Alice Escapes the Rabbit Hole: Liberation in Sandra Simonds “Steal it Back”.

There’s this draw to France, French, and French history in Steal it Back, specifically inSandra Simonds poems like “The Lake Ella Variations” and “Journey of Marie De Medici.” Where does that come from for you? And could you talk about how you see it functioning in your work?

Part of that is that my mother is from France and I grew up bilingual so I think that France just comes into my work because there’s a sense that France is sort of the “mother country” for me. But, of course, the mother-daughter relationship is complicated!

There are many long and/or sequenced poems in Steal it Back such as “Alice in America,” “Occupying,” and “Glass Box.” What appeals to you about those forms? Have you always been drawn to them or did you find them along the way?

These longer forms happened because I wrote this book entirely at work and commuting, so I would start a poem and then I would need to teach or go pick up my kids from school or change a diaper. I was constantly being interrupted and I think that my book tries to address the way we make art when we have limited amounts of time because our lives are stolen from us by wage labor or other forms of labor. But, I began to piece together these bits of writing and realized that I could create longer poems out of these smaller segments.

Who are your favorite poets to read? Were there writers who you felt influenced Steal it Back in particular?

I have so many poetry crushes. I tend to go back to a lot of the same poets. I love Paul Celan, Langston Hughes, Mina Loy, Jack Spicer, Alice Notley, Bernadette Mayer, John Wieners, Claudia Rankine, all the poets at Commune Editions, Bob Kaufman….there are just too many to name.

You have said elsewhere that you love the poems in Plath’s Ariel. Could you talk about 9780991545490what the word “confessional” means for you? How do you see your poems embodying the conventions of confessional poetry and also pushing its boundaries?

For me “confession” has moral overtones that I don’t totally get. I think that my poems use the personal to say something about class and gender. I think as a single mother who works outside of the home, I have very little in common (materially) with a lot of my poetry peers but I think as an artist and writer, I have a lot in common with people outside of the poetry world because there are a lot of single moms in the world, in general. When a single mom or mom comes up to me at a poetry reading and says that she can relate to what I’m talking about in my poems, I feel deeply gratified. So, in the end it’s about connection with people like me. I want them to know that I understand what they are going through because I am also going through it.


I am Inside the Humanities and
          if I step
          too far out of it,
               I’m dead. The figure
       at the top left corner is Securitas.
     No rent! No work! No wages!
       No more!  For those thinking
 of disturbing the peace, let
      the hanged man be your warning.
 In order to write this poem,
      I paid daycare $523
              for the week. Make sure you premix
        the bottles, bring diapers. Make it worth
                   something, this time. Mayan
             countdown clock to Mayan
   countdown clock, two bodies,
            in a bed wanting
        the water of the world to
 give them back a pyramid.
       Also, the bronze head of Adam.
                 Also, the world of children,
         their toys, the plastic imitation food—eggs,
         miniature cereal boxes, deformed mirror
             to the real. I could not keep working
 to make money for the people I despised,
      nothing is right, but I couldn’t afford
 not to either. Late at night, Craig
             said “I hate my job.”  The hydrologists
                 have to give permits to Gulf Oil
                                    for more water or someone
                      will get fired. It was winter
                  in Florida, the path to all principles
                      of all inquiries led back to this
    one statement, like a receipt
 from Publix: I was teaching
     the humanities again.
In the garden of fallen
       aristocrats, where no one sits
 on the lawn, it is as if heaven is on
       one side, hell, on the other,
 and somehow I have slipped very far
       into the abyss between the two,
 an abyss that contains suns
        the way black holes
 do not give back the history
    of light, the way a galaxy
                turns like a clock
          into the desperate desire
 for water and these flowers --
    what can I make of them?
          They bloom like idiots,
                 live as thieves.
                  I get Craig’s cryptic texts
 from West Florida
          on my walk at Lake Ella: “No coffee.
Nuclear power plant” and then he sends
                a picture of some industrial
                      map of rust.
O Apollinaire, eau-de-vie,
            in this garden, which is a mockery
                   of all gardens,
      in this Bed, Bath and Beyond
 of the intimate, remember me.
                       My daughter is 43 pounds.
        I know what is real
 and I know how to steal
        back what is mine.

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