Poem of the Week | December 28, 2015

This New Year week, we gladly offer a new poem by Benjamin Landry. Landry is the author of Particle and Wave (Chicago, 2014) and An Ocean Away (iUniverse, 2006), as well as of the forthcoming Burn Lyrics (Spuyten Duyvil, 2016). He received the Mina Shaughnessy Scholarship in Writing from the Bread Loaf School of English and the Meijer Post-MFA Fellowship from the University of Michigan. He won the 2009 Columbia Journal Poetry Contest, and his work has appeared in venues such as Guernica, The New Yorker and Poetry Daily.
Author’s note:

For a good, long while, I have been entranced by Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project (Das Passagenwerk). What strikes me about this work of citation and montage is that in reading it we are, in a sense, trying to replicate the archeological feat Benjamin was pursuing in examining a lost architecture, an architecture that stands in for a mindscape soon to be lost, itself, through the onset of the Second World War. In the act of reading, we use the contemporary materials at hand from our subjective experience of the world in order to “construct” a time and place otherwise foreign, inaccessible and alien to us. In a radical, dislocating act, we come to inhabit this world. This movement was foremost on my mind during my most recent rereading of the Arcades Project (Harvard, 2002), and I began each of my poems with a passage that suggested the raw material for a contemporary poem, a new “construction.” All of the poems from my resulting manuscript, Passagen, use the cited passage in the place of a title, an act of citation that I like to imagine would please Walter Benjamin.


“It has acquired a ‘ghostly objectivity’ and leads a life of its own.”

The Arcades Project (Rühle)


The snow doesn’t fall
without first taking measure
of the boughs that catch it


the road churns its way
through the mountain


[dynamite aftershocks]


and we only arrive
because someone agrees
we are where we were meant
to be since that moment
we’ve agreed is the beginning