Monday, January 29, 2018

#5 Backstory of the Poem "Side Yard" by Ellen Foos

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***This is the fifth 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.  Links to other BACKSTORY OF THE POEM features are at the end of this piece.

Backstory of the Poem
“Side Yard”
by Ellen Foos

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 first draft developed in one sitting, then some minor edits as I fine-tuned it and also took it to the critique group to which I belong. Someone actually advised me to take the White House line out of there but I decided to keep it. Maybe it wasn't such bad advice!

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.
I believe I was at work when I started and finished the poem.

What month and year did you start writing this poem?
I wrote this poem in October of 2014

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?
He built the house we lived in all our lives, my mother and their seven children. He did all the repair work himself so the ladder was a constant presence around the house. The neighborhood did change and get built up over the years but not to the extent that it was ruined. I did move to NYC after college for ten years and never returned to live near my parents. This poem is mostly nostalgia for the carefree aspect of childhood. (Foos's parents above left)

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?
I didn't know when I started writing the poem that it would end in such a feeling of loss for my father. He was a product of his generation and not particularly good at expressing his feelings. (Foos Family the day of Joseph Foos's funeral.  Ellen Foos up front on the left dressed in black).

What is your father’s full name?
Joseph Foos

Birthdate and the day he died?
May 21, 1921 – June 2014

Is this an accurate analysis? The first lines of this poem tell of childhood play and innocent pranks in a family oriented safe neighborhood.  Then commercialization came into the neighborhood which is identified as New York City.  Soon the elite of New York City such as Donald Trump took
over these neighborhoods and created neighborhoods that had no room or space for family intimacy or even neighbors.  Along with the death of what neighbors and family used to be the author of the poem has to deal with the death of her own father.   And the realization that she not
only lost her father but her way of life, her neighborhood or family or own view of America.  There still is hope – even though the side yard no longer exists – there is a ladder that her father left there.  How can she reach it?
Your analysis starts out fine but the mention of the White House didn't have any political message. I always felt sorry when I lived in NYC that the natural world was inaccessible. That probably did enter into the poem.

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?
The poem was published here: Contemporary American Voices (January 2015) https://contemporary

Side Yard
When we tired of the backyard
there was the side yard,
accessory to our crimes,
a hideout, a conduit for racing
full circle around the house.
The best place to backtrack
when being pursued.
Lilac trees on the side
had a shaggy look.
It was easy to peek
into basement windows.
The neighbors were close
but never onto us.
Corner lots expanded blandly,
we had two sharp corridors.
Here’s why I left New York City,
no side yard.
Who speaks of
the White House lawn
and thinks side yard?
When I lost my father,
I thought how it changed me,
the side yard I’ll never visit again,
the ladder he stored there.

From The Remaining Ingredients, copyright 2016 by Ellen Foos. Do not copy or distribute in any form without express permission of the author.

Ellen Foos is a senior production editor for Princeton University Press and the publisher of Ragged Sky Press. She has received fellowships to the MacDowell Colony and the Vermont Studio Center. 
She coedited Dark as a Hazel Eye: Coffee & Chocolate Poems and Eating Her Wedding Dress: A Collection of Clothing Poems. Her new poems are gathered in The Remaining Ingredients and have appeared in Mead, The Curator, Edison Literary Review, and Contemporary American Voices.

Ellen Foos

Contemporary American Voices

The Remaining Ingredients

Princeton University Press

Ragged Sky Press

Dark as a Hazel Eye:  Coffee & Chocolate Poems

Eating Her Wedding Dress:  A Collection of Clothing Poems

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”

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

011 March 10, 2018 
Arya F.  Jenkins “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”

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

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

018  May 25, 2018

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”

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