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'Black Bird Blue' Debuts 

Local poet Melissa Broderick Eaton spreads her wings with her first published collection

Back in 2018, Melissa Broderick Eaton was one of the winners in the Source Poetry Contest. With that local encouragement, she says she then leaned into her poetry career, and is now publishing a collection, titled "black bird blue" that is currently in presale. I checked in with Broderick Eaton with the following Q&A, edited lightly for space.

  • Courtesy Finishing Line Press

Source Weekly: Give readers a little background about your poetic endeavors up to this point. 

Melissa Broderick Eaton: I had been writing on my own for a long time, but not really in a focused way since college. I had just started taking it more seriously and sending work to a couple of literary journals when my college mentor, Mary Oliver, passed away in early 2019. Vowing not to let the gift of her guidance go to waste, I embarked on an MFA in writing, and I began setting aside time to write and sending more submissions out. That first year started with a poem that won a contest with the Oregon Poetry Association and ended with a group of poems that won a peer-judged contest with "Sixfold" magazine. I'm lucky to be in a phenomenal local poetry critique group and they keep me honest and grounded. A poem I recently workshopped with the group, after I made some modifications based on their feedback, landed in the top 10 out of more than 1,500 poems in a contest this spring. 

SW: With the launch of this book comes a lot of legwork on your part – promoting the book and so on. Can you describe for people what that looks like? 

MBE: These days, poets have to do a lot of the work themselves. It's harder to find presses and publishing houses that work with poetry because it just doesn't make them as much money as say, commercial fiction does. The publisher I'm working with has carved out a niche and merchants solely in poetry, and they have a great system of promotion guidance for their poets in the leadup to a book's release. They advertise for me, and it's up to me to get copies sold during the presale period. I'm leaning on friends and family, plus social media, and even reaching out to bookstores and libraries to carry my book. These advance sales determine the size of the first print run and what my royalties will be.

 SW: What are some of the themes or threads in the collection of poems? 

MBE: I strive to draw parallel the human experience and nature, to inspect the similarities and how our finite existence fits into a world with its own rhythms and patterns, with unexpected delights and fleeting beauty. 

SW: You've been a winner in the Source Poetry Contest a number of times. Can you talk a little about how that and any other local opportunities have helped you grow as a poet? 

MBE: The Source Poetry Contest in late 2018 was absolutely critical to where I am right now. I first saw a flyer for it on the bulletin board at Looney Bean and thought that a nice little local contest might be the right place to stick a toe in the water. I had no idea that hundreds of people, some of them many years into successful careers in writing, would enter their work, too! Landing a poem in the top group of that first contest was such a pivotal moment, such a punch in the arm to send me forward with newfound confidence, that I still have the wrinkled-up poster from the doorway of the reading that followed the contest. There might be other big moments that followed and hopefully more in store, but that first time someone outside my tiny circle put one of my poems up into the light for everyone to notice—that's a high that will always be with me. 

SW: What is it about poetry that makes it your chosen medium? Do you have other creative outlets as well? How do they complement each other, if at all? 

MBE: There's a balance that must be achieved in poetry, between striking language and restraint, between the last word of one line and the word that follows at the beginning of the next, between explaining too much and letting the reader's experience color the result of what they read into your work...it's a careful dance. Just like any sport or art, nailing that balance feels amazing.

Creativity is the elixir of life, isn't it? I do a lot of photography and find myself doing closeup work, much like my poems. I also wrote a lot of fiction and essays in college and didn't delve back into those until very recently. In my MFA program a couple of years ago, I chose some short fiction and lyric essay courses to force myself to open the prose tap back up. I'm sending out a novel manuscript and working on another novel that have both benefitted from touches of poetic language here and there to build scenes and develop characters effectively. We'll see where those go!

Advance sales of "black bird blue" are available from Finishing Line Press through June 3. Find the collection at finishinglinepress.com/product/black-bird-blue-by-broderick-eaton/.

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. While the pandemic reduced "hobbies" to "aspirations," you can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis. (Progress: slow.)
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