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, and ALL religions including Islamism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Agnosticism, Atheism, etc. She has a B.S. in Criminal Justice & completed her workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing. She lives in St. Louis.
Friday, November 8, 2019
#136 Backstory of the Poem "Bushwick Blue" by Susana H. Case
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***This is #136 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
Backstory of the Poem
by Susana H. Case
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 conceived of the poem
walking around in Bushwick. I frequently visit neighborhoods in different parts
of New York City, and walk around for miles, in between taking longer trips
farther away. I was struck by the history of the neighborhood and the changes
it is undergoing, as it becomes a hip place to live.
I had also recently purchased a pair of jeans online and the
color was described as Bushwick, which I found amusing. (Left)
The two came together in my head. I was working on Drugstore Blue, in which colors
are threaded through the collection, in particular a set of Blue poems. This
became one of them and is the final poem in the book.
I brought the second
draft to my weekly writing group, a very intense group of talented women who
are both mutually supportive and willing to tear a poem down to its essence in
service to the poem and what it is meant to be. Before I even did that, I also
have another poet friend I exchange work with and did. I think of him as my
poetry mentor and he, too, is incisive about strengths and weaknesses.
Where were you when you started to actually
write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail. I usually begin writing on the couch in my
living room, which is in an apartment in Manhattan. I have a desk (Below Left) in my
“office,” which is a corner of the living room, but I often start on the couch,
a Stickley designed couch with forest green leather cushions. (Below Right) It’s just more
comfortable for me than sitting at a desk.
What month and year did you start writing this
poem? That’s hard to
remember, but I think it was Fall, 2016.
How many drafts of this poem did you write
before going to the final? There were two major drafts because this poem
came out so easily. None of that one draft each year trying to fix it and then
it’s still not right and stays in the file. There was a revision after showing
it to my poetry-exchange friend mentioned above and then another revision after
bringing it to my weekly group. I don’t have the first revision, but here’s the
second. (Below Left) You’ll notice the title changed some after the second revision.
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? Yes—a number of them.
Paris and Milan were cut, as was Vogue. The first stanza in particular was
What do you want readers of this poem to take
from this poem? It’s a riff on blue in
Bushwick and should be read as an imagistic poem, in a way, but also hopefully
readers should get a sense of its deliberately discursive feel.
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of
you to write and why? I
don’t think of it as an emotional poem. But the last line is important in the
question it asks about emotions.
Has this poem been published before? And
if so where? Its first publication
was in my book, Drugstore Blue.
Later, it was reprinted in the Brownstone Poets yearly anthology.
Anything you would like to add? I like incorporating history into my poems when
appropriate, which I thought it was here. Thank you for this opportunity to
share my work and my process.
color of the jeans I want:
more-or-less feathery fade of blue,
buildings are low, where
around, I can see the sky,
breweries have gone to seed.
the old Rheingold site. No more
the dry beer.
more Miss Rheingold,
very white beauty contest.
brought back both,
badass tattooed and pierced
in the lineup.
could now be
blacks, Hispanics, or Jews.
domestic beer crowd yawned.
still wasn’t cool,
Bushwick was named
coolest neighborhood in America.
blue the color of Bushwick hip?
my nails, your eyes,
color of Bushwick?
the sea Bushwick?
I Bushwick, am I blue?
H. CASE is the author of seven
books of poetry. Dead Shark on the N
Train is due out in 2020 from Broadstone Books. Drugstore Blue (Five Oaks Press) won an IPPY Award in 2019.
She is also the author of five chapbooks, two of which won poetry prizes, and
most recently, Body Falling, Sunday
Morning, due out in Fall, 2019 from Milk and Cake Press.
Her first collection, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was re-released
in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia
Szkocka by Opole University Press. Her work has appeared in Calyx,
The Cortland Review, Portland Review, Potomac Review, Rattle,
RHINO and many other journals. Case is a Professor and Program
Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology in New York City.