“68” from Radio Cacophony

by Michelle Dove

Because I am nervous, I arrive at my poetry professor’s house before the designated time. I wait gingerly in her foyer while she prepares tea. At the designated time she eagerly gives me a tour of the entire house, including her bedroom, where she sleeps on the same mattress that the astronauts sleep on in space. I am to sleep on the astronaut mattress every night after I’ve given her arthritis-stricken cat his medication and have brushed him thoroughly from head to tail. I am to read her poetry books in her study as if I was her and pet the arthritis-stricken cat in my lap as she would. I am to wake in her stead and walk around the house imagining that I am a writer and professor of poetry myself. I am to thank her for the opportunity to live another life, a life of care and creation, even if only for the short time that she is away. My poetry professor—such a generous soul! Years later, when I am less nervous but still unsure of myself, I ask my poetry professor if she will write me a recommendation to study poetry in a graduate program. Immediately she turns angry and appalled. Heavens, no! she says. Whatever would inspire you to do such a thing? she says. She says, Can’t you see that not everyone is fit to be a poet?

Michelle Dove is the author of Radio Cacophony, forthcoming from Big Lucks Books. Recent poetry and prose appears in Chicago Review, DIAGRAM, Sixth Finch and PEN/Guernica.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “68” from Radio Cacophony?

    Radio Cacophony came out of my love affair in undergrad with my college radio station. Volunteering as a deejay and staff member for several years was very formative to who I am, so I’ve tried over the years to write stories or essays about all that happened. Never could do it with any truth or empathy or perspective. I was riding the metro one day in DC when the vignette form came alive for me. I wrote one number. Then another. And then took a week off work to write the rest, nearly a hundred total. I’ve since edited and changed much that came out of that week and a half of writing, but the book wouldn’t exist without that initial energy and zombie-like habitation of my memories from undergrad. Writing a little bit every day is great, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about a real shut-in with your work that’s unmatched
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