Wednesday, September 11, 2019

#125 Backstory of the Poem "Tracy" by Tiff Holland

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***This is #125 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. 

#125 Backstory of the Poem
by Tiff Holland

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? “Tracy” was probably the first poem I wrote that ended up in “My Mother’s Transvestites.” I was working as an injury adjuster for an insurance company when I wrote it, and as my husband said at the time, I’d made the mistake of being “too good” at my job. 
          Because I was a good injury adjuster, I handled complex claims including, deaths, dismemberments, and…worse… It became my habit to take a very long bath after work in order to unwind. Soaking one night, I contemplated an opposite life, an opposite me. Working in insurance made me a more cautious version of myself, overly cautious, boring. Also, the terrible claims stayed with me. The me I imagined didn’t even believe in insurance but rather in living in the moment. In terms of writing the poem, I thought about ways to describe myself and things I would do and simply made Tracy into a sort of mischievous doppelganger. I didn’t wear jewelry, so Tracy did. The only thing we had in common was the ability to play wineglasses, but I would never do something so bold at parties!
Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail. I actually started writing the poem in the avocado green bathtub in our old country farmhouse where Tracy was conceived. At the time, I kept clipboards all over the house and car in case I got an idea for a poem, and there was a neon yellow one along with a pen in the woefully outdated bathroom. I was the only one in the house when I started, except for my border collie, Jake, so I left the door open. Jake stood and stared at me the whole time. 

What month and year did you start writing this poem? I wrote“Tracy” in the Spring of 1999.

How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? I only wrote one draft of “Tracy”. I tend to write poems in one draft. The hitch is that I think on them for a long time before I start writing. I was in that bathtub imagining Tracy into being for probably ninety minutes (adding warm water as needed) before I jotted anything down. I always hate to say this because it sounds fake or braggy, but I have a photographic memory. Once I imagined where the words belonged on paper, I saw them that way in my mind. The only way to get a copy of a draft would be through some kind of weird MRI or something.

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? The poem was born as it is now, with all its fingers and toes in place.
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? Without thinking about it, “Tracy” was one of the first poems in the collection that directly connected me to the transvestites. Later poems were more direct in the implication that I was a sort of cross-dresser (as they/we would be referred to in 1999) Now, the idea of gender fluidity is accepted, but the narrator of “Tracy”, me, points out the differences between the feminine hero/anti-hero of the poem and by doing so subtly reveals the dichotomy between the two versions of the narrator who is still coming to terms with revealing her true self.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? I think there were two very most emotional parts of the poem for me. The first was the line about the balled up panties. “Tracy” wore panties. The narrator wore “underwear. Just the use of the word panties was difficult, and it was also a very direct moment in the poem—one of the more obvious moments in regards to the narrator being gender-fluid when that was not yet something most people understood. Also, Tracy leaving balled up panties somewhere (and losing her car keys) was the point in the poem that was the most opposite to my nature. It was the most difficult to imagine, and a way, it was shameful, even if the perpetrator was a fictional alter-ego!
However, more personally, the husband’s interest in “Tracy” is more personally emotional. My husband was very interested in “Tracy” when he read the poem. I’m not a girly-girl, and although we had been married ten years at the time, I worried that Bill might prefer me to be a bit more like Tracy in terms of her femininity.

Has this poem been published before? And if so where? “Tracy” was originally published in Mudlark, along with ten other Tracy poems that I wrote in a flurry the following spring.

*Click on the link to read more “Tracy” poems

Anything you would like to add? The title “Tracy” has special significance to me .I used the name of my best friend from grade school who probably helped inspire the poem in some ways. Tracy E., my friend, wasn’t particularly feminine, but she was very much herself. She wore rainbow striped socks with separate toes and claimed to iron her money, although I never witnessed it. She had a happy family, perfect posture, and a stepmother she loved so much she referred to her as “my Anna.” Tracy never seemed to be afraid of anything, including my mother. When she visited my house, she’d swing from the chandelier at the bottom of the stairs, and give my mother a conniption fit, and I loved it.

can’t hold her liquor,
is a flirt but not a tease,
will say anything to anyone,
and has
left me, looking for car keys in bushes,
panties balled at the end of the bed.

Tracy believes
in astrology but not insurance,
likes low cut blouses
and cheap sentimental jewelry.
Sometimes, she whistles
for no apparent reason, prays
when she thinks I can’t hear.

Tracy thinks
recommended daily allowances
are for suckers.
She never gets up
to make sure the stove’s off
or check the smoke detector.

Once she went for milk
and came back with a convertible,
traded my civic for fifty
monthly payments.

My husband asks,
can’t Tracy come over
but stops short of please
so he won’t seem too eager.
I don’t want to know
what they do together.

Tracy plays the wineglasses at parties,
runs a finger over each rim,
adjusts the pitch with sips
of zinfandel or burgundy,
her lips so red, I pale
in comparison,
make her apologies,
try to believe it when I say,
it’s not me, it’s Tracy.

I grew up in Portage Lakes, outside Akron, Ohio. My mother owned a beauty shop frequented by transvestites, and I spent a lot of time there. My poetry and prose appear regularly in journals and anthologies. My poetry chapbook “Bone In a Tin Funnel” was published by Pudding House Press. My flash fiction chapbook “Betty Superman” won the fifth annual Rose Metal Press Chapbook Award and later became the novella-in-flash of the same name and was included in the flash-novella anthology “My Very End of the Universe.”

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 CafĂ©”

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:
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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
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by Gail Wronsky

064  January 30, 2019
by Terry Lucas

065 February 02, 2019
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066 February 05, 2019
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067  February 06, 2019
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068 February 11, 2019
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069 February 12, 2019
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070 February 14, 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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075 March 4, 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
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”
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087 March 21, 2019
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088 March 26, 2019
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089 March 27, 2019
“Clay for the Potter”
by Belinda Bourgeois

#090 March 30, 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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#094 April 8, 2019
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#095 April 12, 2019
“Landscape and Still Life”
by Marjorie Maddox

#096 April 16, 2019
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#097 April 17, 2019
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by Donna Spruijt-Metz

#098 April 19, 2019
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#099 April 20, 2019
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#100 April 21, 2019
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#101 April 23, 2019
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#102 April 26, 2019
by Jefferson Carter

#103 May 01, 2019
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by Jenneth Graser

#104 May 09, 2019
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by Richard Fox

#105 May 17, 2019
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by Sarah Sarai

#106 June 01, 2019
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#107 June 02, 2019
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#108 June 05, 2019
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#109 June 6, 2019
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#110 June 10, 2019
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#111 Backstory of the Poem’s
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by Jennifer Horne

#112 Backstory of the Poem’s
by Kate Peper

#113 Backstory of the Poem’s
by Jennifer Johnson

#114 Backstory of the Poem’s
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by Tammika Dorsey Jones

#115 Backstory of the Poem
“Because the Birds Will Survive, Too”
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#116 Backstory of the Poem
by Joan Barasovska

#117 Backstory of the Poem
by Michael Meyerhofer

#118 Backstory of the Poem
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#119 Backstory of the Poem
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#120 Backstory of the Poem
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by David L. Harrison

#121 Backstory of the Poem
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by Rachael Ikins

#122 Backstory of the Poem
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by Maureen Kadish Sherbondy

#123 Backstory of the Poem
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by Nickole Brown

#124 Backstory of the Poem
“Looking For Sunsets (In the Early Morning)”
by Paul Levinson

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