I’m delighted to introduce Sasha Steensen’s “Practicing in the Sleepingfields.” Before delving into the poem’s syntactic feats on the level of the sentence, it necessary to highlight Steensen’s daring use of form. The long poem is often invoked to account for the movement of history, whether it’s an interrogation of war culture in H.D.’s Helen in Egypt, or the suggestion of a new narrative altogether in Pound’s Cantos. Irregardless, the long poem all too often becomes yet another form of mastery, taking hold of the master narrative and claiming its implicit power. Steensen reimagines, with cunning and wry wit, what is possible in this rhetorical space. I find Steensen’s use of the long form to delve into what we will not, and cannot know, to be as original as it is provocative.
As this extended sequence unfolds, we are made to confront the unconscious mind, that wellspring of dreams and visions, and we witness the power this submerged ocean, this “black ship” wields over our waking lives. The unconscious is revealed as a liminal space, a threshold in which the laws of language and logic no longer hold. “Twilight means / the great between,” Steensen explains. Here is a poem in which anything becomes possible.