Last month 2014 Truman State University graduate and writer, published his first book of poetry titled “What Loss Taught Me.”
Stephen Furlong chose to write poetry because he was blown away by the beauty and complexity of it. Furlong compared it to standing close to a painting and seeing the brushstrokes, and then by stepping away, one can see how ideas are woven together. That is one of the mystifying elements of writing, but he always thought that poetry was different.
“Poetry was the one genre that I could see anywhere,” Furlong said. “In the coffee shop, waiting in line at the grocery store, in the trees and definitely in the roots of things. And so I decided when I was a mid-teenager to add the term ‘poet’ to part of who I am.”
While Furlong was a student at Truman, he was part of TruSlam, a slam poetry group on campus. He considered it to be the coolest organization on campus with some dedicated people. He said his memories of them and many others still live on when he’s writing.
Furlong said he also remembered writing a poem during his junior year titled “Everlast,” and he said it was one of the best poems he wrote while he was in Kirksville and the first poem he ever got published.
“But more important than that was the time I spent working on that poem in TruSlam and seeing the fusion of narrative and confession and hope and anger all coming together and colliding into a piece I was really proud of,” Furlong said.
While writing poetry, Furlong said form is one of the last things he considers while writing. He usually writes a poem in one long stanza, and he will step away from it after drafting the first poem so he can see how it should look.
Furlong explained that the way a poem looks on the page comes from a variety of things including how it sounds, what the poem is doing, what he wants the poem to do and what the poem wants to do. When he revises a poem, he spends a good amount of time thinking about different aspects of poetry such as line breaks, new images, crisper language and new titles.
Furlong said he tries to create work that reflects empathy and understanding, and his graduate school years at Southeast Missouri State University were dedicated to reading and writing poems in addition to essays, reviews and memoirs dealing with trauma, forgiveness and the tangled webs therein.
“What Loss Taught Me” is a collection of the poems from graduate school since still fresh on his mind. The poetry collection is lensed by familial trauma and sexual abuse recovery. He said while it was hard to write trauma, he realized it was harder for him to not write about it.
In addition to poetry, Furlong writes book reviews, reviews poetry and has reviewed a handful of nonfiction works. He also spends a lot of time reading. He currently has four books of poetry and a nonfiction book he is reading.
Furlong also interviews poets because he wants to know more about their inner workings. Furlong said he prepares for interviews by spending a lot of time engrossed in the author’s writing, such as reading the different works written by and about the author.
“This preparedness allows me to be more confident,” Furlong said. “And it helps me form a bond I think is worthy enough of investigating further through interviewing a poet.”
Going forward, Furlong hopes to continue reading and writing poems, attend poetry readings and write reviews for books. He wants to do some readings with this chapbook and continue working on his full-length book. He wants to snuggle up with his cat for more than just a half hour at a time.
Furlong also said he still remembers Truman English faculty and thinks about them often.
“I want to get some gumbo with Jamie D’Agostino, talk poems with Brad Smith and get tea with Jocelyn Cullity,” Furlong said. “Basically, I want to hang out with Truman’s English Department.”
Furlong’s advice to students and writers is to be a good person and read a lot. People should take care of themselves and spend time with those they love. He also said people shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to those they admire and let them know they are doing great work.