Listen, everyone loves Sarah Galvin, and for obvious reasons. But despite being an increasingly visible writer/performer, and a frequent Stranger contributor, Galvin is the kind of writer whose technical skills tend to go unappreciated—even unnoticed—because her presentation is so pleasing.
Fans love Galvin's poems for their wild imagery and surprising turns, but all the fireworks can obscure the philosophical questions she explores. At the risk of giving away too many secrets, I asked her to illustrate the process that led to "My Internet Dating Profile," a poem in her new collection, Ugly Time.
1. The title is ironic. The reader is prepared for a casual (and maybe frazzled) poem about dating, but by the third stanza, Galvin starts digging deep into our assumptions about the idea of "innocence."
2. This video is real. Galvin says she was "impressed and also horrified" by the animals' behavior: "Whenever I have that response to anything, I have to study it."
3. She watched the video approximately 15 times. "It wasn't about pornography, it was about figuring out what a human being is. It seemed like all of humanity's problems and also everything that's great about humanity."
4. This "moment" refers to the moment of the reader reading the poem but also to the moment the speaker meets her date. "That was a really romantic night for me, and it was enhanced by my having done something so human just beforehand, something that I was ashamed of," Galvin says. "I wanted to make the poem beautiful to other people in the same way that evening was beautiful to me."
5. Galvin introduces lyrical language to counter the plain language used in the first two stanzas in order to "keep the engine running," she says. The poem swings back and forth between those two registers.
6. "There are multiple videos," Galvin says. "And it's always frogs and toads. And always in the mouth."
7. The break here transforms the line into an index entry, reinforcing the idea that the poem's main subject is the innocence of the chimp's seemingly cruel and bizarre act.
8. Galvin claims she wasn't thinking of William Butler Yeats's poem "Leda and the Swan" when writing this poem. In Yeats's poem, Zeus takes the form of a swan and rapes Leda, eventual mother to Helen of Troy. Yeats wonders if Leda absorbed the god's knowledge and strength during the assault. "I love Yeats, but I wasn't thinking of that poem," Galvin says. "I just always imagined that meeting god was like being fucked to death."
9. The lyrical language returns, like the ocean waves the line invokes.
10. "What I was trying to do in this last stanza was reverse and mix up everything," Galvin says. "I invert the weak and the powerful forces. The frog swallows the chimp, the earth crushes god, we kiss, everything explodes. And that's why the date was worth anything."
11. Image from the 1951 film Royal Wedding. "I just imagine everybody in the heat of passion is drunk, and they all got the moves like Fred Astaire, and they're dancing around like they don't know what they're doing. Like this chimp.
12. "It ends with two people penetrating each other, because that's what love is. You explode and destroy each other in this crazy moment" Galvin says.
13. Nobody controls who is the frog or the chimp or the sun or the ocean or what role they play on the date. Part of the thrill of love is that you don't know. And in a good relationship, you're both at the same time. Ideally nobody is hurting anybody.
14. In life, this date occurred at Lullaby Moon, an event at Gas Works Park that happens every September. According to Galvin, the evening was magical. Performers dressed up like Shetland ponies and fairies and danced around the park. Candles attached to balloons floated all around. Organizers dressed up boats to look like floating beds, and the beds floated past the gasworks as the sun gave way to the new moon. "We were drinking wine from mugs when my date said, 'You look just like Peter Pan.' And I was like, 'A hobo said that to me one time.' And she was like, 'Fuck you!' And then we made out."