THE BOOK: Millions of Ravenous Creatures
THE AUTHOR: Rodger LeGrand
THE PUBLISHER: Big Table Publishing
SUMMARY: These poems explore loss, longing, and love. They look at the grittiness of daily living—including topics like homelessness, drug abuse, and foster care—illustrating with the rhythms of language how even in the midst of sorrow we can find a way to embrace hope.
THE BACK STORY: “I usually write early in the morning. However, throughout the day I might jot down a line or two while on the subway or during a walk to get coffee. It might be an utterance I overhear, something that stops me for a moment. It could be the topic that gets my attention or the word choice or the cadence that pulls me toward it. And sometimes I get that same pause from reading a line of poetry by Bill Knott, Thomas Lux, Stephen Dobyns, Alan Dugan, Weldon Kees, or countless other great poets. That’s how poems start for me—with the sound of language being used to make connections with others. It means that we aren’t all as alone is it sometimes might feel.
“The poems in this collection are informed by my experiences living in different locations, in different environments. Some of these poems originally appeared in literary magazines. Some of them appeared in limited edition chapbooks. Other poems are newer and can only be found in print in this collection.”
WHY THIS TITLE?: The title, Millions of Ravenous Creatures, comes from a line in one of the poems in the collection, “Caterpillar on a Hand Glider”. When considered in the context of the entire collection, the title is meant to be a nod to Ernest Becker’s work in The Denial of Death and Escape from Evil.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? It would be great if more people read poems. They don’t have to read my poems. I’d be happy if people read more poems in general.
“This is a book unlike any other first book I have read in that it is whole, fully realized. The entire book is lighted by an almost excruciating tenderness towards the world and its inhabitants. It’s also tough, and funny, without a peep of sappiness. This is a poet who notices deeply, brilliantly, and with a heart as big as a boulder. Read this book!” — Thomas Lux, Child Made of Sand
“The language of Rodger LeGrand’s poetry moves from surprise to surprise, just as the poems themselves in his book Millions of Ravenous Creatures move from surprise to surprise. This is a good thing. Always there is a shuffling between clarity and mystery, precision and ambiguity, humor and darkness as he works through the conundrums of how we live and how we might live better—not in terms of money, though that would be nice, but metaphysically, or, more simply, basic kindness in a world where kindness is too often a rarity. This is a fine book and you should buy it.” — Stephen Dobyns, Winter’s Journey
“‘The more I let go, the more I realize/how tightly I’ve been holding on’ Rodger LeGrand says in one of the poems in his new book, Millions of Ravenous Creatures, and in a sense, the entire collection is a journey to discover how deep our affiliation with the world might be, and whether too tight a hold on it might lead to dissatisfactions. The poems’ subjects range from the grandly cosmological to the acutely domestic and diurnal, but they always keep in mind how we might go about finding our place in the scheme of things, both psychically and spiritually. Though the world might sometimes provoke us to anger or fear, or send us reeling
into helplessness and depression, or sunder us with its insouciance, still, these poems suggest, there is balm in our lives to soothe and revive, and that balm is what we call love, love in the presence of the other and the beloved, which makes us, finally, more than what we are.” — Greg Djanikian, Dear Gravity
AUTHOR PROFILE: I read more than I write, and I prefer it that way. I think that reading poetry is a method for writing better poems. When I’m not reading poetry I’m studying Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu. Grandmaster Moy Yat was a painter and calligrapher. His approach to Kung Fu instruction and study matches how I study poetry. Grandmaster Moy Yat’s teaching style was handed down to his top disciple, my Sifu, Pete Pajil. As a result, I study two arts, poetry and Ving Tsun, that inform each other as I explore the complexities of both.
January Snowfall in the Pacific Northwest
Top of this redwood
is a pale-green luna moth.
Branches spread like veins in leaves.
Its trunk: kimono-bark
that rescinds centuries,
roots fan through soil.
Our heads tilt back, we taste yuki
the way we taste haiku.
The whiteness catches on our tongues,
dissolves, and I think of all the things I want
to understand but can’t. And she smiles.
If we could speak the same language,
I would ask her to always
look at me this way.
Caterpillar on a Hand Glider
The caterpillar pulled itself
onto a broad flat leaf
and clung to it
as though if it held tight enough
it could become part of the leaf.
As the wind picked up
the leaf lifted, slowly
at first, with a
But steadily it gained,
higher by the second,
and lifted through an opening
in the forest’s canopy.
Above the tree tops,
above the impending cocoon
and the risks of a million
ravenous creatures, it hovered
as though it had already transformed
into an explosion
of Monarch brilliance,
without losing itself, without becoming
unrecognizable with wings, with fewer legs,
after struggling free from a cramped,
dry, pill-shaped case,
it could, in that moment,
high above the trees,
as a caterpillar still
being a caterpillar,
What can she do? Nothing to look for, nothing
that is hers, nothing to put in her pockets and call her own
except fists. She owns her fists.
Not that she would use them to hammer
a slipped board back in place,
wave them in the air to incite a riot.
Not that she would fight back, punch
with them, one shot to the throat
to get it out—years of disgust
seeping from the corners of her eyes. To get
her fists, delicate bulbs, through the skin,
bury them in the esophagus,
her drunk husband’s esophagus; change his
breathing for once. What can she do? Talk? Write letters?
Wrap her fist around a pencil and scratch across a page?
Words get nowhere, they mean nothing if no one listens,
they fix her in place and she turns to stone—
a statue with small onion-shaped fists…
onions for eyes, onions lumped in the throat.
If only she could punch her fists into the ground
and grow a new word, something he would understand.
One word, one single word that would catch his breath, catch him
in the act of not thinking or caring and she could catch
his collar in her fists and shake him out of the bottle
he’s sunken into—beautiful fists, beautiful
fists. Squeeze tighter, tighter.
From the Passenger’s Seat
After he’s right a few times and gets comfortable with being right,
he feels it’s his job to tell people how to live,
to make them happier. First he counsels them
on grocery lists and clothing. As his confidence builds
he tells them about an obnoxious laugh, the faults of their families.
This will make the world a better place. His way.
They’re just missing the point and need to be redirected.
So he shows them, gladly noting traffic violations
from the passenger’s seat,
happy to be the honest friend
and tell when the hips are getting wide.
And sometimes he is thanked for his honesty—
a streamer of toilet paper stuck to a shoe,
crust on the edge of a nostril. Honesty.
He has the responsibility of being their one honest friend,
a superhero fighting inadequacies around the neighborhood.
At this point it doesn’t really matter if he’s right or not.
It’s a matter of principle: someone has to do it.
If not him, who will show them the way?
They’re ships in a harbor. He is the sea.
He doesn’t want to swallow them in a wave,
but he will if he has to. They need to catch up,
catch on. And he becomes so confident
that his idea of helping slips his mind.
Now it’s about being right. He’s right.
His friends don’t act very friendly anymore.
They walk by without a wave or nod,
without acknowledging he exists. They don’t need him.
Watching them pass he shouts advice and insights, angrier
by the second, swelling. The more he swells,
the further they go, washing an ocean through his nose
and eyes and ears and down his throat.
He chokes on it, this flood of advice.
What flower would you be
if you were growing on the side of Mt. Ararat,
Grandmother (Medz Miyrig, the elder,
the matriarch)? Never a flower at all, she says.
And I can taste the list she sings:
Mint, cilantro, dill…. Plants with function.
Herbs. Edible, medicinal. In Armenia
the air smells like a history lesson
and sounds like feet dancing across a dirt floor.
These days the red cookbook sits unopened
on top of the fridge. No music playing.
No cumin drifting through the house.
When a genocide survivor dies,
the entire world loses a piece of itself.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Online at Amazon.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.rodgerlegrand.com
Big Table Publishing http://www.bigtablepublishing.com