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Monday, February 18, 2019

#71 Backstory of the Poem "How Silent the Trees' by Wyn Cooper



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***This is the seventy-first 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 BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. 

071 Backstory of the Poem “How Silent the Trees” by Wyn Cooper  
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? My dear friend Liam Rector committed suicide by shooting himself a little over a decade ago. I was completely shattered by the news, and wrote about five elegies for him. 
This was the best of them, and I put it in my most recent book, Mars Poetica, published by White Pine Press (http://whitepine.org/in 2018. I worked on it painstakingly for many months, going through at least 40 drafts. I showed some of the drafts to a few people, including my wife, but ultimately all the decisions regarding the final version were made by me. 
Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail. I wrote this poem in the house I used to live in in Vermont. I wrote it in my office there, which looks out on mountains and trees. In the fall, there are hunters whose shots can be easily heard. 


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?) At least 40 drafts. I don’t write using paper, so I can’t provide pen markings. 




Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version? And can you share them with us? There were many lines that didn’t get used, but I’d rather not share them. 
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? Readers should take whatever they want from this poem, but I hope they can feel at least some of what I felt after Liam took his life. I also hope it helps them understand the utter helplessness people feel when people close to them take their own lives, especially at the emptiness that follows their loss. 

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? The beginning and end of the poem were the hardest to write, and to this day are the hardest to read, especially aloud at public readings. I sometimes begin to break down when reading it, but am always to recover and finish the poem, in part because he—and the poem—mean so much to me. 

Has this poem been published before? And if so where? It was published in AGNI, and then in my most recent book. 
Anything you’d like to add? Liam discussed suicide with me many, many times, but I always assumed he was talking about it theoretically. He was in very poor health when he shot himself, so I guess I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was. He was an incredible poet, teacher, and person. Anyone who met him certainly won’t forget his wide-ranging intellect, interests, and his absolute outrageousness. He would say anything to anyone, and delighed in being provocative. I urge anyone reading this to read his poems. I miss him terribly. 


 How Silent the Trees


                  --for Liam Rector, 1949-2007


How the hell are you, I want
to ask but can’t—you’re dead.

How hard the snow fell,
how slowly it melts.

How to tie a knot big enough
to choke the wild pain. 

How to listen carelessly
to words used carefully.

How answers to questions
often contain no answer.

How to wind a watch
so tight time stops.      

How silent the trees, how
loud the shots of hunters.

Wyn Cooper has published five books of poems, most recently Mars Poetica. His work has appeared Poetry, Ploughshares, Slate, and more than 100 other magazines, as well as in 25 anthologies of contemporary poetry. His poems have been turned into songs by Sheryl Crow, David Broza, and Madison Smartt Bell. He has taught at Bennington College, Marlboro College, the University of Utah, and at The Frost Place, and has given readings throughout the United States as well as in Europe. He worked for two years at the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, a think tank run by the Poetry Foundation, and now lives in Boston and works as a freelance editor. www.wyncooper.com
I can be contacted at wyncooper@gmail.com 

BACKSTORY OF THE POEM LINKS

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”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018
Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018
Juliet Cook’s “ARTERIAL DISCOMBOBULATION”

019  June 09, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s “It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

027  August 13, 2018
Gloria Mindock’s “Carmen Polo, Lady Necklaces, 2017”

028  August 21, 2018
Connie Post’s “Two Deaths”

029  August 30, 2018
Mary Harwell Sayler’s “Faces in a Crowd”

030 September 16, 2018
Larry Jaffe’s “The Risking Point”

031  September 24, 2018
Mark Lee Webb’s “After We Drove”

032  October 04, 2018
Melissa Studdard’s “Astral”

033 October 13, 2018
Robert Craven’s “I Have A Bass Guitar Called Vanessa”

034  October 17, 2018
David Sullivan’s “Paper Mache Peaches of Heaven”

035 October 23, 2018
Timothy Gager’s “Sobriety”

036  October 30, 2018
Gary Glauber’s “The Second Breakfast”

037  November 04, 2018
Heather Forbes-McKeon’s “Melania’s Deaf Tone Jacket”

038 November 11, 2018
Andrena Zawinski’s “Women of the Fields”

039  November 00, 2018
Gordon Hilger’s “Poe”

040 November 16, 2018
Rita Quillen’s “My Children Question Me About Poetry” and “Deathbed Dreams”

041 November 20, 2018
Jonathan Kevin Rice’s “Dog Sitting”

042 November 22, 2018
Haroldo Barbosa Filho’s “Mountain”

043  November 27, 2018
Megan Merchant’s “Grief Flowers”

044 November 30, 2018
Jonathan P Taylor’s “This poem is too neat”

045  December 03, 2018
Ian Haight’s “Sungmyo for our Dead Father-in-Law”

046 December 06, 2018
Nancy Dafoe’s “Poem in the Throat”

047 December 11, 2018
Jeffrey Pearson’s “Memorial Day”

048  December 14, 2018
Frank Paino’s “Laika”

049  December 15, 2018
Jennifer Martelli’s “Anniversary”

O50  December 19, 2018
Joseph Ross’s For Gilberto Ramos, 15, Who Died in the Texas Desert, June 2014”

051 December 23, 2018
“The Persistence of Music”
by Anatoly Molotkov

052  December 27, 2018
“Under Surveillance”
by Michael Farry

053  December 28, 2018
“Grand Finale”
by Renuka Raghavan

054  December 29, 2018
“Aftermath”
by Gene Barry

055 January 2, 2019
“&”
by Larissa Shmailo

056  January 7, 2019
“The Seamstress:
by Len Kuntz

057  January 10, 2019
"Natural History"
by Camille T Dungy


058  January 11, 2019
“BLOCKADE”
by Brian Burmeister

059  January 12, 2019
“Lost”
by Clint Margrave

060 January 14, 2019
“Menopause”
by Pat Durmon

061 January 19, 2019
“Neptune’s Choir”
by Linda Imbler

062  January 22, 2019
“Views From the Driveway”
by Amy Barone

063  January 25, 2019
“The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh”
by Gail Wronsky

064  January 30, 2019
“Shiprock”
by Terry Lucas

065 February 02, 2019
“Summer 1970, The University of Virginia Opens to Women in the Fall”
by Alarie Tennille

066 February 05, 2019
“At School They Learn Nouns”
by Patrick Bizzaro

067  February 06, 2019
“I Must Not Breathe”
by Angela Jackson-Brown

068 February 11, 2019
“Lunch on City Island, Early June”
by Christine Potter

069 February 12, 2019
“Singing”
by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

070 February 14, 2019
“Daily Commute”
by Christopher P. Locke

071 February 18, 2019
“How Silent the Trees”
by Wyn Cooper