out of salt and light and dirt they called you, the daughter of the stars.
“A SUDDEN REALIZATION / OF MY DESIRES”
a sudden realization
of my desires:
there will be
a woman who i can call
who will be willing to
rinse my back
in the shower
who will love me
scars and all
who will provide me
with plentiful children
who are born
out of this love
and into themselves
someday there will be
the deepest sadness
growing from the ground
a big black
asking me to
my own home
doesn/t know who
taking care of
after her surgery
who goes to the
then to make
in the hallway
until she asks the nurse
for more water
is too thick.
“I AM THROUGH WITH”
I am through with
birds the dirt where
seedlings grow. I
cannot recall their
native names the
trees of roots and
words can only do
what the pilgrims
as much as their
New England is
the clandestine thing
I have come to see.
On Poetic History, Influences, and Building a Collection in the Wilderness
(Interviewer: Brittany Clark-Slaughter, Poetry Editor, SPACES)
Brittany: Thank you so much for sharing your awesome poems! Your line breaks are so precise and determined…I wonder if this comes naturally to you, or is there a certain way you get there?
Logan: I speak out loud in my head when I am writing. I write and think about how I want to read my poems and that is how I “decide” on my line breaks. I listen to the musicality of words as if I am playing music and that’s how it comes.
Brittany: What is your history with poetry?
Logan: I guess the first memory I have of poetry is when this guy came to our school to read children’s poems and when my brother got a poem about winter published in Valley Voice. I was always jealous of him for that. He always seemed to be more in tune with opportunities. Then it was in 9th grade when my teacher Mrs. Perry had us make a poetry portfolio. I remember being really into that project even though all my poems were like descants that had this ABCB rhyme scheme that changed every four lines. That’s how I wrote “free verse” poems in 9th grade. I also remember walking to the field across from our house with my brother and crossing the creek in that field to write haikus for this project. I really enjoyed that.
After that I wrote goofy, angsty, young, political, hippie-esque peace poems and read them at little Thursday night open mics. I remember printing poems out and pinning them up on the outside of my dorm room door. I was a freshman in college. And then I stopped for a while, wrote the occasional poem for a girl in class. My junior year of college is when I first took a creative writing class with poet Lilah Hegnauer. She introduced me to so many poets: Creely, Kinnell, Merwin, Haas, and C.K. Williams. I remember reading them and really loving Creely. And Gluck. She could really end a poem and he was always simple in a way that I liked. I liked the narrative quality of Williams’ poems, which helped me become more honest in my work. My poetic history after that is basically constant poetry.
I like to say on my job applications “I consider myself a poet, a writer. I am interested in EVERYTHING.”
Brittany: Have you always done poetry or have you ever dabbled in other mediums?
Logan: I haven’t always written poetry but I did grow up singing and I think that has a lot to do with my love for music and music as poetry or I guess my interests and understandings of the “musicality of words.” In 7th and 8th grade I had the opportunity to attend The American Boychoir School in Princeton, New Jersey. We traveled most of the U.S. and sang in some of the most well-known music venues in America: Carnegie Hall and The Boston Symphony, among others. We toured three countries in Europe and participated in the Riga Music Festival in Riga, Latvia. We also went to Sweden and Denmark. I think those moments are what I might look at as some of the formative years for me in terms of developing my love for the arts.
Now, I edit, layout, print and hand-bind books for my friends. I was originally at school for film, switched to Graphic Design but did not finish with an Art Degree. I think this is something I sometimes regret, though it has also presented me with a lot of other great experiences, like working at the Plimoth Plantation and meeting really talented artists in Harrisonburg.
Brittany: Can you tell me a little about your artistic process?
Logan: I would say that my process is to write poems. Recently I have been doubting my work, feeling as if it is not “ready” for the strictures of an MFA but Lilah told me to write this down in my notebook:
YOU ARE A POET. And yes, you should keep writing and keep believing in your writing. What makes you a poet? That you write and you devote time to your craft. And what is a poem, anyway (William Carlos Williams’s definition): intention (I say this is a poem, so it is) and attention (I paid attention to those white chickens and that wheelbarrow). Those two things alone make up a poem.
And I somewhat believe in that. But more than that in Hank’s mantra, “Don’t Try” (which really means “Just Do.”) I don’t know…I think our process evolves and changes periodically; constantly. I guess one part of the process is trying to seek out something new. Sometimes I like to get drunk and write…I like to experiment with my process to see what happens. I really like breadth and variety yet all kept under the umbrella of brevity and simplicity. Truth. Write what is true. Let the poem be authentic.
I always think of a poem as its own thing, its own entity. It is my job as the poet to do that poem justice, to write out how the poem wants to be. I have to make sure it is happy with how it is written.
I try not to force the poems so I don’t necessarily like “writing” every day though I consider any time I am thinking about writing as writing. I like to write when I feel like writing. I like to draw ghosts when I feel like it or play guitar at 3am. I like to do what I do when I am feeling it, unless I am at work and washing dishes and know I should not pull a Bandini on them. But yeah, I like writing poems from things I hear or say in everyday conversation. That is normally how a poem starts for me. Even if I’m just talking to myself.
Brittany: I love your mentions of Gluck, C.K. Williams, among others…who are your other influences?
Logan: I knew you were going to ask me this question and I wanted to put them in a “proper” order but these are the books I carried around in my bag today: Screams From the Balcony: Selected Letters 1960-1970 by Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems by Charles Bukowski, Sharon Olds’ The Gold Cell, Gregory Orr’s How Beautiful the Beloved, Franny and Zooey, Kerouac’s journals, and three anthologies: Contemporary American Poetry: Eighth Edition, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry: Third Edition, and an anthology called The Black Poets which I got off a free book bookshelf in the English building at college. It has Clifton and Knight and many others, Clifton and Knight being some of my current influences, the more I think about it.
Richard Brautigan, John Fante, Mike Ciecierski, Kayla Runion, Lilah Hegnauer, Laurie Kutchins, Hillary Holladay. Pretty much ALL of the poets on the Ron Mann documentary Poetry in Motion though I like Ginsberg more reading “Wales Visitation” on Buckley. I love how he says, “Well why don’t I just read a poem!”
Every poet I read is an influence on me and my work. So are the artists, musicians and painters I surround myself with in Harrisonburg. I feel like one of the “Harrisonburg Poets.”
Joshua Beckman. Matt Rohrer. James Tate. Lisa Russ-Spaar. Poe. Komunyakaa. And there are so many more! The every day. Beauty. Sentimentality. Feeling. Much of what is found in “thank you for breakfast.” (I could keep going on forever.)
Brittany: Can you talk to me a little bit about the collection “AFRAID TO DANCE” ? I was so captivated by the images and movement of these pieces. I found myself rereading them just to feel them again. Something about these pieces seems so kinesthetic, if that makes sense. I want to know more about them.
Logan: “AFRAID TO DANCE” is hard to write about. It came out in such a spoken way I feel it is better to speak about it. But it is a collection I put together in two weeks while living in Swoope, Virginia at Camp Shenandoah. I taught Rock Climbing there. I forget what day of the week it was. Maybe a Wednesday or a Thursday night, but I didn’t sleep until I had one hard copy of the manuscript typed up on my typewriter so that I could read it. I finished, read it. Put it away and wrote in my journal.
From there, I laid out the print document on my computer and got it printed and cut at the JMU Copy Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I bought the cover paper I wanted from Larkin Arts and then took it all back to camp and folded them. Outlined the covers with my friends Jordan Fox, Sam Biggers, Colin Whitaker. I still owe Pete Echols dinner for letting me type away all night in our tent.
Then I hand-bound them. Made about 60 or so copies in the first batch. I think I printed for 100 though. I sent some to friends. Put some in Larkin Arts. I just started handing them out to people. I submitted 5 poems to The New Yorker and mailed them the whole, hand-made manuscript when I was visiting Plymouth. I snuck them into bookstores. Gave them to people on the street.
But what is most important about this collection is where I went for inspiration: Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Whitman first impressed me when he taught me I could “Sing for myself.” I think it really helped me believe in my work, at least in saying what you have to say and hoping it’s appreciated. I was also somewhat influenced by the publication Leaves of Grass. Much in the same way Whitman self-published his own copies and handed them out to people on the Brooklyn streets, I liked the idea of just doing it for myself.
Emily Dickinson was the biggest influence on this book, though I have to admit I don’t really like her poetry. Or Whitman’s. But I do like them both as poets.
“AFRAID TO DANCE” is the first book for which I wanted criticism. That is what I learned from Emily Dickinson; this is why she inspires me so much. The pocket in the back of the book with my name on the white card was inspired by Dickinson’s first letter that she mailed to Thomas Higginson, in which she enclosed in a separate letter her name on a card.
Pretty much all of the poems in “AFRAID TO DANCE” were written while living at home after my mom had heart surgery. I felt like Emily Dickinson living at her homestead with her parents, writing daily and sewing little booklets. I like the idea of “little booklets” because they were the collections of poems that Emily Dickinson thought were “good” or “worthy.” As writers, we know that there are hundreds of unknown papers from every author. Which are more important than the others, or are they all important? That book holds a much larger story than the poems in it, but those are the poems I wrote and decided to include in a collection. I thought about an “ADDITIONS” to “AFRAID TO DANCE” but I’d rather put together a new collection.
The fact that a lot of the poems in that collection came from the time around my mom’s surgery kind of explains “dream” and “in the morning” and “i wonder if my father.” “thank you for breakfast” was a poem I typed on my typewriter by moonlight on my front porch about everything I thought of or saw. The light in the sky by the school yard or the fields of cows asleep. A few others came later in the night: I was typing up the first hand-typed manuscript of “i am afraid of” and a few others were finalized in the tent. Pete helped me decide on an order. The poems are arranged in alphabetical order by the second letter of the third word in each poem. Unless it had a one word title.
You are publishing two of my poems from that collection: “a sudden realization / of my desires” and “dream.” I wrote the first poem after meeting a beautiful woman – at least, I had her in mind when I was writing it. “dream” is a poem about a dream I had of coming home stoned one night and freaking out because the nurse taking care of my mom didn’t know who I was and the smell of me was nauseating my mom and so she went to the bathtub to breathe. I like those two poems.
Brittany: SHENANDOAH … I’m really interested in knowing more about this one as well. It’s so different from the others in terms of craft.
Logan: SHENANDOAH is a prose poem I wrote for a poetic forms class in my final semester at JMU. There were others, longer than a line. More like paragraphs.
The class was taught by Laurie Kutchins and we had some of the craziest conversations about what makes a sonnet a sonnet or is a prose poem actually a poem and these conversations really interested me. As long as a poem says something poetic, is it a poem? My poet friend Kayla Runion told me: “Sometimes, I think there is more of a poem in the act of cooking dinner for someone.” Or something like that. And I think it’s true. This class first made me ask the question “What is a poem?” I think walking down the street is a poem. The mere act of it. Baseball. Ponies. Horseraces. I think love is poetic. Riding a bike or sleeping over at your friend’s apartment. There is a poem in everything. It is the poet’s job to find it.
Talking about craft is an interesting question then because how do you “craft” a poem? Do you sit down at your typewrite and type, or do you wake up in the morning and make her pancakes and serve them to her in bed? Which one is more of a poem? And which one is more “crafted”?
For SHENANDOAH, I was driving one day and as I passed this church on the corner of Acorn and 42 N, I saw what made up the first part of a sentence: “salt and light” on the sign in plastic letters. I added to that “dirt.” The phrase “salt and light” references the bible verse Matthew 5:13-16. “Shenandoah” apparently means “daughter of the stars” to an unknown American Native Indian tribe.
Logan Hill grew up north of Harrisonburg, Virginia in an old house by a small town known as Edom. He is the author of the collection “AFRAID TO DANCE” and the forthcoming “FOR THE BIRDS.” He has a twin brother, Andrew.