Justin Perkins

Gathering Road Dust

M. Scott Douglass

Poems by M. Scott Douglass


The AWP Conference was in Minneapolis in April of 2015. Per usual, I drove to the event carrying books and displays for the Main Street Rag booth. I stopped at the North American Review table to talk to Jeremy Schraffenberger. I proposed a panel that was accepted for the North American Review Conference in June of that year. It occurred to me that many of the books I would bring for that event would be in my truck as I left the AWP. Going through Cedar Falls only added an hour to my drive, and Jeremy let me stop at his house and leave several boxes. This left the door open for adventure, the opportunity to take a long motorcycle ride from Charlotte, NC to the event in Cedar Falls.

The poem the editors of North American Review chose to publish, “When You Think of Hannibal, MO,” captures a scene from that ride. In fact, that ride became the foundation for my most recent poetry book, Just Passing Through, which was published by Paycock Press and released earlier this year.

Including that ride, I logged about 14K miles riding through the Midwest. You can’t really keep a notebook in your lap or on the seat beside you when you’re operating a motorcycle, but there’s tons of time to think, to lean inward with your thoughts. I played lines and phrases over and over in my head until I had a chance to take a break and write them down. You have to get off the bike every two hours or so for fuel anyway. 

The Blue Beard by Justin PerkinsAs a publisher and an editor, I spend most of my time working on other writers’ work. When I’m at conferences, I’m the guy at the table entertaining the masses and don’t get to take in many panels or workshops when I’m at these events. In 2016 I made time to participate in two conferences and a retreat—as a writer. The bulk of JUST PASSING THROUGH was written at a three-day retreat in Northfield, IL from snippets of images, phrases, and vignettes I’d scribbled in a notebook over the course of my travels the previous year or committed to memory in between pit stops while riding the motorcycle. I spent the past year polishing and editing. That’s my process: get it down, clean it up later.

I was very pleased that North American Review found something they liked among the work I sent. My only regret is that some of the other work wasn’t polished enough at the time of the submission—but that’s the way it goes sometimes.



Photo of M. Scott Douglass

M. Scott Douglass is publisher, managing editor, and book designer at Main Street Rag Publishing Company which he helped found in 1996. He grew up in Pittsburgh, attended Penn State-Behrend (Erie, PA) and has a graphic arts degree from Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. His poetry has appeared in such places as Asheville Poetry Review, The Southeast Review (Sundog)Southern Poetry Review, Midwest Review, and North American Review. He’s been a Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of a 2001 NC Arts & Science Council Emerging Artist Grant which was used to publish his first full-length poetry collection, Auditioning for Heaven (an honorable mention for the 2001 Brockman Campbell Award). In 2010, the Poetry Council of North Carolina dedicated its annual, Bay Leaves, to M. Scott Douglass for his support of poets and poetry in the state of North Carolina. His cover designs have garnered two PICA Awards and a 2010 Eric Hoffer Award nomination for graphic design.

Off the field (so to speak), he’s been a dental technician, a construction/demolition worker, a bookstore owner, baseball and basketball coach. He bred rats for the University of Pittsburgh’s Pathology Department and even wrestled a lion once. Yes, a real lion. Douglass is featured in issue 302.3, Summer 2017

Top and Bottom Illustrations: Justin Perkins graduated from College for Creative Studies. A freelance illustrator and designer, he teaches art in Detriot. Justin’s first illustration for North American Review appeared in issue 298.4, Fall 2013.