Thursday, December 6, 2018

#046 Backstory of the Poem "Poem in the Throat" by Nancy Dafoe

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***This is the forty-sixth 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. 

#046 Backstory of the Poem
“Poem in the Throat”
by Nancy Dafoe

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 had not written a poem in a while and felt stopped. After reading the poems, I thought about all the people in the world who live under life-threatening (situations) and write poetry as food for the soul. There is an urgency to poetry that we can (not) forget. These Cuban poets from the revolution reminded me. My poem became my experience of this discovery.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.   I was wandering around in an amazing bookstore called Before Your Quiet Eyes in Rochester.  (
This little bookstore is a throwback to another era when bookstores were homes to writers and readers, the owner on hand, asking if anyone needed anything.  
In the hallway, the owner had coffee and treats set out for those who were attending a reading by an author. The shelves are overflowing with an eclectic mix of books, artifacts, and artwork. A painting of a Greek God on canvas is rolled up, and I unroll it and ask about the artist. Of course, the bookstore owner Kenneth Kelbaugh (
%3A1544119399) knows the story. 
I also find a signed little book of Ursula LeGuinn's ( stories that I buy for a dear friend. This is the kind of maze bookstore where you can get lost in dreams. Around a corner, I find a collection of Cuban poets that began the journey to my poem described here.

What month and year did you start writing this poem?   I wrote this poem in November 2017.

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 probably created at least 5 or 6 drafts of this poem, if not more. I tend to delete early drafts, so I'm not exactly sure.

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 definitely eliminated lines, particularly the ending and beginning. I wrote and reworked until they felt true to the experience of both discovery and the necessity of poetry    

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?   I would love readers to go explore poets they are unfamiliar with, particularly those from other countries and to remember the feeling of urgency in poetry, how our truest utterances are in poetic form.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?   The entire poem is emotional to me because it got me "unstuck" and brought me to other poets in a very immediate way.
Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?   This poem had not been published until it appears in my new collection.

Anything you would like to add?   I write two blogs for writers on my websites, including reviews of other writers' books. Lastly, thank you for doing these interviews. Lovely.

Poem in the Throat

Utterances not yet given shape and sound
or expelled
in fury, perplexity.
Poet’s search from the concrete and abstract,
each trope
alone and scarred
from a tangled knot of language,
parsed after landing on the page,
slowly, elongated like vowels swallowing sorrow.

One mute poet stumbles over others discovered
in a basement bookstore—
nothing shiny and new there:
rough gems ragged at edges,
worn covers showing signs of abuse
in any other arena except reading,
where rip and stain, those fingerprints,
smudges are writer’s lovers,
the reader knowing where to turn again,
one page earmarked.

How long this little Cuban book languished
on a bottom shelf, as if the verses inside
weren’t woven silk,
their poetry spouting revolution still new,
excited voices
heard again as the book is opened.

One note claiming proud resistance,
another suggesting whispers from dense, broadleaf forests.
“Poetica” jumps off the page entirely,
running around the bookstore, inhaling freedom.

Seeping through fabric of Cuban Spanish,
with hints of Haitian Creole in the neighborhood,
translations follow across the spread; facing one another,
this English consonant, that Cuban sonant.

Another poet claiming America has no right to poetry
with her oppressor’s bloody teeth,
but this American oppressor oppresses her own,
and poets emerge
out from under the jackboot,
waking and calling out
from this amalgam of a nation.

Cuban poet writes, poetry of the many is poetry of one
and one
too many spondees, iambs,
this Cuban Spanish like American English
with its own character:
here shallow, over there,
pure depth
loud consonants, silent letters.

Leaving the bookstore, the mute poet finds
a blind man walks confidently down the street with a cane.
By a pillar, another poet leans with a poem
in her pocket.
Like the Cuban revolutionary,
she prefers to wear her poetry rather than assign it to shelves.

Poetry, she said, currency for the living

I am a poet, prose writer, and educator. I have eight, traditionally published books, including two novels, a memoir about going through Alzheimer's with my mother, three books on writing and education, and two books of poetry. I have an online editing/writing business to help other writers, I can be reached via emails through any of my three websites:


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”

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”

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