An Introduction to Tyler Mills by Virginia Konchan

In Tyler Mills’ haunting poems of extreme brevity, everyday acts such as hanging a baby’s diapers on the line are juxtaposed with the arrival of atomic bombs. The speaker achieves this impossible act through tonal restraint and the fraught relationship (in so few words) she establishes between the poems and their titles. The poem “Had Been,” in its entirety: “My mother had been picking eggplant for lunch in the fields.// I held skull after skull in my hands.” The poems speak for themselves, and are driven by emotions one might not expect to encounter in this context, such as awe (in the sense of the negative sublime). This series forms an arc of sorts, with the final denouement being the guilt of the survivor(s): the poem “I Could Not” is heartbreaking. These poems ask us to step into the place of witness, and into the shoes of a speaker who says “it is impossible/ for me to write/ any more.” These poems convey a devastation beyond speech and representation. In reading them, we engage with the radical innocence of civilian casualties in war; from that place, we cannot unremember history.

Read an excerpt from Tyler Mills’ Exposure >>