Saturday, May 12, 2018

#17 Backstory of the Poem "The Swallows of Barcelona" by Marlon L Fick . . .

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***This is the seventeenth 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. 

Backstory of the Poem
“The Swallows of Barcelona
by Marlon Fick  

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?  In the summer of 2017, I was in Barcelona for three months. One day I saw a very old man (LEFT: photo attributed and
copyright granted by Marlon L Fick) sitting on a park bench, bent over, looking very tired. As I watched him, I remember my father (Right) who is 90 years old, saying "No one listens to an old man."  His comment had struck me.  In a single utterance he had commented on the depth of loneliness that the elderly feel. 
That's what prompted the poem.  I began drawing comparisons between being old and  young and unaware, sometimes utterly unaware when we live in our own tiny world.  I watched young couples walking down the Rambla, a popular spot in Barcelona.  So I took notes for about two weeks, and finally the poem formed. (Left:  View over the Rambla from the Christopher Columbus Monument)

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.  As I said it was in Barcelona. The reason for the “Swallows” is two-fold:  Swallows are my central symbol in the manuscript The Tenderness and the Wood, signifying many things, but one in particular, elusive Rilkean angels. Secondly, although the most graceful bird there is (to me), they are, by many in Barcelona, considered unwanted pests. (Above Right:  Swallow attributed to Salvador Dali) 

What month and year did you start writing this poem?  I believe it was begun in July and finished in August.

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?)  Probably around a dozen. 

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?  I can’t show photographs of drafts and I’ve never allowed anyone to see drafts. I did however photograph the old man, so I’ve attached this. (Right - photo attributed to and copyright granted by Marlon L. Fick)

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?  What the reader takes from the poem is entirely dependent on the reader. I try to write poems that will appeal to anyone, but I’m constantly flummoxed by what readers see or read into poems, so I’ve given up on guessing what a reader will take away from a text, mine or anyone else’s.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?  The old man, the tired prostitute, the swallows. (Right:  Prostitute on the streets of Torino, Italy in 2005)

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?  "The Swallows of Barcelona" was published in GianthologyHeroes Are Gang Leaders (Thomas Sayers Ellis' journal)

Forgive me,
I didn’t mean to walk so far I couldn’t come home
but when you have lived long enough, among others,
no one notices or talks to an old man.
Morning reaches the church windows, stained with lies.
Tired saints and honest swallows, a girl who lay with strangers all night
walks home, bitter between the legs.

We try to hold on to ivy climbing the wall of a gray facade
and iron bars of balconies,
but when you have lived enough among others,
with winter and solitude, or a woman you loved so long
it becomes an old song,
you have lived until all you have left are wings that hurt.

Somewhere it’s raining carnations.
Couples amble on the avenues, wearing Ferris wheels.
They have not heard the news:
Swallows full of grace, born from the blue, bearing our sorrow unwelcomed.

Marlon L. Fick (Right in May of 2018) is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts award for writing, as well as the equivalent award, the ConaCulta, from Mexico. Also from Mexico, he has been recognized by The Secretary of Foreign Relations for extraordinary contributions to Latin American Literature. In addition to awards for his own works, Fick has also been recognized as “Best American Translator” by the Lattitudes Foundation (2005), an award he shares with Robert Bly. His previous books are El niño de Safo (poetry in Spanish), Histerias Mínimas (short stories in English), and 
Selected Poems: 1975 – 2000—these editions published by Fuentes Mortera of Mexico City.  In addition, he is the Translator and Editor of The River Is Wide/El río es ancho: 20 Mexican Poets, published by UNM Press.   Tatiana Puchnecheva published a volume of his work in Russian for Moscow University Press, Reading Palms in the Morgue. 
His work has appeared in many of journals at home and abroad, including Antioch Review, The Boston Review, The Boston Phoenix, The Denver Quarterly, Colere, The New England Review, Mudfish, Kansas Quarterly, St. Petersburg Review, El Financiero, The Marlboro Review, Prairie Schooner,
The American Literary Review, Field, Café Review, and several others. He was recently anthologized in Mexico’s La región menos transparente and Devouring the Green: Fear of a Human Plant (Jaded Ibis Press, 2015). In addition to the above, he has four publication ready manuscripts: The Poems of Ouyang (translations from the 
Chinese poet, Ouyang Jianghe), Dust without World (translations from the Spanish poetry of Francisco Avila), Rhapsody in a Circle (a novel and sequel to The Nowhere Man), and The Tenderness and the Wood, a book of poems which has placed six  times as a finalist for the Dorset Prize.  Although he and his wife, Francisca
Esteve Barranca, have lived in Mexico for most of the past several years, the two traveled to China (2012 to 2014) where Fick was a Professor of Comparative Literature. Currently he and his wife live in Odessa, Texas, where Fick is a professor of British and English Literature, as well as Creative Writing in Spanish at The University of Texas of the Permian Basin. 


Thomas Sayers Ellis

Marlon L Fick

Gianthology by Heroes Are Gang Leaders



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

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”

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