Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pg. 69: "Postcards from the Interior"

Wyn Cooper has published three books of poems: The Country of Here Below (Ahsahta Press, 1987), The Way Back (White Pine Press, 2000), and Postcards from the Interior, (BOA Editions, 2005), as well as a chapbook, Secret Address (Chapiteau Press, 2002).

In 1993, “Fun,” a poem from his first book, was turned into Sheryl Crow’s Grammy-winning song “All I Wanna Do.”

I asked Wyn to apply the "page 69 test" to Postcards from the Interior. Here is what he reported:
Page 69 of my newest collection of poems, Postcards from the Interior, is the Acknowledgments page. Not the page where I thank people, but the page where I list all the places the poems have appeared before. In early 2000, I was asked by the then-editor of West Branch magazine to write a "postcard" poem from the town I live in, Halifax, Vermont. I asked what he meant by this, and was instructed to write a prose poem about someone or something quirky in Halifax. It was the easiest assignment I'd ever been given, as I collect historical tidbits in my head about this part of the state. I wrote it in under an hour and wanted to keep going. So, over the next 2 years, I wrote some 200 postcard poems, from places in Vermont, places all over the world I had (or hadn't) visited, and eventually from states of mind, and feelings, like "Postcard from Desire."

The acknowledgements page shows the success of my undertaking, at least in terms of success with editors of literary magazines. Of the 52 poems in the book, 30 were published in magazines, 4 were reprinted in other magazines, 16 were published in a chapbook, Secret Address, and 6 were set to music by the novelist Madison Smartt Bell.
Many thanks to Wyn for the input.

In 2003, Gaff Music released Forty Words for Fear, a CD of songs based on poems and lyrics by Cooper, set to music and sung by the novelist Madison Smartt Bell. It has been featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition and World CafĂ©, and has been written about in Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Observer, and elsewhere. Songs from the CD have been featured on four TV shows.

Click here to learn more about Forty Words for Fear.

Click here for a cool comment by Madison Smartt Bell about his collaboration with Wyn.

In 1994 the New York Times asked him a few questions about "Fun" and the Sheryl Crow song, including:

Q: Are you getting rich?

A: I've already made more than twice my teaching salary. The most I ever got paid for a poem before this was $100.

Q: Do you have any other claims to fame?

A: I made Madonna's first movie. We went to the same high school, and we made this film in which we pretended to fry an egg on her stomach and another girl ate the egg.

Several of Wyn's poems are available online, including:
"Postcard from the Party"
"On Eight Mile"
"Desert, With Train"
"Postcard from Seasburg"
"Postcard from Success"
"Monkey, Mirror, Troll, Brush"

Enough freebies: go buy a book and support a poet.

Click here to learn a bit more about Cooper's career, including how "Fun" came to the attention of Sheryl Crow.

Wyn also helps promote books by helping run the Brattleboro Literary Festival in Vermont. They bring 30 writers in from around the country to give free readings and talks on Columbus Day weekend: 2006 was their fifth year, and over 3,000 people attended.

Click here to visit Wyn Cooper's official website and here for his publisher's.

Previous "page 69 tests":
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue