In Boozo Veritas #39 by Teege Braune
Three of My Favorite Poets in Orlando
In case you haven’t noticed, I have been celebrating Poetry Month by dedicating each blog I’ve written in April to the art of verse. Furthermore, as this is In Boozo Veritas, I’ve attempted to find subjects that have a particular connection to drinking. Fortunately, poetry is rife with imbibers and alcoholics. Dylan Thomas is one of the most notorious among them, and tackling this challenging author was a feat that I found rewarding in its stretch of my analytical capabilities, though I’ll freely admit that I barely scratched the surface his dense and difficult work. I wrote a paper about The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám in college shortly after discovering it, and having read this poem many times since then, I’ve long since intended to go back over the material and reexamine it with a more mature perspective. Small Batch: an anthology of bourbon poetry simply fell in my lap; of course, I felt compelled to share a book full of my two favorite things: poetry and bourbon. While trying to come up with a subject for my final blog of poetry month, I realized that I’ve missed an obvious topic. After all, living in Orlando, I share my community with many incredible writers, three of my favorite poets among them.
I first met Susan Lilley during the publication of Fifteen Views of Orlando: Vol. II as the collection was appearing serially on Burrow Press Review’s website.
Susan had taken the red-bearded bartender character from my own story “April 20, 2008,” named him Jordan, and given him a wonderfully rich history and family dynamic in her own story “Equinox.” I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a character I had based on myself interpreted by someone who didn’t know me, especially a writer of Susan’s caliber. Not long after, I attended a poetry reading Susan was giving in conjunction with the release of her incredible collection Satellite Beach published by Finishing Line Press and realized just how amazing and talented this woman really is. Rarely does one hear poetry read so naturally. Susan reads like she is speaking directly to you so that’s it’s nearly impossible not to hang on every word. What’s more, you begin to feel grateful that this poet is sharing such personal and profound moments with you in her audience. I was even more honored to share a stage with Susan at the speakeasy Hanson’s Shoe Repair when we read our joint stories from Fifteen Views of Orlando back to back. Satellite Beach is a collection worth reading over and over again, but I can say from experience that it is a rare and unmatched treat hearing Susan read these poems herself. No stranger to The Drunken Odyssey, you can listen to Susan’s interview with John King right here. She was even kind enough to take over In Boozo Veritas one week while I was on vacation. Her guest blog Writers in Festival Mode is a hilarious and nearly anthropological examination of the drinking habits of the literati when they get together for festivals and conferences, and if you enjoy her essays as much as I do, you can read more of them on the website The Gloria Sirens.
By now you are no doubt on your way to Bookmark It in East End Market, Orlando’s only independent bookstore focusing on local writers, to purchase Satellite Beach.
While you are there, do yourself a favor and pick up Amy Watkins’ brand new chapbook Milk & Water, published by Yellow Flag Press.
With this collection Amy has proved herself to be both an exciting, emerging voice and a poet who’s put in the time to fine tune her craft. The poems found in Milk & Water are flawless whether they function as brief poignant images or heart-wrenching narratives. Poems such as “Playa Linda” destroy the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This vision of a daughter collecting seashells on a beach captures a pristine snapshot in fewer words than a hundred, proving that in this poet’s competent hands words are, in fact, priceless. Amy doesn’t need to tell us why this moment in time has stayed with her, why it deserves to be captured in a poem; the beauty of its existence is justification enough. On the other hand, poems with a more obvious emotional gravity such as “The Viewing” and “The Day My Sister Died,” both dealing with the tragic loss of a sister at an early age, work because they employ the same clarity of memory that make “Playa Linda” stand out. Amy is asking the reader to do more than simply grieve with her. Where a lesser author might merely inspire our sympathy, Amy demands empathy on a visceral, painful level. These poems do not shy away from pointing out the painful truth that the actions of people we know love us, actions meant for our own protection, just as often leave deep wounds and horrible scars. There is a sense of poetic responsibility in Amy’s work, and yet there is redemption as well, an emotional release that transcends explanation, a redemption that comes from the simple fact of the poem’s existence. As in Susan’s work, the reader feels grateful to be welcomed into a space this personal, and like Susan, she is an incredible reader of her own work. Each poem is imbued with a profundity that makes them all the more devastating for her straight-forward emotional honesty.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention my good friend Danielle Kessinger. I have considered Danielle my friend for several years, but only recently discovered just what an incredible poet she is. I was lucky enough to share the stage with her a few weeks ago at Literocalypse and was blown away by the sheer sound of her poems. As both a writer and a reader Danielle captures a musicality that is uncommon and all the more delightful for its rarity. Simply hearing her poems is an absolute pleasure. While Danielle doesn’t yet have a published collection that you can rush out and buy, she is a poet you would be wise to watch out for. I, for one, look forward to seeing her give another reading very soon. She and I spent a few hours yesterday drinking cocktails and keeping each other focused as we submitted our work to various lit mags. Hopefully an editor will see the same spark in her work that I do.
The literary community of Orlando, more so than any other city in which I’ve lived, is as warm and welcoming as it is full of talent. From Functionally Literate, to There Will Be Words, and Literocalypse, there is an arena for any number of diverse voices, established and emerging alike. I am lucky to consider each of these three poets, Susan, Amy, and Danielle, my friend. I would say the same of many other fantastic writers living here. Orlando is a big city with the neighborly charm of a small town. In other communities it is easy to get lost in the crowd, but here one only needs to follow a simple plan to meet the writers living among us: go to readings and start buying drinks. You’re sure to meet more writers than you’ll know what to do with.
Teege Braune (episode 72, episode 75, episode 77, episode 90) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.