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Q&A with Aimee Lowenstern, writer of 'At the End of Everything'

Our editorial team is delighted this week to publish "At the End of Everything", a new poem from American writer Aimee Lowenstern.

Aimee Lowenstern (she/her) is a twenty-five year old poet living in America. She has cerebral palsy and a chihuahua. Her work can be found in several publications, including Fifth Wheel Press and The Banshee Journal.

Our editor-in-chief Julian Kanagy asked a few questions about the poem and Aimee's poetry and what her relationship is with her earlier work.

Julian Kanagy:  Our editorial team found 'At the End of Everything' to be one of those poems where the ending is worth the journey; the switch to second-person after the "walking, tripping down / a staircase" that describes the experience of early stanzas. "Oh, little darling, / it's all endings from here" is a delightful ending to a poem that demands some answer or resolution. I'd love to begin this Q&A by asking what this poem was like for you to write? Where did you begin, and what sort of experiences inform the poem's progress?

Aimee Lowenstern: First of all, I will not let that compliment pass without a thank you. It delights me to know you were delighted.

I went to my keyboard one day expecting to write about the bittersweetness of infatuation and its ending, but what my fingers tapped out was a poem about endings themselves. I sat there trancelike as letters flew, and I was surprised to see what was on the page when I was done. I think I was reassuring myself that I could navigate a loss of affection, that I was constantly and successfully navigating the end of something or other.

As incorporeal as the original writing process felt, I was enormously present and jolly during editing. I had such fun snipping apart the haiku lines into mostly the right syllables, playing with words I don’t normally think to play with, imagining what it was like to leave the womb.

I was born two weeks late, which makes perfect sense, because transitions daunt me— even ones as minuscule as the transition from brushing my hair to brushing my teeth, or putting on my shoes to walking out the door. Mixed with my anxiety disorder, any between-moment can feel deathlike, so I resist in ways that bring more trouble than ease. It feels that, rather than of a skein of time broken only at death, my life has been made into quilting squares, and I must sew each moment to the next by hand. This poem is, also, an exploration of that feeling, and perhaps it will find its way to those who feel similarly.

JK:  Is 'At the End of Everything' a recent piece of yours, or something you wrote some time in the past? What is your relationship with your early work like?

AL: 'At the End of Everything’ was written about a year before it was accepted for publication, so its recency is quite relative, though its ink is certainly dry.

As for my relationship with my early work: It is somewhat like looking at an old photograph of myself. Various reactions are elicited, from That’s me! to That WAS me to That’s not who I am or who I was, that is simply shapes on a piece of paper. I can find myself thinking I was so embarrassed at the time, but it’s actually beautiful or I can’t believe I ever thought that style was cool. Sometimes I don’t see the poem at all, only the circumstances in which I wrote it, as when you wear a particularly itchy sweater for a picture, and the picture becomes the itch. Sometimes I look at old writing I take pride in, and wonder if I can ever achieve the same thing again, forgetting all the gorgeous ways in which I can become unrecognizable.

But I am glad I have written just as I am glad I have had a past at all. And I am glad I still have that writing just as I am glad I have my photographs. I would not be the poet or the person I am without the poems I have written before.

JK:  Could you speak to your use of "kexy" and the inclusion of its definition here? I enjoyed your "two century-endings ago" consistency in the theme of the poem, and I am always a fan of grabbing archaic and dead words that just work in the context you're using them. How'd you encounter this word, and do allusions or dead words/languages appear often in your work?

AL: Kaveh Akbar once said “I feel like I’m just moving through the world with my shirt out in front of me, filling it with language and images”, and I think that’s precisely where I pulled “kexy” from. In middle school, I was devastated by the idea of “dead” words— another ending I could not move past. I was in genuine mourning, as if they were deceased family pets. I memorized as many as I could, and tried to teach them to other kids, thinking I could “resurrect” these lost bits of language.

“Kexy" is the only word from this time still solid in my mind. Perhaps because it is only four letters, or perhaps because, in my opinion, it is one of those special words that sounds like what it means. In my mouth, “kexy” has a kexy texture to it, the K and X brittle, the E and Y soft as a dying flower. I have kept it in my compost pile of memory, waiting to find it a home— not just anywhere would do— and this poem was a very cozy little spot for it to live again.

Dead words are not something I focus on anymore, but perhaps it would be a service to my preteen self to go back to that lovely graveyard. It is enjoyable to be a metaphorical necromancer, and I might find the sort of word I have always been looking for.


Poet Aimee Lowenstern
Aimee Lowenstern

Aimee Lowenstern (she/her) is a twenty-five year old poet living in America. She has cerebral palsy and a chihuahua. Her work can be found in several publications, including Fifth Wheel Press and The Banshee Journal.

Our editor in chief Julian Kanagy
Julian Kanagy

Julian Kanagy is a Chicago-based poet and editor. His poetry samples a Midwestern upbringing peppered with loss and abandonment, thrives both in the confines of formal structure and the simplicity of its absence, and expands into an ongoing search for the beauty in everyday life when it seems to be hiding. He started Heirlock Magazine to amplify underrepresented voices and The Wild Umbrella to celebrate writing for writing's sake; both as an editor and in his own work, Julian follows the advice of a mentor: “find the poems that nobody else could have written.”


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