Saturday, March 30, 2019

#90 Backstory of the Poem "The Pose' by John Hicks

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***This is the ninetieth 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. 

#90 Backstory of the Poem
“The Pose”
by John Hicks
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?       Started writing this in June 2007.  Had been taking one of Jude Nutter’s poetry classes at the Loft in Minneapolis, and a Wilfred Owen poem got me thinking about an Army buddy who died in Viet Nam.  Wanted to contrast it with the experience of my Army retirement ceremony. Did a mind map of bot topics to flesh out the details but, despite the strong emotional pull, after nine drafts it wasn't coming together.
     In August 2016 I saw Winslow Homer’s Trooper Meditating Beside a Grave at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, and saw myself in the trooper.  Restarted the poem using the painting in place of the ceremony, and got a bit of traction.  The next six drafts were of the soldier in the grave addressing the trooper.  It got a tepid response in a workshop.  

Tried another draft as a third person critique of the poem and that led me to realize a parallel between the painting and The Wall in Washington, D.C.  I used first person for myself in the Wall part of the poem, and after twenty-one more revisions and two more museum visits it was done.
Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail. Probably began on a yellow pad in my apartment in Minneapolis while looking down at the Mississippi.  
The 2016 effort was on notecards as I stood in front of the painting.  (The guard eventually got me a small folding seat so I could sit and write.)  The painting’s very small (8” x 16”).  Across the room was a very large John Singer Sargent portrait and a Thomas Moran painting of the Grand Canal Venice.  The strong emotional impact of the Homer held up nicely against its neighbors.
What month and year did you start writing this poem? The first effort was June 2007; the second, August 2016.  I finished it in June 2018.
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 do most editing with a pen but, as you can imagine, writing this over so many years, plus several moves and one flood, I have no paper drafts 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?

Standing with the ease of comrades,/the cavalryman, a Union private, his face/vague in thought is aligned with the name/we assume is on the plain board cross/starting to fall like the crosses behind him.
What was cavalry doing in the trees,/this young stand of pine/a place that filters a charge/into the teeth of infantry?
“Sometimes I hear the sound of our charge; not the hooves,/but the high sound of confidence.  It lives/in these pines, in the wind, in the dark.
What do you want readers to take from this poem?  During the Viet Nam War, the public blamed its servicemen for the war.  Draftees do not declare war.  They are also victims of public policy.  At that time, I want people to see what happens to their own when they don’t take civic responsibility. 
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? The hardest part was writing about seeing Doug’s face staring back at me in that issue of Life Magazine.  I’d been his squad leader during training—being so young, he needed a friend.  He’d hoped we would continue serving together.

Has this poem been published before? And if so where?  Wilderness House Literary Review, October 2018,    

Anything you would like to add? Very nice of you to ask me Chris.  Hope your readers find this interesting.

The Pose

                  Trooper Meditating Beside a Grave
Winslow Homer, ca. 1865, Oil on Canvas
The Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska

What the artist sees: The living and the dead, a portrait
in gray and brown and black; a Union private in a forest,
the grave before him a simple prop.  The soldier

wears a cavalry dress uniform in the casual pose
of someone who wasn’t there.  Holds as if
for Mister Brady—where you have to stand,

and wait for the impact, the slow push
of light into darkness.  Cavalry cannot live
among trees.  Caught among these pines,

they would have been easy targets. 
Against the light, even sound dies. 
In this small frame, board crosses mark

where three fell.  This large one facing the private,
leans away from him.  His eyes, shaded by his cap,
are locked as though on a name that paint denies us. 

                  Vietnam Veterans Memorial
                  Washington, DC

I’m at The Wall in the gray and brown
of a Washington winter, looking for a name. 
Doug and I were draftees; met in Infantry Basic. 

Youngest in my squad, at first you struggled.  I sometimes
carried your pack, others your rifle and gear.  But you hung on;
built up; found your feet; became one of us. 

In March, after four months of training, you were ordered
to Viet Nam.  I went to Virginia for Engineering School. 
“Luck of the draw,” you said.  I saw you again.   

You stared out from the black and white of Life Magazine. 
Hamburger Hill.  23 May 1969.  Still eighteen.  Now all this
is locked in black granite with those who fell with you.

I kneel to touch your name. 
The pose of someone who wasn’t there.    

John Hicks is an emerging poet: has been published or accepted for publication by:  I-70 Review, Ekphrastic Review, Consequence Magazine, Mohave River Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Cold Creek Review, Glint, and others.  He completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska – Omaha in 2016.  He writes in the thin air of northern New Mexico.


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

088 March 26, 2019
by Bob Heman

089 March 27, 2019
“Clay for the Potter”
by Belinda Bourgeois

#090 March 30, 2019
“The Pose”
by John Hicks

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