Aleathia Drehmer’s latest collection of poems, You Find Me Everywhere, was published by Alternating Current’s Propaganda Press in October, 2010. Inside the poems are filled with moments of everyday life that take on new meanings and connections to the past and the future. From revelations to sentimental moments I found myself nodding in agreement with someone whose words and ideas sound so familiar that you wonder if Aleathia Drehmer lives next door. Ms. Drehmer has published two other collections of poems through Kendra Steiner Editions and a shared collection with Dan Provost by Rank Stranger Press. You may also recognize her as the creator and editor of Durable Goods which has been featured on Poet Hound before and she is also the editor of the book The Beards from Tainted Coffee Press. After reading her collection or poems in You Find Me Everywhere I decided I needed to seek her out and ask her about her collection and she graciously accepted:
1) Your collection’s title leads me to wonder who finds you everywhere, would you mind expanding on how you came up with the title “You Find Me Everywhere?”
The title was taken from a poem that has the same name that appears inside the collection. The poem “You Find Me Everywhere” came from the realization that my interconnectivity with nature was something deeply ingrained in my person, not something I could remove very easily. This connection is more of a spiritual one, rather than the idea that I am a nature buff. When I go outside, I feel my surroundings. I feel a part of them and in this connection with elements such as wind and water….you could essentially find me carried everywhere. I had seen the cover photo by Amanda Oaks on a women’s literary site called Hem, which I am a part of. I loved the idea of the pins all crowded together marking all the places one could be found. I think the collection encompasses how all over the place I can be. The title was never meant in an egotistical way. It was meant to say, if you need me, you can find me everywhere you look.
2) Also, your collection is divided into sections titled Love, Observations, Medicine, and Ends. Were these shorter collections you had started and put together or do they have more rhyme and reason as I assume they do since the entire collection flows nicely together?
When I was asked to do this collection it took me completely by surprise because it came shortly after the publication of “A Quiet Learning Curve” from Rank Stranger Press. I never expect to get asked to publish my work and was honored that Leah Angstman wanted me to put together something. The works were divided into sections because I thought there needed to be a small pause between them…a single word to set the mind to frame up what the reader was about to take in. The section “Love” isn’t filled with mushy love poems. I often don’t think of love that way, but I hope it shows all the small and silent ways a person can love and be loved. “Observations” comes from watching how people interact with each other and how I fold myself into that mixture. It is about awareness to the human condition that so many of us ignore because it isn’t flashy. I have spent my entire life in quiet observation. “Medicine” was meant to be a play on the idea that “laughter is the best medicine” and the poems included in it were all written with playful feeling for me which wasn’t something I had ever entertained before. I had the misconception that poetry always had to be serious to be taken serious. Life teaches you otherwise. Lastly, “Ends” is simply about the ending of things. My grandmother had died the year before and I didn’t get to say goodbye before she left this earth and several of the poems are for her. We have to recognize the ends of things as the beginnings of something else. It is what keeps us going.
3) There are many poems that tugged at my elbow that I’d like to ask for more details about. The first poem is “Off Guard.” A sock falls out of a dryer and sticks to you which makes your heart race in search of the mystery man it may belong to but the search comes up fruitless. It reminds me of my college days in Laundromats between boyfriends. I’ll feature the poem with the questions: How did you come up with this poem? Who is the mystery man you seek?
His sock falls out of the dryer
and my heart beats quicker.
I think, has it been that long
since I have seen something
of a man’s mixed in with colorful
panties and tiny kid shirts?
It tricks me into thinking
he is here, somewhere
in the next room with book
cradled in hand, succumbed
to short story classics—lulled
by the quiet filtering through the windows.
I catch glimpses of him,
now and then, when the light
moves across the ceiling, or the room
is persecuted with stillness.
And then he flees as quickly
as he arrived, and leaves me
standing in front of an open machine,
heat clinging to the hem of my skirt
with one sock against my chest.
The sock fell out of the dryer at my own home while I was doing laundry. My boyfriend, Dan Provost, lives in Massachusetts and we have been maintaining a long distance relationship for some time. One of his socks got mixed into our laundry without me realizing it. He had left that morning to go home and it was when our relationship was just getting started after both of our endings to other long term cohabitations. I had lived without a man in the house for several years so his man-sock was like this strange reminder that he had been here and that he was gone and that it wasn’t all a dream. At that time, I never thought I would miss a man in that way and it took me off guard.
4.) “He wanted a love poem” is a title that so many poets can relate to. Before I began to read it I imagined all the men I dated who hoped I’d write a love poem or all the people who asked for my help writing a love poem for their own lover. The poem itself sounds, to me, that whatever poem was written or spoken cannot be undone and that the man who received it could never appreciate it even if he had wanted to because of who he is as a person. With the poem I ask: Is this poem inspired by a true story in your life and what details can you provide about this poem’s origins?
He wanted a love poem
you can never undo that imprint
i lifted from the fibers of your
mind, those intricate wires
nestled in your nerve centers
whose electricity never failed
to defibrillate me whenever
you came close.
i wanted to whisper these things
behind your ear, let them grow
there like untended wildflowers
but i knew you would weed
them out in disbelief—your heart
empty like this watering can.
“He wanted a love poem” came about after the writer Jesse Bradley sent me a new poem he was working on and he wanted my opinion. I had never met this writer personally, but I had read his work before and published some of his fiction on my online fiction website, In Between Altered States. In the poem he mentioned that universal idea that his ex-girlfriend never wrote him a love poem and he was questioning the validity of love because she didn’t write him something. This was an off the cuff poem for me. It was a reaction to what he had written and the sentiment in this poem has no real personal connection to him. I love these sorts of poems because it allows me to step outside myself and pretend. This always elevates the work, because it allows me to dig into layers of myself I had not mined before. When writing it I imagined I was a woman whispering this poem into a man’s ear and because he had waited so long to hear it, he didn’t recognize what it was when he had it, thus leaving him empty still.
5.) “It takes a village” is a poem many women can relate to, even if they don’t have children. A group of women chat at a playground as their kids play together and this particular group of women are learning each other’s names for the first time despite the mentioned year spent together. You note that the gestures made are the same ones that your mothers and grandmothers have made and that you carry on the tradition, hence the title of “It takes a village.” What inspired this poem that so many of us can picture and relate to so clearly? Why are the three women unlikely to chat together? I love the line “this social mountain”, could you expand on what you mean by that line? Is this “social mountain” related to why it took so long to ask each other’s names as adults chatting on the playground? The ending lines are wonderful, too, about generations of women holding down the corner of their neighborhood while have dreams of spreading their wings to fly—can you expand on that as well?
It takes a village
We hold down the corner
on the divergence of our block,
three unlikely women together
in the stages of morning before we
are truly ready for the world.
There is a triangulating of bodies
and speech, naming each other
for the first time, though
we have spoken every day for a year
standing in morning suns,
our children running circles
about us creating their own connections
and carving a path around
this social mountain.
When they have gone, we become
an ecosystem of experience,
fleshing out common ground
in the bustle of moving cars and
noisy lawnmowers drowning
parts of our voices;
we gesticulate the rest of our words
as we have seen our mothers
and grandmothers do in the years
before, when we never thought
we would be that old; when we climbed our
own mountains and ran circles,
when they too had dreams
of leaving and spreading wings
standing on the corners
they held down.
When my daughter was just starting kindergarten, we moved into an apartment community that had many types of ethnic folks living here. There were people from Africa, China, India, Russia, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Mexico. I chose this neighborhood because of this diversity. I wanted my daughter to grow up not really recognizing the color of skin as something that separates but as something that connects you to places you have never been before. Every morning that year of school I walked my daughter to the bus stop where I met these other two mothers. There were always the usual good mornings and talks about the weather or projects at school. It was all very nice and pleasant. One day after we had them all on the bus, we had stopped at the corner where we usually went our separate ways to our apartments and began talking. I can’t even remember the conversation, but I remember that sense of feeling connected to women as a gender, because that was something I had struggled with most of my life. I was usually “one of the guys” in my social circles.
I was naïve then that we could be women who were unlikely to talk to each other. One was a Latin woman from California, the other an older woman from NYC and then there was me, the token country white woman. What I learned from that day was that our geography doesn’t change the basic needs we have as women and as humans….to have connection and acceptance and friendship.
The “social mountain,” for me, is this looming interaction of people for which I often feel awkward participating in. As humans we are always making connections and jockeying for position even if we don’t realize it. We observe those around us to learn social customs and language and how we should act. We do this instinctively. I have always been one that was tempted to do whatever would make me accepted rather than doing what made me an individual. In my life, I have always been attracted to people, especially women that have the ability to do this. These women weren’t social conformers and they had these great ideas and interesting complex lives that I wouldn’t have known about had I not stood there on the corner participating in “social mountain” experiences.
As for the ending and holding down the corner, it is a tribute to what our mothers and grandmothers gave up in raising us. Did they give up dreams? What would they have done if they didn’t have the burden of raising us? Would they have gone on to be famous or discover something that could save the world? I think in this world and in the writing world, mothers are not appreciated for what they do. It is the hardest job in the world to steer another human being in the right direction and provide for them moral stepping stones and social stepping stones so that they can go into society prepared to think and be open and understand the things happening to them. Mothers juggle their lives to make everyone happy and to provide opportunity. That line in the poem encompassed this idea for me.
6.) I love poems about books and this one is titled “Nightwatchmen” which I find fascinating. The idea that books watch over us at night is something I’d never thought of. In this poem you ask the old, familiar book spines “Who wants to take me somewhere?” and note that they are the ones who see you as you truly are day in and day out. How did this poem come about and what about books in general speaks to you in this way?
I stand blank-faced, excited inside
asking all the books in my house
“Who wants to take me somewhere?”
I ask them, and not those books
alphabetized and homogenized—
ones who claim their powers
in neon signs and bright covers,
but the ones in my home
sitting on dusty shelves;
the ones who watch me
cry into the pillow at night;
the ones who see me laugh
out the window; the ones
who watch me touch myself;
who see my flaws and still stay
waiting and patient
and quietly, alone.
My bedroom is filled with bookcases and many sorts of books. I was particularly melancholy this day and feeling lonely. I sat up in my bed and looked around the room at all the art from friends and books of poetry and novels and pictures of loved ones and realized that in each of those items there was a memory; in each of those books an adventure I had not gone on yet. When I read a book I become one of its unseen characters. I cry and laugh out loud. I feel connected to these fictional people that touch my heart and there is a small, quick grief process at the end of a book for me. These books watch out for my soul. Each book calls to me when their certain experience is needed in my life. I don’t read them for pure entertainment, I read them to figure out something about myself even if it is challenging and hard to digest. I rarely read a book twice because there are too many books in the world to read. Having said that, I do have authors that I visit often like Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, and Wallace Stegner. I am a prairie girl at heart.
7.) In your poem “Hurricanes of Snow” we look at a funeral home with you in two perspectives: The one from your childhood in which it held no more significance than just another building to run around and the one as an adult in which you stand outside as a result of a death of someone you loved. The juxtaposition is familiar yet striking, there are many times childhood and adulthood perspectives clash within the same person and could you expand on how this one came to inspire this poem? May I ask who it is that passed away, especially important since you mention that it cuts into your daughter’s eighth birthday and your grandmother’s house from childhood? How did it affect the rest of your family that day and how did that shape your poem as well?
Hurricanes of Snow
I stood outside the door
of the funeral home
watching the winds
carry loose snow across
the back lot like an icy
hurricane no one took
notice of as it twisted
and cut into the beginning
of winter, into my daughter’s
When I look closer through
my frozen stalled breath
I realized that, as children,
we would cut through this lot
from my grandmother’s house.
In the summer, we would run
through the maze of underbrush,
stop to pick blackberries and tiger
lilies, hope beyond hope we didn’t
misstep and end up in the swamp
full of skunk cabbage and green
slime; we carefully triangulated
the stones we’d use to cross
the crick if it were low enough.
It was always cooler there next
to the high concrete wall and we
could smell the donuts frying
next to the funeral home and
never thought it was a scary place
because of it.
But now it is different after seeing
her lie in an open casket for two hours,
waiting for her to say my name
and slap my arm and laugh. This place
is cold and circular and filled with
darkened hearts and though I’ll
never cross that crick again, it somehow
changes the thrill of adventure.
My father’s mother died a few days before my daughter’s eighth birthday and her funeral was on my daughter’s birthday. I had to miss her special day to bury my grandmother in Connecticut.
The strange thing about this poem is that most of the memory is relative to a grandmother who is still alive. My mother’s mother lived in that place behind the funeral home that I speak of and those memories of her place embody the essence of childhood for me. In the last 5 years or so she had moved from that place to another across town. That had been my “home” for my entire life no matter where I lived. Her moving was a little bit of a death for me. It broke off a piece of my heart. Standing at the side door of the funeral home for my other grandmother’s wake, I was able to merge these two losses and somehow also bond them with the good memories.
I saw my father at the funeral and our relationship has always been very distant and awkward for which neither of us know why. His mother was the rock of their family while also being the biggest party animal. She was a force to be reckoned with and survived a very hard life. To the end of her life she lived it as she wanted to and that is admirable to all of us in the family. I was not as close with her as my other cousins were and my violently sad reaction to her death surprised me. It filled me with regret about how much time I had wasted and how little connection I had with my father’s family. Her death has built more conversations with my family that weren’t there years ago.
8.) Are there any other collections you are working on? Are there any poems or collections coming out in the future we can look for? Thanks so much for consenting to the interview and please keep us informed of upcoming projects or any blogs or web-sites we may visit to read more or your work and learn more about you.
I am not specifically working on a collection for anyone, though the phases of writing I go through tend to make themselves into collections. I seem to be amassing a group of sestinas as well as a massive group of ekphrastic poetry. I have been writing collaborative poems with my very good friend Brad Burjan that I hope might find a home someday. I don’t write in terms of making books. My poems are my memories of every adventure I have and of the things that move me. I write them down for a time when my memory has gone so I will not forget where I came from no matter how painful or beautiful it might have been.
Thank you so much for inviting me to do this interview. It always takes me by surprise when such things happen. Right now, I am preparing to table at the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair in March with the lovely Lynn Alexander from Full of Crow. I am a regular participant in Alternating Current’s Abandoned Blogs project and find myself helping out folks here and there when they need it. This last year or so has been about trying to build a community in the small press and emphasizing that helping each other succeed benefits us all. I am going to be doing some readings in Cleveland this summer as I make my way on an art museum tour from upstate New York to Chicago and back.
My previously published poetry and fiction can be found at www.myabdication.blogspot.com and my online fiction website In Between Altered States can be found at www.inbetweenalteredstates.wordpress.com.
Thank you so much for having me and asking such great questions. Be well.
If you enjoyed the sample of poems and the interview as much as I have, you may pick up a copy of You Find Me Everywhere by Aleathia Drehmer for $5.00 (+ $2 US or $3 Out-of-US shipping and handling) at Alternating Current’s Propaganda Press at:
Thanks always for reading, please click in tomorrow for more Poems Found by Poet Hound…