Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wednesday Poet Series No 8 - C.E. Chaffin

Another Wednesday has come. They seem swoop in so fast since I've been doing this series. Almost too fast at times. The selection for today was made really upon reading one poem. There are some topics that even exceptional poets must have nightmares about writing. They are so often attempted and seldom is justice done to the topics. One of them is war.

The first poem of C. E. Chaffin's I read was At the Vietnam War Memorial . Perhaps it was the opening lines: Black granite stretches its harsh, tapering wings / up to pedestrian-level grass / but sucks me down, here, at the intersection of names. I've seen the memorial and those lines brought me back to my own experience. Coming from the "Vietnam" generation I can appreciate the upheaval, the unreconciled in this poem. Towards the end, Chaffin profoundly writes, It's said you cannot write a good poem / until recollected in tranquility. / Let this then be a bad poem, bad as the war, / dividing author from reader and reader from page. I appreciate the fact that he did not wait for tranquility, this poem may never have been written.

Chaffin was born in Ventura, California, in 1954. A graduate of UCLA in 1976, While he won honors in English, he also received awards in medical school, in psychiatric residency, and later as a medical director. He went on to teach Family Medicine at UCI but retired at age 40 as a result of chronic spinal pain and manic-depression. It was in the early retirement that the literary pursuit took off.

He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in by Rose and Thorn. His only book, Elementary (Poems) from 1979 is out of print, as is The Best of Melic, 2003, which he edited. I was amused by his bio at Melic Review....

He has never been published in Poetry, Ploughshares or The Paris Review, has no personal website, and lives mainly in his head but resides in Long Beach, CA, presently on disability for manic-depression and intractable spinal pain. In other words, if he were a horse, he'd be shot. But he is a happy horse, with three young fillies from previous stud duties and a beautiful new mare.
Besides poetry Chafffin has written fiction and reviews. Ah yes, poetry reviews. He fears he may be remembered more for the reviews than his poetry.

A few of Chaffin's poems:
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