An Overheard Conversation


by Kevin McLellan

Kevin McLellan is the author of Hemispheres (Fact-Simile Press, forthcoming), [box] (Letter [r] Press, 2016), Tributary (Barrow Street, 2015), and Round Trip (Seven Kitchens, 2010). He won the 2015 Third Coast Poetry Prize and Gival Press’ 2016 Oscar Wilde Award, and his poems have appeared in several journals including: American Letters & Commentary, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Kenyon Review, West Branch, Western Humanities Review, and Witness. Kevin lives in Cambridge MA.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “An Overheard Conversation”?

It seemed necessary to start and end the poem with one line stanzas to represent the father’s need to exert oneness over his daughter and the oneness the daughter experienced as a result of this exertion. The very last edits were to the ending—the form changed from 1-2-1-2-1-2 to 1-2-1-2-1-2-1 in order to accommodate a one line stanza at the poem’s close.

The ending changed from:

show you something? / He says, “Nope.”


show you something? / He says “Nope” as he // reaches the sidewalk.


show you something? / He says, “Nope” once // he reaches the sidewalk

I also wanted to imply that this was not an isolated experience, so the very last edit, the most surprising edit, was the removal of the period that ended the poem.


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

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