Jane Shore offered poems from her newest collection to the Advanced Placement Institute teachers in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, yesterday -- she does this annually as part of her summer stay in Vermont and is always a big hit with the high school teachers, as she invites them into her process and decisions. This time she opened with big news: Houghton Mifflin is publishing the collection in March 2008. Hurrah! Her working title is THE YES-OR-NO ANSWER but she acknowledges that the title is still under discussion with volume editor Michael Collier.
Shore's reading included discussion of mother-daughter imagery in her poems, particularly related to her own (Jewish) mother. Reinforcing for the teachers the level of revision she likes to include -- as much as hundreds of versions of a poem -- she noted, "I think revising is like keeping your hand busy while your mind is going deeper."
Clearly the favorite poem of the afternoon, and one that could well become an AP favorite for future classrooom discussions and exams, was this one, admittedly about Shore and husband Howard Norman's daughter at age 12.
Because she wanted it so much, because
she'd campaigned all spring and half the summer,
because she was twelve and old enough,
because she would be responsible and pay for it herself,
because it was her mantra, breakfast, lunch and dinner,
because she would do it even if we said no --
her father and I argued until we finally said
okay, just a little one in the front
and don't ask for any more, and, also,
no double pierces in teh future, is that a deal?
She couldn't wait, we drove straight to town,
not to our regular beauty parlor, but the freaky one --
half halfway house, half community center --
where they showed her the sample card of swatches,
each silky hank a flame-tipped paintbrush dipped in dye.
I said no to Deadly Nightshade. No to Purple Haze.
No to Atomic Turquoise. To Green Envy. To Electric Lava
that glows neon orange under black light.
No to Fuschsia Shock. To Black-and-blue.
To Pomegranate Punk. I vetoed Virgin Snow.
And so she pulled a five out of her wallet, plus the tax,
and chose the bottle of dye she carried carefully
all the ride home, like a little glass vial
of blood drawn warm from her arm.
Oh she was hurrying me! Darting up the stairs,
double-locking the bathroom door,
opening it an hour later, sidling up to me, saying, "Well?"
For a second, I thought she'd somehow
gashed her scalp. But it was only her streack, Vampire Red.
Later, brushing my teeth, I saw her mess --
the splotches where dye splashed
and stained the porcelain, and in the waste bin,
Kleenex wadded up like bloodied sanitary napkins.
I saw my girl -- Persephone carried off to Hell,
who left behind a mash of petals on trampled soil.
[The color names are mostly real; Shore researched them with ManicPanic, which provides the dye. Here's a ManicPanic photo to go with the tale.]