Bryn Homuth is the author of Chasing the Burr from Darkly Bright Press.

Burr graphic 1Please tell a little about yourself: your background, education & career, interests, etc.

I’ve had an interest in language from a young age, which was drawn out in games like Scrabble and in the culture of word play within my family. I remember writing some of my first poems in elementary school, and even then, there was something about the endeavor that made sense to me. In college I chose writing as a more general major, but it was in my sophomore creative writing seminar that my love of poetry took hold. I pursued it further into my M.A. and was happy to find some work in the field–adjunct teaching–not long after graduating.

I have a deep fondness for creating things, both in what I pursue and what I admire in others. Throughout my educational journey I continued in music via tuba/low brass instruments and still enjoy playing today. Cooking is one of my passions, especially the fullness of the experience as an outgrowth of hunting (another love of mine), that being the road all the way from field to table. The sport of tennis is yet another pillar of my identity, if you will, and I still find it my favorite outlet for staying active and enjoying the challenge of competition.

About 5 years ago I was so richly blessed to take a teaching position at a classical Christian academy–Agape Christi, in Eden Prairie, MN–where my wide variety of interests fit beautifully into a framework of holistic and Christ-centered education. I teach Literature and Composition there, yes, but also have taught P.E., Math, and even Formal Logic. To express how much I love my job, find it to be my calling, and feel such fortune in having found it would be too long to detail here.

Which poets have influenced you and your writing? Are there any poets you read and study regularly?

Ted Kooser’s “Poetry Home Repair Manual” was an important book for me as I first was introduced to poetry writing, and I’ve appreciated his personal collections as well. There are foundational single poems in my life that I recall, notably Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish,” Seamus Heaney’s “Digging,” and Billy Collins’ “Osso Buco,” among others. I return often to the writers mentioned above, as well as Philip Levine, Wendell Berry, Tennyson, Coleridge, and Shakespeare. Epic poets, too, fold in, like Virgil and Milton. I’ve found that my current teaching position keeps a fresh cycle of authors coming to the fore, both those with which I’ve had experience and those I’ve always wanted to study. Being a simultaneous student and teacher in this way is an extraordinary “perk” of my job.

What do you see as the purpose of poetry and of the poet in today’s culture?

I see the poet and poetry all at once as a preserver, challenger, restorer, highlighter, mirror, upstream-swimmer, small business, labor of love, and more. I once heard, in a masterclass, that poetry is a way to save things that would otherwise be lost. Poetry often says the things that aren’t being said, and rejects many of the macro-level movements of entertainment and art in contemporary society. Poetry brings back the presently-eroding desire–in a world where Twitter and the like dominate—to take time to compose, to select words carefully, purposefully, and to think about how to say something before saying it. The poet is a time-slower, a uniquely suited observer who draws attention to what is passing us by. Poetry shows us what we cannot and would not have otherwise seen in ourselves. Both refuse to be swept along with the current, and expend the extra effort it takes to go towards that from which culture flees. They’re from individuals, not massive entities, and rely beautifully on loyal, committed readers. Poets and their poetry are almost always inspired from something deep in the heart, and live that way in a world where people don’t seem as moved by things as they used to be.

What relationship do you see possible between the poet and his reader?

By rendering experience, especially in first-person, autobiographical poetry, which I often write, I see the poet building a bridge to his reader formed from the personal and the specific that becomes a waypoint to the universal. A reader need not walk exactly where the poet has walked, but that moment between them, when in the reading something resonates that transcends the details, they’re image-bearers on the road together, much like the motorcyclists of the book’s first poem, “Imago Dei.” Their interaction could be brief or prolonged, but no more or less meaningful for its duration. For this reason I hope more that a reader remembers one of my works well or has a favorite rather than carries a general idea of many of them gathered together. I have always believed it only takes one poem to forge that bond; to have it with even one reader is to be successful.

What themes drive your work?

I would say life, death, memory, nature, and music, to name a few. Under those larger umbrellas might be childhood, maturation, vocation, labor, grief, and still more.

In conceiving and developing Chasing the Burr as a volume, what story are you attempting to tell?

To try and sum it, I’m attempting to tell a story that points to the ongoing nature of all of our stories and the pursuits therein. The title of the book speaks to the act of sharpening a blade in the literal sense, but the greater metaphor is derived from Proverbs 27:17, as the knowledge that “iron sharpens iron” becomes a sort of question (or challenge) that echoes beyond the last pages: whether the blade of your life feels dulled, honed, or somewhere in between, what will happen as you come up against man and the things of man? I’m trying to show, especially in the autobiographical moments, that I’ve not always kept my edge, I’ve been encouraged, I’ve been discouraged, but in the hand of the Chef, I’m His instrument, and I, by His hand, try to rise each new day and chase the burr.

Please name two or three poems from the collection which you feel best fulfill your intentions and why?

I think of “I See My MRI” as one of the first, because it is both temporal, and relatively brief in the context of my own life, and at the same time very old. The speaker looks back to an earlier time in life, but the whisper at the end looks back further, to the beginning of music itself, to something ancient that is still ongoing. A second would be “Plucking” as it, though in a bit longer and more narrative way, covers much ground, from our primal dominion over the Earth and its animals to parenting, father-and-son relationships, stewardship, and finally wonders–admittedly, with a note of futility, in the water-in-the-hands illustration–what humanity has lost, what is recoverable, and what is worth attempting to recover. The last would be “You Would Have Been a Blacksmith,” as in a similar way to “MRI,” the speaker is aware of his position in time and how that directly impacts something like vision, or vocation, but considers nonetheless the aspects of self, life, etc. that would transcend time, like precision, craft, DNA, and family. It’s definitely inspired by Heaney’s “Digging,” though through a different lens (no pun).

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