Sunday, January 6, 2019

#56 Backstory of the Poem "The Seamstress" by Len Kuntz

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***This is the fifty-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. 

Below:  Title photo of Len Kuntz in April of 2018.  Copyright permission granted by Len Kuntz for this CRC Blog Post Only

#56 Backstory of the Poem
“The Seamstress”

by Len Kuntz

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 actually just had the first line: “Our bathtub is filled with buttons.”  I’m not sure where it came from, but it struck me as something quite fertile.  Why would a bathtub be full of buttons?  Who put them there?  What kind of buttons?  How do other people react to discovering something like that?
     In a matter of a few minutes, I saw the couple quite vividly and the poem came to life almost on its own.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail.   Ha.  I was actually in the bathtub. (Right)  I used to have a nightly habit of taking a soak with bubbles and the jets running.  For whatever reason, as soon as I step into the water, the tub empties my mind, sort of like sorbet cleansing a pallet, and in a matter of minutes all kinds of odds and ends spring to mind.  That’s why I always have paper and pen handy no matter where I am. Even near the tub or shower.

What month and year did you start writing this poem?   This is an older poem, and the first in my collection, “The Dishonesty of Certain Mirrors,” out this year from Cervena Barva press.  So, it was written all the way back in March of 2016. (Left:  Kuntz doing a poetry reading in October of 2016.  Copyright permission granted by Len Kuntz for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

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 am terrible example of diligence when it comes to re-writing and editing.  I hate both, and almost never do them.  I tend to just vomit out a poem or story within a few minutes.  I might change a word or two later, but if I don’t finish it at once, I usually never do.  Consequently, I have stacks and stacks of unfinished things piled up in my office that I nevertheless print out thinking someday I’ll go back to them, or use them for inspiration, yet I never do.  

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?   When I first read this poem, in Chicago, someone in the audience chuckled at the beginning.  That caught me off guard, but now I can see some of the humor in it, especially at the end. (Left:  Kuntz at a poetry reading.  Copyright permission granted by Len Kuntz for this CRC Blog Post Only) 
Almost everything I write is dark, about a wounded person, or a person struggling with their problems, but almost always there’s an underbelly of hopefulness in the pieces, or I’d like to think so anyway.

In “The Seamstress” we have a woman suffering from severe dementia, remembering her glory days as a tailor to royalty.  Her husband is having to decide what steps to take regarding her illness, as well as his role in shepherding her through it.
To me, the most powerful part of the poem is the end because it’s tragic and lovely at the same time:
“When I look up
you’re there,
naked but smiling,
asking, “Is the water warm?”
Then, “Got room for two?”  

Has this poem been published before? And if so where?   Yes, in AUTUMN SKY POETRY.  The link is on my blog, on the righthand side under Words in Print, along with everything else I’ve had published online, which is about 800 or so pieces. 
Here’s the link:

Anything you would like to add?   My poetry almost always tendsto have a narrative arc of some sort.  I want to capture a defining moment or situation, and shine an intense light on it.  It’s usually not too hard for the reader to know what’s going on, and I’m okay with that, in fact, that’s the notion.  Still, I want to language to jostle the reader, make them twitch or sigh, of if I’m really lucky say, “Wow.”

The Seamstress

Our bathtub is filled with buttons–
mother of pearl and metal,
plastic pea coat shapes with
embossed anchors,
wooden toggles from Holland,
horn and hemp.
Your hair is a gray dandelion gone to seed.
Your eyes flit like a startled squirrel
and saliva webs your mouth when
you open the door saying,
“What on earth?”
Later in bed that night
I listen to your coarse breath,
your frail bones moaning when you toss and turn.
But we were young once,
and you stitched beautiful things then.
You dressed queens and saints,
men with money.
I slink off the mattress now,
and click on the bathroom light.
As I slide inside the tub
the buttons chatter and gossip,
their color shimmering.
Perhaps you clipped them
because they reminded you of better days,
or maybe you overhead me on the phone with the rest home folks.
Either way, I grab handfuls and watch them clatter
across the great heap.
When I look up,
you’re there,
naked but smiling,
asking, “Is the water warm?”
Then, “Got room for two?”

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of four books, most recently the poetry collection, “The Dishonesty of Certain Mirrors,” out now from Cervena Barva Press, and the story collection, “This Is Why I Need You,” forthcoming in January 2019 from Ravenna Press.  You can also find more of his work at


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”

O50  December 19, 2018
Joseph Ross’s For Gilberto Ramos, 15, Who Died in the Texas Desert, June 2014”

051 December 23, 2018
“The Persistence of Music”
by Anatoly Molotkov

052  December 27, 2018
“Under Surveillance”
by Michael Farry

053  December 28, 2018
“Grand Finale”
by Renuka Raghavan

054  December 29, 2018
by Gene Barry

055 January 2, 2019
by Larissa Shmailo

056  January 7, 2019
“The Seamstress:

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