Live from the Homesick Jamboree

Live from the Homesick Jamboree

by Adrian Blevins


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Live from the Homesick Jamboree is a brave, brash, funny, and tragic hue and cry on growing up female during the 1970s, "when everything was always so awash" that the speaker finds herself adrift among adults who act like children. The book moves from adolescence through a dry-eyed, poignant exploration of two marriages, motherhood, and the larger world, with the headlong perceptiveness and brio characteristic of Adrian Blevins's work. This poetry is plainspoken and streetwise, brutal and beautiful, provocative and self-incriminating, with much musicality and a corrosive bravura, brilliantly complicated by bursts of vernacular language and flashes of compassion. Whether listening to Emmylou Harris while thinking she should be memorizing Tolstoy, reflecting on her "full-to-bursting motherliness," aging body, the tensions and lurchings of a relationship, or "the cockamamie lovingness" of it all, the language flies fast and furious. As the poet Tony Hoagland wrote of Blevins's previous book, The Brass Girl Brouhaha, "this is the dirty, trash-talking, highly edified real thang."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819574619
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication date: 09/30/2013
Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
Pages: 68
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 5.80(h) x 0.20(d)

About the Author

ADRIAN BLEVINS won the 2004 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for The Brass Girl Brouhaha (2003), and is also the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writer's Foundation Award, a Bright Hill Press Chapbook Award for The Man Who Went Out for Cigarettes (1996), and the Lamar York Prize for Nonfiction. She teaches at Colby College.

Read an Excerpt



If your mother's like mine wanting you honeyed and blithe
  you'll get drowned by getting evicted

since the mothers can teach with a dustpan the tons of modes of tossing.

And the fathers will lift your eyes too-early-too-open:
  the fathers can creep up on anything when it's still too wet

to cloister with their weeping and strand you like a seed

or drown at the carnivals with the can-do caroling
  and storefronts and foodstuffs and annulments and Scotch

and off-handed fucking and walking out and moving on

until you've got the drift of wanting a whole river up in you
  and got pretty much the gist

of you needing your crannies hot with a good man's body-silt until your head is stuffed with a pining for diapers
  and the most minuscule spoons made mostly of silver

and Ajax too and Minwax Oh

in this the dumbstruck story of the American female
  as a shard of terracotta and some driftwood in a dress

while howling at the marrow of the marrow of the bone.


It all started when I got the inkling my parents were odd. I mean, after I could feel it. I mean, after I got the eyes to see I was missing an Easter dress because I was missing a God because I was watching All in the Family on the trifling TV, though don't say we were lacking in turpentine. Oh, there were agents for anything we wanted! There was the agent for stripping

and the agent for bonding. There was the agent for cleansing when Mama washed our records in the sink while she mixed the marinade to douse the beef and somewhere upstairs Daddy mixed his paints and somewhere downtown Mama's new boyfriend mixed the finish for some antique and some lawyer's wife mixed the sugar to the salad for it was the South at the time and we were hot
  were we not

and there was always something to saturate since this was the '70s when everything was always awash such as the boys on the news in so much blood the blood somehow left Vietnam to grow over my eye a monocle so magic that wherever I was I could see everything such as the agent with which my parents killed the weeds that ravaged the yard and the agent they tossed into the tub

when they were done with the lawn and wanted only to bathe so they could dress and drink the agents they mixed with the other agents when the ten or so thousand thirsty men and women came to that house that was singing almost it was so cordial I mean lethal I mean mannerly okay and courteous all right and good and decent and sweet.


As I remember, they were enormous, like countless cymbals striking, each one in sickly separation the whole show coming through the door

with me as nothing-but-epidermis in the tub back when I'm nine or ten bathing during my parents'
parties while eyeing the pink robe on the iron hook

since the actors, playwrights, poets, painters, and windfall ass-biters would always have to pee or vomit or put the lid down and smoke a joint

and take a breather, I remember they'd say, while I'd fill up my two palms and drink the tap water as hot as it would come since I guess that was my medicine

against how much they loathed the war and Phyllis Schlafly and Richard Nixon and each other if they were breaking up or themselves if they were drunk,

which they were, for I remember tumblers and I remember stumbling: I remember jingling at the wrists and stretched-out black eyelashes and somehow-hectic
  Capri pants

because even if that wasn't really Anne Sexton in my bathroom swallowing pâté
so she could throw it all up so the pants would fit the next day, it always was

Anne Sexton and Dylan Thomas and their vaporous faces in there calling me little girl and weeping and mumbling and shivering and shaking

until I'd stand up and dry off and stroke their swollen hands until they were enormous again downstairs with the others singing loud enough

to wake a far-flung neighborhood. Don't wonder why or if the propensity swelled to other years in other rooms and kinds and types of sticky sex.

This is about the paltry heart that must get gutted sometimes and knotted and lit-up while sodden. It makes no difference to the story how ample is our fury.


I remember how the days seemed never to end, how tacky they got
  at the rim, the sultry residue on the wild roses Mama and everyone

not only didn't wipe off but somehow cultivated with somehow the very breath
  back at the farm when I was a child when everyone left town

to go to what people called anyway "the farm" to sit on porches and be
    intellectual hillbillies
  in peace I guess and drink wine I guess and smoke a little pot maybe
    and play bridge and talk mutiny and riot and insubordination and defiance

and though I've spent my whole life missing the childhood I missed
  while bitching about the fucked-up ways in which the fucked-up bohemians

screwed me over essentially with their atheism and aestheticism
  and tribalism and alcoholism and snooty romanticized Southernism,

somebody needs to write an ode never-the-fuck-the-less
  to the body heat of everyone at the fire pit

  and the hundreds of little fish in a huge bucket in cornmeal
    or flour or something

because there really must be an ode to the body heat of everyone at the pond
  where in the not-quite-dark the fish were caught and reeled in

and thrown up on the bank to be skewered and thrown back into the water
  to be allowed to breathe for a little bit longer on a string

because that froth or foam or whatever that was covering the rhododendron
  and the goldenrod and the rye and all the plants in fact

    covered the mothers and the fathers and the brothers and the sisters

as well as that old fort we climbed around in and the huge birch tree
  and the outhouse lilies and the hand pump and the water that trickled from it

as this was before any of us went away and changed and died and such
  and thus it is imperative that some kind of song be sung

about the time before the dread when we liked to stand in a circle in the dark around a fire and not know anything and not say anything

  but just be there together to just together heed it.


There's so much happening I wake up running so of course I sit down and shut my eyes in the so-called library to think about how every good step forward

is really just a step during which there was no chasm below though Mama-the-optimist would dispute this despite her recent stories about a little operation

regarding her gall bladder in a plight she named herself after searching the Internet, she says, after two years, she says,
of a bothersome, but not fixedly horrendous ache. My mother,

she's happy not to be peeing accidentally in her pants:
she's happy for a certain kind of not-very-fancy-even sherry that she's happy to drink while she happily makes dinner

while I — I have something lodged in my eye that says there's a hole in the vessel on which I'm traversing or maybe a tatty place that's going to rip

or perchance some nefarious people thinking nefarious thoughts about me in order to set the vessel on fire with their mental ferocity in order to ruin my chances of surviving the sea

that I didn't even originate because I — I was just a child in my mother's kitchen, and she — she always had something baking or boiling in there: she always had the candles lit or let's say

the water, she got it humming, and then when my mother she left the glassware it broke and spewed across the crosswise sunlight and I became this vexed I behind a routine face — this obstinate and otherwise I

made just exactly why by what fair and fervent what? By whom?


She's still sucking on smokes and sticks and the husband's aristocratic cock
  and the roast beef and buttered bread. For when the mother can't love
    the father: for when the mother thinks the father's mad and outrageous

because the father's mad and outrageous (and O the suckling's done and O
  the fat breast departed), the girl-child with the father hair and father eyes
    and his very brainstem and tilt of laughing head

will succumb to her thumb until the thumb is washed in turpentine
  and the mauve coverlet in vinegar since that's what Dr. Spock
    must have said to do in the mid-'60s edition of Baby and Child Care

to stop her from sucking on the tips of her fingers and the ends of her his-hair
  though it didn't even work so what was the point since the local boys
    got there soon enough with their own propositions for the purposes

of her mouth. All the same after she was older she sort of liked the hunger
  since it got to the senses like for instance the cinnamon in the tea
    and the keen, keen mountains that were so blue

and sometimes so purple and always so somber-satisfying she couldn't help
  but commence to sucking on the noun and vowel and sentence sounds.
    As if you didn't know this already! As if you weren't yourself

the victim of your own fissures that really must be filled, is what the father said.
Do not cross this burning world hollow and looted, he always said. Not hollow
  and looted, he would say. God darlin' God darlin' God darlin' no.


My father said the most wicked among us were the petty bourgeois
  and the Republicans of the black lakes of all that filched money
    and me sometimes was how it felt

when I was a kid in Daddy's slapdash house of divorce and dejection
  with no way of knowing what kind of girl to be
    and the point is Daddy didn't know either

and wept drunk on the porch because of it sometimes
  until he remembered Rembrandt and Van Gogh and
    woke up the buoyant maestro again

on the sexuality of the Hominid and the evil of the Klan
  and the sway of Dada and the problem of Iran.
    Now Daddy sits in bars in Spain and France

and drinks a beer in Venice and calls on Sunday from Ireland
  to ask me to please tell him in a text or less
    what kind of girl I am

and all I know is soon will come the contagion winter
  and then the winter of the father departed
    and he always promised we'd go fishing.

He would sit in his chair and he would light a cigarette.
  He would curse the starlings for scaring the songbirds
    and cross his heart and hope to die if I would ask him to

and I'm the kind of girl who would always ask him to
  and he would do it and sing about the bones of chickens
    in the bellies of foxes until the gorge got dark

so yes I am about the gist of that darkness and the buoyancy
  of that very particular and faraway backwoods darkness
    when my father would say to go to sleep

and dream anything I wanted like holding your breath
  in a way it was, or like swimming
    like some forever raggedy thing forever underwater.


I'm stripping the paper of iris trailing iris when the word labia gets stuck to my labia
  unless it's a vicious recollection of the brimming heads of infants or
    a fat enclave of boys

in the back-when hothouse of no place for kids. By which I mean: they'd say cunt
  when they'd need bitch because I had followed them around to the back
    of the shack,

I had gestured for the bourbon and I had swigged it — I had swigged and
    I had swallowed
  and was about now to holler how they couldn't say nigger and could not also spit

here among the hydrangea of the enterprise of me at fourteen in Virginia
    in the Blue Ridge
  dead set against their hands and hair and tomato-canning Jesus mothers

and the part-leather, part-cloth athletic jackets they seem to want to wed or lick
  and the automotive hi-tech stuff they won't stop talking the knotty virtues of

when what I require is the Oxford English Dictionary and a quilt in a meadow
  since I'm nameless between the legs like the sketch of a girl
    splayed out in a meadow

and nameless between the legs like the most minimal sketch in a most
    nominal meadow
  of the general shape of a girl sprayed down horizontal in a frail draft of the vibe

without any real account of what you'd maybe call the inside of the inside
    of the very inside
  when what I've got to say for myself in terms of what I know
    because I remember is this.


I was born at high noon in June heaps too early and small so after the first menses I'd want the darkling opposite.
All I mean is, the night was everything back then

though obviously I was a mom. Always at Goodwill in the fiendish afternoon while pretending to look for boy shirts and boy pants and backpacks, I'd search out the night

in the shape of a black cape or sweater or tablecloth with the eyes of little witches painted on. It's how the babies showed up in the first place with their high screams

and daylight requirements — it was my time of great ignorance and I wanted to correct it — it was imperative that I shed the limpidness and decency that covered me at each fiery opening

slit. That's why I'd let some boy be conveyed through the night through what was called my body: he'd take me down with him via some vegetated shack of a supposed bed while I'd shut my eyes

against the very idea and ordeal of him and think I believe about the haybales out there and the marsupials snooping for little meats to bite and chew or bury in black holes I thought went down forever

to the other side of the earth where there were bound to be bees sputtering pollen on what I'm sure I knew was every single sweet and flaxen thing I remain in my rigidity too medieval to name.


Before we place the vein blue sheetrock against the stud walls and invite the brawny boys to take out their ballpeen hammers and their measuring sticks: before the men start cursing the job

in order to pass the time is my experience and to prove they're men

I want to say how I can't even find my own heart in this house.
It must be stowed away in the basement or under the winter clothes inside some storage boxes beside the furnace. I can't find anything

less than a heart around here, either. I went looking for a cocktail

and couldn't find the shot glass. I went wanting my childhood,
and it wasn't in the medicine chest. No, it wasn't in the wardrobe,
but there were sandals — leather ones with thin straps I may have worn

to a wedding or to one of those lawn parties they have back home

with girls in wide-brimmed straw hats and skirts that twirl.

I might remember a banquet, dulcimer music, and a bouquet of flowers, but couldn't that be a little pre-dawn wishful-thinking reverie?

Listen to how hard the rain keeps on coming down! I could depict

the leaves falling in big blobs of coffee-colored mini-splotches,
but instead of the umbrellas and the fleece and the ponchos I need I've got the baby teeth of my three kids in little bags in the middle drawer

of my dresser. I've got someone's dried-out umbilical cord stored there,

too. But there's no lute music in the meadow because there is no meadow left. There is no necklace or locket or reaping-season jig.
Just this shedding of the fucking lot, and the long wait for the mend.


Here in the province of Fuck You we're really in the province of Fuck Me
  since I hate my head since it involves my mouth

and hence the talk expressing no acquaintance with New England winter crops
  or how to make a stew that's not my mother's soup

or find any other way to disobey both parents vis-à-vis the homeland they're so high on
  because the mountains are not flat is how they like to put it

when the real reason is Daniel Boone invading our hometown in 1767
  and calling it Wolf Hills to commemorate the massacre

of the pack that ate his dogs. Daniel Boone's in other words
  the real reason my parents are not recovered from being from home

and the real reason I'm not recovered unless the actual predicament here
  is just myself being myself and my husband being my husband

nine hundred miles away from where the tea is customarily sugared
  and the dogwoods start blooming at the end of March

causing a delectable whiteness to pervade the atmosphere
  and though the dogwood is a tree and trees should not be eaten,

the dogwood seems anyway to want to be devoured
  since here in the district of The Gone Astray

I want to devour everything transformed by my distance
  into yet another elegy, since what I really don't get

is what made Boone think the trouble and the hunger would stop
  when he got his rifle and bent into the snarl and shot.


With her one horrid eye persistently unfastened, a vigilant bird watched my grandfather during The Great Depression use each evening of one whole year to wander his corn fields knowing this world is just one pig after another

in one pen after another. Therefore, the bird heard him suppose,
shouldn't he with his best gun, machete, Buick, or rope terminate his acquaintance with the tiresome set-up of breakfast-lunch-dinner-dawn-dusk-fall-winter-spring-summer

blah-blah-blah? But his girls were good-looking and made such fine pies, so the bird watched him live wretchedly until he died more naturally of cancer too soon to see his people become the dopefiends, doctor-haters,

masturbators, insomniacs, sleep fanatics, shut-ins, and teetotalers the bird knew they would become, for the purpose of girls is to just ruin everything with wanton reproduction so that now now now it's really relentless — how heavy

his people got in their limbs and how torrential, thus,
the frenziedly wind, though beyond the eye of the bird is the small, ashen brain of the bird, and below that, a heart,
I swear, through which come the iffy notes of this cruel song.


Excerpted from "Live From the Homesick Jamboree"
by .
Copyright © 2009 Adrian Blevins.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

How to Drown a Wolf
The Hospitality
The Theatre People
Ode to the Fish Fry
Origin of the Species
Weaning Electra
School of the Arts
In the Almost-Evening of Almost-Canada
First Fall in Maine
Live from the Homesick Jamboree
Big Rain Day
Country Song
Semantic Relations
Poem for My Daughter August Disparaging the Gossamer Depictions of the Women of Certain Southern Texts
First Winter in Maine
Why the Marriage Failed
Morning Song
Jesus Saves
Watching The NewsHour
CV Rider
Dream in Which I Find Myself Confronted Yet Again with Why The Marriage Failed
Dear New Mothers of America
Why the Marriage Failed II
Dear Reader
Hey You
The Second Marriage
Woman by Woman
Sin City
How We Talk
The Way She Figured He Figured It
If the Universe Sends Me a Grip
The Waning
The Imperative Sentence
Now There's a River

What People are Saying About This

Barbara Hambly

“Adrian Blevins is a transcendent poet of the family in all its discontent and turbulence. Hers is a world of crush and gorge. And that gorge is deep and beautiful, but there’s always a party brewing on the cliffs and dancing to be done on its crumbling edges, swords to be unsheathed, and words like stars to lasso and spin into her glittering lines.”

Ellen Dore Watson

"This book is rich with words from every register, and they are roughed-up and sand-papered and worshipped and flung. The AC/DC-ness of them is nothing if not a mirror of what it is to live--which is awfully like what it is to love."
Ellen Dore Watson, author of This Sharpening

From the Publisher

"This book is rich with words from every register, and they are roughed-up and sand-papered and worshipped and flung. The AC/DC-ness of them is nothing if not a mirror of what it is to live—which is awfully like what it is to love." —Ellen Doré Watson, author of This Sharpening

"Adrian Blevins is a transcendent poet of the family in all its discontent and turbulence. Hers is a world of crush and gorge. And that gorge is deep and beautiful, but there's always a party brewing on the cliffs and dancing to be done on its crumbling edges, swords to be unsheathed, and words like stars to lasso and spin into her glittering lines." —Barbara Hamby, author of Babel

Barbara Hamby

“Adrian Blevins is a transcendent poet of the family in all its discontent and turbulence. Hers is a world of crush and gorge. And that gorge is deep and beautiful, but there’s always a party brewing on the cliffs and dancing to be done on its crumbling edges, swords to be unsheathed, and words like stars to lasso and spin into her glittering lines.”

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