Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Where the poem comes from: Dustin Brookshire

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Where the poem comes from: Dustin Brookshire

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I first met Dustin Brookshire online when he contacted me a few months ago after hearing one of my poems read on Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac. He invited me to add a brief essay to his blog feature, “Why I Write,” and I was delighted to be there among poets I greatly admire like Dorianne Laux and my friend and mentor Patricia Smith. Most recently the featured poet is Alan Shapiro, whose essay is fascinating.

In 2008 Dustin founded LIMP WRIST magazine and Quarrel, a blog focused on poetry revision. He has been featured at poetry readings in Atlanta and Savannah and his work has been published in numerous online magazines as well as in Atlanta's DAVID magazine. Besides writing poetry and thinking up provocative poetry projects, Dustin serves on the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival Committee, and is a political activist who tries to keep elected officials on their toes.

As part of my series on poems' starting places, Dustin talks about his poem, “Stuck,” which originally appeared in O&S:

“I am working on a project with Robert Walker, a poet and graduate student at Virginia Tech.  We share a love and a passion for the work of Denise Duhamel, and we send each other lines from Denise’s poems.  Whatever line is sent must become the first line of our own poem.
“’Stuck’ starts with a line from Denise Duhamel’s 'Mille Et Un Sentiments': “I feel like I may be repeating myself, that I’m totally stuck”  While I obsess on many things in my life, I find myself severely stuck on two topics: my parents' use of the “f” word during my childhood and a sexual assault by an ex-boyfriend.  Both topics can be difficult to write about, whether it is because of reliving the incidents through words or simply for the fear of how my poetic voice sounds through my words.
“Ostensibly, it seems as if ‘Stuck’” comes from Denise’s line, but as Denise once said, “As poets, I think we all write from a deep wound.”  And, for me, that is exactly where “Stuck” comes from—a deep wound.

I feel like I may be repeating myself, that I'm totally stuck
on the words of my mother and father, You're Fat.
Father:  I've never seen a fat person who looked happy.
Mother:  You don't want to be like your grandmother.
Don't tell your father I said that.
   I haven't even told
my new therapist about my calorie counting parents.
We're stuck on the rape. How I'm stuck with anger.
How I'm stuck on not crying about it.
I tell her I tear up when I think about it, sometimes.
She tells me tearing up isn't crying, isn't release.
Then I become stuck on changing the topic.
You see, I have a way with being stuck,
stuck between forgiving and forgetting.

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Blogger Dustin Brookshire said...


I'm thrilled to be part of your series!

Many Thanks,

July 23, 2009 at 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am a "process note" junky -- thanks, ellen, for this post and thanks, dustin for offering up a poem and your notes!

July 24, 2009 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger ... Paige said...

such a haunting piece that surely must be hard to get past. and a poem that too many can relate to too easily.

July 24, 2009 at 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was happy to see that Dustin's poem made it into O&S. He's a terrific talent, and I hope to see much more from him in the future. Thank you for showcasing him!

July 25, 2009 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Ellen Steinbaum said...

I'm glad you enjoyed seeing Dustin's terrific poem and a little bit about its origin. I got an e-mail about it from a friend who said that maybe getting stuck is part of being human--part of how we form attachments and think through our lives.

July 26, 2009 at 5:17 PM  

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