- First Night South of the Antarctic Circle, After Too Much to Drink, I Dream That Apsley Cherry Garrard, Famous Polar Explorer, Offers a Critique of My Still Unfinished Manuscript; After Which I, Soberly, Attempt Rebuttal, and: Rebuttal, and: Sixty-Eight Degrees South, Marguerite Bay, and: Early Courtship Poem, and: Naming the Lifeboat
- First Night South of the Antarctic Circle, After Too Much to Drink, I Dream That Apsley Cherry Garrard, Famous Polar Explorer, Offers a Critique of My Still Unfinished Manuscript; After Which I, Soberly, Attempt Rebuttal
“When I went South I never meant to write a book: I rather despised those who did so as being of an inferior brand to those who did things and said nothing about them.”
Sad songs. What did you miss out on for these? As though it were enough, simply, to watch the scenery unfold and not also be in it. To lead a life thought and grieved
though never fully lived. Given a coastline as grim and inhospitable as this, you must have thought that the threshold would suffice.
It does not. Down here, the secret of the sky is to illuminate only what is out of reach, to pile grey upon grey, and counter it, on the far horizon,
with a thin band of hopefulness. A light so true that even when suffering from snow blindness and myopia, I could still navigate by its distant gleam.
Yes, I had my story—the constant shivering jaw that shattered all my teeth—and I paid for it with my life. Not then, but in the long sunless days that came after. [End Page 98]
Let a man live as many lives as he writes books. I detect here but a half-life, buried beneath a mantle of abstracted ice. I’ve been told
that in the country you call home, hidden far between both coasts, lies a basin whose cool, flowing waters never reach either ocean. A fitting emblem
for a nation, like my own, full of artists and shopkeepers. What I say is that any river worth its salt will find a way to overflow such banks, and come
rushing headlong to the sea. [End Page 99]
“‘It was hard to be a great writer,’ Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘if you loved the world and living in it and special people. It was hard when you loved so many places.’ And I think that tension is there, underlying most everything he wrote: how, despite his dedication to art, he was also always being pulled toward the unmitigated joys of just living his life. While it’s hard to pinpoint as a governing aesthetic, I hope a similar tension shows through in my first manuscript, Naming the Lifeboat. Only a handful of the poems therein are set down in Antarctica, but they are a culmination, of sorts, of many of my other poems of travel and nature, and I am happy to have several of them appearing together in this issue.”
Justin Gardiner is the 2012 Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Fellow, sponsored by PEN Northwest. He is also the recipient of the 2012 Larry Levis Stipend through Warren Wilson’s MFA program, from which he graduated in 2005. His poems have appeared in Quarterly West, New South, Zone 3, ZYZZYVA and others.
When you set out on your winter’s journey, sledging alongside two companions— in the service of science not art— to bring back a sample of the emperors’ eggs,
you could not know the merits of what you sought. Of the six eggs you took, three broke along the way. And of the others, only one now remains,
collecting dust on a museum shelf. Many the man who has thought to mock you for this. But I say, let no one judge too harshly that which has been faithfully carried:
be that book or egg. [End Page 100]
“‘It was hard to be a great writer,’ Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘if you loved the world and living in it and special people. It was hard when you...