Dzanc's Best of the Web Anthology--About the poem, "Requiem for the Orchard"

I received my copy of the Best of the Web 2010 Anthology last week. Matt and Dan asked if I could say a few words about the poem, "Requiem for the Orchard" that appears within its pages and I'd be more than happy to. The poem first appeared in the online journal Guernica/ a magazine of art & politics. 

I had started drafting a long poem in February of 2009 because I had been writing all these poems about my experience as a kid trying to earn a buck at one of the several apple orchards near my hometown. It so happened that one of my classmates was the son of an orchard owner and he roped a bunch of us into doing cheap menial labor. The bulk of what we did during that time was painting the bases of the apple trees. The reason for this odd activity is that there are some wood boring insects who don't like it and the paint also winterizes the tree. Anyway, we'd paint all the newly planted saplings which took quite awhile and we were ideal labor for it because we were relatively low to the ground and cheap. When you have a bunch of pre-teen boys all grouped together with no supervision, high jinks ensue.

As far as the craft of the poem, I wanted the piece to be a sequence of sonnets, but I had no idea how many sonnets would be in the sequence. Additionally, I wanted the poem to follow a particular sonic quality, so the poem uses a lot of anaphora to produce that sonic quality but also to suggest a speed/pace. I wanted the poem to sound like someone was running through a maze of trees, looking for a way out but only finding more trees. I also staggered the lines to allow the eye to perceive the symmetry of an orchard row. So there was a lot of intent going into the poem in terms of sonic structure and shape. Several of the questions from the first sonnet become the first lines of the consecutive sonnet. So, for example, in the first section, third line I write "What's left now?" In the second section, the question appears again as the first line. In the first section, "What shape and hammer . . ." is a line in the fourth line which becomes the first line of the third section. In my mind, when I conceived of this structure, I thought that I could sustain the structure, but after awhile, at about stanza 7 and 8, I realized that was it. I had written myself out of the sequence.

The poem does become the "title poem" of my new collection, Requiem for the Orchard, but I had to make some decisions during the editing process of the book. More on that later. Right now, off to class!