Stuart Dischell is the author of four books of poetry: Backwards Days (Penguin, 2007), Dig Safe (Penguin, 2003), Evenings & Avenues (Penguin, 1996), and Good Hope Road, a National Poetry Series Selection (Viking, 1993). His poems have appeared widely in periodicals, including The Atlantic, Kenyon Review, The New Republic, and Slate and in anthologies such as Hammer and Blaze, The Pushcart Prize: the Best of the Small Presses, Good Poems, and Essential Pleasures. He has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the North Carolina Arts Council. He teaches at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro
DAYS OF ME
When people say they miss me,
I think how much I miss me too,
Me, the old me, the great me,
Lover of three women in one day,
Modest me, the best me, friend
To waiters and bartenders, hearty
Laugher and name rememberer,
Proud me, handsome and hirsute
In soccer shoes and shorts
On the ball fields behind MIT,
Strong me in a weightbelt at the gym,
Mutual sweat dripper in and out
Of the sauna, furtive observer
Of the coeducated and scantily clad,
Speedy me, cyclist of rivers,
Goose and peregrine falcon
Counter, all season venturer,
Chatterer-up of corner cops,
Groundskeepers, mothers with strollers,
Outwitter of panhandlers and bill
Collectors, avoider of levies, excises,
Me in a taxi in the rain,
Pressing my luck all the way home.
That's me at the dice table, baby,
Betting come, little Joe, and yo,
Blowing the coals, laying thunder,
My foot on top a fifty dollar chip
Some drunk spilled on the floor,
Dishonest me, evener of scores,
Eager accepter of the extra change,
Hotel towel pilferer, coffee spoon
Lifter, fervent retailer of others'
Humor, blackhearted gossiper,
Poisoner at the well, dweller
In unsavory detail, delighted sayer
Of the vulgar, off course belier
Of the true me, empiric builder
Newly haircutted, stickerer-up
For pals, jam unpriser, medic
To the self-inflicted, attorney
To the self-indicted, petty accountant
And keeper of the double books,
Great divider of the universe
And all its forms of existence
Into its relationship to me,
Fellow trembler to the future,
Thin air gawker, apprehender
Of the frameless door.
When was this poem composed? How did it start?
"Days of Me" was written in 1996. It was provoked by a telephone interchange with David Rivard several years, after I moved from Boston to Greensboro. David had said, "We miss you here" and I responded "I miss me too." Some months later, that banter came back to me, so I began a draft with it, and I was lucky and the poem just took off from there.
How many revisions did this poem undergo? How much time elapsed between the first and final drafts?
This one did not go through many revisions. When I wrote it, I wrote it all the way through to the ending. I remember encouraging myself not to stop. The revisions were minimal: punctuation, syntax.
Do you believe in inspiration? How much of this poem was "received" and how much was the result of sweat and tears?
You prepare yourself by "laboring" as Yeats remarked. When you labor well, you are in good shape for when a poem comes to you. If you are out of shape and have not done your laboring, you can easily lose the poem.
How did this poem arrive at its final form? Did you consciously employ any principles of technique?
The poem is comprised of forty-eight lines. The first stanza is twenty-three and the second twenty-five. I stuck with the line length as I had originally composed it.
Was there anything unusual about the way in which you wrote this poem?
I was still working on a typewriter and I remember having to use a second sheet of paper.
How long after you finished this poem did it first appear in print?
It appeared about a year later in Slate on November 6, 1997.
How long do you let a poem "sit" before you send it off into the world? Do you have any rules about this or does your practice vary with every poem?
It depends on the poem. Ideally, it sits until its characteristics become more evident. Sometimes, though, I just have to get the poem out of the house for awhile.
Could you talk about fact and fiction and how this poem negotiates the two?
I might get in too much trouble in regard to this one.
Is this a narrative poem?
Nope. A lyric. Its movement in large part is incremental.
Do you remember who you were reading when you wrote this poem? Any influences you’d care to disclose?
Do you have any particular audience in mind when you write, an ideal reader?
Sometimes it’s someone I am in love with. Other times it’s Donald Justice and Jon Anderson, my dead teachers.
Did you let anyone see drafts of this poem before you finished it? Is there an individual or a group of individuals with whom you regularly share work?
Steven Cramer, Stephen Dobyns, Marie Howe, Thomas Lux, Robert Pinsky, Tony Hoagland, David Rivard, Alan Shapiro, and Tom Sleigh have suffered through my drafts over the years. I’m not sure which ones saw "Days of Me" in manuscript.
How does this poem differ from other poems of yours?
I’m not sure it does.
What is American about this poem?
Its details and use of enumeration.
Was this poem finished or abandoned?