Julie Babcock is a poet and fiction writer who teaches in an interdisciplinary writing program at University of Michigan. Her hybrid poetry collection, Rules for Rearrangement, won the 2019 Kithara Book Prize and was released November 2020. She is also the author of Autoplay, described as both an ode and an elegy to her Midwestern upbringing. Her poetry and fiction appear in PANK, Split Lip Magazine, december magazine, and has been anthologized in New Poetry from the Midwest.
She is a founding editor of the new journal Public School Poetry. and recently completed a novel tentatively titled The Wild Out, which began as a short story published in The Rumpus.
photo by David Ward
"All things break and fall against this life/and this life gathers the shards and makes song," Julie Babcock writes in this dazzling poetry/hybrid collection. Here, the gaps, ellipses, and erasures are like the clefts across which synapses fire. The cleft is between life and death, and the fire comes from Babcock's language and fearless structure. This book is a song, a fugue, a state of both being and becoming- and it will rearrange your mental furniture.
-Sue WIlliam Silverman, author of If the Girl Never Learns
Welcome to Ohio, populated by horses and astronauts, wolf moons and changelings. In Autoplay, the American Midwest buzzes with mystery, and our guide is a poet of deft lyricism and graceful wit. So let yourself go, dear reader, because, as Julie Babcock writes, "To dream is to let go," and these poems- full of heartache, wonder and awe- dream spectacularly.
- Matthew Olzmann, author of Mezzainines
First page of The Wild Out
The night I met Elle, she came home with me and taught me a game. She wore a red pleather corset with a thick, gold zipper running down the side. When she cracked her whip, the tight ponytail she’d fixed at the crown of her head jerked too. I got down on my hands and knees like we had agreed beforehand. I’d promised to remember the rules.
“Stay down,” Elle said. She blindfolded me with something. Then her teeth bit and she sang into my ear, “don’t move until we forget who we are.”
I met Elle that day at an OSU football game. More specifically, at the concession stand. She was a cute, petite thing with a thick mane of long auburn hair held in a loose, low-slung pony, big hazel eyes that seemed to look in all directions at once. As soon as I saw her I knew she was the woman I needed to change my life. Elle said the person she’d come with was being a jerk and that she was consoling herself with nachos. She picked up a chip and dunked it into the separate compartment of liquid cheese. Then she topped it with half a jalapeno and slipped it into her mouth. She chewed and swallowed before she introduced herself. She said she loved spice.
The game was winding down. Ohio was winning again, up 21 points. They'd had a banger of a season. Dwayne Haskins came out of nowhere to become the best quarterback in OSU history. Just like that, things came together for him and the team and everything changed. Just like that, no one can stop you.
I finished my beer, bought a hot dog, and slathered it in mustard. I told Elle I had an excellent memory and that she was the most interesting person I’d met in years. I told her I would always remember the too-tightly wrapped band-aid on her little finger that was blocking her circulation. That I would remember how, when she slipped the last jalapeno in her mouth, her face reddened. That, as unlikely as it sounded, I would always remember everything she said to me.
Elle said she remembered almost nothing. That it was more fun to forget. She licked cheese off her finger and adjusted the big, green duffle on her shoulder. I took a bite of my hot dog and asked her how old she was.
“18,” she said.
“18?” I repeated. It seemed about right, but I wanted to make sure. I wasn’t looking to get into trouble.
She nodded and asked me if I saw a guy in a Shawn Mendes t-shirt behind her. I said I didn’t and handed her some napkins.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“I am,” I said. “Do you want to go?”
She said “yes.” Just “yes,” with no question about when or where, as if she had forgotten we just met. She folded the napkins, pushed them into the front pocket of her tight jeans, and took my hand.