I celebrate Scott Owens as Poet of the Month, and I recognized him as an advocate of poetry and a community organizer of poetry. He is one poet who has dedicated his life to poetry, given his time to promote poetry, and given his time to support other poets. He is the editor and publisher of Wild Goose Poetry Review which has earned seven Best of the Net awards, and was former associate editor of Southern Poetry Review. He serves as Vice President of the Poetry Council of NC and is the founder of Poetry Hickory, a chapter of NC Writers Network now celebrating it's 4th Anniversary. He is also editor of a weekly poetry column "Musings."
It's good to see Scott Owens saved some time to learn and to practice poetry himself. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English at Ohio University, a Masters Degree in English at UNC Charlotte, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from University of NC at Greensboro. His poems have been published widely in literary magazines. Six times his poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, and did you know? He is the author of seven poetry collections.
In her interview with Scott Owens for Outlook 2010, Ann Chandonnet asked him this question: "How did he know he was a poet." He answered: "When Robert Waters Grey, the editor of Southern Poetry Review, was teaching me in a graduate level creative writing class, he said he wanted one of the poems I had submitted for the magazine. And I thought, 'Well, maybe I am getting it after all.' "Owens was only 24 at the time of this revelation."
I have come to see Scott Owens as perhaps our next Billy Collins. Earlier in his poetry career, Billy Collins was, I am sure, loved by those who knew him, but in the field of poetry, he simply was not
known to most of us throughout the country until one magic day when, with seven books to his credit, he was named Poet Laureate of America. I see other similarities between these two humble men who never seemed to toot their own horns, yet they teach us in their poems about what it is to be human. In their early years both proved to be relentless and prolific poets and both are still in the business. We will have to wait and see if Scott Owens rises to the top. I believe it is possible.
Meanwhile, when Scott Owens told me I could reprint any of his poems on this site. I read and read and reread. It's a difficult task to choose because he has many accomplished poems. Here are three to share with you to honor Scott Owens as Poet of the Month for August, in this his birth month.
THREE POEMS BY SCOTT OWENS
Holding The Breath We Feel Inside Us
Days here the room breathes constantly,
clouds sift through a view we never
imagined from below, blackbirds bank
and veer in the distance, swoop
erratic patterns over treetops.
Asleep or awake there is always
the long intake of shallow breaths,
the hurried short returns.
Every day we come to see the man
we stayed away from for years.
It has always been easier
to blame than understand.
Nights we drive home in darkness,
the lights moving towards us
like moments we can't get away from,
answers our eyes can't bear.
At home we are too tired to sleep.
We lie on our backs, stare at the ceiling.
pull the covers tight around our throats.
My father moves towards me in the dark.
Sometimes the Sky
Sometimes the sky
keeps back what the earth
needs. Six days in Columbia
and thunder every night,
but still no rain.
In the waiting room
we named your grandson
not yet born:
Uriah, Eoghan, Forrest, Donovan.
We talked of fifty years
of marriage, from Phoenix City
to Bond Street, from Greenville
to Wilmington. We counted pigeons
on rooftops where they come
to mate, sleep, die,
never getting the same number twice.
We listened to doctors
tell us how hopeless it was,
how helpless we were,
how little we really knew.
We kept waiting for something
to appear, some vision, some word
to fill up the absence growing
in our eyes, ears, mouths.
There should be more screaming
in hospitals, more breaking of glass,
window, all that can be broken,
more pounding of fists
into walls, more anger unkept.
On The Days I Am Not My Father
I don't yell. I don't hold inside
the day's supply of frustrations.
My hands stay open all day.
I don't wake up tired and sore,
dazed from senseless, panicking
dreams. On the days I am not
my father I hold my son
when he cries, let him touch my face
without flinching, lie down with him
until he falls asleep, realize
that just because he has a sharp tongue,
just because he 's sometimes mean,
just because he is smarter than me
doesn't mean he'll become my father.
On the days I am not my father
holding you is enough until
holding you is no longer enough
for either of us. I listen well
I let things go unfinished,
in an order I didn't plan.
My mouth is relaxed. My teeth
don't hurt. My face stays
a healthy shade of pink all day.
On the days I am not my father
I don't fill the silence with my own
irrational rants. I don't resent
the voice of others. I don't make fun
of you to make myself feel better.
On the days I am no longer my father
I don't care who wins
or loses. The news can't ruin
my day. I water plants.
I cook. I laugh at myself.
I can imagine living without
my beard, with my hair cut,
without the fear of looking
too much like my father. On the days
I am not my father I romp
and play, I don't compare myself
with everyone else, the night
is always long enough. I like
how much I am like my father.
These Poems are from The Fractured World.
Order a signed copy from the poet himself
or order from Main Street Rag. Remember his new
book just off the press, (2011) Main Street Rag,
Something Knows the Moment.