Madeleine Wattenberg's work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Best New Poets 2017, Tupelo Quarterly, Fairy Tale Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Mid-American Review. She regularly writes for the review site The Bind and is a PhD student in poetry at the University of Cincinnati.

Madeleine Wattenberg

An Inventory of Margaret Cavendish's Laboratory

An outside. An inside. One can assume salt in a rough wet mouth. Her father's house was not far from the sea. An orange removed from under the hand's heel — pressure at two poles. A cut in the damp air. Light like a rind crescent. It is impossible to round this world. The boats ride on the waves in a geometry of hollowed cells. Honeycomb. A scientific animal. A crushed telescope. Charcoal. Pipette nettle. A privation of light. A fiction rattles in the centrifuge. Bear-men. Bird-men. An emperor. A bowl of seeds and a scalpel. A hypothesis. A particular part cannot increase of itself. The frozen men on long silver counters. Cross-sections of stone.

As the daughter of a scientist, I'm fascinated by what occurs at the intersection between the poetic and scientific imaginations. In her proto sci-fi The Blazing World, Margaret Cavendish describes a boat that sails to the cold poles between two worlds: "Neither was it a wonder that the men did freeze to death," she writes, leaving only a woman to sail into "another world." Born in 1623, Cavendish was a scientist at a time when women weren't scientists. One way she navigated this male dominated realm was by building herself a laboratory out of language. This poem is a list of what I imagine populates Margaret Cavendish's laboratory, both in material and method — a laboratory shaped by the pressure of two worlds, interior and exterior, in which she performs a dissection of the gendered modes of knowledge formation.

Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
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