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Segue 10: Fall 2011  ||  Timothy Kercher


about the author


Originally from Colorado, Timothy now lives in Kyiv, Ukraine after living in the Republic of Georgia for the past four years, where he has been editing and translating an anthology of contemporary Georgian poetry. His manuscript Nobody’s Odyssey was recently selected as a finalist for the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, and his translation of Besik Kharanauli’s long poem, “The Lame Doll,” is set to be published in the Republic of Georgia next year. His poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of recent literary publications, including Crazyhorse, upstreet, Versal, The Minnesota Review, Atlanta Review, The Dirty Goat, Poetry International Journal, Los Angeles Review, and others.


about the work


All three of these poems were precipitated by one event: finding out my wife was pregnant with twins (actually, at first, they were triplets, but one absorbed). This was a wild time in my (our) lives—we had already decided to move from the Republic of Georgia to the Ukraine, but didn’t know what this revelation meant to our plans. I’ve never had a single event change what I write about so much—every poem I was writing, it seems like, became an examination of this topic, and these three certainly belong in that category.

“Balance,” perhaps, of all of them, was the most intentional. I was writing to a chapbook manuscript that included a group of poems about my wife’s family members who had passed away (each year she lost someone important to her: aunt, father, grandmother, grandfather, and step father, in five successive years), and another group of poems about my having grown up with triplet little brothers, and another group of poems about our twin revelation (and the loss/disappearance of one of the three). In my mind, these three groups of poems are intimately connected—my mom tells the story that when she became pregnant with my triplet brothers (I was ten at the time), and this was after she just lost a baby, and had lost another before I was born—that I told her this was God’s way of making up for those two losses. Also, when we found out that our third embryo did not develop a heartbeat (even though very normal for pregnancies with multiples), it was not easy to take—having grown up with triplet brothers, I maybe identified our own three too much with my little brothers. I wanted to use all these ideas somehow in a poem—to make a poem that all these ideas hinge upon, which would be important in unifying The Trinity Cycles chapbook thematically. It took a long time to get this one right.

“Gemini” was written in the same timeframe, but I wasn’t writing specifically for the manuscript. I wrote this from an exercise I made for my students combining a couple of ideas given to me by my professor Richard Jackson, from an essay I wrote examining what makes Ilya Kaminsky’s poetry work, an exercise called “20 Little Poetry Projects” from Robin Behn’s The Practice of Poetry, and then I added some of my own ideas, like “relate a personal experience to classical mythology.” I called it the Kercher Poem Poetry Idea, and have given it to my students for several years if they want an A in the poetry unit. Really, this exercise is meant to take the writer to a place he doesn’t expect to go. I’ve written this exercise countless times with my classes, but this one in particular came out better than most, I think. And, as everything I wrote during this period (and to some extent, even now), the subject of the poem ended up being my wife’s pregnancy with our twin girls.

“Rain in Paradise” was written, as happens in the poem, right after a rainstorm. We lived in a home on the outskirts of Tbilisi, a beautiful stone house that was poorly put together, and a light fixture above my wife who was reading on the bed began leaking. As the poem records, I was reading Paradise Lost at the time, and when I wrote the poem, my anxiety from thinking my wife was bleeding/had a miscarriage combined with Milton on the mind produced the poem.

I find it striking how good a subject for poetry birth and fatherhood are. I staved off having kids for as long as I could, having spent my teenage years helping raise my identical triplet younger brothers. But, oh, what an experience children are! I like what one of the poets I translate, Zviad Ratiani, has to say as to how he looks at poetry: “I write in order to understand my life,” and even though I’ve been writing a lot about birth and children, many of the poems end up staring squarely in the face of my own mortality. I think all three of these poems do this. I like HOW Galway Kinnell how remarked in an interview for NPR, “Mortality makes everything worth more to us,” and maybe these poems are an exploration of mortality in light of having children. Poetry to me is expression, revelation—it’s the process of making sense, and I’m still trying to make sense of the experience of fatherhood.


Timothy Kercher on the Web









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