Posts Tagged ‘Brian Brodeur’


A Poet, In Conversation With Poets

January 13, 2009

An interest in writing as a craft has driven many of the posts on this site — from my early musings here about diverse narrative forms to the now-regular series of interviews with other writers (most recently with Lewis Shiner, see below). In conjunction with those interests, I’m happy to recommend a new blog by Brian Brodeur, a friend and fellow writer.

Brodeur’s own poetry has been widely published, and last year brought the publication of a full-length collection of his work, Other Latitudes. (One of the poems from the book, “The Body,” was reprinted here last fall.) Brodeur’s new blog — “How A Poem Happens” — offers conversations with fellow writers on the craft of poetry. As he explains it, “Basically, I choose a single poem I love, quote the poem in the blog, ask the poet to answer eleven more-or-less standardized questions about that specific poem, and print those answers.” Simple enough, and yet truly enlightening.

So far, poets Eric Pankey and Stephen Dunn have been featured on the site, with more to come. I urge you to check it out.

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“Moving Midway” A Moving Experience

November 14, 2008


The DC premiere (November 13) of Godfrey Cheshire’s documentary Moving Midway was a real joy — not only the first screening in the nation’s capital but also the first screening anywhere since the election of Barack Obama, an event which can’t help but impact the experience of viewing the film.

Moving Midway, as mentioned in an earlier post, explores the history of a plantation home that had belonged to Cheshire’s relatives since before the Civil War (on land that had belonged to the family since before the American Revolution) and the decision by the home’s current occupant to relocate the house to avoid encroaching urban sprawl. In the process of documenting this story, Cheshire also discovers an African-American branch of the family, who have different ties to and attitudes about the house and its history.

I won’t attempt a full review here; there are plenty of laudatory ones out there already, in The L.A. Times, The Chicago Sun-TimesThe New York Times and The New Yorker, among many other publications. But I do want to offer a few highlights that stood out to me, both from the film itself and from the post-screening discussion with Cheshire and with Robert Hinton, associate producer and professor of Africana Studies at New York University:

I was particularly impressed, for example, with the way that Cheshire, drawing on his background as a film critic, incorporated commentary about depictions of plantation life and of Southern life in general in films ranging from Birth of a Nation to Gone With the Wind to Roots, with snippets of other films ranging from Disney’s Song of the South to those Bette Davis classics Jezebel and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. (And I was equally impressed with the fact that Cheshire said his film critic self was never second-guessing his filmmaker self at any stage of the creative process.)

I adored the scene where Cheshire discussed how this wasn’t the first time he had helped move part of a plantation, showing a shot of himself as a child holding up a mantelpiece, and then worked through a series of stories that led back to a startling revelation about where that mantelpiece came from — itself a testament to how the legacy of the Old South literally persists into the New. 

The cinematography by Jay Spain was enthralling — particularly in those heartbreaking shots of the trees being cut down (shots that work on you long before anyone on-screen even begins to react) and in those scenes where Midway first began to move. Those images of workers darting around wheels or standing underneath the house or sweating in tight close-ups tell a story all their own. 

It was interesting to hear Cheshire’s post-show comment about how storytelling not only helps people to remember but also to forget.

And it was also interesting in that discussion to hear the difference in Cheshire’s and Hinton’s reaction to the election and to what it means in terms of the nation’s growth and development. Cheshire referenced the title of the film, reiterating that we as a country are moving but are only midway where we might ultimately be. Hinton, while celebrating an event that he said he had never expected to see in his lifetime, noted that he was nonethless a product of the Sixties (in the process invoking memories of King and Malcolm X and the Kennedys) and said he was still waiting for the “shot” and wouldn’t entirely believe that Obama will be President until Inauguration Day. 

On a much lighter note, and on personal level — as someone who lived in Raleigh for many years and worked with Godfrey for several of those — it was a real treat to see people and places I know so well up on the big screen, from a former (and favorite) Southern lit professor, Lucinda Mackethan, to Godfrey’s mother (a delight both on-screen and off), to Big Ed Watkins, lording over the downtown Raleigh restaurant that bears his name.

Moving Midway still has a number of upcoming screenings planned: Alaska, Oregon, Ohio and back to Virginia between Christmas and New Year’s. Additionally, the DVD is scheduled for February release — a must-watch for anyone interested in Southern history or the changing nature of race relations.

Other recommended upcoming events:

  • Poets A.B. Spellman and Gardner McFall headlining a celebration of Poet Lore as the nation’s oldest continuously operating poetry journal begins its 120th year — Sunday, November 16, 2-4 p.m., at the Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD.
  • Cheryl’s Gone Reading & Performance Series, with George Mason University alum Anna Habib reading from her memoir A Block from Bliss Street, along with D.C. poet Cathy Eisenhower, haiku poet Roberta Beary, and musician Andy Rothwell — Thursday, November 20, at 8 p.m. (sharp!) at Big Bear Cafe, 1st and R Streets NW, Washington, DC.
  • And more poets at the Writer’s Center: Mason alumn Brian Broduer and Mason professor Eric Pankey — Sunday, November 23, at 2 p.m.

— Art Taylor

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Brian Brodeur’s “The Body”

September 12, 2008

Last fall saw the publication of Brian Brodeur’s chapbook So The Night Cannot Go On Without Us, winner of the White Eagle Coffee Store Press Poetry Chapbook Contest, and this fall brings a full-fledged collection, Other Latitudes, winner of the of the 2007 Akron Poetry Prize from the University of Akron Press. The new collection gathers and rearranges some of the best pieces from the chapbook and augments them with newer works — all of it giving a wider readership than ever before to Brodeur’s carefully crafted poems, poems both dense with complexity and, simultaneously, wonderfully accessible.

Writing about the new collection, contest judge Stephen Dunn notes: “Brodeur’s world is one of layers and shadings. His diction is limpid and precise, his ear a fine-tuned instrument for registering nuance. And when he writes about nature, he’s equally adept, employing a vocabulary that does what the best nature writing can do: reinvigorate its subject.”

While Dunn gives some specific focus to nature, what thrills me (a non-poet, a fiction writer even) about Brodeur’s works are the more narrative poems. In addition to being a master of words, of the line, of the image, Brodeur can also tell a fine story — deftly crafting interesting, empathetic characters and constructing short scenes that do just what the best plots should do: keep the reader asking, “And then what happened?” even if the final, important movements are sometimes more interior than action-oriented.

Reprinted here from the new collection — with the permission of the author (for full disclosure, a friend of mine) — is just such a poem.


The Body

By Brian Brodeur


The whole county heard. Schiappucci and me

found her first out back of the old Shell station

and used a hockey stick to fish her out:


a young Hispanic girl, face up, legs splayed,

her hair threaded with bits of yellow grass.

Stabbed, strangled, raped (and, I heard


in that order), she must’ve drifted all night

to have ended up so far downstream, miles 

from Rainbow Terrace, where she’d lived.


When her brothers came, all seven of them,

to I.D. the body, no one, not even the cops,

had tried to move her. Schiappucci said


she worked at the Howard Johnson’s off Quinsig.

He’d seen her — a pretty thing — down Bronzo’s Bar,

Running beers and wings to Keno players.


Days later, dozens of those cheap glass candles

with  the Virgin Mary painted on the sides

gathered into a makeshift funeral pyre


spewing wax all over the concrete landing 

where they first laid the body out to dry:

tiny flickering points of yellow light


you could see burning for weeks. One night,

I headed out with Schiappucci for a drive

and decided to walk down and have a look.


We found a break in the woods beside the stream,

groped through the dark toward the candlelight

where two women sat in lawn chairs.


Praying with their eyes open, they hunched over

photographs  of the girl at different ages,

and tossed flowers into the smoky water.


Schiappucci thought of going down to them.

I thought of the girl’s face the color of wax paper. 

How her eyes stared at the sky, as if it mattered.


I couldn’t move, couldn’t say a word

until Schiappucci asked what time it was

and what did we come here for again so late.



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