Tuesday, March 19, 2019

#85 Backstory of the Poem "At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here) by Jeannine Hall Gailey

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***This is the eighty-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. 

#85 Backstory of the Poem At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)
From Jeannine Hall Gailey’s Field Guide to the End of the World
By Jeannine Hall Gailey 
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 was written fairly close to the publication of the book Field Guide to the End of the World, so I didn't get a lot of time to ruminate on it - I just sent it in to the publishers. This was around the time I got a surprise diagnosis after a trip to the hospital for stomach flu - they ran a CTscan and a hour or two later they told me I had metastasized cancer in my liver. 
They told me I maybe had six months to live. At the same time, I was having neurological issues that were giving me memory problems and limb numbness (I would later be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It was a fun year!) I was about put out a book, sign a mortgage for a house, buy a new pet. 
My little brother was living across the globe in Thailand at the time. The main character of Field Guide to the End of the World is a young woman alone, after the apocalypse, looking for her loved ones, family, friends...anyone, really, to connect with. So this felt like a poem that was truthful for both me and my character.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail. Home at my computer - this is probably where I write most of the time. 
I have a desk in my room with books and my laptop and pens. I do write a lot of poems in doctor's offices, but this one was a late-at-night poem. 

What month and year did you start writing this poem?
I think it was the summer of 2016. 
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 never edit except digitally, and I didn't happen to keep an earlier draft of this one, so this the the final version and pretty close to the original. 

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? The very last line - the repetition - came and went a couple of times. 

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? This is a poem about confronting difficulties, missing people, and apocalypses - you know, the usual.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? The last verse was definitely the hardest to write - and it's the hardest to read when I read it out loud, too. I think it was the idea of imagining a better ending - a better life that you can imagine when you are confronting the worst kind of news. 

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where? In my book, Field Guide to the End of the World, from Moon City Press. 

Anything you would like to add? When I started writing Field Guide to the End of the World, it started as an examination of the apocalyptic language in pop culture and things like weather reports, but it ended as a book about looking at the worst possible possibilities that exist -  political, environmental, and personal. 
I did not mean it to be quite as timely as it seems now. I was kind of making (admittedly dark) jokes - but a lot of the "unthinkable" things I wrote about in early 2016 actually happened, so it's become a more serious book than I originally intended. 
Also, I have outlived my six month diagnosis by two years now - luckily, they are still monitoring the tumors in my liver for growth or spreading, but so far, they've remained fairly stable. 
Now I'm more worried about fighting insurance over MS treatment and regular life than I am about the immediate risk of death. 

At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)
From Jeannine Hall Gailey’s Field Guide to the End of the World

I tried to call you one night but you were in Thailand.
I was listening to Tool’s “Opiate” and reading about the particulate
levels in China and the meteor that had narrowly missed us yesterday
and realized I’d missed the recent eclipse and also missed you.

I realized 40 years of learning were leaking through the lesions in my brain,
names and faces and memories of us and I wanted to reassure you
that I would still remember you but then maybe I won’t - like the radioactive
water leaking from Fukushima burning the algae and sea lions –

nature takes what it wants from us. And what have we learned
that will do us any good, standing here on the brink of fire and flame,
of disaster, of zombie movie dystopia and plague and final girls:
what will we hold onto? At the end all we have is ourselves

and sometimes not even that. We must be our own saviors.
We must wield the axe against the assassin that is death and time,
that is endings and goodbyes, chop down the difficulties
and the disappointments until the wall is gone, until we are back

in the sunlit yards of our childhoods, when we could still cry
without irony and sweet things still tasted sweet and my limbs
didn’t end in numbness, remember that? If we can still remember,
then somewhere things must be better than here. Wish you were here.

Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She's the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the VillainessShe Returns to the Floating WorldUnexplained FeversThe Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA's Elgin Award. 

She’s also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing. Her work has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and The Best Horror of the Year.
Her work appeared in journals such as American Poetry ReviewNotre Dame Review and Prairie Schooner. Her web site is www.webbish6.com. Twitter: @webbish6.
and Instagram/Twitter @webbish6


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

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

084 March 15, 2019
“A Tune To Remember”
by Anna Evans

085 March 19, 2019
“At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)

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