Poetry in Motion: Jade Wallace + Love Is A Place But You Cannot Live There

In their debut collection Love Is A Place But You Cannot Live There (Guernica Editions), Jade Wallace gifts us a series of vignette-like poems that reflect on home and our relationships to each other and to the places we inhabit.Below, Jade reads “Blood Shift,” from their collection and tells us how the poem recalls the works of Sylvia Plath and Kate Chopin.


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Blood shift is part of the diving reflex. When we’re underwater, blood flow to the extremities is minimized, and blood flow to the head and organs is prioritized. It’s supposed to help keep us alive, and it happens involuntarily. We don’t need to know about it, we don’t have to agree to it. Even a person trying to drown on purpose, like Virginia Woolf walking into the river with stones in her pockets, will experience blood shift.

If you look at the other literary works “Blood Shift” is alluding to—Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening—you’ll know what the speaker means when they say, oh so casually, “Of course I want to die.” That Thanatotic impulse is the backdrop of their existential play. Even their secondary desire, to become an “incorporeal haze” and an “eternal watcher,” is a kind of obfuscation of the self. Such self-denial is, I’ve heard, a pattern familiar to many women, and equally familiar to those of us who were raised as women, though it’s by no means our exclusive domain.

To be audience but not actor is evidence of a desire to eschew moral responsibility by eschewing personal visibility. This process, of course, ends ambivalently for our speaker, who rather resents the very sort of people who only want to be watched. Perhaps the speaker is envious, or perhaps they do in fact disdain the ostentatious, monologic displays that also morbidly fascinate them. There is irony either way, for the speaker themselves is also performing a monologue, even if it is internal.

Beneath this is yet another ironic layer of obfuscation: I keep talking to you about “the speaker” of this poem, and you’re probably wondering if I’m really just talking about myself.

Jade Wallace reads “Blood Shift” from Love Is A Place But You Cannot Live There

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Jade Wallace’s writing has won the Muriel’s Journey Poetry Prize and Coastal Shelf’s Funny & Poignant Poetry Contest, placed third in the Ken Belford Poetry Contest, been a finalist for the Wergle Flomp Humour Poetry Prize, and been nominated for The Journey Prize. They are the author of several solo and collaborative chapbooks, the reviews editor for CAROUSEL magazine, and the co-founder of MA|DE, a collaborative writing entity. Love Is A Place But You Cannot Live There is their first book.

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Love Is A Place But You Cannot Live There is available for purchase here on All Lit Up, or from your local indie bookstore (via our Shop Local button).

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