What kind of connections can a poem create among the people who read it? Are certain kinds of poems especially good at creating connection, either because of their form, or their subject matter? And can this feeling of connection — to words, and to the others who may read them — move us deeper into the world, rather than simply further along the page? I’ll pursue these questions with reference to a beautiful poem by Juliana Spahr called “Gentle Now, Don’t Add to Heartache.”
Chris Nealon teaches English at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of two books of literary criticism, Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion before Stonewall (Duke, 2001) and The Matter of Capital: Poetry and Crisis in The American Century (Harvard, 2011), and four books of poetry: The Joyous Age (Black Square Editions, 2004), Plummet (Edge Books, 2009), Heteronomy (Edge, 2014), and The Shore (Wave Books, 2020). He lives in Washington, DC with his husband, Rev. Hardies, and their son Nico.