So, my new book, “After the Kiss,” is finally out, and I’m incredibly proud and excited. Camille and Becca were fun characters to work with, and this was a neat book to write. I think the finished product turned out well. (And I hope you all do, too!)
One of my favorite things about the book was including Becca’s versions of poems written by existing poets. When you’re starting out as a writer, you often get (very good) advice to find work by other writers you like, and emulate it. I thought this was advice that Becca, who is serious about poetry, would definitely follow. Poets she “copied” in “After the Kiss” include Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Pablo Neruda, and William Carlos Williams, among others. (You will know when you get to one of these poems, because she always writes “With Apologies to . . .” after each title.) It’s my sincere hope that some of you curious readers will track down the originals and compare how she did!
There were some bits of “After the Kiss,” however, that stayed on the cutting room floor—poems and passages from Becca and Camille that didn’t quite fit for whatever reason: didn’t end up moving things along at the right pace, or saying things in the exact best way.
Note from YARN: We’ve hyperlinked the titles of Terra’s poems so that if you click on the title, it will take you to the original poem.
These are a couple of the homage poems Becca wrote that we didn’t include:
the Public School children who live in furnished souls
(with apologies to e.e. cummings)
the Public School children who live in furnished souls
are too beautiful and have lazy minds
(also, with the tired teachers’ blind-eye blessings
elevated grades—unwarranted intellect)
they believe in themselves, and You Tube, both idiotic,
and are invariably interested in so many inane things—
at the present one still finds
nimble fingers twittering. . . or tweeting?
perhaps. While permanent faces boredly banter
the scandal of Olivia and Tyler
. . . the Public School children do not really care, among
Decatur, if sometimes in their box of
cinder-block-bricks and shadowy corners, their
poetic peer rattles like a fragment of broken-hearted candy.
A Song In the Coffeehouse
(To Nadia, with apologies to Gwendolyn Brooks)
I want to go behind the counter now
and maybe down into the kitchen
to where the college kids play.
I want a good time today.
They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My self-consciousness sneers, but I tell myself it’s fine.
How they don’t start shaking their hangovers until quarter to nine.
My self-doubt, she tells me that Nadia
has grown up into a wild woman.
That Denver’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(on account of what he sells out at the back gate).
But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a wild woman too.
And wear mismatched knee-socks and t-shirts of lace
and strut around the coffeehouse with a huge grin on my face.
And here is a portion from Camille’s point of view that didn’t make it, either:
you want to grab them by the shoulders—ellen, luli, willow, autumn, the coffee counter girl, your literature teacher, whomever— and shake them and say, as loud as you can manage (so loud it makes them flinch), what are we doing here??? everything is so at a standstill. everything is waiting for something else to happen: waiting for a boy to call, waiting for a test result, waiting for approval, waiting for someone else to say something before we have to. waiting for the rice to boil. waiting for the other shoe to drop. and after years and years of waiting it finally dawns on you —right when the thing you’ve been most waiting for might actually arrive— that there is nothing ever in the arrival, only always what you do in the preparation for it. the prince will never kiss your sleeping lips (and if he does, he will have bad breath, and a mommy complex, and eight boxes of comic books he’s embarrassed to show you), and you will never earn enough money (not for the plane ticket, and the apartment, and the designer clothes, and the reservation at the restaurant everyone’s dying to get into). you will never eventually come up with the best comeback, and the life-changing concert will never be quite what you expected once you go. you can wait and wait and wait and still the timing won’t be right, your hair won’t be long enough, your thighs will be too wide and your argument will still have a few holes in it when you finally think of something to say. whatever it is you’re waiting for —your prom date, your graduation, your acceptance letter, your new job— will always only ever be insufficient, be halfway what you wanted, because once it comes you will already be dreaming of the next thing coming around the corner, so there is only here—the time in between the thing you are waiting for. there is only ever this and so you had better pay attention, or else one day you will wake up and you will be lost.
Thanks, and enjoy!
–Terra Elan McVoy
Another note from YARN: We hope you enjoyed this “fan-poetry” as much as we have, and that it inspires you to write some of your own! Remember, YARN is running a Fan-Poetry Contest until the end of July. Enter here!
Maybe you’ve read her first novel, “Pure.” The title refers to the purity rings worn by the central female characters in the book–a topic discussed with insight and humor by McVoy. ”Pure” is also a delicious romance, and an honest story about female friendships and how complicated they can get. We highly recommend it.
To support her writing, McVoy’s done a number of things, including managing the indie bookstore Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA. To find out more about her, see her website: terraelan.com