J.T. Welsch grew up in a small farm town near St. Louis, Missouri, but lives and teaches in Manchester, UK, where he completed a PhD this past year. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbox Manifold, Stand, Boston Review and Manchester Review. Orchids (Salt, 2010) is his first book of poetry. Another pamphlet, Orchestra & Chorus, will be published by Holdfire Press later in 2011.
Orchids springs from the margins of contemporary masculinity. A rich undercurrent of melancholy and desire seethes beneath the cool rhetorical playfulness of these monologues, as anguished speakers face the unfeasibility of confession. Beyond their fantastic flights and metamorphoses, these poems remain most troubled by the everydayness of their melodramas.
“Rapid, surprising and unlikely, J.T. Welsch’s poems spin brilliant variations on the recession, translation, gender studies and war. Strangely and completely convincingly, these subjects are refracted through the love poems which comprise this pamphlet. Hammered out in stanzas which show an inviting formal authority and are a pleasure to read, Orchids re-routes the work of his great St. Louis predecessors for the 21st century.”
– John McAuliffe
“Orchids is a distinguished debut: clever but emotional, ingenious but affecting. The poems are a self-sufficient pleasure, and promise very well for the future.”
– Andrew Motion
Yes, it’s cutbacks time. This winter,
the planet is in brilliant recession.
Contemptible new lines of sight are
daily being opened up and up and up
for sinners in the hands of an angry Dow.
No one’s buying any solution back home.
No one will see the copse for the corpses.
When they cleared along the mill path,
my own gut-of-guts’ reaction was that
we shouldn’t see our house from here.
The sign calls coppicing an ancient art,
but that doesn’t make it common sense.
Cutting back to help grow? Admit it,
invisible hand: Diversity’s a hard sell.
If nothing else, who’s your target audience?
If it were natural, the argument goes,
Miss Nature would regulate herself.
But nature isn’t rational, not like a soul!
So, we’ll wager the organic, working body
against an otherwise uninsured salvation:
A penny saved qua a penny earned.
Substitute your paper currency of choice.
You don’t understand: It’s in my blood.
My forefathers and foremothers robbed
Indian graves to get through their winter.
So what if the Mayflower is a barn in
“Buckinghamshire”? Recycling’s cheap.
Cut the canopy, let the underwood breathe.
God can whip up a zillion new trees.
I’ll bet none of them come with poems.
Meditation on Washing Up
I feel no duty toward these dishes, even if
I’ll be the last to read them, or their splotches,
and quickly, till each re-surfaces,
more complete than I ever hope to be.
It’s not like what we do with a gentler sponge,
uprooting whatever’s been determined
(in this circular way) to be outside us.
Nothing outside us makes us dirty, says Jesus.
Who’d believe it’s invisibly small creatures
eating and shitting dead skin that does it?
Uncleanliness is a feature of neither dirt nor thing,
but teeters between, like any other fornication.
Absolution is an endless archaeology.
Every plate you bring into our home is held
to its inscription, waiting, or jumping the queue
to don the colours that say Mine or Hers.
I know I’m clearing what can’t add to our re-births.
That’s why I like washing you even more
than dishes: insane jealousy of your microbes.
Unlike food’s, I savour their downfall. Plus…
If my own troops have more spunk, so to speak,
they’re only half me, and equally erasable.
Mark 7:19 – What goes down identifies
temporarily with body, not the soul.
He Do Star Wars In Different Voices
The facts. No dirty talk. No reference,
no puns. Would it be easier
just to watch the damn things?
Maybe, sweetheart, it would’ve been.
We’ll agree it’s too late now.
To spare my nostalgia for some
pure edition no one has ever seen,
I shield you, in turn, with these hours
and awful English accents, a bed sheet
for an all-purpose prop and costume.
For you, we take as much time
doubling back for Kurosawa,
or Joseph Campbell, for Ben Burtt fun-facts
and the truth about Han and Leia’s kids
as we spend lost in headlong exposition.
If that sounds oppressive, I can’t help it.
I’m ready to fall on my light saber
belaboring the elegant structures
of the Expanded Universe,
expanding on it until it includes you too.
from Orchids (Salt, 2010).
Order Orchids here or here.