Behind the Poem

“Another Failed Poem About the Greeks”: The Story Behind the Poem

By Sandra Beasley on 3.24.10

In I Was the Jukebox, I set out with the goal of writing away from the biographical self. These poems speak as sand, as orchids, as Egyptian gods. In “You Were You,” which yields the collection’s title phrase, the speaker’s displaced self becomes a barroom jukebox. Her beloved shares the bar—with his new flame in tow.

Another Failed Poem About the Greeks” is another tale of thwarted love, with a dividing wall of centuries rather than plastic and glitter. One day I got an image stuck in my head: a gleaming warrior dragging a bloodied Gorgon’s head behind him. He was standing not in a scene out of Clash of the Titans but on a suburban front stoop, waiting for his blind date to answer the door. I wanted to write the poem that could own that moment, and play out its consequences.

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Hate Poem: The Story Behind the Hate

By Julie Sheehan on 2.10.10

Okay, false advertising. This is not the story behind the hate—there is no story behind the hate, or if there is, I’m not telling. Instead, I have an observation, one that has probably occurred to many: hate and love can be described in the same, outlandish, hyperbolic and indistinguishable terms, probably because hate and love require the same degree of passionate intensity. Don’t say Yeats didn’t warn us, but it may be that hate and love are the same thing. Surely both are equally capable of mass destruction.

Weirdly enough, when we’re talking about language, not people, hate redeems love. Hate poetry, I mean, redeems love poetry. Take those sagging lyrics from “I Love You Truly” and substitute the word hate for love.

That’s what I did for the first lines of this poem:

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Snail: The Story Behind the Poem

By Elizabeth Spires on 1.27.10

Elizabeth Bishop once described the writing of a poem as a “happy accident.” She knew that the image or event that triggers a poem is always unexpected. It can’t be planned or contrived, willed or wished for.

This has certainly been true for me. I remember how a long-ago trip to the town dump in Stonington, Maine—certainly not a beautiful or “poetic” place—inspired a poem of mine titled “The Woman on the Dump.” And, a few years later, how a visit to my daugher’s elementary school led to my writing “Snail.”

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