Catching Up With Stethoscope: Glenn Stowell

In November, Glenn Stowell ’13 told us about how he had just begun work on a collection of poetry.  Since then, he has been working with his student editor, Corey Dethier ’12, in a collaborative process.  Says Corey, “He would send me 15 or so poems at a time, which I would then look over and give back to him with suggestions and notes about what I thought. We would then typically meet to talk over why he made certain decisions, where he was going etc. The whole thing was driven by Glenn, and–at least in my opinion–turned out a great set of poems.”

On Friday, May 11, Glenn and the three other Stethoscope writers will give a reading in the Shapiro Writing Center (3rd floor of Albritton) at 5pm.  His completed book, Until We Leave, will be released at this time.

The Lookout
An excerpt

There’s a break in the guardrail
on Daniel Shay’s highway,
a dirt turnaround
impacted by paws,
and a few stones for sitting.
The front row pines lie felled
for a view of the reservoir
cut into the belly of the valley.
Below the lookout,
oaks shroud small hills
growing still in their shade
longing for softer skin
though rooted in place.

Reservoir edges
split like spidered glass
as young ice strains and creaks
with the morning sun
and water beneath. Bill sits
on a slab of shale
churning his temple,
the cold like a nosebleed.
The trees’ hairlines recede.

A view unscrews the deadbolts
that steady our blinders.
No one stares up a hill
to think about their life;
it’s the pose atop a summit
that discloses a brutal fact:
you’re alone here—and
there’s only the reservoir out there,
brimming with distance.

Tell us about your final product.  How has it changed since you first envisioned it?

My final project is a collection poems unified by a consistent cast of characters, an interpretable chronology, a setting, and a narrative that grows out of those facts. This narrative is one I’ve been working through for a couple of years now and so the feelings I associate with it are well established and particular in my mind. Before I lucked out with LJZ & the Stethoscope Press, I acted out on these distinct feelings in a few different short stories and vignettes written over the last long while but was never offered the groundwork to write a collection of poetry.

While I had a clear idea of how this narrative felt after all that time, I was never forced to sort it all out until I began definitively working on Until We Leave. In short, when I first envisioned it, it was just that—a vision. Or more accurately, a heartful of loosely connected visions. Now, months and months later, I’ve laid it all down in the cement of a physical, printed book. What’s changed is that it’s no longer a vision; it’s a real thing. And what shocks me the most is the fact that it’s a thing that other people can have access to, that other people can feel for themselves. I just hope very hard that I’ve laid it all down in the proper places.
What was it like working one-on-one with an editor? In what ways was your editor the most helpful?

Corey Dethier was my editor and he was quite fantastic. In the early stages of the process, he really let me do my own thing because he recognized that I had a lot material to sift through and rearrange. I give him a lot of credit for trusting me to do that. I eventually came to him with a third of it written—a portion that I thought would give him a more concrete idea of what I was trying to do—and he pruned through it meticulously. He had a lot of little thoughtful edits that I think really strengthened parts of individual poems.

I really respect Corey. His ear and eye and his writing are all tremendous. So to have somebody like that in your corner, saying, “Yeah, this is great” and to have him genuinely understand what it is you’re up to was invaluable. I think having his approval and affirmation kept me going at some points. You know, I’m sure if I brought the manuscript to my lovely mother, she would’ve been exceedingly encouraging. And not to take anything away from my mother, it’s another thing entirely when writers you’re proud to associate with are enthusiastic about your project. So I think not having to endure to lonely task of writing alone was a uniquely Stethoscope fixture.

What was the most frustrating part of putting together the book?

I think writing the second poems of a given day was the most frustrating part. In doing something like this, occasionally, you don’t write for days at a time. In that period, you’re often thinking about particular poems or about individual lines or images that stick in your head. By the time you sit down, you generally have a poem pretty well thought out. Sure, it’s not perfect or final but it’s well designed and you’re happy to have given it a good attempt. On a lot of those days—after a successful first poem—you feel like you’re on a roll and so you start writing a second one. Except this time, it’s like you’re making use of your roll-over minutes, those Junior Varsity thoughts and metaphors that weren’t big enough or strong enough for the first poem. You generally re-read the second poem and realize how much it sucks. A miserable attempt like that gets you anxious about your ability and then you don’t write for days at a time.
What most surprised you about the process of creating your book?

I guess I hadn’t considered how much input I’d get into creating the physical commodity of the book. I knew nothing about that part of it, either. I don’t know if I’ve just resigned myself to a sort of capitalistic fatalism where once I’ve done my job, I ship it along so that the other divisions of labor can do theirs. Luckily, Leia Jane Zidel was in my corner and she must know everything there is to know about book making. She guided me through a slew of various esoteric choices about margin size, and numbering conventions, and cover-paper pulpousness. I am deeply indebted to her.

Are you satisfied with your final product?  What are you planning to do with the copies that you receive?

I’m very satisfied with my final product and even more so with my Stethoscope experience. I’m planning to give a copy to my grandparents. I stole a lot of little details from their lives and I really hope I’ve done them the justice they deserve. They are a tremendously resolute pair and I’d like them to know how inspiring that is to me. They are resolute individuals, sure. But what’s more remarkable than that is that they’ve pulled through seven children, tough economic outlooks, and myriad other obstacles without any more than each other and an unnamable, unshakable hope. Sixty-five years of marriage is heroic and accordingly, my grandmother, Marilyn lends her name to the hero of this collection.

I dedicated the collection to them and to James JW Richardson, a teacher of mine in high school. We regained contact about a year ago and became good friends. I was editing his unpublished poetry manuscript along with him when he passed this fall. I’ve read the opening poem to that manuscript at a few readings I’ve had this year in a gesture that I hope honors him well. My hope is that this book will be my last tribute to him. Not because I want him to cease being important for me, but because he deserves the rest. I will be sending a copy to his sister.

 

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