Features, Poems

Ed Skoog: “What’s Your Beef?”

Photo J. Robert Lennon

Over the course of the next few weeks, as the Winter/Spring 2010-11 issue of Poetry Northwest (v5.n2) is made ready, we’ll be featuring a series of poems by Ed Skoog written in response to photographs by J. Robert Lennon.

When asked bout the process of composing these poems, Ed writes that “the question on my side, once I’d agreed to the collaboration, was what form the poems would take in response to John’s photographs. He’d already taken them; I’d already admired them. The photographs were taken around Ithaca, New York, and I recognized only a few of the locations from my visits there. Here in Seattle the March through June I worked on the sequence, it was gloomy and what little light came through the leafing apple tree was lonely. These poems started spinning out from the memory of the photos rather than from direct looking. I worked on them a long time, puzzling them out, puzzling into them, and in the end took them much more seriously than I’d set out to, in order to escape seriousness. They are intended to be considered in tandem with the photographs, or as part of an imperfectly overheard conversation between two old friends.”

In Seattle, don’t miss Ed Skoog reading on October 15 as part of the Richard Hugo House Literary Series, and on October 30, 7:30pm at Elliott Bay Books, supporting Kary Wayson along with Kevin Craft, Erin Malone, and Rebecca Hoogs reading Obstructionist Revisions of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129.  New Yorkers: catch him reading on November 19 at New York University’s Lilian Vernon Creative Writers House, with Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Gregory Pardlo, and Gregory Orr.

Photo J. Robert Lennon

What’s Your Beef?

The side door is usually the best way.
The answer, too timid to approach

directly, conceals further agitations,
like a series of interrogation rooms.

Here’s the door I go through to smoke
on breaks between the commerce of lines.

Boxes sigh rot and squidge into further
mysteries of drain. I’m not suggesting

here is a place to address your gripes.
This is a poem and I can’t hear you.

The question returns, ring in its nose,
bull to uneasy sleep: what is a camera

Ed Skoog‘s first collection of poems, Mister Skylight, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2009. His poems have appeared in Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Threepenny Review, and Poetry.  He has been a Bread Loaf Fellow and Writer-in-Residence at the Richard Hugo House and George Washington University.  He lives in Seattle and teaches at Everett Community College.

J. Robert Lennon is a novelist and photographer living in Ithaca, NY.  He teaches writing at Cornell University.

Next: Ed Skoog’s “Dean”