On “The Darlings of New Orleans” (#15)

On September 14, 2009, John had the idea of combining The Big Easy’s rich history and sensuality, the aftermath of Katrina, and pop voodoo into a poem personifying New Orleans as the zombie madame of a lively undead whorehouse. Martin was “uncertain” about how far to take the personification of the city, so he did loosen the reins a bit, but he was also game to follow John’s lead and see where it took them.

This poem was like a game fish that fought to keep from being pulled into the boat. On September 19, Martin wrote,

“I really want to nail the end of this…I think it’s on the verge of being quite good…almost tried to end it myself but the poem fought me…”

and asked John to finish it off. But John replied,

“Ack!  I see what you mean!  This poem about survival after disaster, persistence after death, doesn’t want to quit!  I started to try to offer up one final offering, but the gods are still hungry.  Stroke their egos one last time and put this to rest!”

Finally, Martin was able to end most of the the struggle and lower the poem onto the deck, although it took several further email interchanges to revise certain lines and wrestle the poem into submission. The final line and a half, “We quit playing peekaboo / and look lovingly at what we’ve hauled up from below,” provides a nice commentary on the endeavor as a whole.

“The Darlings of New Orleans” first appeared in Poemeleon Volume 4, Issue 2 (Winter/Spring 2010). It is the fifteenth 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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