CHRIS RICE COOPER is a newspaper/fiction writer, poet, photographer, painter. CRC Blog is an INCLUSIVE & NON-PROFIT BLOG acknowledging ALL voices, ALL individuals, ALL political views, ALL philosophies, ALL religions including Islamism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Agnosticism, Atheism. She has a B.S. in Criminal Justice & completed her workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing. She lives in St. Louis.
CRC website http://chrisricecooper.com/
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
#117 Backstory of the Poem "NEW YEAR'S EVE 2016" by Michael Meyerhofer
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***This is the #117 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.
#117 Backstory of the
“New Year’s Eve 2016”
By Michael Meyerhofer
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 remember feeling a sense of hopelessness toward
the end of 2016—not just for political reasons, but also because of all the
deaths that had been in the news throughout the year (Elie Wiesel, Muhammad
Ali, Harper Lee, C.D. Wright, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Pat Conroy, Jim Harrison, etc).
I started imagining an alternate reality
in which everything had gone differently. I came up with the title of the poem
first, then the opening line (That was the year nobody died) followed almost
immediately. From there, the rest of the poem fell into place pretty quickly, I
think because it was something I’d already been thinking about for months. I
tinkered and polished a bit, but honestly, this was one of the “easiest” poems
I’ve ever written, and it ended up being the opening poem in my forthcoming
book, Ragged Eden.
Where were you when you
started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great
detail. If memory serves, I was taking a scalding-hot bath when the idea for the
poem came to me. I got out, grabbed my phone, and started typing it on the
notepad. Once I had the rough draft done, I finished getting dressed, actually
went to my computer, and revised it a bit.
What month and year did
you start writing this poem? December, 2016. I don’t recall the exact date but I
think I wrote it just a few days before New Year’s Eve.
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 usually put my poems
through quite a punishment, which includes not just changing the language but
altering the form (tercets, couplets, a single long stanza, etc), not to
mention playing with line breaks. In the case of this poem, though, I knew
right away that it needed to be in couplets. I don’t actually have my old
drafts of this one. I usually save those, but in this particular case, I think
the poem came out “right” pretty quickly, so the editing afterwards was just
tinkering with phrasing.
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? I had a little trouble
with that last couplet. Originally, I had “of
lawns into canvases on which / trees scrawled their warnings in shadow,” which seemed a bit
clunky to me. No one else seemed to mind (the journal, FRiGG, (http://friggmagazine.com/)was even kind enough to publish it), but maybe a couple years after I
wrote it, I had the idea to edit it down to “of lawns into canvases for trees / to
scrawl their warnings in shadow.” It’s a minor change
overall, and one many people might not even notice, but I like it better… and,
of course, feel embarrassed for not writing it that way the firsttime.
What do you want readers
of this poem to take from this poem? I think one lesson of poetry is that no matter how
sad or sardonic a piece of writing might be, there’s an undercurrent of
survival and redemption inherent in the simple act of expression. I think it’s
also helpful from time to time to imagine something as its opposite and compare
the differences, maybe to help us develop a deeper sense of appreciation for
what we have. (Right: Michael with his mentor Allison Joseph)
part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? Even though it was
just a simple line without much detail, the reference to the Holocaust survivor
and the boxer was pretty tough for me because Elie Wiesel (http://eliewieselfoundation.org/) and Muhammad Ali (http://www.theslot.com/ali/) were two of my
heroes. The more I think about it, the feeling of loss prompted by their deaths
was probably the seed that planted the idea for the poem in the first place.
this poem been published before? And if so where? The fine folks at FRiGGwere kind enough to publish it. Also,
as I said, it’ll be the opening poem in my next book, forthcoming from Glass
Anything you would like
to add? Just that I appreciate you doing this!
NEW YEAR’S EVE, 2016
the year nobody died:
musicians and actors,
the poets, the Holocaust survivor,
in a star-spangled top hat,
illnesses mere rumor
worst a reminder of something,
shawl thrown past the full moon.
midway through winter,
came for reminiscence
anyone could think
single thing that had gone wrong,
itself quite unsettling.
So after a
while, we gave up
be sad and simply kissed
snows fell, transforming a nation
into canvases for trees
their warnings in shadow
Michael Meyerhofer’s fifth book of poems, Ragged
Eden, is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press. The recipient of fourteen
national poetry awards, he’s also the author of a fantasy series and serves as
the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review(https://atticusreview.org/). For more information and an
embarrassing childhood photo, please visit