Monday, March 4, 2019

#75 Backstory of the Poem "Shape of a Violin" by Kelly Powell

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***This is the seventy-fifth 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.
#75 Backstory of the Poem “Shape of a Violin”
by Kelly Powell
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? To begin at the beginning, (of this poem) I conceived this poem at my computer at home in or around 2007 while my child was attending an after school program. 
I had started to leave myself one half an hour a day leeway to allow for traffic and to dedicate to writing. The poem is about my child’s love of the violin at that time and all the lessons and bringing the violin (we ended up with two) back and forth between two blended families. At the time I was restoring a baby grand piano that I adopted from a neighbor who was moving. The piano had a French polish that someone had ruined by cleaning it with Windex, so it appeared to be ruined.
It took almost a year to write the poem and to finish the piano a little at a time, removing away the blackened polish with rubbing alcohol.
We lived in a small house, just the two of us sparrows in a nest, I like to think of us at that time. I was a single mom, working as a bookkeeper for an accountant, as I had done in different industries my whole life. The car business, mortgage business and supermarket, etc. 
I have written poems from these experiences also. Probably from the beginning my child had been angry that we had moved and would’ve started a year earlier in 3rd grade. Discipline in practice didn’t lead to a love of the instrument, however, but the knowledge and love of music remained. We switched to guitar and mandolin later.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.  To begin at the beginning, (of this poem) I conceived this poem at my computer at home in or around 2007 while my child was attending an after school program.
What month and year did you start writing this poem?  The Year 2007
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 may have gone through a hundred drafts of this poem from beginning until now.
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 workshopped a lengthy draft of this poem at the Walt Whitman Birthplace with XJ Kennedy in 2009 , where they have a Master Class every year with a famous poet. 
I originally had a lot of explanation and language in the beginning of this, but at his suggestion, cut all that introductory and explanatory exposition and this was key to its transformation. This might have amounted to journaling about my feelings at the time of writing the original and I had tried my whole life to write longer poems, as one of my early teachers had said my poems wound down like a top. 
I also changed the form at that point to a Concrete Poem, in which the form of the poem resembles the subject of the poem or is connected in some way. The child in the poem is now 22 (from 13). Sometimes I would only change one word a year. 
The end comes from the style of Stephen Crane, one of my first loves as a writer of prose or poetry, where there is a melodramatic, philosophical twist almost one of anguish, at the end whether the poem is short or long. I just changed something from reading this article where I felt there was a transposition in the line ‘unlikely will be as fortunate as the boy in the Sudan’ but I like it both ways. In the final version of the poem it falls on two pages in the book version, losing some of the Concrete Poem form. But the choice was to choose a smaller font than the rest of the book as a whole. Poems sometimes have become so small on the page that they are more difficult to read or understand. Having worn glasses my whole life I am very sensitive to the struggle of reading with a handicap of a kind.

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? What I would like readers to take from this poem is a sense of life being a sculpture (, and that the competition that we go through of whether someone is busier or hurting more or less is only understandable from our own experience and that you can have compassion for someone with a shared experience just by being a compassionate human being. That it is a process we are all going through and we all come from the same place and are going to the same place through our connection to the divine.  

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where? ).   I have only just had this poem published in my collected works, Posthumously Yours, from Local Gems Press.
The Shape of a Violin
My now 13 year old
complained we didn’t have
cable the entire
year I couldn’t
afford it. A source of
suffering, point of defiance.
I explained
our priorities—
the roof above us, our

hearts, minds, the suffering of others.
everything else becomes things of
history. I told him directly, showed him
through allegory and prayer. Never mentioned
the boy in the Sudan who wants to play violin.
unlikely will be as fortunate as this child—

even with twenty minutes of assigned,
determined practice each night on an
instrument he chose, but hasn’t
learned to love. Never watches—
the sunlight touch the space
where it opens to the air—
on either side of its strings. Subtle
breaks in the wood that allow its music
to leave in silent curves. Neither would he
recognize its shape through the waxy coat like
the artisan who chose a difficult French polish—
instead of a quick, light varnish. Who rubbed
and rubbed shellac into the wood, the shape of it

entering its pores the way a Japanese monk rubs
the black away from his bowl to reveal its red
color beneath. Same way we each have our
own pain and caress it until
it becomes our own.
Kelly J. Powell is a poet native to Long Island. She is a graduate of the Literature and Rhetoric Program at SUNY Binghamton. She has been published and performed widely on Long Island and New York City. She has worked mostly as a bookkeeper in a variety of industries to support her ever-growing Poetry and Activism. 
She is the proud mother of a graduate of SUNY Stonybrook, Double Major, Honor Student. Longtime host of POETS ALOUD at bj spoke gallery in Huntington, now in its 8th year!!…and now an empty nester, she had time to finish this book!!!! Posthumously Yours coming soon to a theater (or library) near you. *Contact Kelly Powell via email 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:
by Len Kuntz

057  January 10, 2019
"Natural History"
by Camille T Dungy

058  January 11, 2019
by Brian Burmeister

059  January 12, 2019
by Clint Margrave

060 January 14, 2019
by Pat Durmon

061 January 19, 2019
“Neptune’s Choir”
by Linda Imbler

062  January 22, 2019
“Views From the Driveway”
by Amy Barone

063  January 25, 2019
“The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh”
by Gail Wronsky

064  January 30, 2019
by Terry Lucas

065 February 02, 2019
“Summer 1970, The University of Virginia Opens to Women in the Fall”
by Alarie Tennille

066 February 05, 2019
“At School They Learn Nouns”
by Patrick Bizzaro

067  February 06, 2019
“I Must Not Breathe”
by Angela Jackson-Brown

068 February 11, 2019
“Lunch on City Island, Early June”
by Christine Potter

069 February 12, 2019
by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

070 February 14, 2019
“Daily Commute”
by Christopher P. Locke

071 February 18, 2019
“How Silent The Trees”
by Wyn Cooper

072 February 20, 2019
“A New Psalm of Montreal”
by Sheenagh Pugh

073 February 23, 2019
“Make Me A Butterfly”
by Amy Barbera

074 February 26, 2019
by Sandy Coomer

075 March 4, 2019
“Shape of a Violin”
by Kelly Powell

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