Monday, March 09, 2009

Poet Rebecca Schumejda: Pens a Collection of Verse “ Falling Forward”

Poet Rebecca Schumejda: Pens a Collection of Verse “ Falling Forward”

Rebecca Schumejda stopped by my interview show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer” for an interview on her way to visit the New Hampshire poet Nate Graziano. Both are young writers who have published books with the former Somerville, Mass. press “sunnyoutside.” Rebecca’s latest book of poetry is “Falling Forward” ( sunnyoutside-2009). Rebecca lives in Kingston, NY with her husband and daughter, and teaches English at a local alternative school. She got her B.A. in English from SUNY New Paltz and her MA in Poetics from San Francisco State University. She was the coeditor of the little magazine “reuben kincaid” for a number of years. She has a number of collections of poetry out the most recent is “Falling Forward.”

Doug Holder: You wrote that your father Doug, a roofer, was the first advocate for your poetry. You had a troubled adolescence, and wrote “‘dark” poems. What did your father see in your poetry that the authorities in your school didn’t?

Rebecca Schumejda: My father and I didn’t get along, but he had energy, and that energy he saw in me. I had a lot of energy with writing—that was my thing. I think he wanted me to be educated. He wanted me to get out there and say what I felt, whatever it was. I had actually gotten in trouble with school officials and they were looking at my dark poetry and were saying:” I think she needs some help.” My father said: “No, she is just writing. This was the first connection I made with my father that was through my writing. He wanted me to write. And he said write whatever you want. He kind of laughed at the school administration, and the school teacher. So I became comfortable with my writing.

DH: Philip Roth said you have to be honest in your writing, to the point of insulting your own mother if need be. Your take?

RS: I am willing to insult myself in my writing, as well as anyone else in my life. But I wouldn’t insult them in a way that would hurt them as people. You should share your experiences whatever they are.

DH: Do you think poetry provided you with a “center that held” throughout your life?

RS: I don’t think I would have survived anything in my life without writing. Anytime I am going through a difficult time I write. It’s grounding and it is a way to save a lot of money. I would have spent a lot of money on therapy. I might as well spend my time on writing.

DH: Do you write with a specific audience in mind?

RS: I am not about getting my work out there and published as much as some other writers. I do write for myself. I write because I can’t imagine not writing. You record your history—the way I see it, my perception. But of course I want people to read my work—I want people to read a good story.

DH: You published an early chapbook with Ian Griffin of the very prolific Green Bean Press. Can you talk about Griffin and the press?

RS: I was sixteen or seventeen when I met Ian. I had submitted work to him. We both grew up in Long Island, NY. He published me in his literary magazine “brouhaha” We got together and hung out. He no longer has the press. He lives in Brooklyn, New York presently.

DH: In your new collection of poetry “Falling Forward” you write about your fears around having a baby. Is there a similarity between a birth of a baby and a birth of a poem?

RS: Yes. Because when we decided to have a kid we had these ideas where we wanted our lives to go. Just like when you start out to write something and it comes out totally different.

DH: How do you handle motherhood, and writing?

RS: At this time I am writing more than I have ever written, in this last year—the year I had my child. We have childcare. I work fulltime as a teacher—but I still find time. I write at school, on my lunch break—a lot of inspiration comes my way. My husband and my mother also help with the children.

DH: You tell me you are working on a poetry collection on pool halls?

RS: Yes. My husband and I met at a bar in New Paltz ( while playing pool) where I was going to college. It was my husband’s dream. We opened one but it didn’t work out. The economy in Kingston, NY was depleted. Pool, the game, isn’t what it used to be.

DH: Who frequented your hall?

RS: Old school players. The stories they told! Pool players are poets. I got to watch them in their element—a place a lot of young women would not be allowed to go. So I got to hear stories about their lives. There were stories about life around the game, marathon pool matches, etc…There were outlandish stories, drug stories…you name it.

DH: Do you know the celebrated upstate New York poet Alan Catlin?

RS: We have been emailing each other lately. He was a bartender in Albany, NY for many years. I will be reading with him in Schenectady real soon at the Café Luna. He has a great poetry collection out; “Only the Dead Know Albany.”

When the Check Clears

he’ll buy a package of corn-dogs
a bottle of ketchup, seven boxes
of macaroni and cheese
a newspaper. A spider weaves
a hammock across the trophy,
he won in a third grade spelling-bee.
A fly buzzing around the room
crashes into the blinds over
and over again; he chuckles,
life melts like ice cubes
he chews
to forget

He wants to be cremated:
no obituary notice, no flowers
no grave marker, just ashes tossed
indiscriminately into the wind.
After the days’ second AA meeting,
he assures himself that good times
are waiting between the serenity
prayer and the horizon, so he
keeps walking past gas stations,
laundry mats, parked patrol cars
back and forth across
the same bridge
six times
as the sky turns
dusty feet sore.

Back at home, he waits for the spider
to notice the fly, twisted in the web.
For a brief second, he considers
running his fingers through the web
to sever the fly from its fate
but he knows better than to prolong
the struggle, instead he walks
to the window, peeks out through
the blinds to count the cars that pass by.
He considers the icicles clinging
to steering wheels, hopeful fingers
and searching
for direction.

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