Gabrielle Ralambo-Rajerison

Readings by: Gabrielle Ralambo-Rajerison

During my residency, I was able to complete a draft of a long poem I’ve been working on currently titled To What Do I Owe This Pleasure, as well as beginning drafts of shorter, single-page poems. This long poem is one I’ve “started” several times, most recently after the summer 2016 deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Those deaths and their context triggered in me a deep depression and I returned to writing this poem in part to save my own life. I wanted to teach myself—and thus better understand—how to live in the world, which led me (as these things often do) to reconciling myself with the fact(s) of the universe. 

Dr. Carles Badenes recommended early on that I read Timothy Ferris’s Coming of Age in the Milky Way, a book surveying humanity’s attempts to understand the universe, and I couldn’t have been more grateful for that. It was the exact right book at the exact right time. “The word ‘universe’ is not the universe; neither are the equations of super-symmetry theory or the Hubble law or the Friedmann-Walker-Robinson metric,” Ferris writes. “Nor, more generally, is science very good at explaining what anything, much less the universe, actually ‘is.’ Science describes and predicts events, but it pays for this power in the coin of the ding an sich—the thing in itself.” 

By weaving research and found text with narrative, To What Do I Owe This Pleasure attempts to take inventory of all that happens to simultaneously exist: dark matter and colonization; parabiosis and sexual violence; symmetry and slavery; depression and deep pleasure; fossils and the imagination.

I remain grateful for the time granted by the residency to attend to “the thing in itself.”

To What Do I Owe This Pleasure