Friday, March 22, 2019

#87 Backstory of the Poem "Letters from a War" by Chelsea Dingman

*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

*** The CRC Blog welcomes submissions from published and unpublished poets for BACKSTORY OF THE POEM series.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-seventh 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. 

#87 Backstory of the Poem “Letters From a War”
by Chelsea Dingman
 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 wrote this poem late in the writing of this collection.

I was sitting in my home office and the news was on in the other room. It was 2015. I could hear the newscasters talking about overseas conflicts. For some reason, my mind went to images of the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia. Childhood conflicts. I wrote this poem as a letter to the speaker’s mother. Image usually comes to me first, but even sitting in Florida, all I could write was snow. 

I had two small boys at the time. I kept reflecting on what I would do to keep them safe. The conflict in the poem is between the speaker and the “you.” The mother. She is trying to reconcile the experiences of pregnancy, of childhood traumas, and of women having to give up a version of themselves, over and over, in order fulfill other relationships and responsibilities. 

I got to the last few lines. There’s an invisibility specific to women over a certain age, or with small children, or any person who has to give up their identity to keep themselves safe, and I wanted the speaker to reject that, while also accepting that this is the way some people are forced to survive.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail. I was in my home office. Soft green walls and carpet. Hurricane shutters closed. No outside light. Two lamps and the overhead light on. Music playing quietly. Books surrounding me on all sides. My manuscript was laid out on the floor behind my chair, taking up most of the room.

What month and year did you start writing this poem?
I started writing this poem in June of 2015.

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 wrote two or three drafts of the poem, which is less than usual. 
I took it to a workshop with two women (Annalise Mabe Cheng (Right) and Kristen Rouisse Smithers) in my MFA cohort and they both got to the end and just said “yes.”  It was one of those poems that came out very organically. I wrote one draft on paper and then I transferred it to a word document and revised as I typed, making more formal decisions about the poem. I then revised for clarity.

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? There were no lines that weren’t in the final version, but the images of the highway in the middle of the poem were more extensive. There were more images that related to trauma. I had to condense this because it was true to what I was seeing in my head, but cluttered the clarity of the poem.

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? What I want readers of this poem to take away with them is that certain groups of people are often asked to forget their own pain. That a child or young person is beautiful so briefly, untouched by circumstances that might be traumatic, and that should not be the case.
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? The poem started less detached and then became more emotional as the images went on. There is a certain resignation at the end.

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where? This poem was originally published by The Adroit Journal and Peter Laberge, and for their continued support of my work, I cannot thank them enough.

Letters From A War
After another man’s name
found your mouth, after
the bodies laid down

until they couldn’t rise, after
I began to see men
as streets and mountains

and moving skies—I starved
just enough to stay
hungry. Not to kneel

before deep voices, reaching
for any word that didn’t
force its way into my mouth. Why

is my body still empty
with another inside? I used to think
I’d go thirsty to see you

break like a highway’s bones
under the winter snow. Maybe
mornings you forget braiding

thick bundles of hair over
old bruises. But I’ve forgiven
how your whispers sound

like regret. How a mother leaves
when the night is long. My belly brims
with someone, slight and soundless,

who I can’t refuse. I know now
how briefly we are beautiful. How the first
death, for women, is our own.

Chelsea Dingman continues her MFA and teaches in the University of South Florida graduate program. In 2016, her work can be found in Washington Square Review, The Normal School, Phoebe, Harpur Palate, American Literary Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, Sou’wester, and Sugar House Review, among others. 

Her first book, Thaw, was a semifinalist for the Lexi Rudnitzsky First Book Prize for Women and the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. She is originally from Western Canada.
Twitter: @chelsdingman
Instagram: @chels.dingman
Facebook: ChelseaHrechukDingman


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)
by Jeannine Hall Gailey

086 March 20, 2019
“Garden of Gethsemane”
by Marletta Hemphill

087 March 21, 2019
“Letters From a War”
by Chelsea Dingman

No comments:

Post a Comment