Friday, April 5, 2019

#93 Backstory of the Poem "A Father Calls to his child on Liveleak" by Stephen Byrne

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***This is the ninety-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. 
 *All images are give copyright permission by Stephen Byrne unless otherwise noted.
Below Title Image - Stephen Byrne in 2019.
#93 Backstory of the Poem
A Father Calls to his Child on Liveleak
by Stephen Byrne

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 was one of the first poems I wrote that would go on to inspire the collection that became my book ‘Somewhere but not here’, and it just so happened, that at the same time as I was beginning to participate in the ‘How Writers Write Poetry’ with The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, the bombardment of Gaza by Israel in July 2014 was beginning too.

      I was given an exercise to create a rhymed poem without using any rhymed words, sort of a song like poem, very challenging, and In the meantime, I was keeping any eye on the conflict which was now turning into a slaughter.
      I came across a video of a father in a makeshift hospital room, screaming for the child to wake up, holding a dead child in his arms and trying to give the child a doll, while other family members tried to console and make him put the child down. 
      I was devastated watching this. I was ready to get online and voice my anger when it dawned on me that this was pointless. That this was yet again, just another person behind a laptop, from the comfort of a nice home, raving on about a conflict far away from a west of Ireland apartment, safe, warm. This was how the idea for world-issue stories from unheard voices gave birth to this poem, and the book.
      The images would not leave my head. The sound of the crying. The doll. The child. Therefore, I wrote a first draft that I believe took no longer than 10 minutes, incorporating the voice of the father, placed in the madness of the bombing and chaotic surroundings.
     Using slant iambic pentameter and as slant as possible, words of similarity, it just came together, a very song like chant that I believe captures the emotional chaos and tragedy of that moment. It was a great exercise and one I still use to create a very musical poem that sounds great on the ear, especially when read aloud.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?And please describe the place in great detail.   I was writing on my balcony in a two-bedroom apartment I shared with a friend, overlooking Galway Bay and the river Corrib in the west of Ireland. It was summer of 2014. Weather permitting, I would sit out here and read and write, drinking as much coffee as possible. 
      The view was magnificent. The bay, the river, the Clare Mountains. Boats, seals, screaming seagulls, the smell of a sea at high tide, and the stench of the green moss at low. Something I miss is the smell of rain before it appears, and you see it, creeping across the bay, dark as a swarm of bees, before 
it hits home.
What month and year did you start writing this poem?   July 2014.

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 can’t find any copies of drafts. Since I’ve relocated, everything is up-in-arms and lot of papers misplaced. But I’ve a good memory.      

       I remember the exercise well and the first draft flew like a bird on the page. I remember being very happy with the first draft, and with this first draft, we would submit it to others and the tutor doing the Iowa-writing program for constructive criticism. From this feedback, I think it took another two to three drafts and I was happy with it.

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?    Now, I have no documented evidence so I can’t really say or remember. As far as I can remember, it was in one big verse before been chopped into three.

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?   To remember there are always going to be two sides to the same story. Who is right? Who is wrong? But, at the end of the day, someone’s child is dead, regardless of the side you take, never forget the images of the innocent. 
     That the statement, war is war, is a load of nonsense. To never forget how lucky and privileged we are to sit on a warm couch at night in our well kept homes without the fear of bombardment or the death of a loved one through shelling. If you have a child, try put yourself in this fathers shoes. 

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?   The lines ‘see the doll I got you son’. Watching a father, try to wake a dead child to give him a doll will never leave my mind.

Has this poem been published before? And if so where?   It was published in the annual print journal, ROPES 2015, an annual literature journal brought out by the MA students of NUI college Galway. And at the beginning of this year, it was re-published online and translated into Italian for Inkroci - Magazine of Culture and Cinema.

Anything you would like to add?   Yes, don’t be afraid to give the unheard a voice. A huge portion of contemporary writing, especially in the US, revolves around the personal, the confessional. Stand up and write for the unheard and let your emotions carry messages on the wings of a bird or in the wind singing through trees. Thank you for your time and questions. I love this whole concept and may it grow and serve you and the audience well.

A Father Calls to his Child on Liveleak
                                                 In Memoriam of 513 Children

Wake up child wake up
cries the father to his child
beneath the torn & tattered building
within the dust & shattered stone
Just above his bloodied waistline
to his chest he holds his child
to his breast he finds are pieces
of a heart & of a mind

Wake up child wake up
two three four they blow again
in the background loud explosions
but the father holds the hand
of the child he tries to wake
for the doll within his hand
see the doll I got you son
see the doll I got you son
now wake up child wake up
but his child lays stone cold dead
in his arms he cannot see
the back of the head that is not there
& the night will fall in screaming
& the dawn will snap in two
& the bombs will keep on feasting
wake up child wake up

Stephen Byrne is an Irish chef and writer currently living outside Chicago. His first collection ‘Somewhere but not Here’ won the RL Poetry Award, 2016 International category and was a finalist in the International Book Awards. In 2012 he collaborated with 6 Galway based poets known collectively as ‘The Tuesday Knights’ on an poetry anthology called Wayword Tuesdays including a local based artist and photographer. 
     The book was short listed for Writing Magazines Writers’ Circle Anthology Award. He has been published worldwide in places such as Warscapes, Indian Review, Tuck Magazine, Rise Up Review, RædLeafPoetry-India, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology and many others as well as interviewed by Words Without Borders. He is a food writer for the website This is Galway.


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002  January 08, 2018
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003 January 12, 2018
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004 January 22, 2018
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005 January 29, 2018
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006 February 03, 2018
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007 February 09, 2018
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008 February 17, 2018
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009 February 24, 2018
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010 March 03, 2018
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011 March 10, 2018
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012  March 17, 2018
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013 March 24, 2018
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014 March 31, 2018
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015 April 14, 2018
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016  April 27, 2018
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017  May 12, 2018
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018  May 25, 2018

019  June 09, 2018
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020 June 16, 2018
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021  July 05, 2018
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022 July 13, 2018
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023 July 20, 2018
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024  July 27, 2018
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025  August 01, 2018
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026  August 07, 2018
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027  August 13, 2018
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028  August 21, 2018
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029  August 30, 2018
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030 September 16, 2018
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031  September 24, 2018
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032  October 04, 2018
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033 October 13, 2018
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034  October 17, 2018
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035 October 23, 2018
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036  October 30, 2018
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037  November 04, 2018
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038 November 11, 2018
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040 November 16, 2018
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041 November 20, 2018
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042 November 22, 2018
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044 November 30, 2018
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045  December 03, 2018
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046 December 06, 2018
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047 December 11, 2018
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048  December 14, 2018
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049  December 15, 2018
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055 January 2, 2019
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056  January 7, 2019
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057  January 10, 2019
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058  January 11, 2019
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059  January 12, 2019
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060 January 14, 2019
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061 January 19, 2019
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062  January 22, 2019
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063  January 25, 2019
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068 February 11, 2019
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069 February 12, 2019
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071 February 18, 2019
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072 February 20, 2019
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073 February 23, 2019
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074 February 26, 2019
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076 March 5, 2019
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077 March 7, 2019
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078 March 9, 2019
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079 March 10, 2019
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080 March 12, 2019
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081   082   083    March 14, 2019
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084 March 15, 2019
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085 March 19, 2019
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086 March 20, 2019
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087 March 21, 2019
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088 March 26, 2019
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089 March 27, 2019
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#091 April 2, 2019
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#092 April 4, 2019
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#093 April 5, 2019
“A Father Calls to his child on Liveleak”

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