Cheryl Clark Vermeulen’s poems are characterized by deftness and a kind of cheerful candor. On the one hand she demonstrates a concern with placement reminiscent of Creeley (“rarely do I stay / in one place”), and on the other hand she displays a Steinian knack for syntactical rearrangement and repetition:
If you are
a whore for where and I am not
how would we go on with our being
The deceptively simple vocabulary in each of these cases is not quiet, but it is attentive, a way of noting “here we are for now.” In her more recent works, Cheryl turns this attention toward an embodied awareness of illness, to show how illness is not just a private matter but that it is simultaneously somatic, social, and political even when it is invisible:
For her past zip code 2,000 carcinogens are listed.
Polluters too. There’s a button for ‘take action.’
She's a few layers of cities.
Such juxtapositions and shifts in scale connect seemingly unrelated symptoms, revealing a social pattern which is surprisingly like “beads on a string—active voice in ruins.” With illness one feels accompanied by others, but the trade-off is that one can also be rendered oddly passive: “Couldn’t show up to a support group in a Cadillac. Just couldn’t.” What one can do is to “follow a word called curable,” and to deal with the social structures at face value, while poking fun at their possible overtones: “’We’ll go in there and take out the criminals,’ / says my Dr. Cop.” I’ve been a fan of Cheryl’s poetry for years, and of the way her elegantly offhand, studied charisma “skims the house- / flavored damage.” Please welcome Cheryl Clark Vermeulen to the EOAGH Reading Series today.