Andrew Demcak on his new book Night Chant

My newest poetry collection, Night Chant (Lethe Press 2011), began with the leftover poems that didn’t fit in with the tone of my first collection, Catching Tigers in Red Weather (Three Candles Press, 2007). Around 2009, I became interested in the idea of “hidden,” which logically leads to the idea of “discovery.” I was still experimenting with poetic voice and narrative in my work, (e.g. who is the speaker, to whom is the poem addressed, etc.) and playing around with burying poetic forms within line breaks. The poems in Night Chant all have very formal metrical structures and/or rhyme schemes, but the forms are embedded in the line breaks to conceal them. Once the true line is discovered, the reader can see that these poems are in the tradition of French syllabic verse. For example, here is the poem “Announcement” with its “true” lines revealed:

A baby’s pink squeal for the tit, its hunger*
insolvent, obstinate country. Or
the snarl of sated fox, the expunger,
after its banquet of rabbit femur.
Mountains open upon their dependents
a volcanic outrage. Magma aglow
like the mind’s light, orange-red, resplendent.
Over lifeless men, the screech of sea birds,
the fins of mermaids the drowning have heard.

*my sloppy division of syllables (count 11, the next line 9 = 20 for the two lines.)

The end rhymes are more noticeable this way and the ten-syllable lines become apparent. So began Night Chant.

One of the memorable poem sections of Night Chant (besides all the raw sex poems) is what I’ve been calling the “Dead Baby” section. These poems came as a reaction to the state of Florida announcing that it was illegal now for LGBTQI2-S couples to adopt children there. My kneejerk response was “If we can’t have our own children, then neither can they,” and I began to imagine all the social permutations and complications of birth.

I wanted to include my two longest poems, both e-chapbooks, Pink Narcissus (GOSS 183/Casa Menendez Press, 2009) and 672 Hours (Gold Wake Press, 2008) here, the former from what is considered the first gay art film, and the latter about my 28-day stay in a drug and alcohol rehab. Both of these poems for me relate to the “hidden” in the gay experience.

And because this whole book was shaping up to be a literary catharsis for me, I decided to base the title on the nine-day, Navajo healing ceremony, the Night Chant. The title worked perfectly: it meant “the hidden expression.”

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