by Beth Ayer
the local Safeway,
No anywhere ?
Beth Ayer’s work has appeared in publications including Bukowski On Wry, Otis Nebula, Temper, Silver Birch Press, and Upstart: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies (forthcoming). She is the senior poetry editor/ web manager for the Found Poetry Review and lives in Providence, RI.
From the Author
“Suburbs” is an erasure poem created from page 266 of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This poem was written as part of the 2013 Pulitzer Remix project, in which eighty-five poets wrote found poems from the 85 Pulitzer Prize-winning works of fiction.
I enjoyed working with Diaz’s novel, especially with the added challenge of using the language of characters whose world is different from mine. These differences created fertile space for thinking about what growing up in America means and to whom culture “belongs.” In writing “Suburbs,” I started by selecting words and phrases without a topic in mind, letting the form and process come before the meaning. Sourcing poems from existing works allows writers to find their own words and their own voices even in a single page written by another author. This sort of dialogue alters the nature of both reading and writing. Given the many references to stores on page 266, I began to think about how the ubiquity of chain retail can slowly turn our familiar places unfamiliar. Looking back on this poem, and on reading Diaz’s novel, I see that in Oscar Wao the landscape of retail chains is a shared American experience that comes through for readers. At the same time, the loss of “local” denoted by big box sprawl becomes more poignant when thinking about the potential loss of diverse cultural identity through widespread assimilation.