Poetry Sunday: “Ink on Paper,” by Judy Halebsky

[From the WVFC Poetry Archive. First Published September 8, 2019.]




First published in Tree Line (New Issues 2014). Reprinted here with permission of the press and available for order here.


Judy Halebsky is the author of Tree Line and Sky=Empty, which won the New Issues Prize. Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she moved to California to study poetry at Mills College. On fellowships from the Japanese Ministry of Culture, she lived in Japan for five years. She has co-translated poetry by Yuka Tsukagoshi and Mizuho Ishida from Japanese into English. Most recently, she has written essays on Moth-style storytelling and her memories of studying poetry with Chana Bloch. Her poems have appeared in APR, Zyzzyva, Cincinnati Review,and elsewhere. She is an associate professor at the Dominican University of California and lives in Oakland with her nature-guide spouse and young daughter. Author photo credit: Chase Clow.


Video artist Adriane Little made a video of this poem read by the author that you can view here.
An article about Tree Line appears here and areview appears here.



Poet’s Note

I wrote this poem while in residency at the MacDowell Colony when I was moving between places. I had just left Sacramento, a community of friends and poets who I would dearly miss, and was about to move to Tokyo on a fellowship to study at Hosei University. So, the idea of impermanence and memory are important in the poem. In Tokyo, I trained in Noh theatre and Butoh dance and also connected with a handful of poets. Noh, like a number of arts influenced by Zen Buddhism, is generally taught one-on-one, from teacher to student. It emphasizes body-to-body transmission over verbal explanation. There’s an idea that explaining things in words is inaccurate, and for real understanding, the knowledge must pass from one person to another. This idea has illuminated many aspects of my life. Most directly, the unarticulated experience of the body is a large part of poetry writing. This includes what we can’t put into words or hasn’t yet been put into words. A poem takes off when it tells me something that I had felt but I hadn’t spoken or thought.

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