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Tim Seibles: Celebrating 40 Years of Poetry
by Wayne Benson

There are many milestones in a poet’s career: their first poem; their first collection; their first prize or award nomination. Tim Seibles is no stranger to these firsts, but now he is coming up on a new milestone: the “new and selected” collection.
Etruscan Press has had the privilege of working with Seibles on his two previous collections, One Turn Around the Sun (2017) and Fast Animal (2012). Now, we collaborate again on Voodoo Libretto: New and Selected Poems, which will be released in January 2022.
To reach the place where you can craft a new and selected collection, you must first learn the ins and outs of putting a collection together. Since his first collection, Body Moves, Seibles has had time to hone this skill.
“It takes me on average about five years between books, sometimes a little more,” says Seibles. “I am just writing poems. I love to write so I am just writing, but usually in any particular period, certain kinds of themes are going to emerge whether you’re intending them to or not. Your mind is in a particular place, so the poems may begin to talk to each other.” He says it isn’t until the third year in his process that he begins to see the narrative arc taking shape.
In other forms like fiction or memoir, a narrative arc is expected, and needed to make the reader feel they are going somewhere. It is no different for a poetry collection. There has to be a road for the reader to travel, with different pit stops along the way.
When I asked him how his process has changed over the course of his career, Seibles said, “When I put together a collection of poems these days, I have a clearer sense of how a book of poems can have an implied narrative arc. While each section of the book may have somewhat different emphases, I think more deliberately about how each section speaks to the others. It’s important that there be real variety in the poems—tonally, subject-wise, lengthwise, and formally—but there must also be a felt sense of wholeness in the book, a sense of continuous flow. I believe I’m more capable of establishing that in a collection now.”
To make poems written in a certain time period with a similar theme harmonize is already difficult, but Seibles has now stepped into an even taller order. Now the question becomes how will he take the poems across all of his collections and still manage to find the narrative in it all? As the times change from day to day, year to year, and decade to decade, so do we as individuals and still, there is no better documentation tool to record the changes in our lives than the written word.
Voodoo Libretto: New and Selected Poems will not only show us Tim Seibles in a specific time and place but will give readers a glimpse into the evolution of Seibles as a whole. As for him, crafting this new collection has allowed him to look back on his career of writing and gain new insights to his own evolution.
With the success Seibles has seen, even he admits it can be easy to overlook his own progress. “As artists, we are rarely able to perceive our own growth. Generally speaking, we are just doin’ it, trying to make the best poems, stories, paintings, etc. that we can. Putting a New and Selected together has definitely made me see the previous collections in a new light. It has allowed me to see aspects of my own development that I could not have seen as I worked on each book separately. For example, I recognized that, book by book, I was becoming more sophisticated and more varied in terms of the strategies I employed to make poems.” Of all the insights he says he gained from revisiting his previous work, he highlighted that going through 40 years of poetry has affirmed the love he has for poetry and for writing poems—the innumerable possibilities that sitting with a blank page represents.”
Voodoo Libretto will truly be a celebration of the love Seibles has for poetry as well as all he has given and gained from the craft. Seibles hopes as readers flip from Body Moves to One Turn Around the Sun and beyond, that “each book represented in the selected poems would represent the arc of that book, and as a whole, the entire collection would show a steady deepening of his own understanding of composition, language, and his life and how it connects to other lives.”
Link to interview with Tim Seibles about making a book of poems:
Seibles was born in Philadelphia in 1955. He has received fellowships from both the Provincetown Fine Arts Center and The National Endowment for the Arts. His collection, Fast Animal, was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award and winner of the Theodore Roethke Memorial Prize for Poetry. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals including Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Renaissance Noire, Rattle, Shenandoah, Callaloo, New Letters, Poetry, and The Massachusetts Review. He spent a year as Poet in Residence at Bucknell University and he recently completed a two-year stint as Poet Laureate of Virginia.
Wayne Benson is a poet and graduate assistant with Etruscan Press. He is currently pursuing his M.F.A. with the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Wilkes University. Benson is also the poetry editor at River and South Review.

New Releases from Etruscan

We are pleased to share Etruscan’s second Tribus, Trio: Planet Parable; Run: A Verse-History of Victoria Woodhull; and Endless Body, featuring poetry written by Karen Donovan, Diane Raptosh, and Daneen Wardrop.
How do three collections of poetry blend together to make something greater than the sum of their parts? Karen Donovan’s Planet Parable begins with a woman using a backhoe to dig up a meadow and ends with a divine purge, telling the genesis myth backwards to arrive at another beginning. Run: A Verse History of Victoria Woodhull, by Diane Raptosh, brings to life one of America’s most controversial suffragists, Victoria Claflin Woodhull, who was the first woman to address Congress and the first to run for U.S. president. And Daneen Wardrop’s Endless Body traces a daughter’s loss of her mother, and the turning from loss to the arrival of that daughter’s own daughter.

Daneen Wardrop — In Memoriam 

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Etruscan author Daneen Wardrop.
Daneen authored five books of poetry: Silk Road (Etruscan Press, 2018), The Odds of Being, Cyclorama, and Life as It, winner of the Independent Publisher Book Award. Endless Body is scheduled to be released by Etruscan in July as a Tribus entitled Trio.
Daneen received the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the Poetry Society of America Robert H. Winner Award. Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many other magazines. Her scholarly books include most recently Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing and Nurse Narratives: Writing the Civil War, 1863-1870
A celebration of Daneen’s life is scheduled for Saturday, September 4, from 2:00 until 4:00 p.m. at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, 7000 N. Westnedge Ave., Kalamazoo, MI 49009. Nature center employees will direct visitors to the Nature Center Barn at the main entrance. Dress Code: Casual Lavender. Vaccination Status: All doubly vaccinated humans who are past their two-week period are welcome to attend. If non-vaccinated, please social distance and wear a mask. All attendees are requested to bring their favorite appetizer to share.
A Zoom link will be shared for all who cannot make it in person but would like to still be included.
On behalf of the entire Etruscan family, we send our thoughts and prayers to Daneen's family and friends.

About Etruscan Press:

Housed at Wilkes University and partnering with Youngstown State University, Etruscan is a non-profit literary press working to produce and promote books that nurture the dialogue among genres, cultures, and voices.

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