Six Inches of Glory: A Quasi-Serial Adventure
by Charles Joseph
Hey All! Welcome to week 4 of Six Inches of Glory: A Quasi-Serial Adventure. I’m Charles Joseph, the man, the myth, the quasi-legend, and this week’s installment is about:
7 for Jori by John Dorsey, Sick Fly 17 Sick Fly Publications, an Imprint of Tangerine Press UK
Ok, so, look—before we move on, I think it’s probably best to let you know that only twenty-three numbered/signed copies of this chapbook were made and sold. So, you can’t buy one, because they’re sold out. However, if you’re in the mood for a bookgazm, do yourself a favor and head over to eatmytangerine.com, because— bottom line— beautiful books are their business.
I mean, honestly, words on pages aside; I could probably write an entire article about the overall quality and care that went into the making of this book, because it’s artisan work to the max. In fact, I even saved the invoice that came with it because it’s cool. So, if you decide to nab a book off their website, I’m sure you’ll be pleased as punch with whatever you receive as much as I was.
Anyway, with that said, let’s move on to the crux of this article, because I’m sure by now some of you are wondering:
Why did I decide to write about a chapbook of poetry by John Dorsey that you can’t buy?
Well, for one thing I think it’s an important sliver of work by an important poet of our generation. But there’s a bit more to it than that. So here’s the author’s note that opens 7 for Jori, and once you read it, I’ll explain exactly why I decided to write about it.
Jori Lirette was a 7 year old boy from Thibaudx, Louisiana, sixty miles west of New Orleans, who had cerebral palsy and was unable to speak and get around on his own. He was decapitated by his father Jeremiah Wright on August 14, 2011. I have attempted to write one poem for every year of his tragically short life. It’s that life I choose to honor and not his death, because as a person with cerebral palsy myself, his story could easily have been my own. We are brothers, without the blood. These words are for him.
Ok, now, here’s the deal—while I was growing up my uncle had severe cerebral palsy, and he passed away in his early thirties, but his face lingers on in my memory. So over the years, I’ve contemplated writing about my uncle’s life, but it’s a road that I’ve been too terrified to travel, because regardless of how cowardly or cliché this sounds, I’m honestly afraid that if I spend enough time daydreaming about the darkest hours of my uncle’s life it will break me.
So, while I may have a slight connection to the effects cerebral palsy can have on an individual’s life, in this instance John Dorsey’s connection is even stronger, and I’m truly amazed by the delicacy with which he handled his approach to all seven poems in this chapbook, because the work really does honor the life of Jori Lirette instead of sensationalizing his death—and that’s commendable.
I mean, for a writer, subject matter like this is an extremely slippery slope, and in the wrong hands, a project like this could have easily gone sideways. But it didn’t, and all seven poems in 7 for Jori are a testament to this author’s talent for tact. There’s no better example of this than the following poem:
the terrible twos
race around the house
or sound out
but nod at the sun
on the pages
of a children’s book
where a palsied lion roars
your mother thinks
that could be
Now, despite how sad this chapbook is, I love it, and I’m proud to own it for multiple reasons. But after reading it a few times, I did have one issue—I had a few questions that I wanted to ask the author. So I emailed him, because as luck would have it, I’m not only a fan of Mr. Dorsey’s work—John and I are friends. However, we generally don’t discuss the minute details of our work, so I’m pleased that he was willing to agree to a little Q&A that I’ve inserted below this paragraph that I’m calling:
4 questions for John Dorsey about 7 for Jori
CJ: So, John. How did you come to the decision to focus on Jori’s life instead of focusing on the circumstances of his death?
JD: I first came across an article about Jori’s death in 2011 while sitting behind my old desk at the Collingwood Arts Center, and immediately knew that it was something that I was going to write about, that was never in question, as far as my approach, that’s something I tossed and turned over for a few years, but ultimately as a person living with cerebral palsy myself, I just thought about how I would like to be remembered if I didn’t have the voice to tell my own story, and our death, while personal, isn’t who we were in life, so it ended up being an easy decision that took 3 years.
CJ: Was this something you wanted to do, or something you felt you needed to do?
JD: As I said, it was just something that I immediately knew that I was going to write about, I really felt like I needed to do it because I doubted anyone else was going to. Thankfully I was wrong about that, there’s a poet named Karla Dorman who has a poem up on Authorsden about Jori, but to my knowledge this is the only collection and because of that I feel like it has gotten a lot more visibility.
CJ: While working on these poems, did you ever feel like dropping the project, because the subject matter was hitting a little too close to home?
JD: There were definitely a number of times I thought about dropping the project, not because it hit too close to home, which it did, but because I didn’t feel like I had the ability to really do Jori’s life justice, I’m still not sure I have, you’d have to tell me. Also, the whole process was very dark, when I was writing I read everything about Jori’s brief life that I could, there were definitely times that I teared up, both in anger and in sadness, once I even had to get up to vomit, the whole experience was very intense.
CJ: Considering the outcome of Jeremiah Wright’s trial, do you think there’s a chance you may revisit this subject at some point in the future?
JD: You know, before I read this question that really wasn’t something I had ever thought about, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, it would have to be something where whoever published a larger collection would have to be willing to donate any proceeds after their costs to a group like United Cerebral Palsy, or even give the book away for free, because this has always been more about Jori than it is about me, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing a dime from anything related to his memory, but yes, it’s possible I could write more about him in the future, but I have no plans to do so at the moment.
Well, what more can I say after that except: thanks for answering my questions John, and thank you for allowing me to share a bit of 7 for Jori in this column.
Now, just so you’re aware folks, John Dorsey has a full-length collection of poems called Being the Fire coming out in September 2016 that can be found here. Also, Appalachian Frankenstein GTK Press, and his chapbook Ghost on the Inside, Crisis Chronicles Press are fine books as well, so if you haven’t had the opportunity to read this particular poet’s work, these two books are not only a fine place to start, they’re available directly from the author, so drop him an email and buy a book before he runs out.
Anyway, that’s all for now boys and girls.
Later on, and I hope you enjoyed my six inches.
P.S. JOHN DORSEY—is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory (Epic Rites Press, 2013), and most recently, Natural Selection: Early Poems (Kilmog Press, 2014). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He may be reached at: email@example.com