marking gradations of us,
Welcome to Flush & Brew dispatch #2. I thought it would be fun to walk through the story behind Gradations I & II. This is not a necessary context you would need to enjoy the collection, but in some ways it does create a new portal to enter the text through.
Then I tried it for myself: growing.
- from Gradations I
There were two motivations to producing Gradations I & II.
San Press is a new micro press, and I wanted to move a manuscript through it from beginning to end to better figure out all the stages of work required and appropriate timelines, necessary operations and logistics and other important details. I didn’t want to test this on another person’s work, so I thought it would be easiest to work with my own.
Gradations I & II had actually been in ideation for years as a collab project between Mirae and I, before the creation of Teh People Studio or San Press. The actual poems themselves go even further back! The earliest iteration of Gradations I was published on my blog in 2014, and Gradations II in 2016. I thought this was an opportune moment to mature them into full texts.
In both zines there are always two people, companions on some kind of a journey. In the first zine, they are young and their relationship is dynamic. There is conflict spectacular; the surging energy of reaching for and grasping; the momentum of moving toward something.
We longed for the power of element
coursing through the fibrous tips of our fingers.
I must have decided then that dark-ringed vision was a sign of wisdom.
I tried to give you one.
- from Gradations I
The first zine takes these two people and the reader to the edge of a widening world and that’s where it ends. Imagine the first glimpse of a vista (whatever that might be) and the way the events of the journey fall into place in that moment - a settling and a forgetting simultaneously.
Gradations II picks up on the other side of that vista. That vista is a void space I don’t cover in the poems. We could call it the Events, the Happenings, or the Life. Either way, our two protagonists emerge from that world, and the poem begins,
It’s time to go, you turn to me
and I consider what it means if people are skeletal spaces of motion carrying restlessness and returning.
- from Gradations II
This transfer between the end of Gradations I and the beginning of Gradations II is signaled by the fact that these are the only pages where both tones of violet and sunflower appear in the books. The first is of the sky opening up before our young companions, and the second is of a descent from the sky for our now older and altered companions.
If Gradations I is characterized by one speaker addressing a listener (presumably their fellow traveler) and we just happen to be secondary audiences, then Gradations II is characterized by a speaker addressing themselves, a running monologue punctuated with the other speaker’s voice that is not easily identified. There are no speech quotes or clear formatting to indicate who says what. That access is not clear because we aren’t actually secondary audiences anymore.
In Gradations I, we the readers are fellow travelers being told a story. In Gradations II, we the readers are submerged in someone’s interiority.
The speaker has moved through the world, and is now slower to speak, slower to assert. Their language moves toward observations and summaries, reflective and questioning. After the destination, it seems there are only more journeys. So now, what?
We tiptoe across the equator
turning the earth.
You wonder if our efforts are futile this way
but I witness in slow motion.
This is not about us going
but the ground moving us
until we tilt into the heel of older footprints.
- from Gradations II
These two poems in many ways, are mirrors for the ways we grow and change, arrive and depart, gather and separate. As books, they also reflect my new arrival as a publisher, taking old words from an older self and giving them new form and life - each iteration its own destination and departure.
Click on Mirae Lee’s (Gradations illustrator) and Ryookyung Kim’s (Gradations layout designer) avatars below for short artist profiles I did with them on the website!
If you are curious about the production process, the most recent studio vlog is dedicated to a motley of clips detailing their assembly!
Finally, if you have a copy of Gradations I & II, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Public reviews, comments or DMs are welcome.
Instead of sharing a direct review here, today I’ll share a book review I did recently for Canthius Mag! Click on excerpt to see full review!