Sean Thomas Dougherty discovered poetry while working at a factory in New Hampshire.He was reading a poem by Detroit poet Philip Levine and wondered how a stranger could describe his life so well and make him feel something through writing. Years later, he began doing that very thing himself. Dougherty is reading at the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History on Friday.
Dougherty has written 14 books, won numerous literary awards and lives in Erie, Penn., from which he offered the following about his life and work:
Poetry beginnings: I started writing after my friend Garry died in a drowning accident. We were 17. I started writing for some reason to make sense of things. But I only started to write what I would call a serious attempt at poems many years later.
Non-poetry work: I left teaching after many years and now am a house man at a well-known pool hall. I keep the place clean, wipe up chicken wing sauce, help with tournaments, and play a lot of mediocre pool.
On poetry and other writing: Poetry is the marrow and mother of literature. I write essays too. I wrote a strange novel called “The Blue City,” but it’s really a giant prose poem.
Literary influences: Tim Seibles, Dorianne Laux, Martín Espada, Patricia Smith and many more.
Other influences: Work is a big element. Family. The small working-class city where I live. My poems mostly rise from these city streets along the big lake. From Erie, and the other cities where I’ve lived like Cleveland, what we call here the Rust Coast.
Themes: Maybe all my poems are really in some way love poems? Maybe.
Favorite poetry writing utensils: I have for decades mostly written on the computer, but many beginnings to a poem begin with a quick jotting down of something I noticed. I’ll write these with whatever is handy. A pin and blood if necessary.
If you go:
WHAT: LCSC Visiting Writers Series: Sean Thomas Dougherty
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: LCSC Center for Arts & History at 415 Main St. in Lewiston
“Elegy You Drink With Two Fists”
by Sean Thomas Dougherty
This deep into February, the lake should be frozen, but it is clear
from shore to shore. Everything has melted mid-winter. No ice
fishing houses. No wind sails, or children skating. Instead, the old
men line the pier throwing out their lines. The great lake stretches
outward dark and deep. But even when you toss your fish back
into the water, when you pull out the hook, there is still the
wound — Saturday night at the emergency room, whose body waits
on the gurney? Whose body that says I am a darkened grief? The
one you knew who lived below the tracks. The tracks that mark
the body. And then a trembling grows. No, vanishing point but
for a glass of light. The jukebox plays its dirge. Even the
whiskey for everything tells me it is was so, it tells me sing.