Notes on "What is Far From Heaven" and "What is Rear Window"
These two poems, "What is Far From Heaven?" and "What is Rear Window?," belong to the “Spoiler Alerts” category of my new manuscript, This Is Jeopardy! I grew up watching Alex Trebek host Jeopardy! every night on our tiny television set in the kitchen. If we finished dinner early enough, we got to watch on the bigger screen downstairs. In a home where much was fraught much of the time, Jeopardy! offered us a televisual neutral ground. Everyone could agree that Alex Trebek was a good host and that responding to questions with fixed answers was a safe activity.
Some of my best memories are of watching Jeopardy! with my parents during dinner, or afterwards with popcorn and Shasta, learning things I didn't know already and feeling pleased when I got the answer, in the form of a question, right. Years after I left home, I dreamed that my parents and I were the three contestants on an episode of Jeopardy! I didn't like the idea that only one of us could win—that two of us would have to lose in order for a single winner to emerge—but in some ways, that condition also mirrored the dynamic in my first home.
Of the dream, I only remember that the Final Jeopardy! category was "The Future." None of us knew the right answer, which is to say none of us had the right question in mind. This dream inspired me to begin writing my own poems-qua-clues.
Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.
I've been listening to Dolly Parton's cover of "Let It Be" a lot recently. I love Dolly Parton in general, and I love the song "Let It Be," so the combination of artist and song is a double love. My friend Maureen Seaton--who, long before I ever even knew her, was a poet whose work inspired me to stretch, to innovate beyond what I thought possible in a poem--passed away on August 26th. No doubt many readers recognize her name and work, are missing her presence in this world just as I am.
For several years, I was lucky to live in South Florida within walking-running distance from Maureen's home near Hollywood Beach. Now that she is gone, I still run past her small apartment on Hayes Street, just a few hundred yards from the Hollywood Broadwalk, almost every day. I listen to Dolly Parton, who reminds me of Maureen: the talent, the vitality, the boundlessness of spirit.
I think how Maureen helped teach me how to write a terza rima, which I never imagined I could write—and likely couldn't on my own. With Maureen's long-time friend and collaborator Denise Duhamel, now my long-time friend and collaborator too, we wrote a terza rima for Dolly Parton: 75 lines for Dolly's 75th birthday. I wrote the middle lines, the center of each tercet, turning the language between my two great poetry heroes. It reminded me of how generous they are, how they had made a space in their friendship to include me.