Curated by Canadian writer, editor and publisher rob mclennan, the “spotlight” series appears the first Monday of every month.
I’ve been writing poetry from or about Coney Island for more than 15 years. I’m also a professional eavesdropper. (I think all poets are eavesdroppers.) I have keen antennae for overheard conversation, boardwalk talk, and environmental sounds. Bits of conversions will drift over ambient noise and vibrate my eardrum. I write at the intersection of eavesdropping, voyeurism, and memory. Overheard bits of language from 10 years ago dovetail with language from the moment in which I am writing.
I remember reading an interview, where Ted Berrigan said that he would pull out old poem drafts and salvage language from them to make a new poem. I do that too, but by pulling hunks of language from the scrap heap of my memory. My poetics and art explore urbanity, gentrification, memory, and place. The poems incorporate everyday language, what I like to call, “the daily.” I tend to reposition and reorder bits of this daily language to create an alternative or new expression beyond the language patterns we commonly use to communicate with each other.
For this particular poem, I took sentences from poems I made over 12 years ago when Shoot the Freak was still on the boardwalk. Two older ladies were looking for each other outside of the bathroom pavilion and some guys were sitting outside at a picnic table by a school bus parking lot and what used to be Cha Cha’s with the big mermaid mural with blue nails. I spoke with these guys for a few minutes and asked them some questions about gentrification. This was a while back before the redevelopments and rezoning in Coney Island (pre- Mayor Bloomberg), but at the time there were rumors that Disney was going to take over Coney Island. Anyway, these were my eavesdroppings of that day…a crossword puzzle at Shoot the Freak, these guys on the boardwalk talking, the ladies searching for each other outside of the bathroom. I scavenged some of that language and added in language from the perspective of my present day self.
Shoot the Freak 3 and 5 are from a series “Shoot the Freak” that is part of my full length manuscript of Coney Island poems. Another one from the series was recently published in The Portable Boog Reader. In taking the language I overheard on the boardwalk over ten years ago from Shoot the Freak and from people on the boardwalk, and splicing it into new poems, it becomes a conversation across time. For a brief moment, through poetry, I get to alter the concept of time and space.
SHOOT THE FREAK 3
Entering the landscape
They must have been coming here
long before there were electric
hand dryers in the bathroom
Shoot the Freak A Real Live Human!
“What’s on the surface of a pool table?”
Rose by the pay phone disappears
She calls out on the boardwalk
Rose Rose you still here?
I remember the guys at the table —
four of em saying, Don’t ever get married.
The young freak
does the crossword puzzle
“What’s Superman’s real name?”
“How do you spell that?”
Of course I am.
SHOOT THE FREAK 5
How Much Wow
Shoot the Freak
batting cages behind
ocean in front
all the time
get it get it
Amanda Deutch was born and raised in the archipelago of New York City. Her poetry has been published in The New York Times, Oversound, The Rumpus, Cimarron Review, Denver Quarterly and in many other journals and magazines. She is the author of several poetry chapbooks, most recently, Surf Avenue and 29th Street Coney Island (Least Weasel Press, 2018). Deutch has been awarded residencies from Footpaths to Creativity (Azores, Portugal) and The Betsy Writer’s Room (Miami, Florida). Her poems have been nominated twice for The Pushcart Prize. Deutch lives in Brooklyn, where she works as a Library Specialist for youth and is the Executive Director of Parachute Literary Arts.