Static Squarespace

Throwback Thursday Featuring, Susan Elbe, "Some Music" Issue 292.2


Some Music

Across the room, a group of 20-somethings,
winding down their pasta dinners,
discover you can fret your finger on the rim
making even cheap wine flutes complain.
At first, annoying, an assault on ears,
but later like the reel whine
when a line is cast and catches sun,
its bright wick whipped against a sky so blue
it hurts, reminding me of fishing with my father,
slap of lemon water on the boat's hull,
bluegills flopping in the bucket, arc of
laughter from the near shore,
my mother's death below the surface, that
perfect pitch of childhood vibrating in the gut.

static1.squarespace.comIn all my years of writing and submitting, I've been lucky enough to have had three poems accepted for publication the first time I sent them out. Two of them were finalists for the James Hearst Poetry Prize at North American Review. These were "Rutabaga (2012)" and "Some Music (2007)."

When this rare and wonderful thing happens, I know the poem is a gift. I think of these gift poems as almost mythological in their inception—the way Athena sprang whole from Zeus's forehead. "Some Music" was certainly that kind of poem. Not that revision wasn't part of the process—it was, but the initial direction of the poem was associative and intuitive.

I took a workshop many years ago with Dorianne Laux in which she gave us a writing prompt before we even arrived. We were to bring a picture (photo or postcard or other paper art) and an object that we liked. When we got to the workshop, she had us start writing about the picture and when we felt we'd said enough, to move on and write about the object. I, and I suspect many others in the workshop, ended up with a wonderful poem from that exercise.

I didn't use that prompt to write "Some Music," but clearly associating disparate things informs the poem. I like that both fishing with my father and my mother's death came together in such a short poem, events that have shaped my life immeasurably. Thanks to NAR for resurfacing this poem.

Susan Elbe Illustration

Susan Elbe is the author of The Map of What Happened, winner of the 2012 Backwaters Press Prize and the Jacar Press 2013 Julie Suk Reward for the Best Book of Poetry by an Independent Press in 2013. She has one other full-length collection, Eden in the Rearview Mirror (Word Poetry), as well as two chapbooks, Where Good Swimmers Drown, winner of the 2011 Concrete Wolf Press Chapbook Prize, and Light Made from Nothing (Parallel Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many literary journals, including Blackbird, Diode, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, and online at Verse Daily. You can learn more about her here. Susan Elbe was last featured in Issue 297.2 of the North American Review.

Illustrations by; Jessica Mercado, Jessica is a New York based illustrator who enjoys delving into the relationships between people, and is fascinated about how people can affect one another. She uses metaphors, lighting, color, and composition to create mood and meaning between her characters’ interactions. Jessica has earned her BFA in illustration from Parsons the New School for Design.