September 30–October 6, 2019
Anthony Timperman is a writer, musician and filmmaker. He was born and raised in Mansfield, Ohio, and received a BA in philosophy and English from Ashland University. His poetry has been featured most recently in Yes Poetry’s Gently/Not Gently: Poems for 2018 and on Brokelyn.com. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
There are seasons
when I dress only as my father
had the surgical practice
collapsed, and all of us
came up rather as trees,
with you forsaking rounds
and saving strangers’ lives,
to cut grass and cook breakfast
in a worn three-quarter-length
robe. I wonder how the seeds
might have grown in Woodhill’s
yard in desperate need of tending,
if you had come along
beneath the ginkgo
and tunnels of raspberry bushes,
had walked the wheelbarrow
tracks through the field
by our sides—
you might have noticed
for our own reassurance,
for the weight of unknowing
we were too young to carry.
But we waited for you
to come help us carry it,
and some continue and are
Others are silent, say little
or nothing at all,
in a park-bench dream life,
the rightness of chain-link
reflected in a lake.
In a pretend yard
in pretend youth,
we rust calmly together,
and even as overalls
would have sufficed,
I still practice fastening a tie,
in the event I ever see you,
in the rare instances I do.
In truth I never think to wear one.
But I remember the fullness
of being seen by you.
One special occasion, I wore
a yellow tie, and a brief glint of pride told me:
you can only make me
proud by saving strangers’ lives.
Tell us about the making of this poem.
I wrote the first draft of “Making Rounds” in a Brooklyn Poets workshop led by Jay Deshpande. The workshop focused in part on epiphanic poetry or the poetry of epiphany, as you please. Amongst other things, we considered what it means for an epiphanic ending to feel “earned,” as compared, for example, to feeling like an affectedly dramatic mic drop. We started by drafting poems with “quiet” endings while considering how to structure the poems in such a way that might inspire/inform endings that feel “totally unexpected, yet absolutely inevitable.” Whether or not this poem does just that, the environment of restraint contributed to my ability to treat the intimate subject material of the poem with greater sensitivity, greater remove.
I wrote the poem within the first few months of moving to New York and there are enough hints in it that I can tell I must have been taking stock of my new surroundings and contemplating my relationship with my father and how different my life is here, as compared to the life and career he chose. The poem also considers the bearing his absence may have had on my siblings as compared to the impact I perceive it has had on me; and there’s a dreamy element of reflection and wonder at a life that might have been. It is part of a gradual coming to acceptance, forgiveness and understanding—understanding that the person who showed a “brief glint of pride,” like anyone else, can only be proud of something of which he is authentically proud. (A glint never lies).
There’s forgiveness and peace and acceptance all mixed up with confusion and rage and disappointment. In some small way, writing this poem helped me gain a fuller picture of my father as a person, and ultimately, my love for him as a son.
What are you working on right now?
I’m writing new songs, short stories and poetry. Doing some preproduction work with my DP and filmmaking partner, Jerod Nawrocki, on our first NYC-based short film, which we plan to shoot in April in Brooklyn. It’s based on an incident I witnessed right outside my stoop on street-sweeping day involving some intense pedestrian/motorist insanity … You know the scene, a pedestrian (in this case a guy standing outside Building on Bond) hits the side of the car that has been laying on the horn (as it finally turns left onto Pacific), driver slams on the brakes … screeeech … in the middle of the road, door swings (and remains) wide open … the altercation ensues with a chorus of horn-blowing accompaniment and things go wrong, way wrong … or do they? You’ll have to watch to find out. So yeah, that’s our idea, or that’s where it starts.
I’m working on a collection of short stories, provisionally titled A Dog Wedding in Middle America, that draws chiefly from my time growing up and living in the Midwest.
New poems are coming out of Julie Hart’s Brooklyn Poets workshop The Poetry of Complaint.
What’s a good day for you?
Karma yoga. Letting go. Waking up mindful of the fact that waking up is a big deal to begin with. “Waking up, my eyes are working again. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each one.” Beginning anew is a daily practice for me. Didn’t keep my heart beating or blood pumping overnight … not controlling it now. It’s all a cosmic giggle from there whether or not there’s anything to laugh about.
When I’m happiest and “living my best life,” I’m giving thanks for everything (or noticing that I’m not giving thanks for everything and also noticing that that never serves me in any way) and looking for what’s positive, with the focus turned outward. The best days for me are days in which there is nothing in particular I necessarily have to do. I like a period of total non-doing in the morning—sitting meditation, reading, writing things that come to mind from whatever reading I’m doing, or some variety of “morning pages.” I look forward to talking to my nephew Julian to hear about what’s going on in school or with Mario Maker or Playmobil or Construction Sim 2.
Love meeting friends around the city and learning about new places and keeping it all cool enough to have plenty of focus and time to write. And if the Cleveland Indians and Manchester City happen to also have results, I’m not displeased in any way.
What brought you to Brooklyn?
Before I moved to Brooklyn, I came to New York frequently, but only ever for two or three days at a time and always with my penniless band, Modena Vox—our orbit limited to van-club-hotel-van. I always thought about what it would be like to live here and to have time to explore the city by foot, which is one of my favorite pastimes now. There were some work opportunities here in New York associated with the production company I started while living in Columbus, Ohio, Up Periscope Creative, which helped nudge me to answer the existential call to head off to a place where I hoped I might expand my creative horizons, meet new creative partners and focus on writing full-time.
Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?
I’ve lived in Boerum Hill for almost three years. I like being close to the water and Prospect Park, Fort Greene Park and virtually every train line. It’s basically downtown Brooklyn so there’s pace and energy but it’s quiet enough, especially evenings and weekends, to recoup vital energy after running around, especially if that running happens to be in Manhattan. I live on the third floor of my building and can’t help but notice how there’s a new high-rise going up across the downtown Brooklyn skyline about every other week.
I like saying hi to neighbors. I suppose if I had to say, I think Boerum Hill may be most similar to a neighborhood called Quintana Roo in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where I lived as part of a long-distance language program while at Ashland University. As here, we walked everywhere, and I always caught at least one neighbor (assuming early enough in the morning or a certain time in the early to mid-evening) with whom I could stop and chat before heading wherever I may have been heading.
Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.
I was working on a poem titled “Brooklyn Bridge Park” at, you guessed it, Brooklyn Bridge Park in the absolute dead of winter. In this case, “working on it” meant taking a walk around Pier 6 and thinking about the poem, which was written in response to the line from Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”—“What is it then between us?” (This was part of a Brooklyn Poets competition celebrating the Whitman Bicentennial). It must have been ten degrees with the wind chill and there were virtually no people anywhere in sight for as far as I could see; no one on Pier 5 or behind me at the entrance of the park; no ferries or water taxis on the river. I could make out this high, pitch-changing whistling. I put my ear down to the top rail of the chain-link fence, and as the wind changed, so too did this manic, whistling chorus. The wind was catching certain portions of the rails that are hollow and producing crazy mixtures of sounds. Of course the notion must have been heightened because the wind was blowing so hard and my eyes were half frozen and there was no one anywhere in sight, but I got the sense this primordial symphony was just for me and somehow I remember feeling like I was starting to feel at home here.
What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?
Ideally, a poetry community is a place where people who share common creative interests are recognized and appreciated for exactly who they are. I have been fortunate to form meaningful relationships within what might broadly be described as the poetry community in Brooklyn, but I think that the spirit of community is to be more readily found in the relationships formed at the events the “community” hosts. Brooklyn Poets has afforded me the opportunity to meet other artists, to workshop and present my work, and critically, to listen to and learn from all of the incredibly talented writers in its ever-expanding orbit. I’m sincerely grateful for that and for the inspiration these wonderful people and poets continue to provide me on a daily basis.
Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.
Keeping it present day and to name only a selection of the people who have inspired and guided me along the way, and whose names all coincidentally begin with the letter J: Joanna Valente, Jason Koo, Jay Deshpande, Julie Hart and Julia Knobloch.
Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?
When I was at Ashland University, my advisor in the English department, Naomi Saslaw, encouraged me in a number of ways. I never took a poetry course from her (she didn’t teach them), but through her enthusiasm and complete fearlessness in demonstrating her passion for the coursework she did teach, and that I took from her, she showed me that creative work isn’t folly and that it’s not only OK, but vital to create and to be creative. Thank you, Dr. Saslaw.
My bandmates in Modena Vox, particularly my longtime songwriting partner, Daniel Harris, also encouraged me as a writer (and instrumentalist) even when I played shit guitar and had no experience writing songs whatsoever. Since moving to New York, a number of poets right here in Brooklyn have taken time not only to read my work (outside of workshops), but to provide meaningful critical feedback, such as Jason Koo, Julie Hart and Joanna Valente.
Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.
I recently finished John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. I love the character development of Owen and how, even as his character’s personality remains constant throughout, even as he ages, we move from viewing him as a pitiable character to a hero, to perhaps even an otherworldly being. Oh, and THE SHOT!
I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple-to-understand and practicable explanation of the “Three Doors of Liberation,” (or the concentrations on Emptiness, Aimlessness and Signlessness) in You Are Here, and would recommend it to anyone who might be curious about a demystified look at some of the teachings at the heart of Buddhism. (It’s really short).
I also happen to be reading a couple books recently released by Julia Knobloch (Do Not Return) and E. J. Evans (Conversations with the Horizon), as well as a collection of poetry edited by John Brehm titled The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy. I think any collection is worth a look that features Milosz, Basho, Bishop, Whitman, Issa, WCW, Larkin and Marianne Moore (and lots more) all speaking in their own manner/style/voice to common themes of impermanence and interdependent co-arising; what we all share in common; the joy to be found in the is-ness of things as they are. The eventual ease of ah-so.
What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?
I’m just going to list a few on the bookshelf in my apartment that have been staring back at me as I walk past them for the last couple weeks, in no particular order:
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Márquez
The Inextinguishable Symphony, Martin Goldsmith
The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art, Rothko
Cannibal, Safiya Sinclair
Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?
Definitely physical books by a country mile and I take notes, but sometimes I over-organize and have too many notebooks going and have to remind myself to just read the damn book. I always have some fiction I’m reading. I like reading novels, and once I start one, I tend not to start another until completing the first. I always have a few other things that I’m in and out of every day, such as The Essential Teachings of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Upanishads or, lately, the meditations of St. Anthony. From the eighth meditation:
O my soul, let me now meditate slowly and seriously on the death of this, my body …
Death is but a release; the frail jar is broken, so that the fragrance it contains may escape and mount up to Paradise …
What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?
The great JP Howard was responsible for introducing me to haibun in another BK Poets workshop. I enjoyed exploring how the prose and haiku communicate and inform each other. I’d like to explore a series of poems using this form.
Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?
Building on Bond, because it’s right by my place and I enjoy being outside to write. Kaigo in Brooklyn Bridge Park at one of two outdoor tables with red umbrellas, which are amazingly never occupied by anyone except me. Park benches at Pier 6.
What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?
You can regularly find me at a selection of Brooklyn’s trendiest park benches, from Fort Greene and Brooklyn Bridge parks to Green-Wood Cemetery and the ever-popular Hoyt Street Community Garden. I write better under the sky.
Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:
I celebrate the light I see in you
And what I see in you, perhaps you will also see in me
For every time you honor me as good or having the potential for it
I am seen and fresh and new.
Something new and fresh every day.