Thursday, March 14, 2019

#81, #82, and #83 Backstory of the Poems by Dr. Lindsey Martin-Brown

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*** The CRC Blog welcomes submissions from published and unpublished poets for BACKSTORY OF THE POEM series.  Contact CRC Blog via email at or personal Facebook messaging at

***This is the eighty-first, eight-second, and eighty-third 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:  Dr. Lindsey Martin-Bowen in December of 2018.  Attribution granted by Dr. Lindsey Martin-Bowen for this CRC Blog Post. 

#81 Backstory of the Poem
“Little Political Sense”
by Dr. Lindsey Martin-Brown  
 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? 
First, I reflected upon an event that had occurred two years before when I had tried to help a university reference librarian keep her position in the library. (Some administrative edict had wiped out all but two of the six-member, professional reference librarian staff. 
It was a hopeless situation—and one that showed the university’s hypocrisy. This decision had nothing to do with those employees’ performances. It was solely for monetary purposes. Staff members fresh from graduate schools would work for far less than seasoned professionals, who had steadily earned pay increases.) Each day I read the Bible, and at that time, I often listened to Theologian Chuck Swindall’s teachings on KLJC, a Christian radio station. I don’t recall his exact teaching about Jesus shooing the moneychangers from the Temple, but the image connected with my experience. As I wrote the poem, the image of a dove kept reappearing—and “dove-like eyes” was indeed, an accurate description of the librarian about whom I wrote.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail. In my home office the summer of 1990 (May or June), when I did not teach a class. Instead, I babysat a teacher friend’s three daughters, who were near my daughter’s age. While battling lice that attacked the girls and so forth, I hammered out a chapbook that included this poem. 
Later, newscasters that fall announced that U.S. Servicemen in the first U.S.-Iraq War, Desert Storm, wanted books—but were banned from receiving Bibles. 

A veteran friend thought I should put together a chapbook of my “Christian” poems, including this one. So Second Touch was born. He paid to publish it. About 200 copies went overseas to servicemen. It included the fish sign on the cover to let potential Christian readers know what the book contained. I sold remaining copies to teaching colleagues and other friends.

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?) Perhaps four or five. (It flowed easily.) Because we just relocated cross-country, it would take me so long to find any drafts (and I doubt I’ve kept any from “Little Political Sense”), I’d never get this to you.

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? How Jesus Christ’s life and actions apply to many events each of us encounter today. I saw parallels in the hypocrisy surrounding the treatment of a university librarian and the scene of hypocrites who turned the Jerusalem Temple, in the words of Jesus, “into a den of thieves.”

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? As in my other Christian or Bible-focused poems, the emotion varies. Based upon characters and stories in the Bible, I generally write these poems from more of either an “agape” state or a state wherein any emotion is “recaptured in tranquility.”

Anything you would like to add? Please forgive me, Christal, for including three poems. I did so because you have graciously run “Little Political Sense” on your blog, and the ideas in it reflect what I hope my “religious” or “spiritual” poetry achieves. Yet both “Crossing Kansas with Jim Morrison” and “The Land of Sky Blue Waters” were two of those poems that wouldn’t come together easily or quickly. I used to give up such poems until 2003, when a poem I started in the late 1970s, “That Day in Williamsburg” came together and is the opening poem of Standing on the Edge of the World. That experience taught me certain poems that won’t leave my consciousness are meant to be. I must figure out the how—and perhaps, later, the way. It seems to be a lesson in perseverance.


Zebar says you have little political sense.
He grumbled with other Sanhedrin scribes
in the Temple. Its pillars tremble when you whirl in,
overturn tables, upset cages, and let loose doves—
they spread wings and flock to altars. You squint at them
and your heart breaks open. Its two halves become dove wings
spread out in a sacrifice. And you don’t adhere
to politics when you heal a blind man on the Sabbath.
His hands quiver as his eyes fill with water.

I, too, have little political sense
when I watch the Humane University dismiss
a spinster librarian who served there fifteen years.
The supervisor drove her mad—harped at her
like a magpie pecking eggs in a dove’s next. She can’t
remember which day is which. She blinks dovelike
eyes. “They’re trying to fire me,” she repeats, clutches
her walking papers. Her void voice spooks me. I squeeze
her fingers and later try to reason with her supervisor.
But my words rebound from the speech she draws
with Roman numerals. “Not doing her job,” she argues,
her eyelids taut as steel. Her teeth glow like iridescent glass.
I shake my head. “Not so,” I try to say, but she’s gone on
to Roman Numeral II. I nearly choke on her Channel No. 5
and chew my lower lip. Her numerals stand like the pillars
in the Sanhedrin Temple, where you once preached love
of God and man. They will not bend. So I check out
of the library and brush the dust from my sandals.
And you exit the Temple, lug wood beams on your back.

Lindsey Martin-Bowen: In 2017, 39 West Press released her fourth full-length poetry collection, Where Water Meets the Rock. Her CROSSING Kansas with Jim Morrison won the KAC “Looks Like a Million” Book Award last year (2017), and (in chapbook form) was a finalist in QuillsEdge Books 2015-16 contest. A poem from her Inside Virgil’s Garage  (Chatter House 2013) was nominated for a Pushcart, and Standing on the Edge of the World (Woodley), was a Top 10 Poetry Book for 2008 (McClatchy). New Letters, I-70 Review, Thorny Locust, Tittynope Zine, Coal City Review, Flint Hills Review, Phantom Drift, Amethyst Arsenic, Silver Birch Press, The Same, Bare Root Review, and others have run her work.
       Last spring, both Emporia State University’s literary journal, The Flint Hills Review and Johnston County Community College’s literary journal, Mind’s Eye, interviewed her and ran some of her poems. The Flint Hills Review also reviewed Where Water Meets the Rock in an in-depth, positive review by Student Editor Camille Abdel-Jawad.   
Martin-Bowen recently relocated in Eastern Oregon to be near her daughter and her brood, especially those grandchildren. She hopes to teach there but may be forced to return to her life as a newspaper reporter, which is fine, too.

#82 Backstory of the Poem
“Crossing Kansas With Jim Morrison” by Dr. Lindsey Martin Brown
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? First, I started with the idea—then described an insect on the windshield and the landscape around us as we moved through Kansas. 
I worked the images together to try to make both art and sense. Once I pared down this poem, playing The Doors music (especially “Riders on the Storm”) helped me to set up each poem’s rhythm. “Riders on the Storm” also helped me build confidence that these poems would work.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail. 
The image of a bug on a windshield during one of Carl and my trips to Colorado—plus a dream I experienced, inspired this poem in the summer of either 2010 or 2011. I jotted notes about the insect’s wings in my journal. Black and yellow striped, those wings made the bug look much like a Navajo dancer.
 (At the time, we were crossing western Kansas—where often mauve fields roll on and on.)

What month and year did you start writing this poem? Summer
2010 or 2011.

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?) About a million. J
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? Although I don’t recall the exact words, I remember I went into intense detail (ad nauseam) about an insect on the windshield, describing its wings and comparing it to an Indian warrior. Later, that image became “wings of bugs fried by the sun,” which better works with—rather than detracts from the poem. 

I worked on this poem intermittently for about five years. Once it was “right,” it was like popping a cork on a bottle of fermented wine: Several Morrison poems followed, flying out quickly, requiring only “tweaks.” Within six months, I wrote the book for which this is the title poem. In fewer than six months, I collected 30 to 36 Morrison poems into a chapbook that came in as a finalist in a national contest. The day after I received that news, I learned two different literary magazines wanted four poems from the collection. And Jim Morrison still pops up in many more poems I write today. Within a year or so, I may submit an expanded version of CROSSING KANSAS with Jim Morrison, so far my most popular collection.

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? A sense of playfulness, magic, and mystery.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? Because this initial Jim Morrison poem set up the ones that follow (in the collection), it was mostly imaginative. 

Throughout this collection, I strived to evoke emotions in readers. My emotions came from playing certain Doors songs (and singing them) while writing these poems. The Morrison poems were more about evoking emotions in readers rather than release me from emotions.

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where? (1) Thorny Locust 22.1, 2016); (2) CROSSING KANSAS with Jim Morrison (Paladin Contemporaries 2016).


Black Angus calves and ghost-faced cows
cluster beside a barbed-wire fence.
It stretches across plains like some snake
slithering to the End—
And again, Jim sings from the dash,
“When the Music’s Over.” I ask
“Why so young? Why couldn’t you stay alive?
You moan about the Navajos you saw bleeding
in a wreck on an Arizona highway
and recall the Shaman spirit who entered you,
made you dance on stage like a renegade
without a tribe—without a spot to call home.”

I smell alfalfa and hard-winter wheat
as we roll on and on, past mauve grasses.
On the windshield, wings of bugs
fried by the sun become yellow
triangles, pictures in sand etching
short lives that fade into dust.
Then Jim floats out of the radio
and crawls into the passenger’s seat.
Clouds roil into “Riders on the Storm.”
The Shaman from his last gig pulses
through his chest again. He twitches—
a lizard now under an incinerating sun.

#83 Backstory of the Poem
“The Land of Sky Blue Waters”
by Dr. Lindsey Martin Brown

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? The kernel for this one was set by emotional attachment to an image from childhood that kept returning to me. 
I wrote sensual description after description to create that powerful attachment in readers. But they failed to recreate that sense of awe and desire I wanted the reader to feel. So I created a short scene with characters. 

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail. This poem germinated when I was a young child watching television at home—
at least, that’s when the imagery of northern, pine-covered, U.S. mountains and clear lakes—together with tom-tom sounds—engaged my imagination. During this pre-school era, I didn’t know I was a writer. Still, that image broke into and lodged in my brain for years.

What month and year did you start writing this poem? “The Land of Sky Blue Waters”: Spring 2010.

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?) Another “million drafts” J (Seriously, I lost track on these last two. 

They were poems I sense must happen—and just couldn’t give up. Nevertheless, unlike many poems that have come to me requiring little or no revisions, I had to repeatedly chisel these two. I set them aside many times.)                          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? When I was a child and saw that bear paddling a canoe on Hamms beer TV commercials, its sounds of toms-toms beating and images of open, sunny skies, mountains, and clear rivers sent me to a special place, a place I wanted to share with readers. 

It was somewhat like Heaven in the sense it was beyond this world—albeit composed of earthly images—perhaps more like the Elysian Fields (Below), a peaceful wilderness. The challenge was turning this abstract idea into something concrete that would “hook” readers and keep them engaged with the work. At any rate, to make it work, I changed my approach about trying to recreate my experience with the new opening, “Forget about the bear paddling/a canoe through neon waves”/ and made up the image of a couple sharing drinks in a corner. I also decided my “voice/persona” would be the barmaid waiting on the couple. 

Adding this created a tone that freed my persona to be upfront about her motive. (And then, I included two James Wright (Below) images of “a hammock and chicken hawks,” which gave the poem more “life.”)

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? A sense of wonder and awe—imprisoned in a television in a neighborhood bar.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? Of the three poems, this one was most emotion-centered. Why? 
This sense of wonder and bliss was extreme difficult to convey. In lieu of a dramatic emotion, such as fear or eros love, this emotion was a tranquil one—one of wonder and perhaps nostalgia.

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?  (1) Thorny Locust 19.2, 2013); (2) Where Water Meets the Rock (39 West Press 2017).

       with apologies to James Wright

Forget about the bear paddling
a canoe through neon waves
in this dark bar at the edge of Troost.
A couple huddles in a corner.
Maybe half-drunk, she rests her head
on his shoulder. He kisses her crown
but eyes her breasts.
       I try to ignore those two
so I can tell you about a lake,
the sounds of tom-toms,
water rushing over a cliff,
and twilight shadows filling the sky,
about a place far from plastic cups,
cell phones, and freeways.
       I want to lie in a hammock there,
hide out from this bar,
where I serve rounds
of gin for men, sweaty
and stinking of tar. I want
to lie under a pine, watch
chicken hawks glide
       and squawk at each other.
They fly from their roosts
and soar. Here, waves
keep turning against themselves.
They form a maze
of muddy water: a creek
running dark green, brown, gray.


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 CafĂ©”

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

076 March 5, 2019
“Inward Oracle”
by J.P. Dancing Bear

077 March 7, 2019
“I Broke My Bust Of Jesus”
by Susan Sundwall

078 March 9, 2019
“My Mother at 19”
by John Guzlowski

079 March 10, 2019
by Chera Hammons Miller

080 March 12, 2019
“Of Water and Echo”
by Gillian Cummings

081   082   083    March 14, 2019
“Little Political Sense”   “Crossing Kansas with Jim
Morrison”  “The Land of Sky and Blue Waters”
by Dr. Lindsey Martin-Bowen

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