Placeholders, by Nina Hanz - Bottlecap Press

Placeholders, by Nina Hanz

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Bottlecap Press
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Poetry, chapbook, 28 pages, from Bottlecap Features.

"Placeholders is a geo-cultural study of names, their origins and their signifiers seeking to bring an acute awareness to the gaze and tone of gendered suffering that has been placed and labelled onto nature. Throughout the pamphlet, I wanted to convey a strong sense of oral storytelling and musicality to introduce the patterns I saw not only in ancient mythology and folklore, but in contemporary and personal history.

I was born and spent the majority of my childhood in various states located on the Appalachian Mountains and the Deep South. This was a place where news historically travelled in the form of music as seen in the song writing by Bobbie Gentry and Dolly Parton, but also in the gendered genre of ‘murder ballads’ like The Louvin Brothers’ song Knoxville Girl. One of these local tragedies I grew up hearing about was of a young child named Jenny. Close to where I lived in New Jersey was a town named Hope. Hundreds of years prior to my living there, Jenny passed in a tragic accident while she was playing on the ridge of a sacred Native American burial ground. The ledged holds that her father saw a ghostly figure (most likely a Native American he perceived as a threat) behind her and told Jenny to immediately jump down to safety. But he was not able to catch her, and the loss was so grand it renamed the whole mountain. The intensity of emotion behind this legend instigated my research, making "Jenny Jump Mountain" the first poem I wrote as part of this series. The final piece to this pamphlet was the Gazetteer, a geographical index with personal and historical annotations at the end of the publication.

The pamphlet fuses moments of gentle softness with hard, sharp and turning disruptions. "Placeholders for God" is one of the more personal poems in the collection that surveys another side to naming people, objects and places. Deeply disturbing in how it deifies a lover in the wake of a serious health crisis, nicknaming becomes a way to express affection where language fails. Just like we have marked and ordered Earth’s history and the Anthropocene, the poems in ‘Placeholders’ reflect the tension between physical structures and linguistic forms as it breaks with and follows convention."

-Nina Hanz

Nina Hanz is a German-American writer who lives and works in Berlin. In 2020, she graduated from the Royal College of Art’s MA Writing programme where she cultivated her practice around time, place, geological trauma and ecology. Both her prose and poetry deal with unexpected iterations of the ground, from the grit that gets stuck in a clam shell to the gunk that gets lodged under our fingernails. She is also the editor of a forthcoming anthology, My Daughter Terra (Plain.tiff Press, 2022).