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Wade Stevenson​ is interviewed on his latest book The Absence Of The Loved by Sandra Fluck.

 

Wade Stevenson and the poetry of love: A 21st century troubadour

Wade Stevenson was born in New York City in 1945 and his first book Beds (McCall Publishing Co., 1970) was a poetry best seller. Other books followed, including The Little Book of He and SheThe Color Symphonies, the award-winning Flutes and TomatoesMoon Talk, the memoir One Time in Paris, and the novel The Electric Affinities.
Wade Stevenson interviewed by Sandy Fluck
The Absence Of The Loved, your new collection of poetry, is being released by BlazeVOX in February, 2017. How would you describe this collection? What is the significance of the title?

There is a lot of meaning in the title. It’s not “one” absence, it’s The Absence. It’s a particular, well-defined, absolute “Absence.” It’s an “Absence” that everyone has experienced in their lives, because life and love always involve an absence, a sudden departure, a going away. In the same way, it’s not just any loved, it is “The Loved.” The “Loved” could be a woman or a man. It could even be a Goddess or God.

Departure, especially, an unanticipated one, always creates a terrible void, a space left behind, an absence that cries out to be filled. That’s how this book was born. That’s why poetry exists. The Absence Of The Loved ripened slowly over many years. I started it when I was living in Paris in 1969. It took all that time to find the exact words to fill up the space of a departure.

Dear You, A Memoir With PoemsThe Little Book of He and SheA Testament to Love and Other Losses; and Flutes and Tomatoes (A Memoir with Poems) are the titles of your previous books. They seem to be precedents for The Absence Of The Loved. How so? In what ways do they differ?

Of course they are linked. The common thread is love, loss, sex, absence/presence, death/life. These are universal themes but I’ve treated them differently in all my books. What changes is the language, the degree of intensity. The Little Book of He and She is more graphic in its representation of Eros. Flutes and Tomatoes is a haunting, simple story about how a young man uses the metaphor of a flute and a tomato to transcend a tragic loss. If you were to read them all, you would see they are all steps in a ladder leading up to the summit of The Absence Of The Loved.

Dear You is subtitled A Memoir With Poems. How does the memoir part of Dear You influence the poetry, or is it the other way around? Maybe it’s an interaction that is more equal? And is the writing process different when memoir is involved?

My first memoir One Time in Paris (IUniverse, 2008) was a straight literary memoir. There were no poems. It’s a great coming-of-age story that takes place in Paris in the turbulent 1960s. Dear You (BlazeVOX, 2015) is dramatic love letter addressed to one woman. I thought it might be helpful to the reader to have an accompanying text to “situate” it. The poems came first, the “memoir” later.

Which authors and books influenced the writing of The Absence Of The Loved? Your previous books?

A new book is a giving birth, it’s always a new adventure. My other books didn’t help at all. Or rather, they helped in the sense that they gave me the courage to take what was a difficult experience and to try to turn it into a transcendent one. I wanted the book to have a certain edgy tone to it so I used some popular language. I think the result is a very readable book, it has a nice progression, many gradations of thought, feeling, language, etc. It’s a different kind of poetry book.

When did you realize you wanted to write poetry? Was it a conscious decision, or did you just fall into it?

It was instinctive, like breathing in and out. It just happened. I was seven or eight years old. I taught myself to type on a Smith Corona. Writing and reading were my passions. I don’t control my writing, to a large degree it controls me. I let it happen. That also requires some courage. It requires precisely the courage to “let it happen.” The interesting question is: what is “it?” It’s interesting how I myself found out a lot about love in writing The Absence Of The Loved. And I’ve also learned new things from reader’s reactions to my book.

For example, could you share some of the things you’ve learned?

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of absence and presence, plenitude and the void, negative and positive space. My book taught me this: there is really no such thing as absence, because absence, to the degree you are conscious of it, is in a state of continually becoming presence. I learned that the absence of the loved does not mean the death of the loved — it is actually the rebirth of the loved, the continuity of a presence, on a higher, more spiritual, level. To bring the loved one back by an act of remembrance is ultimately a victory over solitude.

Read the whole interview here 

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The Absence Of The Loved by Wade Stevenson Reviewed

 

The Absence Of The Loved

If ever there were a modern poet reminiscent of the troubadour of yore, Wade Stevenson would be this poet. Suffused with the themes of the troubadour canso—unrequited love, sexual desire, despair—The Absence Of The Loved, Stevenson’s most recent book, pulls the reader in a centripetal spin toward the heart, wherein lies the absence of the poet’s beloved. Like many suffering lovers, the poet does not often seize glimmers of lunatic love, but he does know “it will take time to cool,/To bring this heart back from the land of the dead.” For him, this love promises “a last chance,” for her it’s simply fate.

The lovers are young, in their early twenties when they meet in Paris, “a blind bargain at that first date.” He is “a poet, a rebel, a black sheep, a clown,” she “a dancer, a flute player, a butterfly being,” both soulfully unprepared for this passionate love affair. A month after they meet, she leaves him—sans note— with no refuge to still his lonely heart.

Why does the poet recall this woman’s absence with such fervor? Even as their affair ends by her departure, he continues to write about her for the simple reason that “at the bottom of things you know/There’s a pain that cannot be said.” On the title page, these places and dates appear:

Paris, April 1969
Buffalo, January 2017

On the last pages of the book is a photograph of him at the age apparently when the affair took place. Years later, as 2017 affirms, the poet is still writing about his Parisian lover, because, as he explains, “Print on a page is my only escape,/A liberty more difficult to find/Than pineapples in Siberia.”

The answer to the poet’s relentless search to reinterpret the meaning of this woman’s absence may be found in the dedication to The Absence Of The Loved, where Stevenson writes, “To the woman whose absence at last became a presence.” Recasting her absence, the poet at last decides that his loss does not have to last longer than loving her must, and so, with this insight, he unravels the conundrum that in her absence is also her presence. Moreover, the poet realizes that love doesn’t only flow outward but also flows inward. To conjoin the two—the outer and inner direction of love—the poet becomes the sole proprietor of his lover’s absence as well as her presence, transforming this love into “a fine art.”

There is another way to look at the conundrum of the lover’s presence in her absence. The title The Absence Of The Loved is instructive here. “The Loved” of the title injects an ambiguity ripe with meaning: Why choose “the Loved” instead of a denotation such as “my butterfly lover,” or “a loved one,” or “the flute player”? After all, his lover is “a real woman/Who touched the jewel of jubilant joy.” I would suggest that given the nature of romantic love itself and the poet’s experience with this particular lover, the above denotations do not express what the poet is after in the deeper layers of Absence Of The Loved. The “the” in the title connotes not only his specific lover, but also a generalized class of “the loved.”

Read the whole review here:

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Heisenberg’s Salon by Susan Lewis is reviewed in Tweetspeak

 

POETIC VOICES: SUSAN LEWIS AND SHANNA POWLUS WHEELER

Frosty leaves Poetic Voices Lewis Wheeler

In Heisenberg’s Salon, poet Susan Lewis draws inspiration from a principle of quantum mechanics. In 1925, physicist Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) published what is known as his uncertainty principle—that in any system, you can’t know a particle’s exact location and exact velocity simultaneously. You can exactly know one or the other, but not both at the same time.

This idea of uncertainty is what Lewis develops in 54 prose poems—but not applied to quantum mechanics. Instead, she considers uncertainty in relationships, in human actions, in human thought, in our perceptions, and in how we understand the world. Here’s one example:

Indeterminacy

heisenbergs-salonIt was time for something, although she could not for the life of
her imagine what. So she assumed her post on the stoop & waited
for the future to declare itself. A tattered bird of dubious
provenance landed on the banister & inspected her with his
ancient gaze. She exhaled with emphasis, but otherwise managed
to keep her preconceptions to herself. The old fellow cocked his
head & screeched. Terrific, she said. How am I supposed to know if
you’re the one I’m waiting for? Terrific, he squawked. How am I supposed
to know if you’re the one I’m waiting for? I get it, she said, bravely
extending her arm. I get it, he echoed, latching on with admirable
decision. It was the last conversation they ever had.

The use of the prose poem form is intriguing. Visually, a paragraph looks more definitive, and more substantive, than a series of lines arranged in the familiar verse form. It implies solidity, definition, fact. Yet Lewis turns the form on its head by the substance of each poem, taking us not to answers but to questions.

Susan Lewis

Susan Lewis

In the poem above, the speaker knows it’s time for something, and the arrival of a “tattered bird of dubious provenance” might have the answer, or might be the answer. The bird merely repeats what the speaker says, and “it was the last conversation they ever had.” It was also the first conversation they ever had. The conversation doesn’t come to a point—and that, perhaps, is the point. The uncertainty of the speaker is never defined or identified.

Lewis is the editor of the literary journal Posit. She received her MFA degree in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence University, and her BA and JD degrees from University of California-Berkeley. In addition to her several published books of poetry, she writes flash fiction, which has been performed on stage in Denver, and compositions with other artists performed at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. She lives in New York City.

Heisenberg’s Salon is one of the most innovative collections I’ve read.

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The Absence Of The Loved by Wade Stevenson Now Available!

These 103 poems explore grief, loneliness, thoughts and memories arising from lost love. As he’s done in previous collections, Stevenson (Moon Talk, 2016) pays close attention to the particularities of losing a beloved, finding a range of images to portray each gradation of feeling. “The most beautiful body is the absent one / The most beautiful night is the absent sun.” Stevenson offers some striking and effective images for romantic love… These poems effectively convey heartbreak’s anguish.”

—- Kirkus Reviews


Left. There is the absence There is the wound the shock, the rage, the disbelief and the grief and more for the sinking, suffering heart. In these poems, Wade Stevenson realistically surrounds the departed love with his private raw emotions and with the most wonderful metaphors, fantastic in fact, and with them the poet in his craft knits his hurt into poetry.

— Michael Basinski


Many poems and poetry collections focus on the presence of love, but “The Absence Of The Loved” is about that aftermath where love is gone, poetically describing the void left behind, and what happens when transformation and change confront a relationship: “This morning we were born for something else.” However, this book is not just about loss. In the end, the poet transfigures his loss into a vibrant, radiant presence. The young woman that he loved becomes a symbol for “the loved.” In the gorgeous final poem, “You and You Again,” the circle is closed, there is no more absence — what remains is Amor.

— D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review


“Stevenson’s poems, sometimes tender, sometimes an unnerving evisceration of the heart, explore the cost of loving too deeply, the things one loses to love, and the parts that are left to him when that love has vanished. “The Absence Of The Loved” is both love lost and love redeemed. Tissue required.”

—P.J. Lazos, author of Oil and Water


Book Information:

· Paperback: 118 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-274-7

$16

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Absence of the Loved by Wade Stevenson Book Preview

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UNRULY by Elysia Lucinda Smith reviewed in Maudlin House

 

 

This is a confessional collection of prose. Elysia Smith sits her younger self beneath a ghost light and pulls the most arcane questions out from her chest. She looks back on the origins of her own sexual identity, surfacing the candid ugliness that flickers in all instances of coming of age and sex itself. Gritty detail and exquisite retelling crash together to disrupt the orderliness of simplified femininity that comes from a small-town upbringing. Unruly challenges the norm and celebrates what it means to be imperfectly female and naturally sexual.

The mechanics of adolescent girl and boy intimacy turn like broken gears when the discovery of sex begin to spread across the page. Each move is an awkward one. Each encounter leaves a spark of desire behind as she tries to find her footing and fit into her own skin comfortably.

This was the half life

Of teenage desire, the point in which 

I didn’t go down but let boys

Finger me, but never sex, not sex

By a degree of experimentation, Smith grips an understanding that most humans are naturally sexual beings. Although this is a grounding fact, her rooted definition of femininity becomes tenuous during the thick of her personally sobering, sometimes painful experiences. Smith puts a certain urgency into her prose. But simultaneously, she runs her hands over the gritty reality of sexual coming to.

I emerged in a foam

Of PBR, backlit by a Shell sign, lifting

The two slick bodies

With each squishing step, “I am

Sparkly with want, with what

Is to be, with what is” soaked

In the toxic brine of the White River

Pulling trash from my teeth

Read the whole review here 

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Photos on flickr