Welcome back to the UnCommon Bodies interview series. Today is a first for Solitary Mindset – I’m talking to a poet.
Deanne Charlton has three poems in UnCommon Bodies – It Runs in the Family, Eternity in a One-night Stand, and Brenga’s Body. I’ve written a total of two poems in my life and they’re about as bad as you’d expect. Thankfully, Deanne was good enough to include one of hers at the end of the interview.
What attracted you to the UnCommon Bodies project?
I have been following PK Tyler for a while, and saw her call for stories. I had a couple of poems that I thought fit the theme, and another had been taunting me for years, unfinished. I sent them. She was gracious enough to read and consider them, and responded, “…these are delicious. They read like water flowing between the rocks of a story”. On the topic of not having asked for poetry, she mentioned, “You have balls, girl, and I adore that”. As a female, I figured that meant I had one of those #UnCommonBodies she was looking for, and that I was “in”. As for the theme of the project in general, I believe most of us harbor darker thoughts about how we view our bodies; there’s something in all of us we think of as a flaw, while others would either not see it, not care, care in a loving way, or worship it.
You’re an UnCommon contributor to the anthology in that yours are the only poems in the book. What is it that draws you to poetry in particular?
I write poetry because it’s hard. Telling an entire story or creating a unique atmosphere with the fewest words is a challenge I enjoy. (I once described an entire marriage in 55 words.) I’m afraid I fall into the category of “a poet can forgive anything but a typo”. I carve and caress words, nudge them in line and surround them with punctuation or leave commas off entirely. I have the feeling that I love language and it loves me back.
What was your process like for writing the poems in the anthology?
Mainly, I had to work on the last, cranky one (It Runs in the Family). That one shows how much more tolerant deep country folk were than most think, and how intolerance has come to their lives. The piece comes out clunky because the chronology is all wrong and the topic could have been retired long ago rather than resurrected as a straw man. The others were acts of love (Eternity in a One-night Stand) and an observation of brokenness (Brenga’s Body). But, even in the broken one, there can be hope.
Are there any other poets who influence your work?
I can never write as concisely as Emily Dickinson, but I can revere her poems. For me, Robert Frost is both obvious and ineluctable. Ted Kooser captures real life so simply. Kay Ryan’s use of quirky logic catches me in the unexpected. Maya Angelou humbles me. I do not share the religiosity of the much-published Sue Scalf, but I can reach for her atmospheres. And, someone you’ve never heard of because her works are unpublished, Nelle Clegg Watson, brought truth to her subjects with humor, pathos and courage.
Once readers have read your poems, which of your books/poems should they seek out next?
Oh, they can seek and be open to the works of the ones I have mentioned and many other poets. Although I have published sparsely, I do hope to bring a collection to light soon. I can, however, leave you with one I wrote specifically because I had been told that a poem must not contain a question (I bristle at “should”s and “should not”s). It reflects the title of a short story by Flannery O’Connor, another bristler. By the way, none of my other works contains questions.
If everything that rises must converge
then where up there
are all the southern summers
and what do they comprise?
Does the steam of August
give God facials as he bends
to watch us bubble and burst?
Are the notes of marching bands
mingling with faded fireworks
to form an art we mortals cannot know?
To what purpose is all our living put,
up in the celestial convergence lane?
And who yields?
About Deanne Charlton
Residing with a view of the Great Smoky Mountains, Charlton has traveled broadly. She enjoys editing books, short stories and magazine articles (awful theses and dissertations, not so much).
That’s it for the UnCommon Bodies interview for the time being. The book is doing extremely well, ranking very high on Amazon and getting some fantastic reviews. If you missed out on an advance copy by not being on my mailing list you can get your copy from Amazon.
You can find out more about my upcoming releases, and get four FREE books by signing up for my newsletter here.[UnCommon Bodies Q&A: Deanne Charlton by Philip Harris first appeared on Solitary Mindset on 28th November 2015]