Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Poet Writes on Poets

Christmas Badge
When I received the phone call. . . letting me know that I'd won the prize, I was at work. I remember sweating through my socks and later . . . asking if I could leave early to go to the bar. . . .
~Winner, 2007 Akron Poetry Prize, Barn Owl Review*

I do not remember the first time I visited his blog, How a Poem Happens. I do remember thinking, what a wonderful group of poets he gets to interview! Poets I've been reading for years: Stephen Dunn, Marilyn Hacker, Donald Hall, Galway Kinnell, Mark Jarman, Maxine Kumin, Philip Levine, Linda Pastan, and so many more greats, near-greats, soon-to-be-greats.

His blog profile indicates that he's been on Blogger since January 2009. I don't know where, if anywhere, on the Web he might have been before; I'm just glad I discovered his site, where he presents his interviews with the best crowd of contemporary poets. Those interviews are a kind of post-mortem for poetry-making. Each one offers up a particular poem of the interviewee and then takes us through the "received" inspiration or "sweat and tears" of poem-writing. We learn when the poem at issue was composed, how much it was revised, how much time elapsed between drafts, what inspired it, with whom drafts were shared, whether it reflects a conscious application of poetry-writing techniques, when it first appeared in print, and, interestingly, what makes it "American". The questions asked of each poet generally are the same but the responses are each poet's own, and so always informative, sometimes surprising, often humorous.

The interviewer for How a Poem Happens is a poet himself—an award-winning poet: Brian Brodeur.

Brodeur is young (he was born in 1978 in Worcester, Massachusetts); lives and works in Fairfax, Virginia (the county where I grew up); and holds a Master's of Fine Arts from George Mason University, where he now works. He has been awarded fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Vermont Studio Center. His M.F.A. thesis, a book-length manuscript, was a finalist for the 2006 New Issues Poetry Prize.

Success has come early to Brian Brodeur. His poems, which have been translated into Spanish and Bosnian, have appeared in such esteemed publications as Gettysburg Review, The Missouri Review, Verse Daily, Pleiades, New Orleans Review, Crab Orchard Review, River Styx, Meridian, Smartish Pace, Margie, and Story South, and the anthologies Best New Poets 2005 (University of Virginia Press/Samovar Press; Meridian) and We Are What We Watch: Poets Respond to Movies, TV, and Media (Syracuse University Press, 2006). New work is forthcoming in Many Mountains Moving.

Brodeur's first chapbook, So the Night Cannot Go On Without Us, was published by White Eagle Coffee Store Press and was that press's 2006 Poetry Chapbook Contest winner. His first full-length collection, Other Latitudes, published in 2008 by The University of Akron Press, was selected for the 2007 Akron Poetry Prize, from among 530 manuscripts, by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Stephen Dunn, the final judge.

The contest judge for Brodeur's winning chapbook called Brodeur's poems "exquisite", born of "careful observation of the natural world" and "skillfully conveyed" emotional states; life "both the attractive and the repulsive, is considered with tenderness. . . ."

Of Other Latitudes, Dunn describes a "finely measured first collection" in which Brodeur reveals an "ability to yoke the beautiful and the dangerous, and offer them to us without prejudice; in fact, with an equilibrium that bespeaks an inclusive, clear-eyed engagement with the world."

Similarly, the poet Carolyn Forche calls the collection "impressive", of "intelligent emotional complexity" and "startling" language, "the work of an already mature and accomplished poet."

Here are the last two lines from Brodeur's "Holy Ghost",** which is included in Other Latitudes:

Light moves across the counter, almost touching her hand,
shattering over an open drawer of knives.

Visit Brodeur's blog, How a Poem Happens, and seek out and read Brodeur's poems. He is a talent worth watching.

* Frank DePoole's interview with Brian Brodeur for Barn Owl Review is titled "Persistence, Beer, and Beards: A Conversation with Brian Brodeur". (The title becomes clear in the interview.) It is engaging, funny, informative about Other Latitudes, generous in advice to aspiring poets, and forthcoming in its assessment of the selection of cover art and the "blind and bungling nature" of poetry-writing.

** The complete poem is published here also.

At High Calling Blogs, we're celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas with 12 Days of Community by highlighting the blog(s) or Website(s) of people other than ourselves or people we think you should know about. As our friend Glynn says, this is something we should be doing anyway, all the other 353 days of the year.

This is the eleventh piece to appear under the 12 Days of Community badge. The others are:

Day 1: "She Looks for Joy in Now"
Day 2: "Landscape Become Image"
Day 3: "She Listens Multidimensionally"
Day 4: "Four Women, No Calling Birds"
Day 5: "Virginia via Idaho via New York City"
Day 6: "nAncY, By Any Other Name"
Day 7: "Roses on Her Dresses"
Day 8: "Ann With No 'e'"
Day 9: "In a Single Field"
Day 10: "Meet Kayce a.k.a. Lucy Van Pelt"


Louise Gallagher said...

Okay, so I must say it again -- I so appreciate this opportunity to connect with such amazing talent through your blog.

Thank you!

L.L. Barkat said...

Oh, I missed this one!

And I missed saying, too, thank you for that sweet poem you left in my post "Butterflies and Parties." Made me smile.