Saturday, February 17, 2018

#8 Backstory of the Poem "June Fairchild Isn't Dead" by Alexis Rhone Fancher

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***This is the eighth 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
“June Fairchild
Isn’t Dead”
by Alexis Rhone Fancher

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 met June Fairchild less than a year before she died on Feb. 17th, 2015. My husband and I, then living in downtown Los Angeles, were at lunch. We were seated next to June at the Nickel Diner, the iconic DTLA eatery on Main St.
I picked up my phone to check my messages - a photo I’d shot of my husband was the screen saver. June saw it, and struck up a conversation. She needed headshots, she said. She was “making a comeback.”
At first I had no idea who she was, although of course I’d seen “Up In Smoke,” back in the day. The down and out woman sitting next to me bore no resemblance to the sparkling girl on the screen. It was only when Kristen, the
diner’s owner, recognized June and came up to her for an autograph, that I knew who she was.
Before we left the diner, June asked me for my card. She wanted to hire me to shoot her new headshots. When I couldn’t find one, I told June if she gave me her phone number, I would give her a call. She wrote it down in red pen on a napkin, and told me to call her “in a month or so,” when she “had it more together.”

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.  I began the poem where I begin (and end) almost all my poems, at my desktop Mac computer, in my studio workspace. Big desk. Big computer. Big screen. My workspace is ordered but to the casual eye, it looks rather chaotic. Stacks of unread books, copious post-it notes. The ever-present gardenia candle. Plenty of French Roast coffee.

What month and year did you start writing this poem?  Howmany 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 began writing “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead” on April 22nd of 2015.  “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead” went through 6 separate drafts, as well as several pages of notes and research. I write only on the computer, so there are no drafts with pen markings. The final poem was completed on July 20th, 2015.

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?  “June Fairchild isn’t really dead, she is asking a psychic if she’ll have a kid, a come-back.”
“June Fairchild isn’t really dead, she’s being raped inside her cardboard box on 5th and Wall.”
“June Fairchild isn’t really dead, she’s mugging again, her ravaged face an Ajax-snorting grin.”
“June Fairchild isn’t really dead, she’s sitting by the phone, waiting for me to call her.
And I will. I will.”

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?  Compassion. We see homeless, defeated people on the street, and give them wide berth. Cross the street to avoid them. We forget that each of them has a story to tell, that each of them, was once some mother’s child.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?  June Fairchild asked me to call her but I never did. I kept that napkin pinned to my bulletin board, a reminder. But I didn’t call. I told myself a homeless woman would have no need for headshots. I didn’t want to get involved in her tragedy.

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?  It was first published in CLEAVER Magazine in June of 2016.
It is also published in my latest collection, ENTER HERE, (KYSO Flash Press, 2017).
It was also published in SERVING HOUSE JOURNAL in 2017.

Anything you would like to add?  When I read this poem at Library Girl, here in L.A., a woman came up afterward and told me that she had been a friend of June’s, and that she thought June would have loved the poem, that it “told her story with kindness.”
“June Fairchild Isn’t Dead” is about seizing the moment. It’s about compassion. I often wonder what would have happened if I had made that call…


she’s planning a comeback.
she’s snorting Ajax for the camera.
she’s landing a role on “I Spy.”
she’s writing her number on a napkin and
handing it to me at King Eddy’s Saloon.
June Fairchild isn’t dead
she’s just been voted Mardi Gras Girl at Aviation High.
she’s acting in a movie with Roger Vadim.
she’s gyrating at Gazarri’s, doing the Watusi with Sam The Sham.
she’s mainlining heroin in a cardboard box.
June Fairchild isn’t dead
I saw her tying one on at King Eddy’s Saloon.
she’s making “Drive, He Said,” with Jack Nicholson.
she’s selling the Daily News in front of the courthouse.
she’s snorting Ajax for the camera.
June Fairchild isn’t dead
she’s relapsing in front of the Alexandria Hotel.
she’s working as a taxi dancer, making $200 a shift.
I saw her vamping with Hefner, frugging on YouTube.
she’s naming Danny Hutton’s band 3 Dog Night.
June Fairchild isn’t dead
she’s living at the Roslyn SRO on Main.
she’s giving up her daughter to her ex.
she’s snorting Ajax for the camera.
she’s planning a comeback, needs new headshots.
June Fairchild isn’t dead
she’s Up In Smoke, getting clean.
she’s sitting by the phone.
she’s falling asleep in Laurel Canyon with a lit cigarette in her hand,
waiting for me to call.

Alexis Rhone Fancher is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other heart stab poems, (2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here (2017), and Junkie Wife (March, 2018). Find Alexis’ work in Best American Poetry 2016, Rattle, Verse Daily, Slipstream, Plume, Nashville Review, Diode, Glass, Tinderbox, Hobart, Pirene’s Fountain, The MacGuffin, Anomaly, Public Pool, Cleaver, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. Her photos are published worldwide, including the covers of Nerve Cowboy, Heyday, Witness, and The Chiron Review. Since first submitting her poems for publication in late 2012, Alexis has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. She lives in Los Angeles.

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”

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”

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”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Chris, for sharing this story. I wish it had had a different outcome. In my heart, June Fairchild ISN'T dead...