GETTING TO KNOW Dennis Pollock AND His NEW BOOK Frozen Rope
When did you first encounter poetry?
I first encountered poetry in High School in Williamstown Mass. I went to a great high school with great teachers, an honor study system, and a questioning attitude. There was a lot of great poetry and fiction that we were exposed to. Somehow I just. Started expressing myself through poetry.... Poems in children's voices, poetry about a guy who delivered church news letters to parishioners no mater what the weather. (I was raised Unitarian but I was always fascinated with the idea of religion. I had some poor quality poetry published in the high school lit. Magazine.
How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
I continued to write in college and wrote some sound poems for a multi-media group. In wWest Africa, in the Peace Corps, I wrote to express what it was like to live in a place where every aspect of the culture is different. Returning home, some Western Mass poets took an encouraging interest in my work, and I was published in several anthologies, and I did quite a few readings. I'm a quiet, but not shy or private poet. If someone asks me, I'll read or send poems to be published.
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
I write irregularly, but jot down notes on themes or poems I'm cooking up over time in my head. I sometimes listen to other poets or write myself while driving! Giving the mind something to do like driving, frees me up to write. If I have time, ( a rarity) I'll write on Saturday morning.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
My poems come from phrases I hear, (or mis-hear; I have a Creative Hearing Disorder). Some times I a phrase will come to mind, ( such as, The Wrong Robin) and I'll write the poem for it.
I basically have three or four types of poems: poems from the point of view of young children, poems about my hometown, Hinsdale Mass in around 1810, and general poems about nature, my father, canoeing, going to Mars, or Stealing the Elizabeth Warren Sign!
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
I have been heavily influenced by Robert Frost ( his short and long poems), Sharon Olds, Wendall Barry, Donald Hall, and others. Other people's poetry an music can get under my lines. I I am passionate about poetry.
Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was is a project book? Etc.
The new collection, Frozen Rope, (Slate Roof Press) contains six poems with from one to three speakers, talking about events in Hinsdale ( renamed Haddam) in around 1810. I worked on the poems over a ten year period. The title refers to an actual winter murder, details of which were sketchy, so I decided to have the old man tied up to die with a wet rope around him. For twenty years I was a psychotherapist, a profession that attracts many, the knots of whose childhoods have been untied in the therapeutic process. There is a definite psychological bent to the book: a poem about an adopted child who wants to visit her birth mother; the widow of the murdered man first tells what the trauma of the murder was like for her; a visit to jail to the murderer to learn what it was like to murder someone; a father begins to talk about what his wife will not mention: Night Talk of First Child Born Dead; and a minister chastising a mother for indulging in planning what it will be like to have a girl child when the child turns out to be still born. The 19th century was a hard time made up of real people. I wanted to explore that, to flesh it out in language and Frozen Rope is my first book.
Slate Roof Press produces art quality chap books. I worked with member and master printer, Ed Rayer (Swamp Press) to produce an embossed, hand printed cover with beautiful photos and relevant old maps inside. Another member, Cindy Snow, helped me edit the book with phenomenal criticism. I actually helped print the cover and in assembly.
Read and view a video of a sample poemfrom Frozen Rope here:
The Preacher Speaks on Such Occasion as
We Shall Memorize an Infant of Mary and Eleazer Loomis
Who was born and Died on Monday Last
The sun has swelled the world with light
And slaked it six days now.
Such a glorious infusion of hope and growth
As January never saw!
Yet someone moles around
Under a sorrow, eight English thumbs deep.
Someone’s drunk her gill of hard luck.
Someone’s rode death home.
I see you’re poorly, Mary Loomis,
Your eyes all red and rubbed.
Still tunneling for the child?
That berry you thought within your grasped hand, certain,
That conceit so real,
Did it slip into the prickers?
A girl child wasn’t it, Mary?
The girl you always wanted!
And all Joe-fired on her, weren’t you?
What had you named her?
Thamison? Nancy? Dashona?
Dashona. Yes! Dashona Loomis.
Front most in your mind for months now, wasn’t she, Mary?
Her blue eyes looking into yours, telling you lovely,
Her skin flannel, fleshy, complected pink,
Her little body fitting in the basin
Whilst you ladled warmth over her, again and again,
Swishing her name around and aloud
Like the last of store tea and cane.
Then the child, a little older . . .
Always at your hand, carding and churning,
Or running out to look for eggs,
So you might steal a moment’s peace.
“And Dashona, give the wasted space of corners
A dusting with the goose’s wing, would you?
And brush mother’s tangled tresses,
Whilst she bends to blow the faggots back to life.”
Dashona. First girl in a family overstocked with boys.
Such a bucket of dealt eels,
And all of them out with Eleazer at the rocks and oxen.
Had you thought yourself
Above the good Lord’s purpose?
That you might have your plans
And best the rest of men
Who play the hand they’re given?
Dressed, tressed, and by your side,
Churning cream the color of her hair,
Gold and grown,
So real she might have been thunder.
God couldn’t get a word in!
And now she’s all the way dead,
Gray and gone.
A chimera, dissipated,
Not a cheek to be spoken to,
But a trail of dust like wagon road.
And now, you must mourn her
And the greater plenty she’d become!
I shall not speak loud nor long this morning.
We hitch our ideas up, Mary, and drag them around,
All possessed like—
Our plans, as if they really could be.
Each night we step into them again, limb by limb,
To wear to sleep,|
Our dreams, a cloud house.
Butter from flour, berry from sweet—
Unmaking the pie is a tall chore certain!
Today is Sunday.
Six days ago, His flax hatchel passed among us and harvested!
Monday last, and He walked through Haddam, on your road!
And you, Mary Loomis, you were dreaming,
Making plans, clinging to strands of hope.
They are nothing.
Let them drop.
Mary, friends, witnesses,
A certain greater beauty is open to you.
The wherry is tied to the post outside.
Seat yourself across its benches.
You need not row, nor steer, nor plan the journey.
The Lord is thy oarsman.
His grace is our uncertainty.
He has bounty you’ve never seen.