Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup has Poetry Friday hosting duties today. She's cooking up a delicious Thanksgiving parody poem. Plus she always has the most scrumptious food photos.
Today I have an interview with Rebecca Brock, author of an adult collection of poetry, Each Bearing Out.
I "met" Rebecca in Laura Shovan's February Poetry Group on Facebook. She just published this wonderful collection about motherhood and the natural world.
JRM: What was the process that led you to create Each Bearing out? Did you set out to write a
collection or did you write poems and then one day realized that there was a collection? I noticed
that several poems found homes in journals first.
RB:Thank you, Jone, for reaching out to me and sending me these questions.
So much of this journey for me has been one of permission. I was finally writing again,
after a long silence, and it took me a while to acknowledge to myself that I was writing
poetry. I hadn’t written poetry since my undergraduate years—I studied fiction in
graduate school and had only ever published in nonfiction. But I was writing a lot of
poems I referenced as my “mom poems.” They felt very personal, like small snapshots
caught from the blur. Eventually, I had so many that I began to think about making a
JRM: Have you always been interested in the natural world? I noticed you are originally from Idaho.
How did growing up in Idaho play a part in your writing life?
RB: I grew up in Boise, Idaho but moved away over twenty years ago. I’d always planned to
go back, but life gets complicated and that distance between my original home and my
home now informs a lot of my writing. I think my interest in the natural world has grown
deeper through my experience of mothering. My kids were curious, input seeking
creatures and seeing the world through their eyes is what’s really brought me back to
noticing, and paying attention to the natural world.
JRM: I was really struck by the poem “Good Housekeeping”. I struggle with keeping house, writing
and being engaged with my family. Add the concerns about the environment, it really gets
overwhelming. What is one event that led you to write that poem?
RB: “Good Housekeeping” resonated with a lot of my friends who have been busy mothering
through these last years. It was originally published with the tag line “America during
Covid, during Trump.” There has been such a constant tumult these last several
years—political, social, environmental. I would be trying to do the most ordinary thing
like decorate for Halloween or vacuum and just feel this redundant dread, as if I were
participating in a great pretending that lets us go on believing everything is fine. The
question, for me, is still a constant—how do we mother these children toward a future we
can’t even begin to fathom?
JRM: Could you share with readers your process with how you decided the order of the poems?
RB: Mostly instinct. I read them out loud, a lot, and paid particular attention to what would be
the first and last poem. I printed them out and sorted them physically, by hand, all down
the hallway in my basement. From there, I semi-sorted them chronologically according to
my children’s ages in the poems, which left me with a burgeoning teenager by the book’s
JRM: Were there poems that didn’t make the book? How did you decide which poems were in and
which needed to be held for a different space? Are you planning a second book?
RB: Yes! So many didn’t make it. Poems I felt were weaker or redundant…or too sentimental.
I have so many poems about my kids, it is really how I’ve found a way to hold my own
memory of these years. I also asked two friends, Liona Burnham and Ruth Lehrer, to read
through a near-to-final draft and tell me their suggestions. It was easier to know what to
leave out than what to leave in! I am working on my second book already—about
landscape and distance, origin and loss.
JRM: How did Laura Shovan’s February Poetry Month inspire you?
RB: Laura Shovan’s February Poetry Month arrived in my life at just exactly the right time
and inspired me entirely to keep writing and to trust in my own voice and the power of
showing up to the page. I had been working in such solitude and suddenly I was in the
(online) company of bright, gutsy, gracious poets willing to post such new writing every
day—it made writing poetry both more magical and more ordinary. Again, I think I was
seeking permission and the poets from February Poetry Month absolutely holler their
permission at you every day you post. It’s quite a gift and I’m so grateful, every year I
participate, for Laura and for the generosity of that space.
JRM: How did “A Rock is a Rock is a Rock” come to be written? It made me feel the pain and sorrow
when your child comes home from a bad day at school, juggling schedules, dinner, and empathy.
RB: It’s an entirely true story and it’s about my boy who is all heart with arms and legs
attached. He is constant and somedays I just can’t keep up. But he is also the kind of
person who places you, in moments, in the absolute of now.
Here's "Rock is a Rock is a Rock"
Originally appeared online at Whale Road Review, Summer 2022
A Rock Is a Rock Is a Rock
You got your feelings hurt at school, again,
you tell me seriously
that you feel a heartbeat
thump thump thunking
in your pet rock, you swear you can.
I say it’s your own heartbeat,
in your palm, hammering.
I am straddling dinner
and your brother’s baseball game--
and you try to explain
how your best friend tried to make you
throw the stupid thing away.
I say I told you not to take it to school,
I told you, over and over,
a rock is a rock is a rock.
I almost say, out loud, baby
sometimes you’re just too much
but your breaths are coming hard,
your small chest heaves—love,
there is nothing weak about you.
I turn the stove off.
You let me hug you,
the pulse of you
barely surface deep.
When you let me hold him,
Rocky is still warm.
You believe in so many things,
JRM: What can you share with readers who are exploring writing chapbooks?
RB: Calling it a chapbook necessarily focuses your theme and scope—and that helped me get
my mind around the idea. I wasn’t trying to write a book…I was only working on a
chapbook. I read a lot of other people’s chapbooks. And I looked up contest deadlines
and used them as goalpost deadlines. I found poets whose work I admired, in literary
journals I like, and I ordered their books, scoured their bios for ideas of where to submit.
Submitting my poems before they were part of a book also provided me a sort of
scaffolding—I knew certain poems had resonance and strength.
Time to Think About 2023 New Year Postcard Exchange
Won't you join us? Sign up for the 2023 New Year Postcard Exchange. Send five, send ten or send to all. Did you know there are 44 days until 2022 ends? Woohoo! Let's celebrate the New Year with a New Year Postcard? In Japan, it’s called Nengajo, a Japanese custom of ushering in the new year.How It Works:
One More Announcement!
I have very exciting news.
It started as a disappointment, my in-person poetry reading for November 13 was canceled due to health concerns of one of the editors. However, they have decided to go with a Zoom Reading for Issue 12 of The Poeming Pigeon on Saturday, December 10 at 4:00 PST. I will be sending out the information as soon as I get a hold of it.
I’m excited because now my online poetry friends will be able to tune in.
11/18/2022 02:35:51 am
Hooray! I love your thoughtful interview and seeing that "our own" Rebecca Brock from Laura's group has a chap book. It's wonderful! And, I'm all in on a postcard exchange. I haven't been too happy with how vistaprint "centers" my art when I try to make cards as of late. I might give zazzle or walgreens a try. If you have tips in that regard, I'd love to hear them.
11/18/2022 04:55:13 am
I love how poetry can be a memory bank. My favorite line: "your small chest heaves—love," Lovely! And yay for your online reading, Jone, and so great that you are continuing the New Year's postcard tradition. Thank you! xo
11/18/2022 07:27:53 am
I love hearing about Rebecca's poetry journey, an inspiration for us all, Jone. I agree that Laura's February group is a gift every year. Having one granddaughter come home this week with a tale of teasing made me connect sadly with the rock poem. The advice shown in "a rock is a rock is a rock.
11/18/2022 10:46:58 am
Thank you for this post Jone! I'm excited about the postcard exchange, and grateful to you for organizing. Also, the interview was really lovely. It's great to hear about other poets' processes for shaping piles of poems in to a collection-- I always come away from process posts energized and motivated. Happy Poetry Friday!
11/19/2022 04:56:06 am
What a wonderful conversation! I remember this poem so well "I turn the stove off" but "Rocky is still warm") and I see that I asked the right person for feedback on the challenge of conceiving and ordering a collection, whether chapbook length or longer. Congratulations to Rebecca on this milestone (there will be more), gratitude for the February Poem Project Community, and huzzah to you, Jone--I'm so glad I'll be able to hear you read on the 10th!
11/19/2022 07:33:10 am
Rebecca Brock is new to me and I'm a newly-minted fan after this interview and reading "A Rock is a Rock is a Rock." Thanks for this, Jone!
11/20/2022 06:39:51 am
Thanks so much for all the bits in this post! Rebecca's poetry sounds so accessible. I'll look forward to reading her book. No doubt it will resonate with many of us moms.
11/22/2022 12:19:54 pm
Hi Jone! I am glad your poetry reading will still be able to be viewed. it is an exciting chance to read one's creations to an audience. I hope it goes well. I had my first public poetry reading this past May - it was in person and went fine. Still, I know i'd change a few things - like memorizing my pieces. Thanks for organizing the post card exchange too. I signed up - I enjoyed it last year very much and look forward to doing it again. Happy Thanksgiving!
11/23/2022 09:30:28 am
Thank you, again, Jone for hosting me! And thanks for all the kind comments about Rocky.
Comments are closed.
All photos and poems in these blog posts are copyrighted to Jone Rush MacCulloch 2006- Present. Please do not copy, reprint or reproduce without written permission from me.
2023 Progressive Poem
April 1 Mary Lee Hahn, Another Year of Reading
April 2 Heidi Mordhorst, My Juicy Little Universe
April 3 Tabatha, The Opposite of Indifference
April 4 Buffy Silverman
April 5 Rose Cappelli, Imagine the Possibilities
April 6 Donna Smith, Mainely Write
April 7 Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche
April 8 Leigh Anne, A Day in the Life
April 9 Linda Mitchell, A Word Edgewise
April 10 Denise Krebs, Dare to Care
April 11 Emma Roller, Penguins and Poems
April 12 Dave Roller, Leap Of Dave
April 13 Irene Latham Live You Poem
April 14 Janice Scully, Salt City Verse
April 15 Jone Rush MacCulloch
April 16 Linda Baie, TeacherDance
April 17 Carol Varsalona, Beyond Literacy Link
April 18 Marcie Atkins
April 19 Carol Labuzzetta at The Apples in My Orchard
April 20 Cathy Hutter, Poeturescapes
April 21 Sarah Grace Tuttle, Sarah Grace Tuttle’s Blog,
April 22 Marilyn Garcia
April 23 Catherine, Reading to the Core
April 24 Janet Fagal, hosted by Tabatha, The Opposite of Indifference
April 25 Ruth, There is no Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town
April 26 Patricia J. Franz, Reverie
April 27 Theresa Gaughan, Theresa’s Teaching Tidbits
April 28 Karin Fisher-Golton, Still in Awe Blog
April 29 Karen Eastlund, Karen’s Got a Blog
April 30 Michelle Kogan Illustration, Painting, and Writing