On “The Tenth Circle of Miami” (#25)

The sixth volley launched itself out from the Pacific Northwest (“Sestina in Seattle”), across the continent far to the south and east, over to South Florida. John had suggested they try three-line stanzas for a change, offering as a beginning the following lines on June 25, 2009:Versace graffiti frog-marches across the industrial garage door, / otherwise burned and unnoticed, a humid tin easel with tats / cloaking Colombian ordnance and a Sea-Doo in drydock,” along with the Dante-inspired title “The Tenth Circle of Miami.”

On July 1, Martin at first responded with, “The gates open to a sun cigar poking sugar sand to coals, / sweating hard bodies and bandages from Brazilian butt / implants blazing in the hellish ring, hackysacking gull // skulls.” But he soon commented in a follow-up email:

Because we cannot use the I voice, I think we should edit some of our work to be more concrete and understandable….adding more around the couple in the Boston poem comes to mind….And I think it might be worthwhile to look at the Miami poem and perhaps frame the beginning for more reader accessibility…

This made sense to John. After a spate of further emails and revisions with a couple of false starts, John’s initial lines became the fourth stanza, Martin completely revised his first contribution to the poem and moved it to the end, and they decided to employ Martin’s idea of having ten stanzas altogether. Several more weeks of revision passed; e.g., verbs changed form, prepositions shifted, the line in Russian about salad-tossing was transliterated into the Roman alphabet. “The Tenth Circle of Miami” reached its final form on August 2.

“The Tenth Circle of Miami” was accepted for publication in The Binnacle, the literary and arts journal for the University of Maine at Machias, on April 8, 2010. That issue was scheduled to be completed by mid-May of last year. John and Martin still await their contributors’ copies. John tentatively blames the recession.

“The Tenth Circle of Miami” is the twenty-fifth poem in the final sequence of Poets’ Guide to America.

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About poetsguide

A former altar boy and a former U.S. Army interrogator, respectively, John F. Buckley and Martin Ott were born and raised in Michigan, meeting each other at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor before separately migrating to California in the early 1990s to attend graduate schools, their friendship evolving into a writing collaboration – what they refer to as poetic volleyball. They both currently live in Southern California, John with his wife, Martin with his wife and two children. John teaches English composition at several local colleges, while Martin works as a marketing strategist for a global company. John still affects a strange piety; Martin still finds himself asking a lot of questions. Individually and together, their writing has appeared in over 150 periodicals and anthologies, garnering three Pushcart Prize nominations for Martin’s poems “India Ivy” and “When Bridges Fall” (available in his collection Children of Interrogation, which has been a finalist or semi-finalist in eighteen poetry prizes) and John’s “Poem for Christy’s Daughter” (available in his collection Kinks in the Hose). Martin has also optioned three screenplays. His chapbook Misery Loves was published on Red Dancefloor Press. John’s chapbook Breach Birth was published on Propaganda Press.
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