The Author as Man Who, from the Opposite Corner of the Street,
Sees Sandra Get Shot through the Neck in Blitz
After the film by Elliott Lester
That week the rain
wouldn't stop, pooled & flooded
the sewers, & even with
the windows closed, the barrage
was like blood pulsing through the heart, never ceasing.
I was walking the opposite way, saw him closing on her
in all black, an oversized hood shrouding his face, before
she stopped & one shot went through her neck. I ducked
a van, could barely see as the rain came down harder,
the blood flowed, black amidst the shadows
as she gasped & choked for air. I knew she was gone,
but called & blurted out words: Hurt. Hurry. Now. Can't.
I don't know if mine was the last face she saw,
or she knew
if my eyes looked directly into hers. They said they'd
I snapped my phone in two, threw it down a sewer,
& always imagine I could've done something more.
The Author as Neighbor Who Sees Courtney Shoot Herself in the Head
from His Living Room Window Across the Street in Bellflower
After the film by Evan Glodell
I hear it mostly in the revved engines & tires
shattered beer bottles & cursing, & somehow
admire it, live through them now, the only neighbor,
I imagine, who hasn't called the cops. & to see it then
& ask what happened, as if there's some explanation
that would make me sleep without seeing her scream
before the quickness of the barrel to her head
& the shot
& slowing of time as her body collapses
in the street & he keeps walking. Then was my time to call,
but I couldn't get away from the window, where
anyone could see me if they looked. But no one did.
I turned the lights off, hid in my bedroom for days,
ignored their knocks. I couldn't relive it. I couldn't say
what I saw tells us the world won't wait much longer.
The Author as Man Who Finally Believes
After He Sees Half
of the Biker's Body Dragged
Back by the Rope in The Mist
After the film by Frank Darabont
Still in the background,
I watched & waited & spoke
a prayer I kept silent, one
that-after the shroud of mist
suffocated the air & formed into white nests of blindness-
served no purpose, as we watched his legs get dragged
& the rope slick with his blood. I knew then, an hour
after you sent me to get tomato sauce & two bottles
of cheap Malbec, that I probably wouldn't come back.
But even more than that, I wondered if I was luckier
than you, & if the mist came through the small cracks
in our windows, those I never called the landlord about
after your constant reminders. No one's cell phone works
now. No one has faith we'll survive. The first sign
of darkness is almost here, & we have nothing left to do
but wait, think of a plan, & ask if we'll ever see morning.
-from Scoring the Silent Film
Keith Montesano is the author
of the poetry collections Ghost Lights (Dream Horse Press, 2010), and Scoring the Silent Film (Dream Horse
Press, 2013). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Third Coast, Mid-American
Review, Ninth Letter, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. He recently earned his PhD in English and creative
writing from Binghamton University, and currently lives in New York with his wife.
A Review of Keith Montesano's
Scoring the Silent Film by Matthew Guenette, first published at American Microreviews and Interviews
After reading Scoring the Silent Film, I was tempted to a regiment of film-watching in order to catch
up with the poems. This could be problematic for Montesano’s follow-up to Ghost Lights, his excellent debut
collection, but it also marks a more ambitious undertaking—a collection that sets out to challenge the aestheticization
of violence on film.
poems are short and formally tight—14 lines apiece, though not exactly sonnets in terms of the turn—with evocative
titles that find “The Author” in the midst of a cinematic happening:
What I could do was cower behind a bench, their guns
still firing, as women—far away but never far enough
from the one second & trajectory & fortuity
end an existence—still ran,
holding onto children
in their arms…
So goes the opening to, “The Author As Man Who’s Walking A Few Blocks From The Bank During The Robbery
In Progress In Heat.” Montesano’s decision to frame each poem this way usually does the trick—it
allows him to exploit the energy of the scenes in question, which in turn frequently springs a poem into something conscious
and enduring, as in these final lines from, “The Author As Man Who Runs With The Others As They Try To Escape From
The Monster In The Host”:
…I go the opposite direction, crawl
under a bus in the parking lot, unable to hear anything
the roar coupled with screams, feet still pounding
the cement before followers do the same, saving
able to say we’re doing it to go home to the one
we don’t deserve, the one we really want to live for.
The inspiration for this “score”
might be a slick, intelligent Korean monster movie about toxicities both environmental and psychic, but the monster we
end with is ancestral fear: of being alone, of not having risked for love all of one’s worth.
The array of violent backdrops lends Scoring the Silent
Film an anxious, elegiac feeling that works more often than not, but there are moments where that feeling threatens
to exhaust itself. I found myself wondering more than once how a poet as skilled as Montesano would score other scenes:
of joy, pleasure, even the ridiculously comedic. Something like, “The Author As Man Who Overhears Brian Fantana Talk
About His Cologne ‘Sex Panther’ in Anchorman.” A poem for another collection perhaps...For now, with this collection, Montesano
has managed to rescue—like the heroic imagination of film itself—violence from violence-as-style. In doing
so, Scoring the Silent Film invites the reader-via-“The Author” to grapple with violence
on a level that is potently intimate.
Poems - Bio - Review - Interview
An Interview with Keith Montesano by
Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers, first published at Kenyon Review
Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers: Tell me what inspired you to to start the First Book Interviews blog.
In what ways is it similar or different from what Kate Greenstreet began?
Keith Montesano: It’s
pretty simple, really. I had been a long-time reader of Kate’s blog, and when she decided to stop doing the interviews,
I asked if I could take over her project from another site. I did, however, want to make sure her name and the original
site address were on mine also. So many of her archived interviews, even five to seven years later for some at this point,
are still extremely relevant, entertaining, and informative, even as the landscape of contests and presses continues to
change and evolve.
has the blog changed over time?
KM: I’ve wanted to mess with the design, since it
could certainly look a lot better, but Blogger can kind of be a pain sometimes. It seems like so many people have switched
over to WordPress or Tumblr from their older blogs, but I don’t want to risk losing all of the interviews if I make
some kind of mistake.
So to answer your question directly: not much has changed. I would mainly say that young poets who used to read
Kate’s interviews now have books out, so I’m subsequently interviewing them. The poetic circle of interviewing
life, I guess.
ELR: What role do you think or hope your blog has played in the lives of emerging and established
KM: It’s rare when I interview someone who doesn’t mention either reading my interviews
or Kate’s previously, so it always makes me happy to know there are at least some readers out there. That’s
why I do it. The experiences, number of years it takes, involvement from the press: everything can be so different from
poet to poet that I hope it’s at least something poets can use as some semblance of a resource, in whatever way
ELR: What have you
learned about writing and publishing poetry since you started the blog? Have the interviews made you rethink anything
about poetry writing or publishing?
KM: The biggest thing is probably the contest versus the
open reading period debate, or, at the very least, conversation. I think that’s an important question to ask for
many reasons, and it’s always great to see what answers I get.
Like I said, I think even though it’s hard
to publish a book, presses keep emerging, and it’s a testament to the blood, sweat and tears of editors who do whatever
they can to make sure work they believe in emerges beyond the .doc file manuscript. You really see this at a place like
the AWP book fair, where every year more and more presses pop up.
ELR: You’ve got
two poetry collections, both published by Dream Horse Press. What advice do you have for emerging poets about writing
writing’s the most important thing, and that’s something that young poets especially need to hear. That and
development. Practice at the craft. I’m not saying this in any MFA-related forum, mind you, but if the pen’s
not to the paper or the fingers aren’t on the keys, publishing can’t happen in the first place.
disclaimer, I don’t know how true this is, but there’s a story of Louise Glück—and probably others,
though her’s is the one etched in my mind—where once she started to make a name for herself, she apparently
got a hold of all the journals she could find housing poems she had published when she was young so no one could read them.
I think that every throwaway, B-side, or bad poem that’s published gets you directly to those good ones in
their necessarily circuitous way, so my advice would be: don’t be so hard on yourself as the years go by.
What kind of writing are you working on now?
Right now I’m heavily into the galley editing stages of my second book, which hopefully should be out by the end of
I’m also—it seems like I’ve been saying this for years, but that’s how the world of publishing
works—putting what I hope are the finishing touches on my third manuscript. I recently gave it the best overhaul
it’s had in years. It’s been a finalist or semi-finalist nearly twenty times so far in contests and open reading
periods, but it just can’t make it to the end. I’m hoping this overhaul is what it needs.
And then who knows? Hopefully a fourth book is
kicking around somewhere. The ideas are there. I just need to get back to sitting down and writing and then let the poems
start talking to each other.
ELR: How can people get in touch with you if they or someone they know are interested in being interviewed?
KM: I’m on Facebook and Twitter, and people can also
email me at kwmontesano at gmail dot com.
Small Presses. Bigger presses. All that’s fine. But no vanity presses
or self-published books, please.
If I’m able to get a review copy of the book, I’ll do an interview with you. To me, that’s a
pretty good trade. It’s tough to get reviews and interviews. I know that from experience now, so anything I can do
to help writers, and their books, gain a little exposure is something I’ll always take some time for.
Poems - Bio - Review - Interview