” . . . nasty, angry swans / we could almost feel / fucking up our ethos” (lines 15-17). These are the words of poet Christopher Deweese in his second book of poems The Father of the Arrow is the Thought. I had the opportunity to see him read at the Big, Big Mess last week, where he gave voice to so many of my favorite poems, including “The Atmosphere,” which is quoted above. As the first poem in the collection, it sets us up for the humor that Deweese incorporates in so much of his writings.
“I think in my poems, a lot of the humor comes from surprise. Like, all of a sudden, the poem shifts, and suddenly the speaker of the poem realizes something that hadn’t been telegraphed before. And the writer of the poem and the reader of the poem get to share in that discovery” said Deweese.
I was so excited when Deweese read the funniest poem in the collection, “The Lake” which talks about the speaker’s feelings of jealousy towards it. When the speaker notices that his wife is more infatuated with the lake than him, he reacts in the best ways possible. It reads, “I invested in ice-fishing / to have a reason / to cut the lake to pieces” (lines 22-24). The personification of the lake is especially hilarious: “it hurt me / to see her so submerged, / always running from our car / to the lake’s wide blue arm” (lines 3-6).
Deweese credits his parents and Monty Python for his sense of humor.
“We used to have these books of transcripts of every single Monty Python episode, and my brother and I used to perform them, even though we hadn’t watched a lot of them (our local video rental store only carried a few). A lot of the jokes, in retrospect, I didn’t actually understand at the time, but I knew they were funny, and that seemed to be enough” said Deweese.
One of the many aspects I love about The Father of the Arrow is the Thought is the simplicity of the collection cover, as well as the fact that the titles and the form with which Deweese writes in follow the same unique pattern. Deweese was inspired by Paul Klee, who wrote “The father of the arrow is the thought: how do I expand my reach? Over this river? This lake? That mountain?” Hoping to achieve a similar energy, Deweese says that the collection consists of a series of “long, skinny poems, full of short lines and no stanza breaks” to capture “a kind of arrow-like energy.”
Deweese began his reading at the Big, Big Mess by sharing poems from a collection he is currently working on which is titled Alternative Music. He says it has 120 poems in it, and that he’s been writing it on and off for eight years. Aside from working on Alternative Music, Deweese is also the Assistant Professor or Poetry at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
Keep up with Deweese by following his blog infiniteowls.blogspot.com or following him on Twitter @chris_deweese.
(Photo of book cover courtesy of Octopus Books).
Order The Father of the Arrow is the Thought by clicking here.
See the full transcript of my interview by clicking here.