Michael Dickman

At the start of my freshman year of high school, I did not know how to write. I knew that I wanted to write, and I knew that I had a lot to say, but I hadn’t quite figured out how to articulate any of it. The poem that changed all of that for me was “Killing Flies” by Michael Dickman. I stumbled upon it by chance, and I was immediately captivated. The opening lines grabbed me and pulled me into a situation that I had never come close to experiencing, but that I somehow felt incredibly connected to

 

“I sit down for dinner

with my dead brother

again

This is the last dream I ever want to have

 Passing the forks

around the table, passing

the knives

 There’s nothing to worry about”

 – Killing Flies

 These lines stunned me, and expertly conveyed grief in just a few words. This poem came at an important time for me, and showed me the way that words can affect people in a way that can’t always be explained. During freshman year, I experienced the loss of purpose that comes with being 15. I was writing all the time for school, but I didn’t really know why. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything important. After reading this poem, I understood why.

As much as I love Dickman’s craft, I can’t say that is specifically what draws me to his work. Rather, it’s the unexplainable feeling I get each time I read one of his pieces.

The most valuable advice I was ever given as a writer was that specificity is your friend. In a lot of my early writing, I was trying to be as general as possible. I wanted to write what I thought people wanted to read, and I tried to be relatable to everyone. I was a 15 year old girl pretending like I lived in New York City, or played guitar in a band, or was struggling through college. In Michael Dickman’s poems, nothing is ever general. The detail is astounding, whether he is talking about his deceased brother, his relationship with his father, or Emily Dickinson.

“You eat the forks,

all the knives, asleep and waiting

on the white tables

 What do you love?

 I love the way our teeth stay long after we’re gone, hanging on

despite worms or fire

I love our stomachs

turning over

the earth”

– My Autopsy

These lines strike me in ways I can’t explain, but the feeling I get when I read his work resonates through me. In a way, this feeling is what I am searching for in what I read, and what I am striving to produce in what I write. Michael Dickman taught me how to speak, how to be honest about the things that it hurts to be honest about. Now, I know that I can find myself, and by extension my writing, inside his poetry.

Meredith Abdelnour, Junior Layout and Design Editor