Summer Reading: Mutiny Gallery by Poet BK Fischer

June 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm , by

It’s summer time and the livin’ is officially easy … doesn’t a glass of lemonade (or chardonnay) outside on the porch with a great new book sound idyllic right about now? I can hear your sighs of relief already. We’re sure you’ve got the drinks covered, but we’d like to recommend the read that accompanies you during your next moment of peace this season. BK Fischer is a poet from Sleepy Hollow, New York, and her novel-in-verse Mutiny Gallery is just the engrossing book you need. New to poetry? Fischer’s thoughtfully crafted poems bring everyday life into a new, intriguing light—the perfect introduction to the genre.

We caught up with Fischer about the inspiration for the book, her life as a writer, and what to do if you feel like you want to be a poet … and you didn’t know it. (Couldn’t resist!)

Tell us a little bit about Mutiny Gallery. What was your inspiration?

Mutiny Gallery tells the story of a woman who leaves her suburban home and takes her 10-year-old son on a cross-country road trip, stopping at offbeat museums along the way. Two things inspired me to write the book. In 2007, I wrote a short play about a woman named Claire and her toddler son, Max, which was performed at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill, New York. When that production wrapped up, I was looking for a new project, and I wondered what would happen to those characters ten years later. At the same time, I picked up a book a friend had given me called Little Museums: Over 1000 Small (and Not-So-Small) American Showplaces, and I started to imagine Max and Claire visiting these strange places. Their visits to these museums began to tell the story of their experiences.

Readers new to poetry might be surprised to learn that your collection is actually a ‘novel-in-verse,’ a full story told through poetry. What makes poetry the best medium for this story?

I liked that telling the story through a series of poems allowed room for gaps—leaps in time, place, and emotion. Our lives are not usually one continuous story, but rather a series of memories, episodes, events, and intense moments (with long dull stretches in between). Lyric poetry is especially suited to conveying moments of extremity, fear, quest, and revelation, and for capturing the intensity of a stopping place in the mind.

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Fall In Love Again With Poetry

November 3, 2009 at 3:52 pm , by

autumn leaves, very shallow focusToday you’ve probably read dozens of e-mails, news items, tweets and status updates. But when was the last time you heard someone recite a poem? For me, surprisingly, it was twice in the past week—in fact, I was pelted by poems like bright autumn leaves in the wind. I wanted to pile them up and roll in them. I’d forgotten just how therapeutic that could be.

First, at work I overheard two colleagues talking about poems having to do with autumn. I chimed in with the snippets I could remember from my school days: for one, Keats’s “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…” (so charmingly butchered to “fruitlessness” by Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones’s Diary). And then Shakespeare’s adorably mournful metaphor for his own aging in “That time of year thou mayst in me behold/when yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang/Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,/Bare ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birds sang.” Oh, and who could forget Robert Frost’s  “two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

But then Tom Claire, our associate managing editor, bowled me over by reciting one I’d never heard before, in its entirety. If you don’t know it, you should. It’s “The Importance of Autumn” by beat poet Lew Welch, from his out-of-print book Ring of Bone. (No, you can’t Google this poem, but if you post a comment asking for it here, Tom says he’ll e-mail it to you.)

SAVED BY A POEMNow my poetry pump was primed. So I read Kim Rosen’s beautiful new book Saved By A Poem: The Transformative Power of Words. It’s filled with stories of people whose lives were changed or helped by the power of a poem, including the author, who lost her life savings to Bernie Madoff. Guess what? Poetry sustained and inspired her through an incredibly difficult time.

Then I was lucky enough to be invited to a small gathering at writer Eve Ensler’s loft in New York City, where Rosen recited several of the poems from the book by heart—and from the heart. Hearing these poems spoken aloud reminded me of the power of language that is not tweets, not sound bites, not status updates. As Ensler wrote in the book’s foreword:

“Poetry is a form of revolution. It strengthens our muscle for care, our capacity for intricate metaphoric thinking, our appreciation for ambiguity. It take us out of the literal so that we can see what is real.”

What poems have helped you see what is real?