New York Times
Friday, February 9, 2018
#7 - Backstory of the Poem" That Night" by Leslea Newman . .
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***This is the seventh in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem. All of the BACKSTORY OF THE POEM series links are posted at the end of this piece.
Backstory of the Poem
by Leslea Newman
Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form? The form came pretty quickly to me. I was struck by the word “shot” (I am very much a language poet). I was thinking about being at a bar getting shot while drinking a shot. And very quickly that made me think of a bartender crying out “Last call” and people making last calls on their cell phones. And then the poem grew out of that.
Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail. I start each poem in the same place: sitting on the couch in my study at home. I have a spiral notebook on my lap, I am holding a pen, a cup of camomille tea is in front of me, and my cat is sitting on her perch behind me.
What month and year did you start writing this poem? I started writing this poem a few days after the event took place (June 12, 2016).
How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?) The poem went through at least 15 drafts, probably more like 20, which is typical of all my poetry.
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? I want readers to imagine what it was like to be in that night club on the night of this tragedy. Real people were killed. People who had friends, families, loved ones. People who had hopes and dreams. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. People who were just out to have a good time. It could have been any of us. I hope the poem will inspire people to feel empathy towards others and and think about what they can do to make the world a safer place for all.
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? The whole poem was very emotional to write. I came out in the 1980’s and went to many LGBT Bars (which we called gay bars at the time). It was where we felt safe. Plus my spouse is a deejay and spent many many nights playing in clubs. I never feared for her safety when she went to work on a Friday or Saturday night. So in addition to the devastation of so many lives lost, there was the devastation of losing that safe harbor. Above Right - Leslea and her spouse Mary Vazquez on their wedding day in September 1998 and in 2017.
Your Biography? I am the author of 70 books for readers of all ages, including the poetry collections I CARRY MY MOTHER, OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD (novel-in-verse), STILL LIFE WITH BUDDY, and the children’s classic, HEATHER HAS TWO MOMMIES. I served as the poet laureate of Northampton, MA from 2008 - 2010 and currently am a faculty member of Spalding University’s low-residency MFA in Writing program.
Has this poem ben published before? And if so where? The poem is taken from my brand new poetry collection entitled LOVELY which was published on January 2, 2018 by Headmistress Press. More information about the book can be found here: http://www.lesleanewman.com/newbks.htm
Where were you when you learned what hadhappened? I was sitting at my desk, scrolling through Facebook.
What was your response? I was so horrified at hearing the news. I have very fond memories of the time I spent in gay bars, and the more I learned about the events that took place and how terrified the people in the club were, and the more I learned about specific people who died, including couples, a mother out with her son, etc. the more my heart just broke.
Fifty people are dead after a man opened fire early Sunday inside a gay nightclub in Orlando.
New York Times
New York Times
June 12, 2016
That night we drank a few shots at the bar
That night we were shot many times at the bar
That night the bartender cried, “Last call!”
That night we frantically made last calls
That night the music pulsed through our veins
That night the bullets tore through our veins
That night we got down and sweated together
That night we fell down and bled together
That night the bartender mixed Bloody Marys
That night the killer fixed bloody Marys
That night some of us shared our first kiss
That night all of us shared our last kiss
That night we danced in each other’s arms
That night we died in each other’s arms
That night turned into a cloud-streaked morning
That night turned into a tear-streaked mourning
“That Night” copyright © 2018 Lesléa Newman from Lovely (Headmistress Press, Sequim, WA). Used by permission of the author.
001 December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”
002 January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”
003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”
004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”
005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”
006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”
007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”
008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”