Robin Azevedo, the owner of the McRoskey Airflex Mattress Co. totally gets that a conversation on a mattress is qualitatively different from two people sitting in chairs– even comfortable chairs–talking to each other. So when I had the idea to ask her if I could interview people on a mattress in McRoskey’s showroom on Market St., I didn’t even need to explain why I might want to do such a thing.
But she was curious to develop the particularity of the idea and she asked me to articulate some of the resonance of talking about poetry on a mattress. Central to my fascination is the relationship of comfort and discomfort; one key aspect of poetry for me, a la Keats, is that in writing a poem one has to tolerate uncertainty, to stay with the discomfort of not nailing something down, to allow it to be itself long enough to experience its life. And what creates the confidence to launch into the terror of that unknowing, but the strange embrace and pushback of a poem? So I love that sense of the tolerance of discomfort as a primary attribute of a poet, and that we can explore this occupational discomfort on “the most comfortable mattress in the world”
Robin showed me around the loft upstairs from the groundfloor showroom. So many beautiful details. Everywhere you look there’s some analogue to poetry, the handcoiled box springs being a prime example. It made me think of meter, stress patterns, how they bounce the sound along the coils of breath.The first interview will be with Dorianne Laux, in August. Until I was sitting there with Robin, I hadn’t even thought about how much one of Dorianne’s signature poems, “Dust” is completely situated on a mattress. Here is an excerpt:
“Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
from What We Carry by Dorianne Laux
Talking on a mattress can be like taking a long car ride with someone, looking off in the same direction, creating in some strange way, a shared reverie, a third space between the two speakers, where ideas can be spun out and entertained.