Writing poetry is a solitary job, unless you are one of the 3 pairs of writers I will be spotlighting this weekend. Somehow these writers have learned to collaborate and allow their work to be inspiring and inspired by each other. I admire that, as a person that locks herself all alone in the world to write anything at all.
Today I begin the pair spotlight with John F Buckley and Martin Ott. These two writers work so well together that they have written two books together. That’s correct two books in six years of collaboration. Their first Poets’ Guide to America (2012) and their latest, Yankee Broadcast Network (2014). What I love about their latest book is it takes a look at society (and the writers, individually) and television. If you were raised in the 70s or 80s TV informed your life, as it did mine. I remember rushing home from school to watch Dance Party USA and being glued to the tube for Saved by the Bell, even when they went to college. Life revolved around television while parents worked, and outside was a bit too dangerous. These poets get that.
I highly suggest you pick up their latest book (which I see as a bargain, after all you are getting two poets for the price of one.) until that book finds it’s way to your home, here is a poem from each, which I asked them to pick for this spotlight. Enjoy!
John F. Buckley recently graduated from the MFA program at University of Michigan. He was a west coast man, for nearly 20 years but for now, is staying in Ann Arbor. We miss him on the west coast, but know how amazing he is doing.
The War on Drugs
Let’s agree to disagree about my righteous father
chopping down the finally mature pot plants
hidden so well in our grandmother’s backyard.
He wore his old Boston College windbreaker
and a handkerchief tied across his mouth
like a stagecoach bandit afraid of contact highs.
He dumped the plants at the curb for the trash men
and scrubbed his hands carefully with soap and water
and pontificated about disrespect and illegality
to the aunts and uncles gathered in Foxborough,
the Vegas smiler who was alleged to be a mean
drunk, at least when his brother-in-law was around,
the gourmet cook who execrated Ted Kennedy,
and the pharmacist with the endless prescriptions,
who explained family realities I couldn’t grasp,
while cousins complained about Boy Scout rectitude
and recovered the last few Baggies of buds
tucked away on the wooden shelf above the dryer.
“The War on Drugs” first appeared in Existere Journal Volume 33, Issue 1 (Fall 2013/Winter 2014).
Martin is a former military man, and a writer who has seen many different states, but has decided to call California (Los Angeles) home, and often writes about the quirky city he now resides in.
Fruits of Labors
My friend’s new heart rests in a crevice
that housed the pacemaker; the wires fried
his old thumper like a zapped alternator,
doctors unsure this loaner will ever beat.
Blackberries float in a bowl on the counter,
separating out the spiders and veiny leaves.
Later, he tells me that he has gone to some
other place, a bifurcation of living and dead,
subterranean with a zenith, invisible susurrus
of some river, with trout, with kids splashing.
Thorns in those Michigan woods taught patience,
fingers careful not to burst the berry’s juices.
There is one surgeon that goes in to save
his legs with a pinnate precision, arteries
flushed, and who stays at his bedside
after rounds, after the new heart reboots.
The taste of the jam boiled and jarred
from fly-filled afternoons fills us still.
He is unconscious for more than a week,
with dreams that make me wonder about
what will come after the jam disappears
from the pantry, when childhood is near.
Previously published in Nimrod and will appear in Underdays, Sandeen Prize Winner, University of Notre Dame Press, Fall 2015.