Thursday, June 6, 2019

#109 Backstory of the Poem "Bobby's Story" by Jimmy Pappas



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***This is #109 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. 
#109 Backstory of the Poem’s
“Bobby’s Story”
by Jimmy Pappas

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?  
     I joined the Vietnam Veterans of America 
(https://
vva.org/) for the companionship of other veterans. I let it be known that, as a writer, I was interested in hearing and recording their stories. 
     
     Most veterans did not want to share. I am sorry to say that many of their stories have already died with them. I am a believer in telling these stories no matter where they lead. (Left:Bobby in his Mess Dress)

     Bobby (Right) was willing to talk to me. I decided to focus on three things important to who we are: what we do, what we say, and what other people say about us. I continued to listen and learn about Bobby over a three-year period. But I never asked him any detailed questions. I always relied on what he wanted to tell me. When he was through speaking, I stopped writing and we talked about other things.
     To give one example, Bobby told me about how he went out with doctors sometimes to protect them because they did not carry guns. There is a section in the poem about a doctor being killed by a random shell from a Viet Cong mortar (Above Left)
     I could tell Bobby felt like he failed in his responsibility, even though there was nothing he could do about it. He stopped and said, "That's it. I ain't got no more." I never asked him another question about the incident. (Right:  Bobby at the beach)

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.  Some of my first Bobby stories came from Bobby when we sat down together at a fall picnic for members of our veterans group. We sat at one of many tables eating from a buffet set up by the group. I did most of the talking about my desire to record some of the details of the Vietnam War from individual soldiers. I consider them the missing pieces that fill in the blanks of the big picture. He was one of the few veterans willing to speak about Vietnam.     As you can see from the poem, Bobby loved to eat. In fact, he was an overeater. Food is a central motif in his story.

What month and year did you start writing this poem?  It was maybe around September of 2013. I did not finish for at least another three years. (Right:  Bobby in sunglasses)

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?)  I had pages of notes and ideas. Most of it was on my computer. I would keep working on separate sections of the poem at different times. Each time I had a new idea, I would add it to the poem. I cannot count the total number of times I worked on the poem over that time span. (Left:  Bobby in fatigues)

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 are some lines that are not in the final poem. I chose not to use them to protect Bobby.  Right) So I cannot share them.

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? I want them to see Vietnam veterans as human beings. Not as heroes. Not as baby killers. Just regular human beings trying to do an impossible job.


Which part of the poem was the most emotional for you to write and why? I think it was the part where I received the phone call from Melvin telling me that Bobby was going to be removed from life support. He said to me, "I know how much you loved him." I thought that was so powerful. I was raised in a Greek family where men never spoke of loving each other. So hearing someone tell me that they knew how much I loved Bobby as a friend was deeply emotional for me. I always had trouble reading that section out loud. In fact, I avoided reading it at open mics for a long time because it made me feel like crying.

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where? The poem has been published in Rattle. It was one of ten finalists in the prestigious Rattle 2017 Poetry Contest. It was then voted as the winner of the Readers Choice Award by the subscribers of Rattle.

Anything you would like to add? I promised Bobby before he died that I would make him famous in a poem. So if your readers want to help me do that, they can share the (above) link with others and ask them to pass it on. Please only share the link, not the poem itself. (Below:  Jimmy speaking at Bobby's funeral)

Jimmy Pappas served during the Vietnam War as an English language instructor training South Vietnamese soldiers. Jimmy received his BA in English at Bridgewater State University and an MA in English literature from Rivier University. He is a retired teacher whose poems have been published in many journals, including Yellowchair Review, Rattle, Shot Glass Journal, Soundings East, Off the Coast, and Boston Literary Magazine. He is the Vice-President of the Poetry Society of NH. His poem "Bobby's Story" was one of ten finalists in the prestigious 2017 Rattle Poetry Contest and was the winner of the Readers Choice Award.  
jpappas235@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 CafĂ©”

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


072 February 20, 2019
“A New Psalm of Montreal”
by Sheenagh Pugh

073 February 23, 2019
“Make Me A Butterfly”
by Amy Barbera

074 February 26, 2019
“Anthem”
by Sandy Coomer

075 March 4, 2019
“Shape of a Violin”
by Kelly Powell

076 March 5, 2019
“Inward Oracle”
by J.P. Dancing Bear

077 March 7, 2019
“I Broke My Bust Of Jesus”
by Susan Sundwall

078 March 9, 2019
“My Mother at 19”
by John Guzlowski

079 March 10, 2019
“Paddling”
by Chera Hammons Miller

080 March 12, 2019
“Of Water and Echo”
by Gillian Cummings

081   082   083    March 14, 2019
“Little Political Sense”   “Crossing Kansas with Jim
Morrison”  “The Land of Sky and Blue Waters”
by Dr. Lindsey Martin-Bowen

084 March 15, 2019
“A Tune To Remember”
by Anna Evans

085 March 19, 2019
“At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)
by Jeannine Hall Gailey

086 March 20, 2019
“Garden of Gethsemane”
by Marletta Hemphill

087 March 21, 2019
“Letters From a War”
by Chelsea Dingman

088 March 26, 2019
“HAT”
by Bob Heman

089 March 27, 2019
“Clay for the Potter”
by Belinda Bourgeois

#090 March 30, 2019
“The Pose”
by John Hicks

#091 April 2, 2019
“Last Night at the Wursthaus”
by Doug Holder

#092 April 4, 2019
“Original Sin”
by Diane Lockward

#093 April 5, 2019
“A Father Calls to his child on liveleak”
by Stephen Byrne

#094 April 8, 2019
“XX”
by Marc Zegans

#095 April 12, 2019
“Landscape and Still Life”
by Marjorie Maddox

#096 April 16, 2019
“Strawberries Have Been Growing Here for Hundreds of
Years”
by Mary Ellen Lough

#097 April 17, 2019
“The New Science of Slippery Surfaces”
by Donna Spruijt-Metz

#098 April 19, 2019
“Tennessee Epithalamium”
by Alyse Knorr

#099 April 20, 2019
“Mermaid, 1969”
by Tameca L. Coleman

#100 April 21, 2019
“How Do You Know?”
by Stephanie

#101 April 23, 2019
“Rare Book and Reader”
by Ned Balbo

#102 April 26, 2019
“THUNDER”
by Jefferson Carter

#103 May 01, 2019
“The sight of a million angels”
by Jenneth Graser

#104 May 09, 2019
“How to tell my dog I’m dying”
by Richard Fox

#105 May 17, 2019
“Promises Had Been Made”
by Sarah Sarai

#106 June 01, 2019
“i sold your car today”
by Pamela Twining

#107 June 02, 2019
“Abandoned Stable”
by Nancy Susanna Breen

#108 June 05, 2019
“Cupcake”
by Julene Tripp Weaver

#109 June 6, 2019
“Bobby’s Story”



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