Niki Neems (Safety Book #34)

1. Could you tell us the name of a book that you love, and why?

 Tremble by C.D. Wright. The poems mimic the absurdity and humiliation found within moments of intimacy and illuminate the blurred shape of being a human in the world. I love the pace of this book. It is leisurely reminiscent and quietly erotic. Each of these short, lyric poems can stand alone, but when bundled together, they become a complex, winding narrative.

2. Where were you when you first read, saw or heard of this book?

I was at work, a retail job, when a friend of mine unexpectedly began to recite: “Everything good between men and women / has been written in mud and butter /and barbecue sauce. The walls and /the floors used to be gorgeous. / The socks off-white and a near match. / The quince with fire blight / but we get two pints of jelly…” I know now that this is the beginning of the poem “Everything Good Between Men and Women,” but at the time my reaction was more visceral. I didn’t think of myself as a poet then, hadn’t spent much time thinking about poetry, but after locking up that night, I went immediately around the corner to the bookstore and paged through each and every one of C.D. Wright’s books until I found those memorable first lines. I bought a copy of Tremble because I had to read the end of that poem.

3. Did this book influence your own writing, thinking, sense of the world, or work?


This messy, vulnerable book made me want more poetry. I still appreciate the way the poems become at times too tender and nostalgic, too finite, keeping me aware that being human means always being in the middle, uncertain, unfinished. These poems say without saying that all endings are pretend, staged for the participants, because in reality, if we are brave, we know that endings are non-existent.

4. Give us a line or excerpt from the text that intrigues, engages, mystifies, inspires, disgusts, or transforms you. Discuss…



Just typing them again makes me happy. “Everything good between men and women / has been written in mud and butter /and barbecue sauce. The walls and /the floors used to be gorgeous. / The socks off-white and a near match. / The quince with fire blight / but we get two pints of jelly…”

5. Who did you send this book to, why?

This book is out of print and hard to get a hold of, but I’ve loaned my copy to so many people who say they don’t read poetry I can’t remember them all. I like that my book has been in so many people’s hands. It’s worn and the binding is broken. It opens naturally to the lines above.

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Bio: Niki Neems received an MFA in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where she owns a neighborhood stationery shop.