Originally published in Willow Springs 80

From the author

Notes on “Subvocal (3)”

I’m working on a book of poems featuring a main character named Bruce, a somewhat befuddled Midwesterner navigating a world which seems to him to have gone insane. Bruce faces all the ordinary problems of middle age, compounded by a ludicrous and terrifying political landscape, an endless and unwinnable “war on terror,” and the general anxieties of the digital era.  

A series of “subvocal” poems feature a hostile inner voice who berates Bruce for his various shortcomings. In the poem “Subvocal (3)”—now retitled “Subvocal (Jefferson Airplane)”—the inner voice is scolding the “outer” Bruce for his lack of sexual adventurousness. One challenge for me in these “subvocal” poems is that the inner voice is aggressive, masculine in some of the worst ways, and kind of an asshole, but I also wanted it to have a certain energy and charm, which I try to accomplish with humor, repetition, and other language play. I guess it was really a problem of tone, which I worked on by reading the poem aloud (both in private and at public readings) and then revising many many times. 


Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

Listening to Gillian Welch, playing disc golf, watching The Americans, which brings back a lot of memories from childhood. I was delighted when I saw Henry (one of the kids in the show) playing with the Mattel handheld electronic football game I had as a boy, where the football players were represented by little LED dash marks—very addictive!This very moment I’m eating a bowl of chili mac made with some leftover mac and cheese my kids refused to eat because it didn’t come out of a box, and chili made with venison given to me by my friend Sean. Still no tattoos—I’ve always been afraid I’ll decide on something and get sick of it later. Also no kittens (allergic) or donkeys (scared).


About Mark Neely

Mark Neely is the author of Beasts of the Hill, and Dirty Bomb, both from Oberlin College Press. He is the co-editor (with Sean Lovelace) of Nice Things By James Francofrom New Michigan Press. His awards include an NEA Poetry Fellowship, an Indiana Individual Artist grant, the FIELD Poetry Prize, and the Concrete Wolf Chapbook prize for Four of a Kind. He teaches at Ashland University’s low-residency MFA program and at Ball State University, where he is the editor and faculty advisor of The Broken Plate. More about him, including links to his writing, can be found at www.markneely.com