Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Where the poem comes from: Robert VanderMolen

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Where the poem comes from: Robert VanderMolen

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A few months ago Poetry Daily did me the favor of introducing me to the work of Robert VanderMolen. In case you have not seen his work, I am passing this gift along to you.

Bob lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He published his first collection when he was still an undergraduate at Michigan State University. His most recent collection, “Water,” published by Michigan State University Press, is reviewed in the current issue of Poetry.

The poem here, “A Mist,” appeared last winter in the Laurel Review.

A Mist

But my fever made me long
For New Jersey. I told my husband
I liked it here, but I didn’t want to die
In Michigan. Does that seem so odd?
You lie in bed wishing one of the dominoes
Had fallen in a different direction. You look at your body—
When you need affection life seems so meager

Thank you for meeting me here.
I know I’m not like I once was, but who is.
I favor men with some meat on them.
It’s pleasant to be warm like this.
I’m not accustomed to being carefree

The woods so dark in winter behind the house

There are times I feel like I’m looking in,
My face against the glass of the slider
Like a woodchuck’s, my skin all covered in bristly hair—
I’d prefer alternatives
A smallish career in the arts, let’s say. A plan of some sort.
Even the day the oven caught fire
Everyone seemed to have somewhere else to go…

I kept hacking away at this poem for (perhaps) 3 or 4 years--at one time it was two pages in length. Cutting out the fat, so to speak. Maybe 12 years ago I was having dinner at the house of the president of Grand Valley University, a woman at my table, an editor, was saying she loved Michigan but didn't want to die here. Came from Brooklyn, NY. as a young woman, as I recall. Which was the original germ of the piece--on a piece of paper I found years later in my desk. Then some other snippets--someone telling me about looking in a window rather than out, unhappy. So the poem evolved into a small narrative--though it took a while

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Blogger Maia said...

Bob has always been one of my favorite poets. To see an in-depth interview with Bob, please check out, and click posts Jan 2-5, 2009.

October 14, 2009 at 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Ellen Steinbaum said...

Maia, thank you for adding this.

October 14, 2009 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Mim said...

A reminder of how long a poem can take.

October 14, 2009 at 4:17 PM  

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