Local writer Irv Broughton’s latest poetry collections, “Fielding the Cape Cod Past” and “The Fires of Tangerine,” are filled with memories from their author’s East Coast childhood.
“Harvesting the past,” Broughton looks back on the adventures of his idyllic adolescence and the writers he met along the way. His earliest memories are of the eccentric, “old-time New Englanders” who would later find themselves in his poems.
Writing was a constant presence in Broughton’s early life. His first poems were largely setting oriented, but as he continued, he began to focus more on characters and stories. His father – although never a writer himself – loved reading poetry and could recite it by the page from memory.
Broughton found he could hardly walk a mile without running into a writer – celebrity poets and other various literati would often make their way to Wellfleet, Massachusetts, near his childhood home. So, unable to escape their influence, it seemed only natural that he should become one, as well.
“When you’re around people like that, it stimulates your creativity,” Broughton said, remembering how he and his friends would listen to beatniks reciting poetry in Provincetown tea shops. “They were quirky and interesting, and they weren’t trying to be; they were just genuinely original.”
In “Fielding the Cape Cod Past,” he writes about friends and neighbors. He particularly remembered a man called “Pokey Snow,” a kind, rough-hewn Cape Codder “eternally summering under his Plymouth.”
“Even he wrote poems,” Broughton said. He and his friends marveled at the idea “that he (Pokey) was a kind of closet poet sitting out in these clam shacks, waiting for the tide to turn.”
In “Fires of the Tangerine,” Broughton writes about visiting his grandmother in Florida. The landscapes and larger-than-life characters he met there would leave a lifelong impression on him. An excerpt from one of these poems, “The Fires of Tangerine,” reads:
“After second grade we never stopped / For the fires of Tangerine / Bright as March groves and blood oranges, / Though from composed playgrounds / We would still watch the small / Quiet fields burn and couple with rain. / For an ever-Tangerine green.”
Before moving to Spokane, Broughton founded Mill Mountain Press in Seattle. There he discovered current “cult favorite” poet Frank Stanford and began publishing his work.
Today, Broughton writes a bit of everything – screenplays, song lyrics, fiction, nonfiction, a musical or two – regularly working on three or four projects at once. When he isn’t writing, he busies himself grading coursework from his English and film students at Spokane Falls Community College where he has taught since 1976.
To aspiring writers, Broughton emphasized the importance of writing drafts and revisions:
“It’s a matter of persistence. No matter your experience level, it’s not an easy task to write. Just don’t look up from the paper,” he said.
“Don’t talk too much about what you’re doing until you’ve really done some work, and never tell anyone when your book is coming out if you can help it.”