A Poetic Footnote that Ends with the Department of Homeland Security - January 6th, 2014
When Steve Fellner and Phil Young accepted “Flying Is Everything I Imagine Now and More”–the opening poem in Other Romes–for their 2012 anthology Love Rise Up: Poems of Social Justice, Protest & Hope, they asked for a prose note to accompany the work. Such authorial footnotes can be either enlightening (a poet reveals a telling, personal context; points to a predecessor or form) or little more than bunk (we learn their favorite flavor or cat). Love Rise Up primarily consists of the former, with revealing notes from such fine poets as Allison Joseph, D.A. Powell, Don Share, and (my old teacher) David Baker. They give the anthology an added depth, a lot of smart people musing briefly on the same theme: poetry & social justice.
“Between the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007, I spent a lot of time on small, commuter planes, traveling between Madison, Wisconsin (where I was the Halls Poetry Fellow at UW) and Cleveland, Ohio (the nearest airport to Wooster College, where my not-yet-wife taught). Inevitably, and at least once per flight, I’d imagine the plane dropping into freefall. I suppose this was a reaction to the still new security measures, the colorized threat levels, and the Iraq War. But as the daydream reoccurred, I began to shape it, distilling the scenario into a grotesque, if comforting, ballet. That ballet prompted the poem. As the poem developed, though, I found it necessary to ask myself just what it meant to enter and share (in the form of a poem) that imaginative space. Thus the rhetorical questions, which I still struggle to answer, lodged near its end: “What can lyric / say to fear / hijacking countries?” My college roommate had one answer, cryptic and acute. After reading “Flying Is Everything I Imagine Now and More” he mailed me some stationary he’d managed to procure from the Department of Homeland Security.”