Henry Walters is Dublin’s Writer-in-Residence, Head Boys Basketball Coach and renaissance man. His Field Guide A Tempo has been nominated for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and he has taken a few moments to share his process, his thoughts of the evolution of the collection, and a “musical solution” from one of the collection’s poems.
"The collection was a long time cooking. Some of the poems are as old as 2007; a couple of them went through forty distinct drafts. But they didn’t start taking shape as a whole book until 2013, when I wrote the central sequence of nine poems, which I called “Field Guide.”
[ the poems are] a kind of mock-scientific report, a futuristic anthropologist analyzing a human being as if for the first time, half marveling and half guffawing at the strangeness, the “primitiveness,” of our language, our habits, our rituals. And the sequence became, surprisingly, a sort of self-portrait, too. All my contradictions, hypocrisies, superstitions, weaknesses were suddenly staring me in the face; my feints toward the divine; my knock-kneed tip-toings toward a mortal love; my misuse of the rational; my misuse of the irrational; my human limits were all on show.
And I needed a music that could house all that dissonance. I needed a music that had room for the scientist’s mask of objectivity, but another room for the living creature he studies, crying in the wilderness, and another room for the wilderness to answer him back. And it became clear that all my most urgent writing happened from one of those three perspectives, or from an effort to unite those three perspectives. And this is why it has to be a book of poetry: because the solution to that triple union is not mathematical, not philosophical, not even sensical. It’s a musical solution. You know what a musical solution is if you’ve ever been out jogging or skiing or snow-shoeing or doing anything strenuous, and you’ve had to adjust your breathing to fit your stride. Poems have to fit the ragged huff-and-puff of thought, of thinking, to the contours of time, as you know it."
The Kate Tufts Discovery Award is presented annually for a first book by a poet of genuine promise.
Finalists for 2016 are:
- Meg Day, Last Psalm at Sea Level. Day is assistant professor of English and creative writing at Franklin & Marshall College.
- Bethany Schultz Hurst, Miss Lost Nation. Schultz Hurst teaches creative writing at Idaho State University.
- Michael Morse, Void and Compensation. Morse teaches at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival
- Danez Smith, [insert] boy. Smith is a MFA candidate at the University of Michigan and teaches with InsideOut Detroit.
- Henry Walters, Field Guide A Tempo. Walters is writer-in-residence at the Dublin School.