THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “GHOSTING,” BY KIRBY GANN AND “THE VOYAGE OF THE STINGRAY,” BY RICHARD STEINITZ, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.
THE BOOK: Abandoned Earth
PUBLISHED IN: 2016
THE AUTHOR: Linwood Rumney
THE EDITOR: I know it’s a cliche for writers to mention their spouses as editors, but in my case it’s true. My wife, Jessica Rae Hahn, is my first and last and best editor. She read individual poems in the manuscript more times than I could say, and she looked at the manuscript at least a half-dozen times.
THE PUBLISHER: Gival Press (http://www.givalpress.com/)
SUMMARY: Abandoned Earth is informed by my upbringing in a working poor family in rural Maine and the transformation I underwent as a first-generation college graduate. A sense of location features prominently, as do themes of class and labor. The book works to connect local themes with a broader globalizing consciousness, and, as a result, class consciousness and ecological concerns also figure prominently.
THE BACK STORY: When poets put books together, there are two prominent approaches—poet as project developer and poet as curator. Project developer poets generally know beforehand what they want the final book to be about and work to write poems that reflect those considerations. Curator poets, on the other hand, tend to focus on individual poems, shaping the final book from a selection of poems written over a certain period of time.
Most works of poetry probably represent a balance of these two approaches, but I put Abandoned Earth together primarily as a curator, not a project developer. That’s a long way of saying I never really decided to write the book and few of the poems were written into my preconceived notion of what the book would be. It took shape over a long period of writing poems and trying to use those poems to form a manuscript. I wrote the first draft of the oldest poem in the book when I was 19, and I finished the newest poem in the book when I was 32. I am a restless writer, which means my interests tend to vary widely, and as a result I have explored an array of traditions and approaches to writing. In curating Abandoned Earth, the challenge became crafting a book of poetry that was thematically cohesive while reflecting a range of traditions.
WHY THIS TITLE?: The manuscript went through a number of different titles, as most manuscripts do. The other two major contenders were Three Dogs, which primarily calls attention to the eventual structuring of the book through three short lyric poems, and Shells and Strange, which is taken from “Rockland Harbor,” an elegy for my brother. Though I liked both titles, and some friends preferred those titles over Abandoned Earth, neither really seemed to capture the complexity of the work as a whole.
As I cycled through these titles and others, I always came back to Abandoned Earth because it seemed to be the title that could most speak to the many themes mentioned above. In some ways I think of the book as a Bildungsroman in poems. The title comes from the poem “Late Blossoms,” which is about the land of my childhood home–a defunct apple orchard in central Maine. In that sense, the title points toward the ambivalent experience of nostalgia, that we simultaneously yearn for the past even as we recognize, if we are being honest, that the past we yearn for is fantasy. We also have to recognize that our present has been nurtured by and limited by our past, what we are attached to as memory and experience and what we have to abandon in pursuit of what we want to achieve. Likewise, we must always contend with the threat of the past revisiting and destroying us.
So, on the one hand, the title alludes to these deeply personal themes, but I think for many, it also calls attention to the ecological and class themes that run through the book.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Regardless of the tradition I am writing into or in response to, I value accessibility and music, and I hope these values are evident in the book as a whole. There’s also enough formal and stylistic variety in the book that there’s likely to be poems it to appeal to just about anyone, regardless of taste. The work includes short, restrained lyrics that play with syntax, as well as expansive narrative poems. There are strictly formal poems as well as absurdist prose poems. There are earnest poems about love, death, and suffering as well as humorous poems. I worked hard to organize the book into a coherent whole, so those who are interested in such things will find various narrative subtexts spanning the book.
REVIEW COMMENTS: “This wonderful first collection reveals Rumney as a poet of great tonal and formal range. It wields a poetics hewn from dull jackknives, unpolished stones, and harsh northeastern winters—as luminous and dangerous as the ice that breaks branches with its weight. Yet it also traverses warmer climates, startling with wry odes and candid wit, transforming every object of the mundane into “a startling and unlikely jewel.” — Danielle Cadena Deulen, author of Our Emotions Get Carried Away from Us, winner of the Barrow Street Prize
“In Abandoned Earth, Linwood Rumney creates a world both menacing and comforting at once. While wide-eyed with wonder at life’s sorrows, joys and mysteries, he maintains an understated tone that enables him to relate even the strangest events with a measured and convincing voice. This beautifully written collection contains what few books of poetry manage: high spirits, a keen eye and, above all, an embracing wisdom.” —John Skoyles, Ploughshares Poetry Editor and author of Suddenly Its Evening: Selected Poems
“The poems in Linwood Rumney’s Abandoned Earth record a life measured in seasons and the lifespans of dogs. Through a childhood practicing pitches with overripe fruit and leveling water pistols at the sun, to the loves and losses of adulthood, Rumney catalogues the wildness that still has a will. In this book, beauty persists like a love story, a desire you can’t seem to shake or unlearn.” — Traci Brimhall, author of Our Lady of the Ruins, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize
AUTHOR PROFILE: I grew up in Maine and completed my undergraduate degree in Upstate New York, and then spent a few years wandering in the wildernesses of Boston before pursuing an MFA at Emerson. Eventually, I made my way to Cincinnati, where I completed a PhD a few years ago. I still live in Cincinnati and work at Union Institute & University, where I teach nontraditional students who are often older than me. One of my recent highlights is receiving a SOCHE Faculty Excellence Award through Union. I am currently working on my second manuscript of poetry, tentatively titled Discrepant Means. The title is taken from an essay by Montaigne about human vanity. The work explores a number of minor historical events and tragedies that have absurdist and tragic elements. I am also working on a translation of Aloysius Bertrand’s Gaspard de la nuit (Gaspard of the Night), often considered one of the first works of modern prose poetry.
SAMPLE POEMS: “Late Blossoms,” the poem the title is taken from, appears on my website, http://www.linwoodrumney.com/reading-room.html. Links to other poems published online, some included in Abandoned Earth and some from other projects, can also be found there, as well as some of my translations of Aloysius Bertrand.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Indiebound.org, and the usual suspects like Amazon and Barnes & Nobles
PRICE: around $15 for paperback or $8 as an ebook
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.linwoodrumney.com/contact.html