Sea Island Blues (Backbone Press, 2014)
What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?
Many chapbooks I’ve read have influenced my writing. Some of my favorite chapbooks are Joseph Millar’s Ocean, Etheridge Knight’s Belly Songs, Dorianne Laux’s Superman. These poets explore self and environment. They explore the surreal while being grounded in reality.
What’s your chapbook about?
Sea Island Blues examines the religious and cultural practices of the Gullah/ Geechee. It also deals with the loneliness I felt at the time. Sea Island Blues deals a lot with environment; place has always played a large role in my work.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
The oldest poem in the book has to be “My Country Song.” The poem that catalyzed the rest of the book has to be the opening poem, “When I Was New.” Not only does the poem deal with my loneliness at the time, it introduces Gullah/ Geechee culture, while looking at the past and future.
Describe your writing practice or process for your chapbook. Do you have a favorite prompt or revision strategy? What is it?
I took a six day trip to St. Helena Sea Island to meet with Queen Quet, leader of the Gullah/ Geechee Nation. So many of my poems were inspired by the history lessons I received there and just being surrounded by so much nature and traditions. The complete versions of the poems didn’t come until much later after the trip.
My revision strategy is having a fellow poet read my work out loud so I can hear the line breaks and I can make sure every word is working like I intended it to.
To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
Much of the design of the chapbook was done by Backbone Press. The cover image was taken by me while in St. Helena. I hope for my next book to work with a graphic designer on the cover image.
What are you working on now?
I am currently in the process of putting together a full book of poems entitled What You and the Devil Do to Stay Warm.
What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?
Be honest in your poems and read as much as you write.
What question would you like to ask future interviewees featured at Speaking of Marvels?
If you could re-title your chapbook, what would the new title be?
Which poem is the “black sheep” in your collection and why?
I would say “Prison Poem #2: Or Our Stories in the Key of E” is the black sheep of the chapbook. Only because it was placed there in the last minute and is before many of the poems in Sea Island Blues.
How do you use computers/ digital technologies in all stages of your writing process?
My poems start on the page, but are edited on the computer. That’s mostly because my poems come while I’m out walking around.
What was the final poem you wrote or significantly revised for the chapbook, and how did that affect your sense that the chapbook was complete?
“Prison Poem #2: Or Our Stories in the Key of E” was the last poem of the chapbook. I knew it was complete because I was starting to add things that didn’t need to be there.
Did you set out with the intention of writing a chapbook? Does your chapbook follow a clear arc?
This project started as an independent study under poet Dorianne Laux, during spring 2014 semester at North Carolina State University. My goal was to complete a chapbook by the end of the semester.
Tyree Daye is a recent graduate of North Carolina State University with a degree in creative writing. He’s been published in such journals as Prairie Schooner, San Pedro River Review, and Connotation Press. He’s recently published a chapbook entitled Sea Island Blues with Backbone Press.
My mother washed our white clothes in Clorox
a white so bright it breathed.
The bleach would eat holes in our shirts
and you could see the hunger underneath,
all alive and kicking.
Most everybody I know stuck
in a gin bottle and Gawds too late
to get them out. We saw you walk into
healthy pine once and laughed, those
would be tears now. They would sweep you down the street
and you would struggle in the current and forget you were a man.
You would smile like children do in death. Still so close to that side.
Right now the late afternoon fades
out in loud cry. That reminds me
of Sal taking those belts to the stomach.
Cardinals call out over
the low hum of the highway,
cooling from a hell-going hot week
that rested on brown backs in the soybean fields,
like newborns. Until the bossman tells the backs to straighten up
and go home only a few Lumbars pop into place, but
all of them are thinking of how they need to get back
to something they truly remember
and haven’t blocked out
or left outside to bark at distance lights,
the bats dancing in mid-air their wings in shape of
bass clef, the world singing an old gospel hymn
that starts and stops throughout the night.
Maybe one of our favorite aunts will cook
one of our favorite pies. And someone
would say amen and we all would feel it.