(Cross posted from Metre Maids)
So back when we started this blog, we were filling out our bios, and under influences I listed Chris Carter — creator of one of my favorite TV shows, The X Files. Sarah messaged me and said “oh, wait, I thought we were just filling in our influences as poets.” And I was like “Um, yeah. Chris Carter is totally one of my poetic influences.” Sarah and I have long had a relationship in which almost nothing we say to each other is all that weird — at least to us — so we continued with putting together the blog and haven’t spoken of it since.
Until today. I want to talk about my X Files poetry.
First, I want to get this out of the way: TV is a brain-rotting time-suck of the modern world and no good things can possibly come from a 90′s show about aliens and poltergeists and sewer monsters. Look, y’all — a story is a story, writing is writing, and inspiration is inspiration. I really don’t care what form it takes. There’s good TV and bad TV, good books and bad books. I have no shame in finding inspiration in the stories written for television and film. Among other influences I count Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scrubs, John Hughes’ body of work and this teen movie from when I was in high school called Can’t Hardly Wait.
I think what makes the shows I love so brilliant and so inspiring is how, whether comedic or tragic, realistic or speculative, they get the nature of humanity. The dialogue in Buffy is snappy, Scrubs knows how to take a big, epic theme and smoosh it into a 30-minute episode while following multiple plot threads AND J.D.’s dream sequences, and for as much as I’ve rolled my eyes at some of those oh-so-Chris-Carter monologues delivered at the beginnings of of all of the Very Serious Episodes of The X-Files, damn they’re poetic. And I think that’s when I got it — that there is beauty in science, science fiction, and back around again to science. That the way we connect to the weird and wonderful and wondrous is something worth writing about. And I wanted to write about it myself. I needed to make poems about the Sasquatch and el chupacabra. So I did. I wrote those poems. I wrote a novel about the Jersey Devil. And I researched Christopher Columbus and the Bermuda Triangle and wrote that poem, too.
Recently I’ve started collecting my paranormal pieces for a chapbook I’m working on. Ghost hunters, UFOlogists, lake monsters, teenage necromancers and urban legends. I think I learned how to write about these things with tact from Chris Carter. It’s a place where fantasy and reality meet and while I consider myself a skeptic, well, like Mulder and Scully, I want to believe. I want to tell the stories about maybe and could be. And poems are story distilled down to the hardest bits — which is one thing I love about writing poetry. X Files poetry, then, is these what ifs in their hardest bits, with me doing my best to make it lyrical and beautiful. I wish I could say it was hard — but I love it too much. A challenge, though. I’ll say it’s that.
I have maybe 15 or so pieces for my would-be chapbook. I have no idea if it will ever see the light of day. But on my hard drive, it’s fun to look at, to read aloud, to speculate upon. Below is an excerpt, my poem “The Leeds Baby.” Meanwhile, readers, do you have any unexpected influences for your work? Please feel free to list them below! And, you know, ask Chris Giles to illustrate them on his tumblr.
“The Leeds Baby”
I couldn’t keep the child – the nurse said as much
as the doctor pulled its body from inside me.
Of course I’d whispered curses on these lips. But this is quotidian
in the cold North East, standing mere moments from witchery.
The child, though – shouldn’t he be innocent? Even when Hell
has molded bones into wings, stretched the eyes red,
hunched the body’s back into a desperate “U.”
I loathed the thing, and yet, as Mother, I sent the nurse away,
clutched my baby, nursed him. Here is humanity, I thought.
Nights, I watch him sneak out his window at the side of the house.
Look, I think, God’s little gift is off to play in the woods.
He believes me ignorant. But mothers have a sixth sense
when it comes to wayward sons.
– E. Kristin Anderson, 2012.