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Well Waiting Room

Well Waiting Room

by Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer

Paperback

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Overview

A collection of poems that contemplate the bureaucracy of the mind through interior political cabinets

Taking its name from the banal, purgatorial space outside (but inside) a doctor’s office, Well Waiting Room imagines the conversations we have with ourselves at this liminal site as an exchange between interior bureaucrats, each of whom governs a particular aspect of the psyche. The poems explore the dynamics of this political ministry, which includes the Cabinets of Desire, Indulgences, Self-Preservation, Ordinary Affairs, Ambivalence, Confrontations, and many others—there’s even a press secretary, a curator, and a general counsel. Like a cabinet of curiosity wrapped in red tape, the poems examine the compartmentalization of the mind and the confounding news of the day.

Formally, the poems range from dramatic monologues to combative sonnets, quippy memos to voice-y prose blocks, incantatory interludes to dreamlike visual landscapes. Sometimes, the poems address a purely internal conflict: Why do we lie to ourselves, indulge in schadenfreude, repeat the same mistakes? Other times, the poetic lens points outward like a spear, confronting the external universe: social injustice, polar ice melt, the Trump administration, and other man-made disasters. But in both universes, the poems find joy: the first observation of gravitational waves, the otherworldly beauty of rare marine species, the discovery that you are your own best way out.

For Schlaifer, the underlying question is an epistemological one, an ontological one, a theological one. Why are we here, how do we know things, and why does God—so often—seem to be working against us? In Schlaifer’s bureaucratic vision of the mind, readers will see their own internal voices affectingly (and often humorously) reflected. The book traverses unknowable terrain in sturdy boots. It unearths not answers but better questions for our time.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823297771
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Series: Poets Out Loud
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer is a poet and installation artist in St. Louis. She is the author of the poetry collection Cleavemark (BOAAT Press, 2016) and the children’s book The Cloud Lasso (Penny Candy Books, 2019). Her poems and art have appeared in Bomb, Bennington Review, Georgia Review, Harvard Review, Iowa Review, AGNI, Washington Square, At Length, The Offing, Denver Quarterly, LIT, Colorado Review, and on PoetryNow and the Poetry Foundation website, among others. She frequently collaborates with other artists, most recently with Cheryl Wassenaar on the installation The Cabinet of Ordinary Affairs at the Des Lee Gallery. Her work can be viewed at stephanieschlaifer.com.

Table of Contents

The Ambassador of the Interior Has a Talking-to with the Minister of the Cabinet of Vengeance | 1

A Member of the Cabinet of Culpabilities Challenges the Cabinet’s Minister | 2

Dictation from the Autocrat of the Interior | 4

Open Letter to the Minister of the Cabinet of Denial (The Quick) | 5

The Cabinet of Slippery Slopes | 6

MEMORANDUM (We have to do it all again) | 8

From the Cabinet of Counterweights & Measures | 9

The Documentarian of the Interior Opposes the Bill from the Minister of the Cabinet of Nostalgia | 11

The Cabinet of Ontology | 12

From the Cabinet of Origin Stories | 14

Response to the Minister of the Cabinet of Doctrines | 16

From the Curator of the Interior | 18

The Minister of the Cabinet of Self-Preservation | 21

PSA from the Broadcast Service of the Interior | 23

The Chamber of Chronicles | 24

MEMORANDUM (Sublimation) | 26

From the Archivist of the Interior (Make Yourself Great Again) | 27

From the Outbox of the Minister of the Cabinet of Desire | 28

At the Assembly of the Governing Bodies (Red Tape) | 29

From the Minister of the Cabinet of Persuasions | 32

From the Cabinet of Unconsciousness (Teeth) | 34

The Minister of the Cabinet of Indulgences Pardons the Minister of the Cabinet of Desire | 35

From the Minister of the Cabinet of Equivocations | 36

Response to the Cabinet of Definitives (Zoological Fantasy) | 38

Riposte to the Cabinet of Consolations | 42

MEMORANDUM (Ubiquity) | 43

The Minister of the Cabinet of Bespoke Futures | 44

From the Minister of the Cabinet of Admonition | 46

From the Cabinet of Unconsciousness (Well Waiting Room) | 47

At the Assembly of the Governing Bodies, the Minister of the Cabinet of Oversight Makes a Motion to
Consolidate, and the Speaker of the House of the Interior Just Goes Along with It | 48

The Minister of the Cabinet of Immateriality | 49

MEMORANDUM (Withholdings) | 51

From the Cabinet of Unconsciousness (Whaling) | 52

From the Minister of the Cabinet of Ordinary Affairs | 54

The Cabinet of Lesser Offenses | 56

From the Minister of the Cabinet of Retribution | 58

From the Analyst of the Anterior | 59

MEMORANDUM (Impasse) | 60

From the Cabinet of Unconsciousness (No Man’s Land) | 61

The Minister of the Cabinet of Decorum | 62

The Minister of the Cabinet of Covenants Argues with the Minister of the Cabinet of Desire | 65

The Cabinet of Reason | 66

The Minister of the Cabinet of Confrontations | 67

The Minister of the Cabinet of Vengeance Issues a Decree | 68

To the Cabinet of Ambivalences (UNANSWD/UNHRD) | 69

From the Press Secretary of the Interior (Confirmed Reports) | 71

MEMORANDUM (Overstory) | 74

From the Cabinet of Survival Mechanisms | 75

From the Cabinet of Unconsciousness (Unremittingness) | 76

From the Minister of the Cabinet of Reason (re: Your Indulgent Hopefulness in an Afterlife) | 77

The Minister of the Cabinet of Disasters | 79

From the Minister of the Cabinet of Unconsciousness (Natalie & the Waves) | 80

MEMORANDUM (Verisimilitude) | 83

Bulletins from the Cloud Cabinet | 84

Rebuttal from the General Counsel of the Interior | 85

From the Press Secretary of the Interior (Gravitational Waves) | 86

From the Minister of the Cabinet of Unconsciousness (Lesser Animals) | 87

Notes | 89

Acknowledgments | 91

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