19: brad buchanan

Brad Buchanan

brad buchanan

Brad Buchanan is Associate Professor of English at California State University, Sacramento, where he teaches Creative Writing and Modern British Literature. His poetry has appeared in more than 140 journals worldwide, including The Antigonish Review, Canadian Literature, Fulcrum, The Fiddlehead, Grain, and The Wisconsin Review. He has published two books of poetry: The Miracle Shirker (2005) and Swimming the Mirror: Poems for My Daughter (2008), and is co-founder of Roan Press, a small publishing operation.




Stage Fright

A space that teases
and terrifies
with swift light, blinding
movement, and noise
beyond her timid imagination,
this stage stops
her subtle evolution,
freezes her
into what an audience
can understand:
a refusal to dance,
a need to be comforted,
an awe-struck,
awful shyness.
Her teacher picks
her up to save her
from her own terror
at what she sees,
at what is gathered
in the darkness.
She thought she wanted this
and she was wrong—
her only performance
is a pas-de-scaredy-cat:
a backwards step,
with arms stretched out.


The Unimportant Questions

She has asked them of me all day
and I’ve attempted to answer her
as best I can. I have tried to explain
the quivering arrows on street signs,
the meanings of red, yellow and green,
the speed limits, the way to the airport,
the need for top security,
the strange importance of her shoes
in a moment of adult scrutiny.
I have told her all the truths I know
about the places we will be
visiting in our travels eastward
but as she leans excitedly forward
and cheers our liftoff, her gaze wide and avid
for life and what she can learn from me,
I see there are limits. If this plane
were spiraling irrecoverably
into certain death, I could not
bear to tell her. I would lie
through the teeth of my own mortality
and hold her terrified body close
and look into her vital eyes,
and when she asks if we’re going to die
I’ll say in my steadiest, steeliest voice
that everything’s going to be okay.


The Father’s Manifesto

She doesn’t know where she is going,
but a direction is finding her out.

She doesn’t know what she is saying
but meaning is being made of it.

She doesn’t know that it isn’t worth knowing
everything, as a matter of fact.

She doesn’t know that she’s delaying
grief by being ignorant.

She doesn’t know, but she is asking.
Soon I’ll have to tell her what

she doesn’t know but is dying
to understand. The girl I’ll create

she doesn’t know yet, but is learning
to become. How I’ll stand the guilt

she doesn’t know, but is slowly forming
the capacity to accept.

She doesn’t know, and I am wondering,
why we love, die, dream and write.




on the nightstand:

Far, far too much stuff. Do you really want to know? OK, here’s a start, anyway: William Trevor: The Collected Stories, Peter Porter’s Selected Poems, two critical books on Flannery O’Connor, three histories of the Battle of Québec, six copies of Swimming the Mirror, one copy of The Miracle Shirker, Kamala Markandaya’s Nectar in a Sieve, Iqbal Mahmood’s Strategies of Negation: Postcolonial Themes and Conflicts in the English Language Literature of the East Indian Diaspora, Sports Illustrated, the Economist, an issue of Chirp (a children’s magazine), cue cards to assist me in my efforts to write a movie in my spare time (good luck with that), a lamp, a checkbook, pens, myriad unaffiliated papers. And that’s just the top of the nightstand! Yes, my wife is indeed appalled.


am loving:

William Trevor’s stories, the NHL playoffs, European soccer on ESPN 360, Moby’s music, my daughter’s improvised songs, Barack Obama’s presidency, my job.


what inspires you about summer?

That’s easy! I don’t teach in the summer, so I have time to write regularly and intensively and to plan for future projects. For me, opportunity is more important than inspiration. Still, I do enjoy wearing shorts and a t-shirt all day.


what are three constants in your day?

  1. Eating breakfast with my daughter
  2. Checking my email accounts compulsively
  3. Thinking about words


what’s your idea of a perfect summer evening?

My idea of a perfect summer evening involves a light but aromatic beer (Fat Tire works nicely), a barbecued dinner eaten outside with my wife and daughter, a peaceful transition to night-time (putting my daughter to bed without major incidents), a sporting event to monitor while I wrap up the day’s busy work and emails, a good book to read before bedtime, a poem that offers itself out of nowhere and lets me write it down without so much as a blotch on the paper.



7 thoughts on “19: brad buchanan

  1. Each poem a unique experience. You inspire me to reach deeper into my own literary well. Looking forward to your next book.

  2. Brad, Jim Den Boer re-introduced me to your interest in taking over Swan Scythe Press. I believe I’m ready to figure it out. What do you think? Shall we begin talking. I’ll tell you, I’m a terrible marketer and need someone dedicated to advertising in Poets and Writers. Let’s talk! Best, Sandy McPherson

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