Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Right now I am trying to put a lot of things into context.  This past week there has been a lot of death, dying, debate, heated arguments, and the like.  I am not entirely certain how I am supposed to be reacting to all of it.  I have stated some of my thoughts and opinions on Facebook, but that isn't the end of it---I really think tragedy lingers longer than all of that, and so I am left with not quite knowing who to talk to, or even what to say. 

I am sad.  I am angry.  I want a lot of thongs to simply go away or pretend they don't know me any more, because I am tired of them coming around again and again.  I want to play the "I don't know you" song to so many friends it frightens me, all their belly puffing and posturing, their lack of humanity.

Here is this.  It's a meme passed on to me by Collin Kelley.  I am not good about picking on other bloggers and asking them to post on this stuff, so I send it out to all of you---any of you who thinks these questions are thought provoking.  I think I was supposed to wait a week before posting my answers, but to tell the truth, I wanted  distraction for a few brief moments, so I went ahead and answered the questions now.  Here you go:

What is the title of your book? 

The book I just finished writing is going to be called, Hobble Creek Almanac.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Hobble Creek Almanac is the close examination of how a small Utah town evolves and progresses through its 150+ year history.

What genre does your book fall under? 

Poetry.  However, I am trying to blur the lines between factual events and reporting of those events.

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

I got my idea from writing my first two chapbooks, which became the nucleus of my first full length poetry collection.  I had written about the landscape and maintained an elegiac stance in those poems.  I became aware I wanted to write about other people and their reaction to the land, and the best way to do that was to approach first from a historical perspective before moving again into personal narrative.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? 

I would say about 18 months in real time, though the idea has been fumbling around my head since 2008, when I finished my first book’s final edit.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

William Kloefkorn, David Lee, Gary Short.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

I really have no idea.  19th Century Mormon-themed Landscape Meditation/Narrative hybrid isn’t an easy sell.  I have about four places I know I am submitting to.  If none of those places take it, I will have to re-group, which may take a year or so.  I will not enter in any contests, as my money would be wasted and I much prefer to support presses by buying books, so it may end up self-published.  I know the poems are solid, so I will worry less about the dying stigma of a self-published book.  I worry more about my lack of good editing skills than anything.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre? 

I go for the biggies.  I think (or I would hope) my work resembles David Lee, William Kloefkorn, and the like.  I read a lot of Wendell Berry while structuring the manuscript, and one can only hope some of that rubs off.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie

I wouldn’t.  I would trust the director to cast the movie with the right people.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Footnotes.  Awesome, right?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Books I have been Re-reading

Queen of a Rainy Country   Linda Pastan

Traveling Light    Linda Pastan

The Singing Knives    Frank Stanford

Why Dogs Stopped Flying    Kenneth Brewer

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Book Review: Seth Brady Tucker's Mormon Boy

Mormon Boy
Seth Brady Tucker
66 pp., Elixir Press
ISBN: 978-1-932418-43-9

When I purchased Seth Tucker’s Mormon Boy, it was for a few obvious reasons.  I am Mormon, or used to be depending on who’s telling the stories, and I saw this title under a new releases list.  I was correct in that nobody names their poetry book thus unless he or she happens to have, or have had some connection to the Mormon community.  Seth has that connection, but when I found out he was a veteran of the First Gulf War, I was taken aback.  To have found a poet with similar connections to both Mormonism and the Army was like finding a long lost brother.  And while I identify with the poetry on those levels, I have no doubt any reader could just as easily find common ground on which to relate to this book.

Seth Tucker’s writing is expansive.  I do not merely means he writes about a lot of different subjects and covers a lot of ground, I am also talking about the physical world which his poems inhabit.  The book itself is larger than the typical poetry book because his lines are at times quite long, and receive the treatment they deserve by way of a larger presentation.  It is in these long lines where the reader begins to explore the expectations of Seth Tucker as author.  Here reside the complete thoughts of line, whole statements which refuse to be trimmed or wrangled into a false format simply for the sake of conformity.

In section one of Mormon Boy, Tucker takes on his experiences in the army and in the First Gulf War.  In a fine contrast from the poetry of Brian Turner, Seth has allowed time to permeate his memory and descriptions of his experiences.  The edges are softer than Turner’s war poetry, but in that softening come added wisdom and the wider net life after combat provides.  Neither one is superior in my experience, simply different.  Here in Mormon Boy, the reader will find more avenues by which to enter into the heart of the matter, and perhaps learn with a gentler touch.  This isn’t to say Seth’s poems about war have no impact.  Take these opening lines of the first poem of the book:

The Road to Baghdad

Is less a road than a floral
collection of spongy and soft
bodies, a gathering of the myriad

colors of nations—burnt umber,
puce, kiln red, olive drab, hot
steel.  It is a road that stretches

eternally into the ochre mocha
of horizon.  The road
to Baghdad has its own atmosphere

The reader must take on quite a lot in this first poem.  In that way, it mimic’s the soldier’s experience, being forced to take in a massive amount of information in an instant, making split-second decisions.  In those first three lines, there are several major decisions being made about content, image, line, and sound which Tucker commands so well as to make his choices seem casual.  Upon closer reading, it slowly becomes evident something more immense, more deliberate is taking place.

This deliberate series of choices comes through again in the long poem, “The Cold Logic of Farm Animals,” where Tucker creates a poem which defies homogeny.  Each new section takes on a different form, a different cosmetic appearance.  The stories are varied and dissimilar, but always keep the reader in rapt attention.  The section ends with a long prose poem which delivers the impact one almost shamefully wants when reading about war.

Section two turns lyrical, and we get to read about a great many different things.  That my favorite poem from this section is, “How to Look West From Mount Pleasant, Utah,” should not be a surprise to anyone.  There is something deeply elegiac in this poem which makes me think of my home town, which is not far from Mount Pleasant, Utah.  Of course, the poem is less a tutorial than it is an apostrophe, and hopefully (at least I hope) the poem is a way of talking to a much larger world. 

When I read the title poem, both of the third section and of the book,“Mormon Boy,” I am immediately mindful of the poet William Kloefkorn.  Not since Kloefkorn’s creation, Ludi jr., have I see a portrait of a young boy done so well.  The poem is masterful in its ability to draw the reader into the microcosm of a small boy’s world, both amazing and frightening.  I must here admit I identify with this poem on a deeply personal level.  On the surface, the poem is about a small boy on a paper route in winter, trudging through the snow, the duality of youthful indiscretion and knowing right from wrong.  But here, as everywhere else in this book, the poem is really a deeper discussion.  In the poems I can of course see the Mormon culture revealed, demanding hard work and commitment from even the youngest of children to a belief system they can hardly comprehend.   I see what will become the transition from this Mormon boy at age six, into something wholly different as he becomes an adult.  I begin to route for the little boy, and hope he makes it out intact.

In the final section of the book, Seth Tucker is triumphant.  The poems on this side of the book present a man who had survived to adulthood, in spite of the war he fought, and his previous fears that he has been fooling those around him.  There is elegy here, but rather than elegy setting the tone of this section with bright, silver cloud moments, it is the opposite.  There is a life to celebrate here, with the gentle reminder of occasional sadness.  We read about Tucker’s wife, Olivia, his passion for her, and we don’t get the feeling he is simply writing a poem for his wife.  The poems in this section reveal a sensual energy.  They are alive, knowing, and reveal how deliberate the orchestration of this book has been.   

These poems on the whole, present a biography of sorts.  I am reminded of Quentin Tarantino discussing how he orders the storyline in a film.  He says he doesn’t believe in flashbacks, that his ordering is his attempt to tell the story in the most interesting way possible.  Seth Tucker has done that here.  Beginning with the First Gulf War, Tucker is telling us he has essentially had three lives.  There is his life before the war, his life in the war, and then his life after the war.  The structure is easy to follow throughout the first three sections, but as with the format choices Tucker makes with many of his poems, the fourth section is a delightful wild card, which we must readjust our expectations.  The book works in and for all three of his lives as biography, place, time, and as a document of meaningful and visceral experience.  Seth Tucker has indeed contributed significantly to several themes and genres of writing with this single volume of poetry. 

Tucker lets the reader in on some of the most intimate aspects of his life and gives record as to how the world has shaped his growth. Every poem is a lesson which sparks insight into these contemporary times. While this book is an individual record, there is no doubt in my mind you will find a place to connect.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I am proud to announce I have officially closed the book, literally, on my latest manuscript.  I am finished, all in, at the end of the road, spent, whole, and complete.  At 80 pages, this marks the end of my writing and 95% of all my editing responsibilities.  That remaining 5% will be the kind of fixes I see during the submission process and consist mostly of fixing awkward tenses or a misspent comma.  As the manuscript takes to the internet and the publishing world, I now send it off feeling as if everything which needs to be there is there.

* * *

Some numbers for those who think of such things:

I have, as of today, submitted poems from this manuscript 44 times to 42 different journals.

I have, as of today, had 19 poems from my manuscript accepted for publication.  This marks a record for me in my best publishing year so far.  19 poems in 8 different journals. 

The manuscript, with all end matter, clocks in at 80 pages, 46 poems, and 3 sections.

I have been actively writing this manuscript for approximately 18 months.

* * *

I have exactly four places to submit this manuscript to before I have to start looking around for more places.  I want to keep the batches small, not out of superstition, but because I would rather take my time sending it out into the world, and only to the places I think would really enjoy reading my manuscript.  I have already told you I will not be submitting to any contest, and I am going to stick to my guns.  No contests.  I really think my pathway leads in other directions.  There comes a time when we need to stand firm on an issue, and this one is mine.  For me, contests are a bad idea right from the beginning.  I would rather buy a book from a small press and be entertained with said book, than sit at home anxiously waiting for bad news.  And that's exactly what it would be.  I would be sitting around obsessing over semi-finalist and finalist lists, wondering who might be reading my poetry, which celebrity judge would be making the final call, and hating myself more each day.Researching individual presses suits me.  I am more than willing to pay a reading fee to a press I believe in and have spent some real time looking into and still coming up with nothing than I am entering any contest for free.  I do not think other people are bad for entering contests.  I am simply saying I am not built to handle that kid of stress.  

Time for me to go.  I will be certain to keep you updated as to how things go.  You will be among the first I tell anything.  I promise.