I founded the Floodgate Poetry Series in 2014 because I wanted to uniquely showcase the work of various poets at various stages in their careers via the chapbook, an often-overlooked form that captures the essence of a poet’s vision and voice. Each volume publishes an original chapbook by a poet who has yet to publish a full-length collection, a poet who has published three or fewer full-length collections, and a poet who has published four or more full-length collections. Volume 6 includes CMarie Fuhrman's first book of verse, Camped Beneath the Dam; Dexter L. Booth's second collection, Rhapsody; and a co-written chapbook by father-daughter duo, Nicole and Peter Cooley--combined, they have published well over ten collections--Vanishing Point: a call and response.
The chapbook, as a form, is laser focused. It is brief but provides the poet just enough space to meditate on a particular subject or way of versifying experience. The chapbook is small yet powerful, and while the chapbook is as unique and diverse as the poets who make it, the chapbook reflects a vision of the world as it is right now—no matter how the poet is writing or what they are writing about, in the case of Volume 6: the “sudden loss of the wife/mother” (Vanishing Point), “the black people that in recent and preceding years have been doused and dismembered” (Rhapsody), and the “fusion of earth, animal, human—a one-ness, beautiful, and also damned” (Camped Beneath the Dam).
I hope you enjoy the following excerpts as much as I do.
Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum, Founder and Editor of the Floodgate Poetry Series
Conversation Starters or Things I’d Never Say to You in Public
-by Dexter L. Booth, from Rhapsody
-for R. A.
False: Napoleon didn’t shoot off the nose of the Great Sphinx of Giza.
The truth is humbling: the Sufi Sheik, Sayim al- Dahr blew up the nose
because, of course, any statue of a negro’s face that large
must have been idolatrous.
These are my thoughts on Halloween night,
two-thirds into a bottle of Syrah, 20,000 miles
from home, and dressed in zombie latex that
only came in two shades of Caucasian. All this glue
and the wounds won’t stick. All this fake
blood and brown Sharpie so I can tell
everyone I am a dead black guy
resurrected by the White Man Virus,
and you’ll laugh.
At the end of the night Christine’s friend will
take photos on the porch, after a moment
of focusing his camera say, “I can’t see you,”
to which I’ll responded.
That, sir, is racist.
It is a joke. It is a Sufi Sheik-Napoleon cannon-bomb
that has nothing to do with height, the number
of men you’ve seduced, the fact
that our lives are just expansion
and cooling; we are
the after effect of the Big Bang.
But I digress,
it is dark, and I am drunk.
I am drunk and you, dressed
as a bride’s maid, wearing six inch heels.
It is dark and we are friends
and I am inebriated enough for it to be
awkward that your breasts are
where I am used to seeing your eyes.
You, suddenly my height, and still
pleasant. So unlike Stripper Nick,
who will later say
he is going to college in CA to major
in brewing beer. Less than a year ago
he was one of two men fighting for your
bed in a bar parking lot.
And there’s Fernando
who two years past
dressed as a banana
but tonight is a panda
or a Hispanic guy in black face,
all excessively sexual
depending on your B.A.C.
and sense of humor.
This of course returns
to the dark. Scientists say that
if the universe keeps growing
outward the notion of a star
will be millennial mythology.
Imagine looking up and thinking
the Earth is the only thing…
Camped Beneath the Dam
-by CMarie Fuhrman, from Camped Beneath the Dam
Camped beneath Hells Canyon Dam
last night it started raining.
I moved my head outside the tent and let
rain fill the hollows of my eyes.
I never saw lightning
but heard thunder roll from beneath me,
the earth upside down, hooves of animals
bolting through clouds.
It started raining lamprey and sturgeon.
It rained so hard last night I was young again.
It rained so hard the earth moved
from the graves of my grandparents.
Their bones started dancing on the rocks
dancing like hail.
It rained so hard the river was young again.
Neither of us had our second names.
We chewed dirt with our first teeth.
We ran together with salmon, steelhead,
the shores lifted their skirts at our passing.
Last night the rain brought back my grandmother.
She put my head in her lap.
She told me stories, she told me carp
sucked the bones of my grandfather
her tears filled my eyes. Her braids tickled
This morning the skies are clear. A fly dances
on my nose. In the flooding light I move earth
worms from the trail. Sometimes
I toss their wet red bodies back into the river.
A selection from Vanishing Point: a call and response
-by Nicole Cooley and Peter Cooley
Shark’s teeth. Conch shell. Mother.
We are back on the Florida coast she loved,
at the Gulf’s edge, this first summer without her.
Since I arrived in Sarasota yesterday.
I have walked this white sand beach,
following continuous, sudden visitations
of you, quick intakes of breath.
I don’t believe in visitation—though my mother
will always be as far away as she is close. A white cotton
nightgown I wear now. Smell of smoke.
A miniature chair she built me for my daughters.
I don’t believe in
so much of what she held close. But we shared
this horizon. This coast.
Free of visitations, I remember you,
walking the white sand beach with me.
I’m thirty-three, you’re thirty,
daughters at either hand,
death a word only known to the two of us.
The water at the tide line as we wander
touches the Mexico we never got to.
But the sand beneath our soles stands,
Mesozoic. Soul of the world under my feet
bringing you back, I water walk.
I stop-and-start. This is how longing works.
Once, as a child, I stood at the waterline with my mother,
gripping her hand. Watched the single stitch between water and sky.
Once, in Mexico, alone, I stared across the Gulf
and believed I saw this coast, believed I saw the wooden boats
from our house in New Orleans to Merida and back.
Now in New Orleans, the sky comes down
this gold at all hours between the clouds,
lattice work where I can hang my prayers,
my poems, my memories of you--
a moment, you're standing by the crib.
Our daughter, who writes half of these words,
has just awakened, standing to that gold.
She shakes the crib bars, crying, she has no words.
And both of us rush in, to pick her up, laughing.
The in-between: there was none. No illness, no hospice, no metal hospital bed wheeled into the house, no last breath we watched, no ice chips we set in your mouth, no hand we held, no feet we rubbed, no sponge bath, no oxygen cannula, no catheter. You died alone in sudden, in quiet.
Your death-- and how it wounds me to put this down
-- was like the last few years of your life, a removal,
a quiet, a leave-taking of your possessions
I could find nowhere in our house:
journals you kept, the gold bracelet I gave you years back,
the fake Marie Antoinette fan
I brought you from Paris, the tiered silver necklace.
Vanish (v): "disappear quickly," c. 1300,, stem of Old French esvanir" disappear; cause to disappear," pass away, die out," "to leave, abandon, give out." Related: Vanished; vanishing; vanishingly. Vanishing point in perspective drawing is recorded from 1797.
Vanishing point in perspective, sea green
muted with blue, these Renaissance paintings
the Ringling Museum, Sarasota.
Forty-four years we held hands, together,
you and I, taking in these vanishings.
Now I am alone with a painting," The Holy Family
with Donor," by Ferrari, late 1520's.
I bring you here to joke with me—
the donor could be Mr. John Ringling.
But Mary's hands, crossed over her breast,
bring both of us to knees down, on this line.
-from Floodgate Poetry Series, Volume 6, edited by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum
Reviews of The Floodgate Poetry Series, Volume 6
The sudden loss of the wife/mother for the husband/daughter that occasioned this collaboration is both beyond belief and as real as air. Vanishing Point is a twining of grief, of two strands that are equally strong and, once twined, all the more intense. Although marvelously different poets, there are vertiginous moments when I cannot guess who is speaking. This chapbook-length poem quite literally brings the power of two poets into one singular and astonishing voice.
—Kimiko Hahn, author of Foreign Bodies
The poems in Fuhrman’s book are a kind of siphoning of language which results in a fusion of earth, animal, human—a one-ness, beautiful, and also damned. As a poet who hikes and lives in a landscape still wild, she brings us the wild and the broken. The double meaning of the title shows the reader her intent—to both pierce and bond with her words. The first five poems describe both the beauty and mutilation of the beings of water—salmon. “Neither one of us had our second names…”: Here is the linkage between the damming of the reservoir and the loss of land—home—death for the persona of the speaker, a native woman. The body of the world, of fish, and of women is shown through exquisite language and a blending of the senses: “her eyes straining to hear…” Then the tonal shift in “The Problem of My Body”—”scars of your scalpels and your slurs”—replicates the damn you implicated throughout these poems. Fuhrman has ordered her book in a spiral, a circling, a nurturing word and world we are meant to read.
—Veronica Golos, author of GIRL
Dexter L. Booth’s Rhapsody is not merely an epic tribute to the black people that in recent and preceding years have been doused or dismembered, it’s also an examination of how black people harbor and express black trauma, those who cultivate a prideful legacy of inflicting it, and how black trauma and black people are mythologized in every facet of the human imagination. Wedged between these narratives and examinations is a black speaker who outlives them, however admirably, stating, “you wake up / in a village filled with so much smoke / it is all you see for years / your skin / burning like an offering to gods / you cannot hear.” Read these poems at whatever pace your heart dictates. Booth ensures for every hurt you feel, you’ll also triumph.
—Dustin Pearson, author of A Family is a House