Monday, February 25, 2013

Guest Blog Post: Lori Desrosiers on her father and her new book, The Philosopher’s Daughter

Thank you to Lori Desrosiers for sharing her thoughts today about writing her new book, The Philosopher’s Daughter. For those of you interested in memoir, I think you’ll be particularly interested in how these poems emerged from her life.

Lori Desrosiers’ first full-length book of poems, The Philosopher's Daughter is from Salmon Poetry (2013). Her chapbook, Three Vanities, was published in 2009 by Pudding House. Her poems have appeared in New Millenium Review, Contemporary American Voices, BigCityLit, Concise Delights, Blue Fifth Review, Pirene's Fountain, The New Verse News, Common Ground Review, and many more, including a prompt in Wingbeats, a book of writing exercises from Dos Gatos Press. Her MFA in Poetry is from New England College. She is editor and publisher of Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry.


The Philosopher’s Daughter (Salmon Poetry 2013) came about partly because I had already written a chapbook of poems (Three Vanities, Pudding House 2009) about the women in my family, my grandmother, my mother and myself, and I felt like my father’s story was missing in the mix. My father was a real philosopher. He taught Philosophy at Fordham University for fifteen years before he died, and he wrote three heavy (in all the senses of the word) volumes of philosophy with Latin names (the first one was Homo Querens), which were published by Fordham Press. He called his theory the “philosophy of the person.” They are quite interesting, although since my specialty was literature and not philosophy, I found them a bit hard to understand. He was also a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, and had his practice in his home on the upper east side.

My father was not a typical dad, which plagued my little brother, who would have liked a “baseball dad” like his friends had. He asked us philosophical questions at a young age, such as “Is nothing something?” and “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” which at three or four, I took seriously enough to try to answer. My parents were divorced when I was eleven, so he lived in Manhattan. My brother and I would take the train to visit him from Hastings-on-Hudson, where we lived with our mother in an apartment overlooking the river.  About six years before he died, he married Becky and they moved to Redding, CT, where he died of brain cancer. I think it’s ironic that this brilliant man died of a brain tumor.

I am still writing poems about my father, some of which are in the book I’m working on, which is partially a response to some of the music he loved (the classics, Beethoven especially) and partly more philosophical musings on my part. I guess my dad, more than anything else, taught me how to think deeply, and to keep the sense of wonderment I had as a child. He told me once that children are closer to God. Perhaps they are.  Here’s the poem on this concept from The Philosopher’s Daughter:

Closer to God

My father used to say,
“Children are closer to God.”
When I was very small
before there were words
coursing through my mind,
there were sunbeams
filtering through my nursery window.
I recall the songs of sparrows,
the clang of milk delivery,
horses’ hooves on cobblestone,
the smell of burning chestnuts,
my mother humming lullabies,
my father’s exultant laugh.
He died at 63,
mute from brain cancer.
In his last moments
did he reclaim this wordless awe?

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