There are 1147 unique words in the poetry that follows, out of the 2756 words that make up the poetry in this section. That’s almost half. I’m a bit obsessed with data, with counting, and with ratios. I love a good concordance. One of the things I do when I’m writing my own poetry is generate concordances throughout the process. I find it extremely interesting to consider how many words out of the millions available to us in English, not to mention the possibility of neologisms and portmanteaus, we employ. What are the words we choose and why?

Though I was not the editor of this section, and in fact just got to read it in preparation for writing this note, I am deeply impressed by the language within. The former Poetry Editor Michelle Chan Brown, and (continuing) Assistant Editor Nic Wong, and poetry readers Ching-In Chen (continuing), Candy Shue, Jim Redmond, Thao Nguyen, and Matthew Hamilton have curated a beautiful selection of poetry. I’m grateful to them for all their work on this issue, and so much more over the past few years. 

I think counting can tell you a lot about the world. This poetry section contains work by fourteen artists, ten of whom are women, but only two of whom are writers of color. The word “moon” is used only once, as are the words “nightkind” “grief” “waxwings” “befuddled” “gunrunners” “darkness” “suffocating” “savages” “touching” “liberation” and “scream.” These are some of the 790 words used only once in this section of poetry. “Blood” is used twice, but “teeth” three times, and “bones” and “heart.” There are four “bodies” and five “explains” and five times the word “body,” too. Five times the word “loved” and “world” and “little.” What does this tell you about the world of these poems?  

Erica Mena
Drunken Boat Editor
April, 2016

Erica Mena

Erica Mena is a Puerto Rican poet, translator, and book artist. Their book Featherbone (Ricochet Editions, 2015) won a 2016 Hoffer Award. Their translation of the classic Argentine sci-fi graphic novel The Eternaut (Fantagraphics, 2015) won a 2016 Eisner Award. They are a visiting lecturer in book arts and poetry at Brown University. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or at www.acyborgkitty.com