Wonder Wednesdays – Misplaced Blossom – In Passing


This blossom. This singular blossom on my Christmas (or really Thanksgiving) Cactus is reminding me that even though it has been cold (very COLD) here, somewhere there are flowers. Lots of flowers. And in other places, the flowers are gone. Or yet to come.

In Passing 
~by Lisel Mueller

How swiftly the strained honey
of afternoon light
flows into darkness

and the closed bud shrugs off
its special mystery
in order to break into blossom:

as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious

The Next Big Thing

PausetravelerCATrgb_web_lgThe amazing Wendy Willis, author of the incredible poetry collection, Blood Sisters of the Republic, tapped me on the shoulder the other day and asked if I would be interested in taking part in The Next Big Thing, an interview series working its way through the interwebs. Then, I looked at the folks who Wendy also tapped, and I began to get nervous. These folks are talented, interesting writers, who will likely post amusing and tantalizing “interviews.” Was I up to this? Then, my life got unexpectedly busy, and so now I’m LATE, posting my response. So, I better get on with this and try to redeem myself.

What is the working title of the book?

Pause, Traveler. I had toyed with the idea of calling the book Siste Viator, which means “Stop Traveler.” The phrase was often used on Roman roadside tombs and at crossroads. However, friends pointed out that most folks wouldn’t neither be able to read Latin nor have any idea of the provenance of the phrase. Still, I liked the idea of coming to rest, pausing on the long road of a life.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Pause, Traveler began as the kernel of my MFA creative thesis, but then branched out from there. Up until 2000, I’d lived a peripatetic existence, bouncing from coast to coast, never settling down for too long in one home. My life felt like one long journey, including mentally and emotionally traveling from a person who didn’t understand how be true to herself to the person I am now who is infinitely more comfortable in my own skin. I had a chunk of poems about living in New York City, a chunk of poems about living in Alaska, and this other odd chunk of poems about weird roadside attractions and diners. With a little massaging and filling in the blanks, it became a book.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry – a little lyric, a little narrative….

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Yeah, hmmmmm…. this might be easier if I watched more movies.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

A journey in poetry from New York City to Alaska, through the dark heart of the landscape and a life. (Thank you Kevin Clark for “portraits of the kind of a nearly gutted American soul…” which inspired “dark heart.”)

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

I wrote the poems over a span of six or seven years. However, first I had to live the life that such poetry might spring from, so perhaps over the last thirty years. I’ve been writing poetry for a long time, but I didn’t start to take it seriously until I moved to Alaska. Maybe it’s the long dark winters, maybe it’s the physical and emotional space for introspection, maybe I just decided that if I was ever actually going to become a better poet, I should learn about what makes good poetry and seriously write for awhile.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wanted a practice that would wake me up to the world, and poetry has done that in spades. Some of the poems in this collection were my attempt to make sense of the my life. Others spring from my desire to be deeply rooted in the landscape.

If I go a little further back though, my father inspired my love of language. When I was small, he read to me for a long time each evening. He taught me that words were an honorable, almost venerable, way to leave breadcrumbs on the path so that others could follow you and experience what you did. Reading and writing has always been a way for me to be less alone in this big world.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Prairie Dog Town, Circus World Museum, The Corn Palace, The Little Gem Diner. Oh, and small-town Alaska.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am honored to have my book published by Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press, established by the amazing poet Peggy Shumaker in 2008. Boreal Books is dedicated to bringing the voices of Alaskan writers to wider audiences. And the folks at Red Hen Press have been absolutely wonderful to work with.

The book comes out on June 1st, but I’ll be at the Red Hen booth at AWP selling and signing copies, so stop by and see me!

My tagged writers for next week are:

Peggy Shumaker

Eva Saulitis

Susanna Mishler

Marie Gauthier

Some these wonderful folks will be posting their responses on Being Poetry, and others on their own blogs…. And thank you Wendy, this was a great way to really think about my book.

A good poem brushes against…

colorA good poem brushes against us and leaves its scent on our skin. We read it and feel the tug in our blood. And each time we return to this poem, the day flavors it differently. What we are thinking about just before we read it is seen through its lens.

Mineral Violence by Quinn Latimer

The vast sadness of my family
is an ocean rehearsing its sorrow
against the intractable night.

By light we are careful, bruised
and beautiful as script, hair tangled
from evening’s beating. We stoop

to inspect the night’s debris
and do not recognize black
half-hearts of shell (that are ours),

wool of kelp. The jetty’s battered
knuckles count the endless waves
rolling in. Watching birds drawn

as graphite on sky, we forget
our night deaths. I do not understand
this, nor our strange thick hair, only

that I am of it. Wheat of my mother,
father’s beard of bees: I am their
provided. O mineral violence

release their salt traffic, their
hovering at sea. I will exist.
Give them what they want.