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Lit Crit for Landfills
I'm thinking about trash instead of smoke for awhile.
In 500 years, when someone finds the button I was trying to sew back onto my shorts that slipped from my fingers beneath the floorboards of the deck while the septic tank overflowed and I knew there was nothing I could do about it, this moment will seem insignificant enough to be written about.
Like dreams, the landfill is something people contribute to everyday without thinking about it. All the little pull tabs and plastic wrap you don’t register using that wind up buried and compressed under twenty stories of trash, like the repressed moments of rage and horror throughout your day that show up in your subconscious, refuse of your waking hours. Like the worst dreams, the landfill accumulates, poisoning the air outside the city with its stench of rot and decomposition. Most people avoid the landfill like they do a bad dream, forgetting about it from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep again.
A landfill is a global repository of stories, as well as an exporter when it reaches capacity. The midden is domestic, largely bound by location. A midden is everything—human, animal, mineral—reduced to leavings in the same pile out the back door. You can be a methodical city planner of solid waste disposal, or you can be the archeologist studying the midden heap.
Compost doesn’t metaphor well because it already is and is always becoming something other than itself.
We could read the landfill like a book, turning pages and dissecting layers, influences blooming like methane fumes. The U.S. exports a lot of trash—both in English and in solid waste. We import little of anyone else’s.
The midden takes the same shape as scat, as poop emoji: conically sloping sides and a pointed top. Rising action leads to more decay unless replenished from above with fresh waste. Every novel fails.
The landfill is capped when full. Sometimes grass is planted and a field where no one goes is grown. If it’s to be excavated, it will be by another species. The landfill will not be read.
Landfills are not unsexy. The first time I saw one I watched as the bulldozers drove back and forth overtop and released fireworks every two minutes to chase away the seagulls. Who does that remind you of?
The Plastic Gyre in the Pacific Ocean is cited frequently but constantly shifting meaning. Plastic is obdurate. “Plastic” used to mean something flexible, but now it means something that endures. Themes returned to by writers over generations. Love, death, the ease with which refuge is sought in cruelty—all plastic. The ocean supports with a citation of microbeads in parts per million.
What I’m Reading
A brilliant ray of shining light has been ZOM-FAM, the new collection of poems by Kama La Mackerel. ZOM-FAM is a “queer/trans narrative of and for their home island of Mauritius.” Reading this lush, gorgeous book has been such a tonic over the last few weeks, and it made me realize how much I’ve missed reading poetry in general.
I’m also enjoying the new Faced Out podcast, which is both by and for booksellers. Listen to their episode on Indie Bookstore(seller!) Day for a delightful roasting of Powell’s Books.
What I Wish I Was Reading
I know exactly what I wish I was reading this week: Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda by Jean Guerrero, which I already bought but haven’t had the time or headspace to get beyond the first few pages. Guerrero’s first book was a memoir, Crux, which remains one of the best first books I’ve ever read. There’s a surfeit of books from former white house officials and pundits about the current president, and they all suck in different ways. Hatemonger isn’t light reading, but it’s already brilliant, beginning with an in-depth history of white supremacy and its Republican cover in California (where Miller grew up) over the last ~30 years. An average writer would go in on Miller right away, but Guerrero doesn’t let the world that created him off the hook. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
Peach Mag is open until September 30 for submissions of fiction, poetry, essays, and visual art.
West Branch is open for submissions of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and translation.
Catapult Magazine is open to submissions of fiction until September 30.
In the spirit of waste, Discard Studies is accepting pitches until October 16 for a “Twitter Conference” on “research and thinking about how power relations, norms, and infrastructures make some things disposable, wasteable, and toxic while other things are not.”
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