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/
Sunday, February 23, 2020
#156 Backstory of the Poem "Word Falling" by Sheryl St. Germain
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***This is #156 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
#156 Backstory of the Poem
by Sheryl St. Germain
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 first wrote this poem
as part of a longer piece called “Word Falling” where I imagined my son as a
word who couldn’t fit into the larger part of a sentence.I was trying to get some emotional distance
from the subject matter (his troubled life and death from a heroin overdose)
and thought that the metaphor of a word in the family of a sentence might help.
I was also trying to write something in
his voice.Ultimately I don’t think this
long piece worked, the metaphor was too odd.I took the very end of the piece, though, and made it into a prose poem
that was written in first person as if he was speaking.
Later, in conversations
with my editor (Christine Stroud)(https://christinestroud.com), we changed it to third person, although for a
while I went back and forth on the issue of whether it should be first or third
person, and there were several drafts that switched from first to third person
and made other minor changes.In the
final version I took out “to change” from the line “I wonder if it’s too late
to change,” because it didn’t seem necessary, and moved it to the last line as
I liked the openness the space afterward gave to the line.I also changed “disappear into me” to
“disappear into his cheeks” as that felt more concrete.
Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?
And please describe the place in great detail. I was either in my bed or in the third floor
writing studio writing either on the laptop or my journal.(Left) Honestly, I don’t remember, although most of
my first drafts are handwritten with a fountain pen in a journal.
What month and year did you start writing this poem?I believe it was January 2015, one month after my son
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?)Sorry, I don’t have a photograph but have
attached two earlier versions.I would
say there were at least 10 versions with minor edits after I decided to take it
from the longer piece.
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this
poem? I want readers to be
inside of the mind of someone who is soon going to die from an overdose.I want them to have some empathy for that person
and for them to sense that this is at least partially a spiritual crisis.I want them to feel how alone the person is. (Above Left: Gray in Amsterdam)
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to
write and why? Well, the whole poem
was deeply emotional as I was trying to enter the heart and soul of my
son.There wasn’t a single line that
didn’t almost bring me to my knees.
Has this poem been published before? And if so where?Final version of poem published
in The Small Door of Your Death,
Autumn House Press, 2018.
After Dinner, He Walks Outside and I Imagine What He’s
It’s winter.Snowing big fat flakes. He looks up to feel
them on his face. He’s cold everywhere. Even his heart feels cold. He doesn’t
think anyone can understand how cold a heart can get. Fuck this shit, he thinks. He looks around. People walking
everywhere in paths through snow. They look as if they have something to do,
somewhere to go. He stumbles past a church.
The snow comes down heavier, and he
wonders what it would be like to float, alone, a single thing of beauty singing
its way to earth. Maybe that’s what a soul is like, he thinks.
The flakes fall, soften, disappear
into his cheeks. He wonders if it’s too late.
Sheryl St. Germain has published six poetry books, three essays
collections, and co-edited two anthologies.Her latest collection of essays, Fifty
Miles, appeared in January 2020 with Etruscan Press. She lives in
Pittsburgh where she is co-founder of the Words Without Walls Program. firstname.lastname@example.org