Cathexis Northwest Press
Poem for Friends; Nothing Much
By: Seth Simons
Poem for Friends
I like when it is one hundred degrees
nothing bad has ever happened
I am a goldfish all I remember
are giant fingers tapping unbearable
secrets I will someday decode don’t worry
everyone I know is trying their best
not to die it used to be easier
dread forces conspire against us you think
you’ve outrun them poof there they are
the end was in fact the middle on television
the republic is trying to save itself good luck
I guess I can’t figure out how to watch
an editor I follow tweets if democracy survives
I look forward to the miniseries hope comes
in many forms I’m still looking for mine
most days all I want is to sit places
and talk about things others I want to wage
terrible battle limbs everywhere the mud
all horses struggling to rise their splintered legs
to have done everything right and end up here
on this hill in that meadow past the red clay
of whatever village through the swift glass
of some deeper stream it was snowing once
we were beside a campfire there was music
playing everyone was drinking mead the moon
a pink I’d never noticed finally we could see
the whole future one way or another
the impossible reveals itself to have been
possible all along no one is prepared for this
ah well it was a nice enough week
cucumber salad huckleberry wine L said she’s
falling in love H wrapped her film E came home
from Idaho I’d missed her S grilled us dinner
on his roof the sun set the heat lifted oh
my friends I love you and do not want you to suffer
I will settle for suffering with you
Say none of it
week, last year,
we loved closing;
these are just
was fine, not
that you asked.
I had ten things to do
it got too hot
or I'm depressed
about now? Giants
among us, cavemouth
through windows . . .
I never needed
an excuse to be
terrified; I've taken
all of them. If you
need me (& if you
don’t) I'll be clinging
to the belly of this
it flees or not.
Seth Simons is a poet and journalist based in Brooklyn. He has received Fugue Journal's Ronald McFarland Prize for Poetry and the 2018 New Millennium Award for Poetry. His work has appeared in Rattle, Adroit, Fugue, Conduit, GAZE, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Red Wheelbarrow and the Breakwater Review.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
Ten years or so.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
This is probably embarrassingly cliché but the first poem I remember really transporting me to another realm is Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Incomplete and in no particular order: W.S. Merwin (“Completion”), Rebecca Lindenberg (“Litany”), Maurice Manning (“Something to Say about Possums”), Louise Glück (“Telemachus’ Detachment”), Steve Scafidi (“Who Wants to Know What Love is Worth?”), Ross Gay (“Wedding Poem”), Mark Leidner (“Having ‘Having a Coke with You’ with You”), Natalie Shapero (“Fake Sick”), Emily Alexander (“Happy New Year”), Ada Limón (“The End of Poetry”), Heather Christle (“Advent”), Aracelis Girmay (“Elegy”), Zachary Schomburg (“I Climbed a Mountain and Fucked It into the Sea”), Carl Phillips (“For Long to Hold”), Melissa Lozada-Oliva (“There Is an Intimacy”), James Tate (“The Afterlife”), Sara Miller (“It Came to Me”), Kay Ryan, Dean Young, Victoria Chang, Matt Rohrer, Jericho Brown…
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
I wish I knew what my process was. Every time I write a poem feels like the first time. If I’m lucky I have a first line in mind, either found language or something that appeared from the blue, and I just sort of write it down and wait for it to tell me the next line, then for that one to tell me the next, and so forth. What I’ll say about these two poems, which I wrote three years apart, is that they were both written after a long period of not writing poetry and they both proceeded under the same basic strategy: having forgotten how to write a poem, I turned to what was right in front of me, e.g. my immediate thoughts and recent activities. On a good day, recording those will guide me to whatever my subconscious concerns are, which clearly haven’t changed much in the last three years, given some of the shared imagery in these pieces.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
It varies by poem. Lately I’ve been drawn to the spacey monologue-type form you see in “Poem for Friends,” which is roughly the shape my thoughts have taken for the last two-and-a-half years, I can’t imagine why: just sort of hanging there, inert, disconnected, leading to what I don’t know. I think with “Nothing Much” I was deliberately trying to write something short, which goes against all my horrid little instincts, so probably I made it narrow to trick myself into feeling like it was a little bit longer.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
SS: I’m for sure not qualified to give this advice, so first I will tell you to read more than you write, then I will tell you to have a strong set of interests and concerns outside of poetry and the literary world, and then I will quote the playwright Will Eno: “Just never do what they tell you to do, exactly. Try, with a good heart, to come close to what they ask for, trusting that because you are you, you will still stay far-enough away to stay you, and maybe they will be happy for the difference.”
Oh, and don’t pay for an MFA.
What is your editing process like?
Nothing I would want anyone to learn from.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
Generally I’ll hit a line that tells me I can’t write anything after it, which I think was the case with both of these poems. Other times I’ll just sort of agonize for days over something that doesn’t quite click in my head, making meaningless little change after meaningless little change, until finally I accept that I have to move on to the next thing.