Like a lot of art, Serena Chopra's debut chapbook, Penumbra, was inspired in part by a tumultuous relationship. "There was a really bad fight in which I stole a saw, literally I stole a saw from this person's house because I did not know what else to do," laughs the Denver resident and Titmouse magazine co-founder. Almost immediately after, she began writing the first poem in the book, "Force and Stress," in which she examines her intentions for stealing that saw. But while the catalyst for the book was the relationship, she says where the project ended up was somewhere completely different.
Chopra, the co-founder of Denver literary magazine, Titmouse, wrote the chapbook as her master's thesis for the MFA program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and it was released April 1 on Flying Guillotine Press. All 200 of the published chapbooks are hand bound, and contain a series of prose poems that Chopra says examine the idea of trust. "I wrote this manuscript after undergoing a relationship in which my trust was severely shattered, and so I look at the ways in which our bodies rely on structures and forms," she explains. "We rely and trust the earth to not collapse on us, but oftentimes it does. There are earthquakes, there are tsunamis, there are tornadoes, there are things that are natural in the earth that destroy us."
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To help illustrate these concepts, Chopra drew from research into geology, a subject she has been interested in from a young age. The terminology in the book she says imitates the language of a geology textbook. "The language is very structured and kind of hard and directive, and within those very factual kinds of language constructions I've inserted very poetic, softer moments to help us kind of rethink about the way in which we gather knowledge as fact," says Chopra.
Through her book, Chopra says she hopes that people examine the functions of language and their own trust in the structures around us. "I mean, the structures that we rely on are as human as we are," explains Chopra. "Who can say that any of us is a completely reliable structure?"
And as for the saw she stole, Chopra says she gave it back eventually. "This manuscript definitely came out of that relationship," she explains. "But the places where it ended have absolutely nothing to do with that relationship. That's just kind of the birthing place of it."
Penumbra is out now on Flying Guillotine Press, and is available for $14 on their website. Look out for Chopra's first full-length book due next year on Coconut Books.