Saturday, December 15, 2018

#49 Backstory of the Poem "Anniversary" by Jennifer Martelli

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege by the copyright holder which is identified beneath the individual photo.

**Some of the links will have to be copied and then posted in your search engine in order to pull up properly

***This is the forty-ninth 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. 

#49 Backstory of the Poem
by Jennifer Martelli

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?  
This poem probably pulls together most of the major themes of My Tarantella ( 
I’d been writing the book for about a year and a half; in July of 2017, I was taking part in the Plath Poetry Project ( )where we were prompted to write a poem in response to a Plath poem from Ariel (https://www.
=1544830542&sr=1-1) written on that day, so “Poppies in July” (https://www.poem
/poppies-in-july/) was the prompt.  
Also, I had just been reading about Plath’s relationship with Ted Hughes, (Below Right) and learned that he probably was physically abusive. 
The country was about six
months into the Trump administration, which felt (to me) like an abusive relationship. I felt as though I was coming to the end of writing the book, and that these themes were strands I was trying to tie together. 
So “Anniversary” was, in a way, a meta-poem, tracking my thought process. I needed to write this in sections—paragraphs—to separate each subject, each object. 
Originally, I was going to remove the sections as structural markers, but I decided to keep them. I wanted each one to be a little room adding to the narrative
Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail.   Like almost all of the poems in My Tarantella, “Anniversary” was written at my home. So, there were pots of basil I moved around my tiny yard; I do have a patio in my backyard (the flagstones, though, are from my childhood home); I do have a closet with belt hooks, a laundry room. 

Oh, and I had just discovered Queen of Night tulips that spring. I was walking down my street and noticed about 15 or 20 growing from this small patch in my neighbor’s front yard. I had never seen black tulips before!!! Suddenly, Queen of Night tulips were all over my book. They have a very short life-span. It seemed that suddenly, they were gone. I live on the ocean, so there are beach stones all over the place and people like to stack them, which is a spooky thing to me! “Anniversary” is truly a home-grown poem.

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 went through four drafts prior to the book, and then two more during copy-editing. I don’t have my hand-written copies!!!

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?  
Yes, the original “campaign” t-shirt that I used in the poem was “I wish Hillary had married O.J.” I chose to take that out because I didn’t want to insert a racial overtone or tone-deafness. The book, and the intent of the poem, focuses on violence toward women.
I ordered the poem differently: it began with the Queen of Night tulips (section 5) and it never mentioned Hillary Clinton by name. When I changed the campaign slogan to “Trump that Bitch,” I put in Hillary. Prior to that, it was unclear if I meant Hillary (below: Far right), Plath (below: Far Left), or Kitty Genovese (below: Middle).

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?   I think that section 3 was the hardest. This section addresses female misogyny. “I saw a woman wearing a silk-screen t-shirt: Trump that bitch. So I knew it was over.” This was—and still is—the most painful part of what happened in 2016, that more white women voted for Trump. I think there was a part of me that knew what was in store for us come November.
Has this poem been published before? And if so where?   Yes, “Anniversary” was published in Carve magazine, winter, 2018.


                                    A mouth just bloodied—Sylvia Plath, “Poppies in July”


A year ago this summer, I grew
Genovese basil in a fake clay pot I’d move around my home to follow

the arc of direct sunlight. I’ve thought of Kitty Genovese for a long time: her mouth.
How easy it is to open a mouth

anywhere, to split it & split it. I can’t love what I don’t fear.


For my “Plath’s ‘Poppies in July’ Party,” I bought fake rubies shaped like pears,
wore a red skirt, hung lanterns

from the maples in my backyard. The skirt=a poppy,
the lanterns=love, the pear-shape=eyes or a womb. The rubies?

The first time I was slapped in the mouth.


A year ago this summer, I saw
a man wearing a silk-screen t-shirt: Trump that bitch.

Hillary’s mouth was a red slash.
I saw a woman wearing a silk-screen t-shirt: Trump that bitch. So I knew it was over.

After the solstice or before the equinox.


I thought of Kitty so hard, I was afraid she would manifest, smiling—
in the dark corner of my laundry room, from my closet hook where belts hang—

I thought of her so deeply, it was like sex, far up & slow &
violent. And then I became unafraid.

I knew she was gone.


This is how the Queen of Night tulips topple: first, their lips
let loose the dark petals:

they puddled like a silk gown. Then from the dug-up dirt,
four rock cairns, high as my knee: beach stones gray

with white veins stacked.


I still can’t love what I don’t fear.
Even though I’m throwing a party, we all know

there’s sadness underneath the flagstones.
It’s a farewell party. We’ll leave claw & bite marks.

In the future, someone might know what we meant.

Jennifer Martelli is the author of The Uncanny Valley (Big Table Publishing), My Tarantella (Bordighera Press), as well as the chapbook, After Bird (Grey Book Press, winner of the open reading, 2017). She is the winner of the Iron Horse Literary Review Photo Finish Poetry Award and The Lindenwood Review Prose Poetry Contest. 
Her work has appeared or will appear in The Sycamore Review, Sugar House, Superstition Review, Thrush, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Her prose and artwork have been published in Five-2-One, The Baltimore Review, and Green Mountains Review. Jennifer Martelli has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of
the Net Prizes and is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is poetry editor for The Mom Egg Review



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”

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”

No comments:

Post a Comment