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Java.April.2017

Intention He tells her

Intention He tells her that she’s an origami bird made of air, something viral and vegetable with overtones of leaves, exhalations like subtext dancing under a western haze, his lips tracing her organs as he tells her that no one is a guru, that the spirit remains for years after the body has vanished, so she asks him to disappear her into particles, drive away with the windows down so she can float between the buttes, blanket the city with gardens of graffiti like folklore, like ritual, like something that will take more than a lifetime to decompose. 14 JAVA MAGAZINE

her poetry. In her classes, they often straddled the line between critical analysis and creative writing—which Dombrowski loved. Dombrowski took as many classes she could with McCabe and, upon graduating, continued taking classes as a non-degree graduate student. Her professors eventually encouraged her to join the English Master’s program, where she studied the intersection of dance and poetry—specifically, how indigenous dances were inscribed into art forms. The stories that were central to dance were chronicled poetically. For her Ph.D. studies, also at ASU, Dombrowski focused on confession—fitting for a woman who was kicked out of two Catholic schools. She was specifically interested in women, marginalized men and the LGBTQ community when it came to confession. During her first year of graduate school, Dombrowski got pregnant, which would change anyone’s life, but her case was especially challenging because her son was born with a heart condition and developed severe autism in his early years. “At that point, writing became central to my existence,” Dombrowski says. “I was learning as much as I could. Poetry became a means of telling those stories that would have otherwise blurred into one another. Poetry became a way of chronicling those days. Others are very specific snapshots. I felt like I was in a strangely ethnographic space. Autism isn’t my culture; however, without any say, I couldn’t write anything else.” Her son’s childhood was rough. In junior high he was banging his head against walls for up to eight hours a day. It was a frustrating experience for her. Things got a bit better after he got on medication. Dombrowski sees her son as a multi-dimensional, multi-species human whom she’s learned to accept and cherish. She began reading her poems about autism around town and became known as the “autism” poet. “My desire to help voice the marginalized as a pseudo ethnographer, I find myself doing fieldwork in the culture of autism,” Dombrowski says. “I don’t necessarily want to be there. I don’t think I can do it unless I inscribe it ethnographically. It’s a combination of everything that I’ve studied and lived. That degree in anthropology and English with an emphasis in poetry never felt like what I would be living the rest of my life.” Writing her history from the inside was incredibly important to her. Most of her poems during this period came together in Book of Emergencies. “I think it’s gutwrenching at times,” Dombrowski says. “I didn’t really hold much back. I wrote about when I loathed the disorder; when I think of it as a disease; when I hated my child by association. I felt like that was necessary in the pieces. I think it’s the process of research. It’s about therapies; it’s about failures.” After receiving her Ph.D., Dombrowski started teaching at ASU. Her work centers on radical poetics, women’s literature and creative ethnography. “I feel like I can speak out about injustices occurring in other spaces, but I feel like it’s more important for the members of those spaces to share stories,” Dombrowski says. “That’s why I teach ethnographic poetry.” Dombrowski has played a major role in creating imaginative spaces in Phoenix. According to her biography, she is the founder of Rinky Dink Press; co-founder and host of the Phoenix Poetry Series; the host of Get Lit, a monthly literary salon, and an editor for Four Chambers journal. She is the co-editor of the multi-genre collection Weaving the Threads: Women, Art, Community, forthcoming from Four Chambers Press. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Columbia Review, Stonecoast Review, Anthro/Poetics (an anthology), Bombay Gin, Nano, The Review Review and elsewhere. Her collections include The Book of Emergencies (Five Oaks Press, 2014) and The Philosophy of Unclean Things (Finishing Line Press, 2016). She is a bastion in the community, and last year she applied to become poet laureate for Phoenix. She was urged to do so by the director of Four Chambers, Jake Friedman, and eventually received the designation later in the year, by a unanimous decision. “I’m planning on leveraging the position as the poet laureate to push others’ voices forward,” Dombrowski says. “I am not interested in hearing my own voice.” “It kind of felt like a fairy tale,” Dombrowski says. “When you’re a mid-level poet, you don’t think much about beyond most days—what I do in the classroom. I submit my work every few months. I pretty much work as every other C-level creative writer. How would that not be a dream come true? This is as good as it gets.” Her latest poetry book, released earlier this year, is entitled Philosophy of Unclean Things. While writing this book, Dombrowski was dealing with a lot of unclean things in her life. She was in love with another poet who is a germaphobe. She was discovering dead birds in her yard weekly and was inspired to collaborate with Tawny Kerr—a three-dimensional artist who works with decaying matter. Recently, Dombrowski was awarded a poetry grant from the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics. The grant is allowing her to get together youth from the community and work with artists to create a wall piece in the city that anthologizes their poetry. “I really want it to be their vision for the future. I want them to know they have a voice, and I want them to know that people are listening. I want them to express through poetry to see the power,” says Dombrowski. In this sense, Dombrowski is using her power to help those who need a voice— who need to understand that they have power within. Dombrowski is helping people tell stories, and at the end of the day, that’s the most empowering thing you can do for another person, poet or not: use your power to give them space of their own. JAVA 15 MAGAZINE

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