Backstory of the Poem: Stephen Page’s “I Was a Soldier”

baa baa black sheep, two black sheep in a field, a mother and lamb

#329 Backstory of the Poem: Stephen Page’s “I Was a Soldier”:

Preview: Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form?  I had been administrating/managing an eco-ranch/farm for several months, and working in and around fields of grass (which were free-grazed by cattle, sheep, horses, and chickens), fallow fields, fields kept free to grow wild, wood patches, ponds, streams, swamps, and a large salty river that bordered the land—all filled with indigenous flora and fauna—which, as a poet, gave me plenty to be inspired about.  This poem came to me and spilled out on paper through a pen in one complete draft during a day I had been working with the people—the employees, neighbors, and business partners—most all of who had different ethical values than people I had grown up around. These new people were horse thieves, cattle rustlers, malingerers, liars, contract manipulators, and behaved in manners that were less than honest. I had to learn very quickly the art of negotiation (arguing intelligently and fearlessly), and to supervise without appearing to micromanage or look like I was spying (unless it was over one of the bad guys), which sometimes made me feel guilty (for being a hard-a**), even though I was legally and morally in the right. This poem metaphorically reveals how I felt I (or better worded, how the main fictional character in the book felt) had behaved those first few months keeping the ranch profitable, free of bad guys, and eco-friendly.  The poem figuratively reflects a fictional character influencing the unethicals to act honestly, treat the animals mercifully—the old way of ranching was very cruel to animals, and keep the ranch/farm part wildlife refuge, part indigenous flora reserve, and free of harmful pesticides and herbicides.

*read the rest of the interview here: http://chrisricecooper.com/329-backstory-of-the-poem-stephen-pages-i-was-a-soldier/

When Stephen Page is not writing, reading, spending time with his spouse, communing with nature, or walking his dog, he is either accidentally on purpose losing his cell phone or making noise with his electric bass. He is part Apache, part Shawnee, part Mexican, part English, part Scottish, and part Irish. He wanders off a lot during social gatherings, showing up hours later at home.

CHRISTAL ANN RICE COOPER is a newspaper writer, feature stories writer, poet, fiction writer, photographer, and painter. She has a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and completed all of her poetry and fiction workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry. She, her husband Wayne, sons Nicholas and Caleb, cats Nation and Alaska reside in the St. Louis area.

Finishing Line Press

Researching and The Pain from my Childhood

“Researching” and “The Pain from my Childhood,” poems by Stephen Page, have been published in Last Leaves’ first issue (on pages 78 and 101). Download the .pdf to read the magazine (for free). Check out the whole issue.

https://www.lastleavesmag.com/last-leaves-issues

Elizabeth Gauffreau’s Reviews > The Salty River Bleeds

Elizabeth Gauffreau’s Reviews > The Salty River Bleeds

The Salty River Bleeds
by Stephen Page
Elizabeth Gauffreau‘s review 


It was amazing!


Stephen Page’s poetry collection The Salty River Bleeds continues the story of eco-rancher Jonathan and his wife Teresa begun in A Ranch on the Salty River. In the opening poem, “Jonathan Goes to Search for It at Sunset,” he is still searching for The Myth, but “Once again he is left standing / some hundreds of meters from Wood / because he finds his pants are much too thin / to cross the lots with thistle.” This poem sets the warp and weft of Jonathan’s search for meaning in middle age as the collection unfolds. 

These poems are finely-crafted and accessible, with a compelling voice. Page employs a range of poetic forms, including the epistolary ”Dear Nephew” and “Dear Father,” the prose poem “On a Breath-Mist Morning,” and the confessional “Your Violet Hair Ribbon.” I liked how the use of different forms left me a little off-balance as a reader, not knowing quite what to expect–which echoes Jonathan’s life on the ranch. 

The conflict Jonathan struggles with is between obligation and personal fulfillment: the compromises we have to make to earn a living and meet family obligations–and the emotional and spiritual cost these compromises can sometimes bring. In Jonathan’s case, the cost is the necessity to harden himself to carry on his constant battle with dishonest and malingering ranch employees. As he notes in “Tattler, Too”:

My armor is intact.
I had reason it keep it on. 
. . . . 
I have learned to lie and I don’t like it.

I didn’t realize until my second reading that Obligation is actually personified in the introduction to the collection, “Proem”: 

His hair is black, as are his eyes, beard, suit, and tie.
He holds a folded newspaper under his arm.
He smiles at the Beauty of Ranch.

I read A Ranch on the Salty River, immediately followed by The Salty River Bleeds. I would encourage other readers to do the same. The first book introduces us to Jonathan and provides glimpses into his thoughts and desires as he works the land in a foreign country to make a living. The Salty River Bleeds gives us his dark night of the soul. Will Jonathan emerge from his dark night to live in Wood, where he belongs? The penultimate poem of the collection, “The Salty River,” provides his vision of “the End”:

The Cultivators were nowhere to be seen,
their noxious machinery fumes and pesticides 
not clouding the air or poisoning the Earth. 
The Gauchos were all in their homes
With their families, eating, or drinking mate.

However, the closing poem of the collection, “Ennui: Old Man,” suggests not: 

I never see him stopped.,
sitting down, or drinking coffee
in a truck stop.
He is always walking, 
always walking.” 

For me, the best poetry is experienced viscerally first. It then resonates to the heart and continues resonating until it reaches the head. This is just how I experienced The Salty River Bleeds. Jonathan stayed with me for days after I finished reading the book. Kudos to the poet!

Elizabeth Gauffreau

http://lizgauffreau.com/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #6 — North of Oxford

Thanks to the poets for contributing to The Pandemic Issue #6 from North of Oxford and Mary M. Michaels for graciously providing her art. In order of appearance we present: Henry Crawford, Megha Sood, Sheila Allen with Emily Jensen, Kerry Trautman, M. J. Arcangelini, Stephen Bochinski, Christine Riddle, Maria Keane, Marko Otten, Patricia Carragon, Jonel Abellanosa, Stephen Page, […]

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #6 — North of Oxford

Grocery Shopping

Text Box:

I am sitting in our dull-gray                                                                                 

Pathetically petite rental car

With the cracked windshield and tiny

Unhubcapped tires,

(Last Friday Teresa smashed our sleek

White SUV that drives like a yacht 

Gliding over calm waters)

Alone, my mask around my neck,

Waiting for my her

To finish grocery shopping

(Only one family member

Is allowed entrance at any time).

When will I ever learn?

I have been here before,

I have been here before,

I have been here before,

Thousands of times

(Though mostly before the mask),

Hungry, thirsty, hours

                                    Passing by,

Worrying if maybe she had fallen,

And medics are attending to her,

(I don’t have my phone, and she left hers

With me to hold onto)

But knowing that most likely

She was wandering inside the clothing stores

Inside the shopping mall

That just reopened,

Only to know, that as I don my mask and enter

A hunting/fishing gear store that opens

From the parking lot, that she will

Reappear outside as soon as I enter,

Looking for me,

Searching the parking lot

For me and our ugly rental car.

Text Box:  I purchase a camouflage backpack,                                        

A 9 mm pistol, a hunting knife, 

and a hand-size stun device.

I stuff the three defense/attack components into 

The outside pocket of the pack,

And as I exit the store,

There she is, wandering the lot,

Text Box:  Her arms stretched, her shoulders hunched, holding             

Bags filled with things

Only she thinks we need,

Having no idea that she is late 

For an appointment with our lawyer

Concerning the accident, or that I

Had been waiting for hours.

I am past starvation and dehydration,

But I smile behind my mask

As I walk toward her.

I gently lift the packages from her surgical-gloved

Hands.

5 Poems by Stephen Page

Somehow I forgot to post these. Here they are, 5 poems from Stephen Page that were first published on Poetry Pacific and later published in “A Ranch Bordering The Salty River” and “The Salty River Bleeds”:

http://poetrypacific.blogspot.com/2014/11/5-poems-by-stephen-page.html

long winter – hope during the pandemic

Hi. I thought this might construe to ‘hope’ regarding the current global crisis.

long-winter–
a male cardinal
passes a seed to its mate

by Stephen Page

thanks to Caroline Skanne, Editor

hedgerow: a journal of small poems #123

#123—the spring print issue is here! : https://hedgerowhaiku.com/…/123-the-spring-print-issue-is-…/

Caroline Skanne Hedgerow: a journal of small poems Stephen Page

Detroit Rocks!

Stephen Page’s Literary Representative recently passed through the City of Rock, Motown, birthplace of the U.S. car industry. She managed to find a home for “The Salty River Bleeds” in the following places:

Pages