Book of Myths

Over the canned announcements on the train,
she continues to tell me about the birth of Titans,
how Cronus swallowed his own babies, and how
you would think the world began with Zeus,
but he was once a baby, and the world began
instead with Gaea, Mother Earth. I wanted
to tell her that it’s all myth—not just those
ancient stories, but others, too:

the patient turtle that holds us upright,
we people made of clay and rib. So many
ways to organize a world. So many things
to understand, however we can.

Left unfinished is any idea of how
to tell her our myths, too, the ones
I spent Sundays learning, week by week,
craft by craft. Apostles’ boats of Ivory
soap, woven willow twigs signifying
something (baskets, perhaps, for loaves
and fishes?). It’s different when
the myths are still living, still asking
to be believed, when there is
a prickle you can’t deny

before you throw away the Bible tract,
when the church bells sing a song
you still remember.

Someday, I want to give her
these things, too:  a giant boat,
a pillar of salt, a god-man-ghost
leaping, unseen but recognized,

welcomed.

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

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Stemmons Freeway

In Dallas there is
an empty place
equal to nothing
I’ve ever known.

It glitters at night.
Flashes of neon,
LED, a million

separate impulses
luring the eye
to come and see

nothing.

An open range
with no cattle,
a banquet set

for nobody.

In the historic
West End, near
the place where
JFK was shot,

a bus drives over
brick streets.

It is spotted like a cow.
It moos.

Somewhere in my head,
an argument begins.

There is something here.
Every place has something.
I know it is here—I saw it;
I took many cab rides
in order to see it.

Undoubtedly, this is so.
Undoubtedly, I am being
unfair.

And yet,
memory insists upon

clouds and wind over
Stemmons Freeway from
the smoked glass windows

of the Hilton Anatole, where
cowboy ghosts could wander
for days, unseen, unfelt,

lost

amidst glories of Asian art.

 

 

To be linked later today for Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

Also, I did enjoy Dallas, and I hope no one is hurt by the rather jaundiced view in this poem. It is just one facet of my impression of that city, and I could easily write an entire chapbook about all the great experiences I had there.

Even the hotel I reference was lovely and very, very impressive — just separated from everything by a giant freeway. I am used to walking around big cities and exploring them that way, so this is my impression of a city that has many delights but also big stretches that are only navigable by car. 

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What’s my Next Big Thing? (And what’s yours?)

Many thanks to fabulous poet Jennifer Bullis for tagging me to be part of The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, which means I get to spotlight a current writing project of mine via a series of interview questions. Here’s my Q&A:

1. What is the title of your book? Is it a working title?

My chapbook is called Drivers and Passengers, which is definitely a working title. It expresses the concept, but it might be a little flat. I also have poems in the voice of a cloud and a crow, so I suppose I could be arty and call it Drivers, Passengers, Cloud & Crow (could—but probably will not). I meant to also have the road itself and a hillside, but these didn’t quite come off. If I decide to revisit that idea, I definitely, definitely think I should add those to the title, too. I like to use all the letters! I also briefly considered In Cars—yes, from the Gary Numan song—but it sounds a little too clever to me, and it suggests the ‘80s, whereas the narrative poems in this chapbook are set in the present day.

2. Where did the idea for your book come from?

I’ve attempted chapbooks many times, but it’s always been an after-the-fact deal where I look through poems that I like a lot and try to wrestle them into a theme. I’ve never gotten one published. So this time, I decided to actually follow the advice to write around a fairly focused theme from the outset. We were on a road trip when I began thinking along these lines, and I started to think about all the cars around us and how all the people in them have stories that I’ll never know. That concept has intrigued me ever since I was a kid.

3. Who and/or what inspired you to write your book?

Because these are realistic, narrative poems, I wanted to write about people in cars on an actual road and let some of the geographic details and local issues come into play. We happened to be driving on I-70 in Ohio at the time, in an area where fracking is both a boon to the economy and a concern for the environment. Some of that entered in, and some of the personas borrow from actual viewpoints I’ve heard. I tried to be respectful to everyone and also muddy things a bit so there’s no direct resemblance to any real people I know and love.

4. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Exactly one month, which I think is a great time frame for a chapbook. Between two-pagers and some cases where I wrote two poems in one day, I ended up with just enough extra that I now have the luxury of focusing on what I think are the 24 to 28 best pages. Also, it felt like just enough time to let things develop without getting maybe a little too hung up on the project and unable to put it down.

5. What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry. Specifically, narrative persona poetry.

6. What books [I’m going to amend this slightly] would you compare yours to in your chosen genre?

There are so many great persona poems, but the one that first comes to mind is Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess.” I read this in college, and it knocked me on my ear to learn that poems, too, could have unreliable narrators. If you want a concentrated dose of contemporary narrative poetry—some with personas—I recommend Naugatuck River Review (and not just because I was in one issue).

7. What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Many people who are not the poet herself drive around and ponder things.

8. Do you have a publisher, or will you self-publish your book or seek representation?

Seeking a publisher, for sure. My plan is to polish this up and enter it in a couple of spring contests.

9. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie or to read your work for a recording?

I’m so bad at this game! I think one of the personas could be played by Channing Tatum if he went kind of down-market (and also didn’t take his shirt off). Leighton Meester could play one of the young women because I understand her upbringing was pretty hardscrabble. Frances McDormand might be in there somewhere, and I’ve seen less “done” photos of Patricia Heaton that remind me of one persona in particular. (You should know, by the way, that other than Frances McD, I first thought of these actors as Magic Mike guy, Gossip Girl … girl, and the lady from Everybody Loves Raymond.)

10. What else about your book might pique readers’ interest?

Watch in wonder as the shape-shifting poet BECOMES MORE THAN TWO DOZEN DIFFERENT PEOPLE!

And now I’m supposed to tag three to five other writers to answer these interview questions next. But … I’ve been asking around and haven’t found anyone who wants to take this on! You should know that: a) the writing can be in any genre, and b) the “book” concept can be loosened so that it applies to any big project you’d like to highlight. Any takers? (Three to five of them, perhaps?) Please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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Exciting news!

I was out of town recently, and while checking email from a super slow FedEx Office computer at 40 cents a minute (side note: I’ve vowed — again — that this is my last business trip without some type of smartphone or at least my very heavy laptop), I got a great surprise: A poetry collection that I edited over the summer has now been published.

Signal from Static, from Chromatopia, LLC, is available on Kindle or in paperback. I knew I would receive an editing credit, but I was really floored to see my name on the cover. How gratifying!

My own ego aside, I’m excited about this book because the poetry in it is so fresh and original. There are a lot of different styles and a range of subjects, but all the poems are united by the fact that they push boundaries and are vivid and emotionally honest. I truly enjoyed reading them, and I know you will, too.

The all-star lineup of poets includes several with whom I’ve since crossed paths during Open Link Night at dVerse Poets (aka, that thing I do each Tuesday, except for this most recent one — see the first paragraph of this post).

Chromatopia, LLC is one of many endeavors by the indefatigable Anna Montgomery, who is — among other things — both a poet and a visual artist herself. It was a joy to work with her and the individual poets in this collection, and I could not be more thrilled to see it come to fruition!

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And All the Air You Can Breathe

The morning titans stretch themselves,
release the earth again, on its own
recognizance. We recognize these things:
Leaves. Sun. Water. Each other’s faces.
How many mental maps do we have?
How many can we carry? This is
the riddle of every morning.
I solve it day by day.

 

 

To be linked tomorrow afternoon/evening for Open Link Night at dVerse Poets. (I wrote and posted it now because I’ll be in Dallas tomorrow. Ever been there? Any tips?)

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