WITH JONATHAN POTTER
By Karen Mobley
onathan Potter is a poet , a librarian , a husband , a father , and a warm funny man . His new collection of poems , “ Tulips for Elsie ,” was just released by Korrektiv Press .
Potter says , “ I have a new collection of poems , ‘ Tulips for Elsie ,’ which is my second book . I was dragging my feet putting it together , probably due to having gone through a divorce and second marriage and love and trauma these past few years and feeling at a loss for how to gather the resulting pieces into a coherent whole . But something happened that prompted me to try . Kate Gustafson , who is Garrison Keillor ’ s right-hand person , contacted me to ask if they could reuse a poem that had appeared in ‘ The Writer ’ s Almanac ’ back in 2010 when my first collection , ‘ House of Words ,’ was published . I have to thank Ms . Gustafson for tracking me down , because I wasn ’ t easy to find from ten years ago . I wasn ’ t even sure where I was myself . And if she hadn ’ t ferreted me out , there probably wouldn ’ t be this book — because after I gladly agreed to the reuse of the earlier poem , I lied and said I had another book coming out and would Mr . Keillor like to see a few poems from it . He took three more for the rehabilitated ‘ The Writer ’ s Almanac .’ Then I cagily asked if he would be willing to write a blurb for the back cover of the book and when , surprisingly , he agreed to consider it , I had to come up with an actual manuscript which could be turned into an actual book . And so here it is , with three lovely blurbs on the back cover , not only Garrison Keillor ’ s , but Jonathan Johnson ’ s and Carolyne Wright ’ s as well .”
Potter shared the blurb from Garrison Keillor , which is included here because this whole story seems catalytic in the creation of “ Tulips for Elsie .” “ Mr . Potter ’ s given us a bold adventurous book with plenty of sharp turns at high speed , with some gestures toward Neruda
and Merwin but also ‘ Sk8 ,’ a gr8 skateboarding poem , and sonnets , and brave ventures into rhymed verse , poems for friends and relatives , ‘ Stopping by Blogs on a Frosty Evening ,’ and poems of passionate love with angels looking down from above . Plus tulips and Elsie .”
When asked how he began his work as a writer and poet , he said , “ Uneasily . Poetry dawned on me gradually in childhood . There were a couple of anthologies on my parents ’ bookshelf that I felt a pull towards . They were vestiges of their college days and never mentioned . But I gravitated towards them and occasionally made forays into them . One was a soft , sky-blue paperback with free verse poems that punched but punched gently ; and the other was a stiff , darkblue hardback like a starched shirt , with sharp-edged difficult lines that exuded a strange formality . I didn ’ t know anything about these two different kinds of poetry ; but I was attracted
58 ART CHOWDER MAGAZINE