My reading Augustine through the pandemic book, Far Other, is going to print!
The story of this, my sixth collection of poems, begins in December 2019 before there were any reported cases of COVID-19 in the US. I swung by HalfPrice Books and picked up a copy of Confessions by Saint Augustine. I’d first encountered the seminal memoir as an undergrad at Calvin and dismissed it completely. Returning to it in my thirties felt a strangely appropriate way to address, resolve, or lay to rest my “relationship” with God, that is, how I have ingested, appropriated, or wrestled with the idea of God in my poems.
The first coronavirus reports reached us by way of my mother-in-law in Guizhou, China: We’d actually visited there in February-March and the burial visit had provided the impetus for my August 2019 release Terminal Destination. Coming off the heels of that, I turned out Baldy, my most expansive collection to date, including as it does my experiments with dark humor and collage in a growing body of work about fatherhood alongside the ongoing cancer studies.
What had I been working on October 16 after about a week of a new wave of symptoms of head pressure, dizziness, nausea and fatigue, when I had to suddenly close my computer and stop because the pressure had so abruptly mounted in my head? Far Other. After a couple rejections, my book felt fat, overwritten, even cursed. Yet I had an obligation: A couple readers had encouraged me to condense. Then the notion of including a few of my older poems with an overt Roman Catholic connection struck me and an entire first section comprised of three poems from Fall Risk, two poems from Coming Home with Cancer, three poems from the manuscript at hand, and my latest I-70 Review contribution turned the book on its head.
The rocketing head pressure that made me close my computer and cover my face and stop immediately prompted my trip to the emergency room and I queried Woodley Press from my hospital bed on October 18, the day of the MRI scan that showed the evidence of tumor progression that has now been cast into doubt by my oncologist as potentially also radiation necrosis ….
October 21, the acceptance letter read:
Congratulations! The board at Woodley Press has already read Far Other and we are unanimous in our enthusiasm for it. If the manuscript is still available, we would love to publish it.