost had never heard of love. A knocking
collecting thick waltzes spun into infinity. The truth concluded something
about auras, a speck in the middle of people stretching to full width.
The universe was foolish to try observing people. Grasshoppers
slowly dropping to the floor, padding softly
after hours of pressing into silence. People breathing
wakeful darkness shadowed the empty street yellow
rocking. Owls blowing earth robbed of colour. A profound beauty
swam the smoke upon the uncurtained house drifting
up the fireside. Shook eyes remarked the pleasant voice searching flat
mountains, moved off to the streets, weather beaten and sorrowed.
Voyage Out Sonnet 20
The soil disguised dawn. All creatures eat roses.
An interesting face grunted a mess
of brawling questions, ashamed at the discoveries
people founded. A cat interrupted all answers, noticed
hunger neglected. A tongue ought to walk in the heat
and bones lay upon the floor. A creature withdrew teeth and opened
the crown of life. Sketches help exhaust colour which wandered
the hall. Bears cook in confinement and flutter away.
A minute wheezed itself into a frenzy. There was a pause.
Then, silent legs seated at a small table.
Fruit sliced the human spirit in different corners of
the body, anxious in the looking-glass. Silver light fatiguing
fish who despise tea. Yellow dogs handed parrots private histories of pain.
Cascades of eggs lit a cigarette. A cow mumbled, suggested dinner.
Voyage Out Sonnet 21
Promises cut off play. Sanctuary became judgement when shut
into deserted imaginary worlds. Trunks of heroic statues play-acted
amusement and became the crossways of the human being.
The window went on thinking of interminable gardens trusted
to be candid and discouraged in shiny yellow gilding
wrangling facts with curious words made of wood. Remodelled
adventures recast a regular rhythm. Unspeakable queerness in the middle
of the world, moving life. Dissolution sat perfectly still at the same spot
that continued ticking mechanically in persistent knocking with a tall human
saying utter absurdity into a room of absent-minded books. Ghosts began to run
in eyes rather surprising and dreadfully dull. The messenger
was an answer. A great intellectual has enabled eight spots of pebbles
sitting one leg over the opposite. Mountain-sickness interrupted the society
of chilled earth. Human beings reflected a field, stirring cities out of love.
Voyage Out Sonnet 22
A human had been chosen as a shady spot conveniently flat
between trees. Young men out of place held shaken hands awkwardly. Donkeys
arrived by degrees with people and hoarse animals, marshalled
a sharp ascent like leading troops into action. Sharply stretching,
donkeys introduced sensible fear. Flattened with squares of grey, towns obscured the sea.
The sky grasshoppered the ear. Grim men smoke life
at the doomed city. Laid eggs hint midday, foretold hotly until earth
fell wavering and tossed eyes hobbling upon bodies in grumbling expeditions.
The figure wore silence turning eyes on hooves, stretching
an arm towards a stump of forest merging in a river. The hand
of the compass brought them to plastered shapes of earth broken in the face.
Lights watched play describe odd situations, conscious of looking-glasses.
Creatures pouring down ruins on the back of hands sting.
Explanatory Note: These poems are from a longer work titled The Voyage Out Sonnets, a page by page erasure of Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out. During the process of erasure, I moved chapter by chapter and then formed what I had into 50 experimental sonnets. Solmaz Sharif has convincingly linked poetic erasure to government censorship, which every erasure project certainly risks replicating. Woolf herself had to censor herself in her novel in order to get published. Since the intent of this project is to celebrate rather than censor, I was careful and mindful not to redact but to highlight Woolf’s words. Rather than physically blackening out words during my process, I left Woolf’s original text clean and instead circled words that I believed revealed the multiple possibilities in the original text. I highlighted language over narrative and provided agency and voice to animals and inanimate objects, which Virginia Woolf often does herself in her later work, such as “Kew Gardens.” For the most part, I did not add anything to the text, with the exception of the rare addition of an “s” at the end of a word. I also occasionally cobbled together a word from individual letters. That said, Woolf’s individual language remains mostly intact and unadulterated in these poems, which intend to pay homage to Woolf’s original text.