20 June 2012

Bar Book: Poems and Otherwise : : Julie Sheehan Returns to Woman-Stirred Radio

We start off tomorrow's show with an interview, at 4:15, with Janet Mason, author of When I Was Straight and a woman alone

 Mason's LBGTQ commentary is featured on This Way Out, a syndicated radio program that broadcasts out of Los Angeles. 

Janet Mason's memoir, Tea Leaves is “a forthright personal memoir… on the factory-worker lives of her mother and grandmother in working class Philadelphia…. Her mother’s feminist example and unwavering support of a lesbian daughter” (Bella).

Julie Sheehan (photo Chip Cooper)
Then at 5:00 PM (eastern), I welcome back poet Julie Sheehan, to  Woman-Stirred Radio.

Sheehan, who teaches in the MFA program at Stony Brook, Southampton, won the Barnard Women Poets Prize (2005) for her sophomore collection, Orient Point.  Sheehan also won the 2008 Whiting Writers' Award, the NYFA Fellowship in Poetry (2009), the Elizabeth Matchett Stover Award from Southwest Review; the Robert H. Winner prize from the Poetry Society of America, and the Paris Review Bernard F. Connors prize.

The Bar Book: Poems and otherwise, is an intriguing hybrid of poems and prose: spoken-word, persona, lyric… all come together in a wry, stinging, at times hilarious “24-hour snapshot of love and war in a bar” (Hippo).
Poet Mark Doty (who taught at Goddard way-back-when) says that when “Julie Sheehan takes the lyric poem out for a few drinks, everyone winds up talking fast and loose. The lush, agreeably-out-of-style cocktails who take the stage in Bar Book tell their stories in voices comic, cracked, and aching.”

Organised by lunch, swing, and night shifts, Bar Book's complex persona poems match personalities to cocktails: We meet the Brandy Stinger: "You young ones wouldn't know where to begin/ with all the strappy contraptions trussing up us old birds (13); the Pink Lady ("She ordered her gin as if it were a hat,/ sawdust were wall-to-wall fresh-vacuumed plush/ and Red behind the bar, a milliner" (44); and the Whiskey Sour "Called in sick. Stayed home/ sick. Could be the oysters,/ that asshole behind the bar,/ a glob of Tuesday's special/ on Wednesday's fork,/ par for a nonunion joint" (78).  (The whiskey sour, as we know it now,  evolved from the "practice of adding lime juice to rum" on British ships.)  Bar Book is also a narrative of human relationships, intimate, casual, professional, and cultural---all threaded with observation, insight, and terrible truths. 

Here's  a stanza from  "The Barmen of Paul's Lounge Draft a Field Manual for Counterinsurgency":

The bar amputates at the waist.
Few survive such illusions. How to end our standoff? Disgrace
is not an option on either side
of the spill zone, but it’s no disgrace to give last call, and genocide
threatens the perimeter. Get out
by cutting off the juice. Get out by saying Everybody get out.
Then count the till. Turn the music lower.
Legs bunkered, bodies truncated: What’s the best we could hope for,
hired guns?  Look at us, how
they see us, star-spangled, though we could be in wheelchairs for all they know. (31)

As you can see, Sheehan’s metaphors rage and her aim is dead-on true and compassionate. And from cover to cover, a reader will find, in pieces such as “On Pouring a Good Stout” that “time is the main ingredient” in the voice, imagination, and craft of Julie Sheehan’s wonderful collection:

And I pour the last third, and the thick head rises up,
up past the rim of the pint, but it doesn’t spill because I have been patient and slow and wise.
It stays put, my prayer, my possession, not quite broken, reading in her chair. (101).

So please tune in to Woman-Stirred Radio—locally at 91.1 and 91.7 FM, or click HERE to stream us live—for a lively and eclectic discussion of Julie Sheen’s The Bar Book. Interview starts at 5:00 PM. Comments or questions? Call the air studio at 802.454.7762, or email, merrygangemi@gmail.com

Woman-Stirred Radio is underwritten by Sinister Wisdom, celebrating 35 years of  lesbian-feminist arts and letters. Woman-Stirred Radio broadcasts live on WGDR 91.1 fm and WGDH 91.7 fm, Goddard College's community radio station located in Plainfield, Vermont.