Oscillating Fan: Statements on Rural Poetics





A friend gave me an anthology of rural American poetry. I sometimes identify. The supporting detail I’m mostly likely to provide is that I used to feed and water 43 coyote hounds every day. A hillside of hounds.


Last night and then again this morning I was contemplating getting a space heater. Last winter, on the advice of Wirecutter, I got a Vornado. I tried for three days to get the plastic stink off of it, out of it—it didn’t work, I returned the Vornado. Now I think of an Eden Pure.


The rural anthology features statements on rural poetics. The statements emphasize geographies; they emphasize vernacularities of nouns. A lot of my writing is a musicalish nouning I’ve taken to calling “cow cow grass.”


The chorus to the bluegrass band Big Smith’s “12-Inch, 3-Speed Oscillating Fan”:
           
            I’ve got a 12-inch, 3-speed, oscillating fan
            sitting on the floor, in front of the divan
            it’s been there, ever since this heat wave began
            our 12-inch, 3-speed, oscillating fan


I have a photo on my phone of an inflatable teddy bear dressed up like Santa Claus, slouching in front of a rural southern Iowa house. It’s night and the image is mostly dark except for the bear glowing red on the yet half-painted boards. The photo is a bit crooked—I took it while slowing to an almost stop. I love this photo. Partly it feels patronizing; partly familiar; partly brisk; partly an illustration/illusion of immersiveness and distance.


If poetics could be thought of as an aligning of method and perspective—an emphatic funk, an ironized opening, might be constitutive of method, while, say, an oscillating fan instead of an air conditioner might be constitutive of perspective.


My friends and I used to smoke Reds and work on a hugger-orange Nova in the garage next door to the glowing bear house. I’ve gone 100mph on gravel with Vise-Grips for a steering wheel. Vise-Grips are often also window cranks. My friend’s dad, the one who dubbed me “California Radio Man,” my first CB handle, likes to call windows “windells.”


“Oscillating fan” is a noun phrase with onomatopoetic shear—“in front of the divan” rhymes with it. Social possibility in this revelrousness.







Justin Cox’s work has appeared in jubilat, Denver Quarterly, The Iowa Review, and is forthcoming in The Canary. Justin teaches at the University of Iowa and has been a fellow at the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington, New Zealand.