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  • Nazifa Islam

Virginia Woolf Found Poems in The Journal

Updated: Jun 27

I'm so excited to share that two of my Virginia Woolf found poems have found a home in the 44.2 Spring 2020 issue of The Journal! Check out "Brim and Break" and "Seized Up."


I believe all writers have (out of their own work) favorite poems. "Brim and Break" is one of my absolute favorites out of the seventy-ish Viriginia Woolf found poems I've written at this point. The source paragraph I used for it is one of the shortest I've worked with, and it was really gratifying to see a complete and nuanced poem emerge from it.


I remember that "Seized Up" was a difficult poem to write. The paragraph I used has various tenses in it, so I had to decide if the poem would be told in the past tense or present tense. This limited my language choices even though the paragraph itself isn't short.

The paragraphs I used both come from The Waves, and you can read them below with the words I selected for each poem in red.


"Brim and Break"

"'I love,' said Susan, 'and I hate. I desire one thing only. My eyes are hard. Jinny's eyes break into a thousand lights. Rhoda's are like those pale flowers to which moths come in the evening. Yours grow full and brim and never break. But I am already set on my pursuit. I see insects in the grass. Though my mother still knits white socks for me and hems pinafores and I am a child, I love and I hate.'"


"Seized Up"

"'I saw Florrie in the kitchen garden,' said Susan, 'as we came back from our walk, with the washing blown out round her, the pyjamas, the drawers, the night-gowns blown tight. And Ernest kissed her. He was in his green baize apron, cleaning silver; and his mouth was sucked like a purse in wrinkles and he seized her with the pyjamas blown out hard between them. He was blind as a bull, and she swooned in anguish, only little veins streaking her white cheeks red. Now though they pass plates of bread and butter and cups of milk at tea-time I see a crack in the earth and hot steam hisses up; and the urn roars as Ernest roared, and I am blown out hard like the pyjamas, even while my teeth meet in the soft bread and butter, and I lap the sweet milk. I am not afraid of heat, nor of the frozen winter. Rhoda dreams, sucking a crust soaked in milk; Louis regards the wall opposite with snail-green eyes; Bernard moulds his bread into pellets and calls them "people." Neville with his clean and decisive ways has finished. He has rolled his napkin and slipped it through the silver ring. Jinny spins her fingers on the table-cloth, as if they were dancing in the sunshine, pirouetting. But I am not afraid of the heat or of the frozen winter.'"


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