We hosted Alex Muller, a young poet from South Carolina this past month and are happy to share some of the poetry he wrote here as well his song Red House. Alex is younger than most of our residents, but we were inspired by his determination and forthrightness. Here are a few of his reflections on his residency at Bordeneuve:
The first day I walked out into one of the fields at Bordeneuve I had this moment where I realized, “there’s no way I can come back from this the same as I was.” I’m happy to say that I was right. Being at this place changes the way you look at the world, yourself, and your art.
I came to Bordeneuve to see if I could live like a “real” writer for two weeks. I wanted to settle into a schedule that had me writing every day for several hours at a time, (which is something I haven’t ever been able to do consistently). I had looked into a few different residency/retreat programs, but none seemed to be the perfect fit. Because I am still in my undergraduate studies, I was intimidated at being in a program with “established” writers; however, programs that invited writers “of all skill levels” seemed somewhat condescending. Still other programs seemed too industrial or sterile. Finding Bordeneuve was a treasure. I knew at once I had found a program that was run by real, honest people who have a passion for the arts.
The environment was more than ideal, but was I ready as a writer? Before I left, I remember having a couple of nightmares about getting out there and not being able to write at all, realizing I wasn’t cut out to be a writer, or something equally as terrifying. I’m happy to say, however, that I found my time quite productive and inspiring. Most importantly, I learned how to be comfortable alone with myself, to listen to what my head was trying to tell me, and to turn my former stress and anxieties into poetry. I quickly learned that everyone settles into a pattern at Bordeneuve, and although many artists will call the barn their home for various weeks out of the year, it still retains a deeply personal feeling. And even though I was excited to settle into a routine, nothing felt cold or systematic about it; rather, it was natural and nourishing. Writing at the big table at Bordeneuve, I felt a connection to those that had been there before me, and I could hear their voices lining the walls, whispering into my work.”
Red House #3
This house is a glass of wine spilling down
Broken base. Bottle found. Pour it out.
The patchwork of receding years is sewn
into the drunken weekend’s winter coat,
while we’ve been sleeping, mattress on the floor,
under lullabies of alarm clock radios.
But we will stay until you go.
When you are done, just let us know.
This house is a bag of quarters spent on payphone calls.
Six months of moving south, a snowflake bruise, a bleeding mouth.
This is what you won’t understand:
how broken glass turns into sand,
how emptiness is holding hands
with our memories as they run and run.
But I will stay just so I know,
to get a taste, then let it go.
Motet 10: Bordeneuve**
I was watching
the garden growing
the weather was awful
a spider tripping on its own legs
at first all unseen reaching but then
gray and curling colorless
the clumsy origami of passing time.
the cycle of sprouting hand-shakes and hello-agains.
nothing but sun tomorrow.
**This poem may be read in two different ways: first as a normal poem, then as a separated piece—the first line of each stanza forms a new poem, the second line of each stanza forms another, and the third line of each stanza forms another.
Alex Muller is in his final year at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina where he studies creative writing and music. This past year he was one of his university’s recipients of The Geraldine Trammel Hurley Fellowship, which he used to travel to France for three weeks, two of which were spent in a residency at Bordeneuve. Alex spent his time at Bordeneuve focusing on poetry that he hopes to turn into an honors thesis next year and possibly a chapbook after that. Recently he has been writing in a form that he’s invented, which he calls the “motet.” Derived from the medieval musical style of the same name, this form celebrates polyphony, containing interlocking lines that can be read in different ways. Beyond the motet form, Alex has been interested in the role of mutable language in poetry, often crafting lines that shift depending on the reading. The process of reading becomes highly rhythmical and musical for Alex, and as a singer-songwriter, he is always conscious of the musicality of language. In addition to his poetry, Alex has been writing and recording music under the name “This is For My Friends” since 2009, self-releasing two full-length albums that he recorded in his bedroom.