Erasing V_rg_n_a, image by Daniel Y. Harris
excerpts from The Voyage Out Sonnets*
Voyage Out Sonnet 1
As a narrow arm leaps to fidget
in beauty, it is better not to be
a long blue left hand. October becoming
a tall man with cloak eyes and traffic gaze twitched
between motor cars. The safe mouth rolled
down, leaning. A feeling greater than pavement juts
out in angles of preachers dangling
wads of paper flourished with a grotesque chorus.
Patch straw fell into ears. Shoulders polished
picture postcard eyes. Bridges
of animals shoot blankly. A cab
broken by walking motor-moons jingling
a soothing reply that clothed
the skeleton beneath.
Voyage Out Sonnet 2
Dismal lovers cloak sordid
their flower company, their sodden
blue heads pressed together. Sea-gulls
sharply trotting like plate-glass,
carefully-finished. Black cloak
wounds in danger
of egg-shells steaming
with obliterated fog.
They trusted water, square and
oblong like a child. Yellow light
escorted the man and remarked
among delicate feet, indicating
mournful waterchildren approaching
dimly in the dark flag of night.
Voyage Out Sonnet 3
The purple romantic was warmer than shaking
hands. His eyes sat down as some trees shook
the collar of his coat and spoke on the weather.
General Soup held out a thumping lip and began arranging
a pause across the table. The tobacconist left a theory
about the planets loose through the light outside that slid
across a melancholy moan. An unmarried house sagely carved
apples with considerable acidity. Arches sympathize
with wastefill and acid produced
in industry. A collection of free fog sirens struck
hands, upon which they rose and left. Forgotten
stories loosen round heads. They anchor
a swarm of eternally burnt figures
visible against skirts wrapping slowly.
Voyage Out Sonnet 4
Smoked pepper cut the ghost of drowned yellow
oblivion smiling at nothing. Rooted, bleached, faded,
the mirror was twisted. An authority on traffic
and love had chosen fish, prickles, and being killed in the night.
Arms insist on a definite outline. Years reflect that intimacy
was threatened. A stick was permanent. The door burly shook
with the glow of obedience. Grown young,
still and close, squeezing the side on the sofa, brightened
brats ventured alone across the fire to show
the tricks of nonsense. Reflecting fish
speak of comfort passing and fumbling at the door. A melancholy
moment looked in laughing severely, a bored attempt to improve
the droop of the situation, now a leaping mouse sucking
a cigar. This elevated the ocean. Great white monsters laughed to no music.
Voyage Out Sonnet 5
Uncomfortable rocking wore a kind of beauty. Hooting
river eggs cast reflections of the dead. Children
dropping from a height into a pool on summer’s flushed face.
Examinations carried nonsense among shoulder blades.
Cycling every morning spoons against the insides mounted
in a heap. Heavy rainfall proved true
with ferocious energy, concentrating this moment
into a kind of walrus swinging
with a slight rocking movement of his body.
The eccentric disappeared in a pale horizon, effervescing,
leaving October salt and a sloping
cheek. The ribs of words blow upon
the shoulder, laughing. An intercepted rock-like message
you could put your fingers through.
Voyage Out Sonnet 6
Sheets sewed to the bone went to the laundry, wavered
upon a table. Threads made ladders
to the ordinary eye to sit
and hear heart complaints dreaming no more.
Miniature crusted photographs hold babies
in a frame. A hammered voice opened the door too high,
flung open the forehead of the room. Swearing summer
lay beneath the sun in cornfields. Cluttered land
murmurs, the man vanished. Aimless
ants withdrew out of sight into the bark of a tree.
Pomegranates whirled between the sentences
whistled far off in other parts of the room. Branches
forced through the window. The music
died as a child lying behind the knob on the arm.
Voyage Out Sonnet 7
Thoughts startled the obscure laughter. Nonsense
blotted out morning. Umbrellas
could only say that lips cease to move, blazing
and subsiding in the rising and falling of the droop of sleep.
Early sounds beat above the mouth cleaving
at waves washing against the vessel shouting thirsty
in rubbing hands, combing the glass
of champagne. Passages produced
personal objections. They were pleased to submit.
Ministers foretold of people buried.
They stranded dusk with the autumnal
whistler. One whipped the hour ringing the glass
fingers made uneasy by farms. The eccentric held
a voice to the table and took soup imperceptibly and with pause.
Voyage Out Sonnet 35
Laughter grating dead silence, uncrumpling
from the wall. Love was movement crowded
into words of rhythmically stripping
nonsense. Into the darkness, breath so dark it numbed.
Dreams repeated chairs scattered
in a square box vaguely twitching as if paper. Metallic
sleep lit a cigarette impatiently. Lonely
minds look at the ruins in the garden facing
sharply cut spirits. Numbness disappeared, flung off.
Silence cut down a tree, big and splendid.
People are puzzled, pointing to smoking cigarettes.
Trees flirt with eyes: nobler than conversation.
A pale look shut up in heaps of sleep.
Fragmentary, hazardous instinct.
Voyage Out Sonnet 36
People vividly grasp years, unconscious
of loneliness. Dreams in the open room
occasionally exclaim in the glass doorways.
Doubt ran casually after a flying man, roared the page with a wave.
Years flush eccentric meat with canary-coloured disapproval.
Old pictures will become beautiful tomorrow.
Dark electric water smiles pick
roses without any teeth. Fast pits
sit and smoke in the road, break
stones in shaken hands. Massacres light moths in shut night.
Sharp faces lay undertone, faded
like a figure of speech. Eyebrows intervene
as mission-smooth wishes. Orange cigarettes depart legs out, a series
of beautiful hints flushing rose.
Voyage Out Sonnet 37
A naked shade of stone smiles. A chronic end.
Breath floats too hot to climb satisfied people.
Lips made thinking ugly. Bodies
appeared squirming on the flat future.
Flimsy conversation pounces, inclined to bitter answer. Beastly
envy is awfully soothing. Blush limited interest in morality.
To escape, to hold in embroidery, a great decision: unformed,
experimental feeling. Vague colours wanting
a walk silently watch a needle.
An abyss sounded as if a dark pyramid
possessed by sewing. Smoky men gave thought without reason. Rumpled
eyes bush the patches of white flowers, full of thought.
Blue flamingo edges sunk between bells
rising, swept round the seas, across mountains, dropping.
Voyage Out Sonnet 38
Long ago, dolphins extended in the dipping of sun-dried sea. Chequered
blood turned the clouds against the roots of water.
Red remained broken with body, obeying peace.
Water ceased a pebble concentrated upon blue hollows.
Lips parted watching for swim-red hands. Arms
write grey off faces, repeat. Shifted
brains scratch shakes of air with ragged ease.
Horses visualize absurd pianos afraid of heaven.
Rabbits meditate upon life. The piano leaks
letters up to the play. Oblong photographs roused the neck of a lamb.
Purple dogs go out the eighteenth of April, walk along
the factory chimneys in a mist. Pale yellow Spring barks
through the streets. People hugged to death by light
become lost under streets where people consider silent worship.
Voyage Out Sonnet 39
Smoke-brains describe the world less splendid but more natural than atoms.
Beauty building unconscious habits called vivid eyes to laughter.
Streets describe flamingo red nonsense.
Sea eyes look to breathe. Lips mercy-mood
the breath which gazed out to sea.
Impersonal pain vanished. An elbow arranging stones
like the cry of an owl. Delight widened blue, replaced the olive trees.
Light figures piano into music in the thin white gate.
Inhuman pleasure split life. A pause
thoughtlessly vowing to silence. A curious
atmosphere. The theory of chaos crushed forth wildest
bursts of mud. Depression ran
into quick waterfalls, water-racing shaped,
perpetually pressed downwards by the wind.
*These poems are from a longer work titled The Voyage Out Sonnets, a page by page erasure of Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out. During the process of erasure, I moved chapter by chapter and then formed what I had into 50 experimental sonnets. Solmaz Sharif has convincingly linked poetic erasure to government censorship, which every erasure project certainly risks replicating. Woolf herself had to censor herself in her novel in order to get published. Since the intent of this project is to celebrate rather than censor, I was careful and mindful not to redact but to highlight Woolf’s words. Rather than physically blackening out words during my process, I left Woolf’s original text clean and instead circled words that I believed revealed the multiple possibilities in the original text. I highlighted language over narrative and provided agency and voice to animals and inanimate objects, which Virginia Woolf often does herself in her later work, such as “Kew Gardens.” For the most part, I did not add anything to the text, with the exception of the rare addition of an "s" at the end of a word. I also occasionally cobbled together a word from individual letters. That said, Woolf's individual language remains mostly intact and unadulterated in these poems, which intend to pay homage to Woolf's original text.