Wednesday, April 17, 2019

#97 Backstory of the Poem "The New Science of Slippery Surfaces" by Donna Spruijt-Metz

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*** The CRC Blog welcomes submissions from published and unpublished poets for BACKSTORY OF THE POEM series.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

****All photos are given copyright permission by Donna Spruijt-Metz for this CRC Blog Post only unless otherwise noted.

#97 Backstory of the Poem
The New Science of Slippery Surfaces
by Donna Spruijt-Metz
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 poem I would love to share is the title poem for the chapbook. The poem is entitled “The New Science of Slippery Surfaces,” and it was published in Poetry Northwest. Here is a link to it online

According to my hard drive, the first version of that poem was written on March 5, 2017. It was inspired by this blog that I read – I have no idea how I found the blog, I honestly don’t read a lot of blogs, but for my day job I do read a lot of science so I must have been looking for something. And I found this delight. Here is the blog:

It just brought this poem bubbling up—it reminded me of past things, and taught me new things, about our world, and about myself.  At the time I was putting together the first draft of the chapbook, and it just had this gaping hole in it, and Maggie Smith was going to read it and had a specific slot in her schedule so I had to get it to her within a set timeframe.
Again, according to my hard drive, which is what I use as a brain – I plunked the first draft of the poem into that first draft of my chapbook (which has, by the way, been through a gazillion drafts) on March 8, without any edits. Unlike me, but there was this hole that had to be plugged. Maggie took it out of the chapbook, felt it wasn’t ready or right, but she was kind enough to edit it. She suggested a major reordering of the poem, and did some serious magic with line breaks. I took her suggestions into account and revised the poem and sent it back to her. This time she liked it, and made a few more suggestions. I revised it a final time and I put it back into the chapbook.
I workshopped the poem at Bread Loaf in the summer of 2017 with Rick Barot, who is a marvelous teacher. Some interesting arguments ensued in the group about whether science belongs in poetry. Rick and one other participant, Preeti, defended it with vigor. It stayed itself. No more changes. The chapbook went through several revisions, though, just me tinkering and tinkering and tinkering, having poem emergencies, sending poems back and forth to good poet friends, in particular Crystal Stone and Roy White, and in the end, this became the title poem for the chapbook. So, four revisions in all.
Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail. I was at home, in my study. It was right before we revamped the interior. For years, my study had been home to my mother’s Steinway B baby grand piano. I don’t play piano but I was a professional flutist in my first life, and so I used it for understanding harmonies, other people accompanied me sometimes, or we jammed. 

But after we re-immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands, and I was working full time at the university as a scientist and writing poetry in earnest, I finally put down the flute, the demanding task mistress that she is. And then I finally let go of the piano—and along with her, my mother. But when I wrote this poem I was at my big white desk overlooking my mother’s big black piano, windows looking out over our green back yard in Southern California. 

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 several lines that got chopped. The one that I was a bit sorry to see go pertains to the student wrestling with the siracha, but it really didn’t fit any more. The line was: ‘does he know what I know?’
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? How precious and slippery time is—how it slips through us—how science is making everything faster and more slippery—and how precious and slippery time is with whoever we love—in this case my child—but slippery also in another sense—the sense of how I have to be vigilant, always vigilant, to find the balance between what I want and what my loved ones need.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? When the poem turned towards my daughter—it was a surprise to me—and I still tear up sometimes when I read it in public.

Anything you would like to add? Poetry is necessary!! Thank you again for paying attention to it.

The New Science of Slippery Surfaces

is revolutionizing containers.
Oil will slide through pipelines,
glue will flow, bacteria will be unable
to find purchase in stents and IV lines.
Through my one summer
as an incompetent waitress
I watched people trying to slap
ketchup out of bottles, then
use a knife. Here in the coffee shop,
I wait for you and watch
a student at the next table wrestle
with the Sriracha. And you,
my daughter, in your doctor’s coat,
your wedding ring, sit down
across from me. I try not to want
too much. Consider all the ways
we try to get things out
that seem to want to stay in,
as if there were a will to it.
Donna Spruijt-Metz is a poet, translator, and Professor of Psychology and Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California, where she directs the USC mHealth Collaboratory. Her first career was as a professional flutist. She received two MFAs in Flute, one from California Institute of the Arts, and the other from the Royal Conservatory in Den Haag, The Netherlands. 
      While performing as a professional flutist, she received a PhD in Psychology and Medical Ethics and Adolescent Health from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. 
     After her family re-
immigrated to the United States, she received an MFA in Creative Writing from Otis College of Art and Design. She started Rabbinical School, but finally abandoned it for poetry.  

     Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in venues such as Vinyl, The Rumpus, Occulum, Naugatuck River Review, Juked and Poetry Northwest. Her chapbook, Slippery Surfaces, is from Finishing Line Press in March, 2019.


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

#091 April 2, 2019
“Last Night at the Wursthaus”
by Doug Holder

#092 April 4, 2019
“Original Sin”
by Diane Lockward

#093 April 5, 2019
“A Father Calls to his child on liveleak”
by Stephen Byrne

#094 April 8, 2019
by Marc Zegans

#095 April 12, 2019
“Landscape and Still Life”
by Marjorie Maddox

#096 April 16, 2019
“Strawberries Have Been Growing Here for Hundreds of
by Mary Ellen Lough

#097 April 17, 2019
“The New Science of Slippery Surfaces”
by Donna Spruijt-Metz

No comments:

Post a Comment