A & A Sample: Stafford and “Stray”

Sometimes when a poem gives birth to another poem, we honor the original poet in the title. It may even be titled the same but with “After Robert Frost,” or whomever, tagged on. Other times the new work calls for a different title altogether, but the original poet is recognized in an epigraph, a quote from the original piece. That’s the case with today’s poem

I decided to record “Stray,” a piece from “Angels & Adultery,”  my newest chapbook, selected by Nickole Brown for the Robin Becker Series at Seven Kitchens Press. You’ll notice I link to the chapbook frequently. It’s a lovely little hand-sewn work from editor and publisher, Ron Mohring, and the price is honestly a steal for less than $10.

This poem has been through multiple incarnations, and appeared in a just slightly different form, featured with Brian Fanelli and Jason Allen in Contemporary American Voices back in 2013. This version is a bit shorter. I want to say leaner, so lean that it begs to be read slowly. I suppose that’s not a bad thing. It’s such a miniature scene, a fleeting moment at a grocery store, one in which the imagination entertains a seemingly random, stray thought.

Two years ago I was recording a series of William Stafford poems, and the poem which inspired “Stray” was in that batch, so I thought it would be interesting to include it here, in its entirety, and to ponder how much the new piece adheres to the original, expands on it, or pardon the pun, strays from it. If you like it, I’m hoping you’ll click on one of the links on this page to order it, or just click here to read another short sample, and click on the purchase link.

“Here’s Saint Mathew and All,” with the beat up text from my worn old copy of Stafford’s 1987 An Oregon Message:

Saint Matthew and All from 1987 copy of An Oregon Message by William Stafford

And my poem from Angels & Adultery, Seven Kitchens Press, May 2018:

Stray, from Angels & Adultery, Seven Kitchens Press, May 2018

So, let me know what you think. Let me know if you’ve ordered the chapbook, and if you like what you read, please do me the honor and favor of passing the word along.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian Dean Powers says:

    “Adultery” is such a loaded word, isn’t it? Overflowing with judgment and condemnation. It’s The Scarlet Letter. Yet, based on my conversations with others over the years, it’s a common experience.

    I don’t think I could publish a collection like this. So deeply personal. So vulnerable. I have written poems I would never publish. I have experiences I can’t even bring myself to write about. So, I admire your courage in presenting this volume.

    “Opening” is the jewel in this chapbook. “Genesis Retold” contains the lines that every LGBT person needs: “Don’t listen to the lies they tell you. Paradise / was never lost. It spread everywhere / undetected in weeds and grass.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for those incredibly kind words, Brian. I confess, this project became terrifying as it took shape. It started as an effort to string together a series of relationship-gone-wrong pieces. When I realized it needed more angels and less adultery, that was a good thing, but I also realized it needed more “confession” of my own for it ring true. That’s when I turned to my sons and showed them a few of the newer poems, in particular. It’s one thing to know how your parents’ marriage fell apart. It’s another thing to read the details.

      Now, of course, sometimes it’s the emotion that is more honest than the facts. There is an ex who accurately disputed the facts of one poem. My response was that “I’m a poet, not a historian.” And I may paint myself darker in some of these moments. Timelines are not exact, but that’s how the poems seemed to want to go.

      But bent facts or not, it’s some of the most truly vulnerable work I’ve ever put out there. It certainly was scary. And when I realized the good it did me putting it together, I hoped that it might help others feel less alone too. Thank you for confirming that. Your comments here mean a great deal to me.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Also, thank you for what you said about “Genesis Retold.” I worry about writing anything that might sound preachy, or maybe this one was anti-preachy. But I had hoped that the difficulty of the rest of the book had earned me the right to make some positive, declarative statements in the end. Those same lines were quoted by Nickole Brown when she selected the manuscript, so it does my heart good to see them quoted again and know I did the right thing. Thank you, Brian!

      Liked by 1 person

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