Featured Poet: Paul Otremba

Several years ago, when I hadn’t been doing much writing and was near crazy with the frustration of not having enough time to do it, my husband wisely insisted I take a poetry workshop over the summer to get myself back into writing regularly.  I hadn’t produced any poems for years, though, having focused almost exclusively on fiction since my son was born three years earlier — when I could focus, that is, which wasn’t much.  I was unhappy, steadily denying a vital part of who I am by allowing myself to be busy with other work.

Poetry, Aaron reminded me, was something I could do in relatively short pieces; the manuscripts were bite-sized compared to the novel I was trying to write.  I could draft and workshop and revise and edit and be done without taking years and years to finish something.  (I suppose it must seem, to an observer, like a poem is the closest to instant gratification this craft achieves.  I suppose, in a way, it can be.)

Anyway, the poetry workshop I signed up for that summer was led by Paul Otremba, and it was cathartic and intellectually nourishing in the best of ways.  Without abandoning fiction, I became a poet again; I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it.  That summer was wonderful, geeking out about language every week in Paul’s class.

Paul Otremba is the author of two poetry collections, The Currency (Four Way Books 2009) and the forthcoming Pax Americana (Four Way Books 2015), which will include the poem posted here today. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in such places as Witness, Southwest Review, Hotel Amerika, Green Mountains Review, Third Coast, and The Minnesota Review. He teaches creative writing at Rice University. His website, where he also writes about poetry and cooking, is http://paulotremba.com.


The Hive

– “To the Age Its Art, to Art Its Freedom”


New techniques, material
layers, so a body
of work glued together—we found

that break showing honey.
Oh, Vienna, you cannot move!
But always in the same period-dress

gardens and words
feel stepped on.
Their progressions curdle

behind our profiles
like eggs, or an obvious Typhon
if only you know the handshakes

for entrance to the dance.
And Mal? Your strings
still echo full of wolves.

At the end of the day
they call us where?
Just some hope a cue summons

within you. Here, I submit
a list of my complaints.
I did but taste the field.


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