I’m very happy to announce the release of my second collection, Father Me Again, from Spartan Press.
One of the thoughts that I had during my seizure on July 5 was how can I read when I cannot form the words to speak? Since my July 24 appointment, however, I’ve doubled up on my anticonvulsant Levetiracetam, a.k.a. Keppra, and haven’t had another seizure.
I might add here that I’m calling the July 5 episode of temporary aphasia a seizure not because it in any way resembles my previous seizures but because my oncologist Dr. Michael Salacz said my description of it is consistent with the description of a seizure.
And I have, in fact, read, since the seizure: My July 19 reading at Open House has been uploaded to YouTube in poem-to-two-poem-length segments, a foretaste of Father Me Again, my second collection, the poems of which “grow in stature and distinction,” says New Letters editor-in-chief Robert Stewart, “by elevating seemingly mundane details of life,” beginning in what 2017-2018 Oklahoma Poet Laureate Jeanetta Calhoun Mish calls, “the quotidian.”
Poet John Hodgen says, “[These poems] chronicle what Morse calls ‘this narrow life,’ this transition we all are making between life and death, but which he sees with an intensity few of us will ever know,” and L.S. Klatt, my first mentor, author of The Wilderness After Which:
If everything in Father Me Again is bereaved and estranged, it is also newborn. When Morse “speaks” his “shriek,” he does so ‘among the living,’ and he does not muzzle his wonderment. What a joy to stumble headlong into poems of such equipoise, what anguish, what solace.
From my Oct. 2014 glioblastoma diagnosis and May 2018 graduation from University of Missouri-Kansas City with an M.F.A., I have lived in utter amazement, suspended in a state of grace, so blessed and grateful for the small and sometimes seemingly negligible role I’ve been given to play in each of your lives, the role of a poet, a voice, however hesitant and infirm.
Many of you receiving this email may have played a role in one of my past lives and will be shocked to learn, perhaps for the first time, about the 14.6 life expectancy of a glioblastoma diagnosis, the turn my life has taken. For those of you who live in far-away places but would still like to get your hands on a copy of Father Me Again, please visit the following site:
Eve Brackenbury has graciously volunteered her secure online portal for *signed* book purchases. In addition to the $12 cost of the book, however, a postage and handling ($3.99) will have to be applied.
For those of you in the area, come hear me read on August 24:
A friend I taught with in 2011 at the Shandong Institute of Business and Technology, Jorinde Berben, recently commented on my Facebook page: “Though this is neither your job nor purpose, every time I think of you I am reminded how each hour really is an amazing gift, not a given.”
I replied, “Actually I can think of no greater job, no greater purpose.”
The first words out of the mouth of my oncologist, Dr. Salacz, this morning, were the scan looks good. We discussed my July 5 incident. He was able to confirm that my description of it is consistent with a seizure but nothing more.
What he’d be more “interested in” or “excited by,” he said, is a cascade of symptoms, a barrage of seizure-like activity. Not the solitary incident, the fluke, but a progression.
I’ve attached a photograph of the conclusion of my radiology report for those interested in getting into the medical discourse. I insisted on the print-out after having the University of Kansas purposely withhold the test results on MyChart until after the appointment.
Dear friends and family,
Yesterday I had what felt like a new symptom at Inklings’ Books & Coffee Shoppe where I list books on eBay for Eve Brackenbury. The words that best describe it are temporary aphasia, that is, a temporary loss of speech. I could see the words I wanted to say but they came out wrong. Kind of stroke-like. At first, I had the experience of being tongue-tied, I stuttered and jumbled syllables, which I found kind of funny, then embarrassing. Eve pointed out my ears turning red. It stopped being funny but couldn’t get the syllables lined up in determination.
Then Eve had me read from a sheet of paper and where I read girls I said males.
Of course, I thought how am I ever going to do another reading if I can’t read? I was able to improve with effort and concentration. But left feeling very scared. After such a long stretch of no symptoms and no tumor growth, of regular productivity and love of life, I am afraid that this symptom signals a recurrence. After consulting with Dr. Salacz, the nurse of my oncologist suggested what I had “suffered” wasn’t new but another seizure, despite the fact that it manifested itself as a cognitive rather than physical event.
One of the main points of clarification with the nurse was that recurrence of the symptom does not necessarily equal recurrence in tumor, does not necessarily equal new growth. For the optimists among us, this is the basis for the argument that I shouldn’t get ahead of myself and jump to conclusions.
I have an MRI scheduled on July 16 and should know the results at the very latest by July 24. If I’m clear, I’ll throw a Facebook party. We can all get online together.
If not, well, I’ll be fighting tooth and nail to stay with you. Crossing my fingers and arranging my final manuscripts. Speaking of which, look for my second collection, Father Me Again, by summer’s end, and be sure to attend my July 19 reading. For details:
Since my seizure in 2014 and subsequent glioblastoma diagnosis, I have been leading a changed life. It is because of this that I am often drawn in my poetry to the language of renewal, second lives and afterlives. In my poetry I live again in those moments and in those times that most define for me what it means to be alive.
It is for this reason that one night, awake and wracked with steroidal joint pain, hobbling from chair back to countertop, and with only a median life expectancy of 14.6 months, I decided to apply to be admitted into the Creative Writing Program at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. Three years later, I graduated with my Master of Fine Arts degree.
Heading into my final semester at UMKC, I came out with my first collection of poems, Fall Risk, from Glass Lyre Press, in Glenview, Illinois.