Dossiers: Poetry & Ohio, Phil Metres

28 Mar

Philip Metres is a poet who teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. He has written a number of books, most recently the chapbooks A Concordance of Leaves (diode editions, 2013) and abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine Press, 2011), which won the 2012 Arab American Book Award, and To See the Earth (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2008).

Metres recently appeared at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH for the Poets of Ohio reading series. He opened the performance with a section his poem “Home/Front,” which originally appeared in the Massachusetts Review and won the 8th annual Anne Halley Poetry Prize:

As part of the reading series, participating poets were asked to write brief thoughts on the state of Ohio and/or how they conceive of the relationship between poetry and Ohio. Metres responded with the following:

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own.” While I was in utero, the caterwauling of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young was a lament for the four students shot dead at Kent State University—just down the road from where I now live and teach. In a state called Ohio. Basically, to me, this state is a fiction. Nothing unites Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland—and the sundry towns between and around—except that every four years, this humble and homely flyover becomes the prom queen, as presidential hopefuls crisscross the state, promising the moon. “America is just a word but I use it,” Fugazi once sang. And “language keeps me/locked and repeating. Language keeps me/locked and repeating.” When I wrote a poem based on the signs and voices I read and heard as I traveled down its spine, I gather that Ohio is afraid of its mortal soul, and everyone wants you to obey the God of their imaginings. Either Ohioans are very pious and like their radio religious, or they are very rebellious and many preachers are afraid of where we are all heading. Either way, there will be long drives down our very spine to find out the answers.

Upcoming readers for the Poets of Ohio reading series will include Frank Giampietro (03/21), Dana Ward (03/28), Cathy Wagner (04/04), and Sarah Gridley (04/18). For more information, please check out the series’ Facebook page.

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