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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

City Native David Plumb: Man in a Suitcase

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, June 15, 2005

David Plumb's "Man in a Suitcase"
Memory, history, time and impression meander through a sort of purgatory in David Plumb’s most recent poetry volume titled “Man in a Suitcase.”

The writing is intense and moody, as Plumb acknowledged during a recent telephone interview.

“It’s dark,” he said. “Not all of it, but much of it is dark.”

Dark, yes, and gritty; Plumb’s poems do not shrink beneath clever rhyme or insulated illusion. A writing titled “Hero” describes the 1993 killing of a gas station attendant:

“For Jose Comacho
Shot in the head at the Texaco Station”

Plumb offers tribute to the man’s life:

“You, a gas station attendant worked dangerous hours
with more courage than I can muster some days
a regular guy, a guy I remember
when I feel out of kilter, rushed
or out of sorts as I do now
in this world of gas, cars,
and bizarre circumstances.”

His poetry is drawn from real life and is rooted in his relationships, experiences and past jobs such as paramedic and taxi driver. The poem “Driver” brings the hungry cabbie world to a reader’s table:

“I listen to this wonderful man
haggard, strong,
a day’s sweat by six forty a.m.
longshoreman’s cap
pulled low over left eye.
Vest pocket cigarette-full.
Veins pulsate in his temples.
He leans on the front left cab door
And goes on about the cab.”
“I’m thinking about nights.
Is there any more money?
They say there’s more money.”
And later on:
“Work days, it’s a job.
Work nights, it’s your life.”

Plumb spent his childhood in North Adams and left the area during the late 1950s. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Syracuse University and a master’s degree at the San Francisco State University. Plumb served as a gunnery officer in Vietnam and subsequently traveled to California. He teaches creative writing and English at Florida Atlantic University, and has taught fiction writing at the University of California – Berkeley and at the Fort Mason Center for the Arts. Plumb was among the 48 speakers invited to the First International Conference on Literature and Addiction held at the University of Sheffield, U.K..

Writers must remain true to their own voice, Plumb said.

“When I teach writing, I teach students to hear their own voice,” he said, and added that “individual voices” are being smothered by a mainstream, commercial push for writers to create an “it – a product.”

Plumb said he “finds the energy in events and gives the energy a voice.”

A poem titled “Grace” describes the emotional storm surrounding a mother’s hospitalization.

“Now my brother and I try to take control of her life and ours
mincing truth as best as we know how.
The stakes are dignity and honor in death with a stomach tube
Shoved directly into her 82-year-old stomach by Friday.
We need to make this decision by Friday.”
The very personal yet very ordinary circumstance is acknowledged at poem’s end:
“I say I love you, I shall be there for you
from my couch in Florida where it seems pastel can ruin outlook.
Where life beyond the beach often seems
like humidity waiting on hurricane.
I think of the times we shouted, yelled, and fought.
How life seemed with no particular end.
How it feels lost and fragile like the memory of a leap second
must be for mother lying in her hospital bed.”
“Where each blink feels like artificial silence
dubbed into a movie and strange voices at the end of the room
seem to be talking about her, me, or you. Voices
that fade to the next ot the one before or after the news,
of who we were, are, or might be, somewhere between Fort
Wayne, Troy,Fort Lauderdale, or any old place at all.”

“Man in a Suitcase” is not a “light read,” but for those who are able to look in a mirror and see what’s truly reflected, Plumb’s poetry will likely find the deep, smoky places in the soul.

The 65-page volume was published by Smoking Mirror Press in Sand Diego, Calif.. A number of poems were first printed in publications including “Beatitudes,” “Blue Collar Review,” “Poetry Motel,” and “The Santa Barbara Review.” Plumb has written a novel titled “Flamingo Heaven,” which he said he expects to be released in spring 2006.

Susan Bush may be reached by calling 802-823-9367 or by e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net.
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