"Totally Unique-" "Riveting-" "Ground-Breaking" Extra-Ordinary"


Michael Spence

My wife has a fellow teacher friend who has a friend who writes an occasional column for a Swedish newspaper.  Evastina Bender was born in Sweden but has lived in the U.S. for many years now.  She thought it might be interesting to run a piece on me, emphasizing the connection between my writing poems and having driven public-transit buses in the Seattle area for thirty years.  We had a nice, long talk. 175_slangflatweb-240x300 Later, she sent me a copy of the draft of her article for me to correct any small errors.  With one or two little exceptions, it looked fine.

The article appeared in the June 12, 2015, issue of the paper, Vasterbottens-Kuriren.  In Swedish.  I'm pretty sure it says more or less what the English draft said--I have a small amount of German from my college days, but it isn't enough to even attempt to translate the piece.

The funny thing is that Ms. Bender sent me a card saying that the article title was not what was intended.  Instead of "The poet was a bus driver," it reads "Bus driver was a poet."  This allows several jokes.  First, perhaps some people will give the piece a look to see why I "gave up writing."  (I gave up the buses, not the writing.)  Second, this means my name and background, such as they are, have now been put in front of the Swedish people.  So, counting Sweden and the U.S., I now have a (very narrow) global reputation.  Third, I can now daydream a delusion of the Nobel Committee running across this article and then moving my name onto its short list.  (Since I realize I'll never make its long list, this provides an ironic laugh, or so I imagine.)  Fourth and last, I can more plausibly suppose I might become the Poet Laureate of IKEA.

Someone (I haven't "googled" it) said something about any publicity being better than none.  I guess we'll see.  I'm glad, whatever happens, that there's now a possibility a Swede or two might look at my work.

Michael Spence retired from thirty years of driving public-transit buses in Seattle on Valentine's Day, 2014.  His work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in The Hudson Review, The New Criterion, The Sewanee Review, Southwest Review, and Tar River Poetry.  The Spring 2015 issues of both North American Review and The Hudson Review have quite favorably reviewed his latest book, The Bus Driver's Threnody (Truman State University Press, 2014).  His next book, Umbilical, won The New Criterion Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from St. Augustine's Press.

Illustrations by artist, Daniel Zender. For more information and artwork click here.