Monday, April 18, 2011

Feasting at the Table of the Damned by Daniel Ames

Today I'm going outside my comfort zone. Like, really, really outside my comfort zone, to discuss a book a poetry, Feasting at the Table of the Damned,  that I received from author Daniel Ames.  He was kind enough to give me a copy of his first book of poetry for my birthday.  As you can probably guess by now... we met on Twitter. Daniel is officially part of what I call my Twitter family.

My first encounter with poetry, besides the usual copied poems we were all forced to write on cards for Mother's Day and Valentine's Day in kindergarten and early elementary school, was in my 5th grade class at Condon Elementary in St. Helens, Oregon. Oh, how I wish I remember this teacher's name. I remember what he looked like. He stood about 5'6" and had thick graying hair with a full beard and mustache. His eyes were a light blue.  He had a limp with partial paralysis on his right side from having polio as a child. He was kind. He was funny. And sometimes, when he didn't think we were watching, he'd pick his nose hairs with tweezers.  He really was my favorite teacher. Probably because he treated all of us the same; as if we were all capable of achieving greatness. He treated us that way even when we failed at something.

For me it was poetry.

He spent several days teaching us the ins and outs of poetry. He talked to us about rhythm and rhyming... and about a hundred other things, I'm sure. It was a long time ago, and I'm afraid in all of the years I've spent filling my brain with goodness this was, sadly, the only time I ever remember being taught anything about poetry.  Well, he taught us and sent us off to write a poem, and then  had us take turns reading our poems to the class.

Oh, boy!

I don't have the poem I wrote memorized in its entirety, but I do remember the first two lines...

*dramatic pause*            

I'm about to enter embarrassment territory, but it's all for the greater good... I promise.

There was a little deer
Standing next to a can of beer...

Hey, no laughing. I was in 5th grade for crying out loud.

The poem did improve along the way, and according to my teacher, my rhyming and rhythm were perfect. But we both knew that poetry wasn't my thing and that I wouldn't be earning a living writing greeting cards for Hallmark.

Since then I've always been fascinated with poetry. I just find it hard to understand. I think I've been conditioned in life to believe that every single thing, every single day, is a test. When in some ways it probably is, in other ways... like reading poetry, it isn't.

I had to remember that while reading Feasting at the Table of the Damned  by Daniel Ames.  His poetry wasn't a test for me.  It was a chance for me to take a look inside myself and find a relationship with the imagery he put together with words.  At times the book is filled with humor. At other times it is dark in its truthfulness. I could read about places that I've never been to and envision them in full detail with every word written in a poem. I found myself connecting and remembering some of the pain I have felt in my own life. Every word rang true to me. It was a beautiful tale about life. The good and the bad. Both, woven together as a reminder of how our choices, and unintended life circumstances, change us.

With permission from the author I would like to share with you a poem from Feasting at the Table of the Damned, that overwhelmed me the most, and even now, haunts me.  It is titled, The Murdered Years. Perhaps its content resonates with me because of my employment with the District Attorney's Office where we prosecute cases caused by the most horrific of circumstances. This poem, this poem out of all the poems in this book, spoke the loudest. All of my feelings, and probably those of my coworkers and friends, can be found within these lines.

The Murdered Years

they are strewn from here to Tijuana
tossed into the dumpster
thrown from overpass
buried in the field of unknowing

their last moments were not pleasant
rich with strife and frothing
crushed by the hoary thumb of
corporate America

kicked from the car during marital strife
passed out beneath the bar stool
while a friend rifles pockets for cash
and the bartender looks the other way

no detective has taken up the cold case
no pictures have been placed on milk cartons
they are gone and forgotten
unmarked graves
wandering eternity

the slaughter has slowed a bit
but the blood thirst is not fully slaked
a year goes for a walk and never returns
a year picked up a john, didn't come back

they are the kind of moments no one cares about
no relatives will put pressure on the authorities
the days, weeks, months will remain missing
and no one is holding out hope they're still alive

so we go on

we put one foot in front of the other
we scratch at the foot that is no longer there
a song catches our ear and we turn
until the memory vanishes

one day, maybe, the cadaver dogs will howl with glee
the coroner will dissect where it all went wrong
someone will mourn the murdered years
say what a waste, they were so young and innocent

Daniel Ames will be visiting My Friends Call Me Kate on Wednesday and will talk to us about why it was so important for him to publish this book.  Feasting at the Table of the Damned is available for pre-order here.

Dan Ames is a poet living in DetroitFeasting at the Table of the Damned is his first book. You can learn more about him at


Sara said...

Wow...just wow! I LOVE poetry. I used to have a bunch of poetry books, but they all got stolen when my storage unit got broken into. All except one that I have on a bookshelf at home. I entered a poetry contest when I was 14; I figured I wouldn't win since I was going up against older and more experienced poets, but I was quite proud of myself. For a fee my poem got published in a book and of course my mother bought 10 copies to give out to all of her friends. Anyway, great job Dan and Thanks Sabrina for making my day brighter :)

gbeck said...

Thanks for sharing the poem with us. I love poetry and have a row of books of poetry on my bookshelf. I think I'll have to add a new one. The thing I love most about poetry is the personal nature. Everyone gets something different out of a well written poem and The Murdered Years was beautiful. Can't wait until Wednesday.

Leah Anderson said...

I love poetry. The first thing I thought of when I saw Daniel's work was e.e. cummings...who was one of my favorite poets to write about (and read) when I was in college. I look forward to reading more of Daniel's work...this is an extremely intriguing piece.

jchrz said...

Thank you Daniel, for allowing Sabrina to share some of your work, I think this little sneak is going to intrigue more people to read poetry. I for one have never been one who has had much of an interest but after reading The Murdered Years and your title Feasting at the Table of the Dammed has me quite intrigued to read it.

Lalabowers said...

Truthfully, I'm not big on poetry but I can see how Daniel's poem would resonate with you. I think his poem's sound like they are worth checking out. Also,I would LOVE to hear the rest of your poem about the deer.

McDroll said...

Well done Sabrina, I love how you told the story of your experience with poetry first because some people can be afraid of it and you make reading this book possible for us all so that we can all access the wonderful ideas and imagery that is held within.

Elizabeth said...

You always have such wonderful stories to tie into your reviews. :-)