Celebration: Paper Anniversary

Bobby C. Rogers, winner of the 2009 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, is coming to read at University of Tennessee next week Monday.

Bobby C. Rogers - Poetry Reading
7 PM, April 4, 2010
Hodges Library Auditorium
University of Tennessee

Books will be available for purchase.

Tremendous opportunity to hear one of the new stars of American poetry. If you were at AWP this year, you probably saw the mob of people around the Pitt Press table trying to get at him in order to get their copies of Paper Anniversary signed.

He's not "new" in the sense that he's new on the scene. He's published poems in many, many prestigious journals over his career, including AGNI, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Shenandoah, Greensboro, and Grist (our UTenn journal), among many others. From what I understand, his manuscript was out there in circulation for a while--many near publication misses--and finally Pitt found what everyone else took so long to see: brilliance.

Over at Chapter 16, my friend and colleague at UTenn, Charlotte Pence, has a fantastic interview with him about his writing and background, how he put together the manuscript, current trends in American poetry, and it also includes a poem, "Ornithology," from the book. Click here to read the interview.

Here are a couple of his poems. The first is one we published last year in Grist. The second is from Paper Anniversary. If you can make it to the reading, you really should.

I hope to see you there!


Farm Portrait

Just luck the photograph survives, its edges attic beiged, another paper record of what was
     passing from us
the second it was set down. This was right before the war, a photographer offering aerial
     pictures of all the farms

in the county, leaning out of a biplane with a large-format camera, trying to visualize the plat
     map from the courthouse stacks
and relate it to the facts on the ground. It must have been at the end of dusting season,
     the rows still distinct

on the white earth, bending gracefully over the land’s contours according to the new ideas
     on erosion control, all the changes
the farmer’d wrought, the gravel roads and outbuildings, the glassy black surface
     of the farm pond, a hundred head

of polled Herefords grown market fat on clover and vetch. The print was hand tinted, as though
     the chemistry of capturing light was opinion
rather than fact and could use correcting. J.B. Caudle Farm in architect’s script. You wouldn’t
     recognize my grandparents’ place

outside Dresden, Tennessee. Now a supermarket floats in a forty-acre parking lot, the rest
     of it subdivided
for ranch homes, cut by curbless streets potholed and patched. Turns out it’s easy to undo
     what we’ve done,

all our improvements erased by improvements. At such a remove everything seems gentle
     and intended, as though
it can do nothing but last. Beyond the furrows and gridded orchards, however, even from
     altitude you can just make out

hardwood seedlings the squirrels have sewn outpacing the weeds in a field waiting for
     the bush hog, the edges taken over
with volunteer hackberry and blunt, shrubby cedars so deeply green the least shadow
     from a midday cloud turns them black.

Bobby C. Rogers
from Grist: The Journal for Writers, Issue 3, 2010


I can’t say the car was broken into since I’d forgotten to lock it. When I went out
to get the paper, the day quarter-lit and unbegun, the trunk was thrown open,
its bulb lamp a weak addition to what the sunrise had a mind to get going.
I stood there in the new light, and then I began the inventory. Jumper cables
and a field chair, a faucet set I’d been meaning to return to the home center,
some hurricane relief donations we hadn’t gotten around to dropping off
at Catholic Charities—bottles of shampoo, multi-packs of soap and toothbrushes,
assorted store brand cleansers. The disposable diapers, baled into dense packages,
were still there. But not my Johnny Cash CDs or the digital voice recorder
left in the console with some teaching notes and the beginnings of a grocery list
spoken into its memory, and a single image: unginned cotton woven in the road weeds.
Or something like that, a few muttered words that sounded better before they’d been
stolen from me. When a thief took his lamp, Epictetus cursed himself for owning one
worth coveting. It takes a week of working at it before I can apply philosophy
to even the smallest loss, atom-thin as the coatings on a pair of binoculars’ prisms,
a trick to let in the light more perfectly. Here’s what I’ll say: it’s just urban life.
Crimes of opportunity. We live with them, like traffic and mosquitoes. I’ll say
it’s the cost of doing business in the old part of town—every now and then you have to
throw a lawn mower in the volcano. A philosopher’s consolations, these weary tenets
of dead men’s systems, knocked together so I might stop thinking how somewhere
some thieving bastard is listening to Johnny and June trade verses on Live at Folsom Prison.

Bobby C. Rogers
from Paper Anniversary

Other Bobby C. Rogers poems posted @ Little Epic Against Oblivion:
"Spring Recital, Beethoven Club, Memphis, Tenn."
"Jerry Lee Lewis Plays “That Lucky Old Sun” at Bad Bob’s Vapors Club, Memphis, Tennessee"