by Alexa Selph
Let me leave you with the wish that someday your leaving me will find its way into your own mixed bag of regrets, along with the unexpected notice of insufficient funds, the plate of food removed while you were still hungry, the poem you've always wished you could write. You I will scrape carefully into my compost heap, along with a few potato skins, some used coffee grounds, a little leftover chopped broccoli (gone bad), and some broken eggshells. Next spring I'll feed you to my daylilies, after my memories have had time to shift and turn, decay and change into something rich and good.
Reprinted by permission of Alexa Selph.
Interview with Alexa Selph
How did you come to write these poems?
The poem “Leavings” came more from observation than actual experience. In the poem I’m hoping to make the point that, over time, bitterness and anger can be transformed into something “rich and good.”
How did writing these poems affect your recovery?
I like W. H. Auden’s description of poetry as the “clear expression of mixed feelings.” Every stage of life presents new challenges, most of which we face with varying degrees of anxiety and anticipation. Poetry can help us come to terms with the inevitable ambivalence that we all experience as we move forward in our lives.
Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped these poems come to life?
Those of us who are trying to wring poetry from this wired world of ours feel torn between the opposing messages of “Anything goes” and “Nobody cares.” When I start to write, my goal is to write a good poem, to discover unexpected connections within the realm of the real. As Shelley said in his Defence of Poetry, “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.” In my view, the best poems arise from deep emotion shaped by a reverence for craft.
Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you’d recommend to others?
I’m a longtime fan of David Bottoms, whose poems are represented in the After Shocks anthology. Among younger poets, I admire the work of Jeffrey Harrison, Patrick Phillips, and A. E. Stallings, among many others.
What are you working on now?
After the anthology was published, my mother died, and about six months after that, my husband had to have major heart surgery. Poetry—both reading it and writing it—offered solace as I recovered from both those experiences. I think my mom would have enjoyed the sequence of six haiku inspired by events surrounding the time of her death and published in Modern Haiku some months later. My husband and I are now able to find moments of humor as we recall the scary time before, during, and after his surgery, some of which I’ve tried to capture in poetry.
Alexa Selph, a native Atlantan, has an M.A. in English from Georgia State University. She has worked for many years as a freelance book editor, and since 2001, she has taught classes in poetry and has conducted poetry workshops at the Emory University Center for Lifelong Learning. Her poems have been published in Poetry, Habersham Review, Modern Haiku, Georgia State University Review, Connecticut Review, and Blue Mesa Review. Ten of her poems were published in the 2010 Press 53 Spotlight Anthology.