“when voices detach themselves,” by gary lundy / review, interview, poems

“Poetry is at its basic level language at play. I try not to dictate the rules of that play.” gary lundy

gary’s style is an engaging cross between the spontaneity of artistic improvisation and a steady flow of interior monologue. His often fragmented word-play, draws us inescapably into his haunted world. His is singular voice that pulls us up by the heartstrings as he scrutinizes his life, his loves, and the ragged edges of longing. He is exquisitely open in his explorations of grief and vulnerability, facing the discordant notes head on. I think what impressed me most about gary’s writing is a virtuosity unpretentious and honest.  Recommended.

when voices detach themselves is the first of two chapbooks by gary lundy published by Is a Rose Press, which focuses on “poetry, experimental writing, hybrid, and more.”  when voices detach themselves was published in 2013 and the second, heartbreak elopes into a kind of forgiving was published in 2016. These are among several of gary’s published collections. The others are detailed in his bio, which closes this post.

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when voices detach themselves, when I imagine
I am listenting to their speakers sudden impact of
invisibility, of having lost the way, even through
insistence attempts to sidestep a bouncing young
noise. can it be. that through thought i confirm
my being. yet does it too proceed the thought.
can it not outlast loss.

in another location two people unwind their
bodies from the previous nights encounter, move
to opposites sides of the room.


JAMIE: I’m sure you’ve had many questions from your students, readers, and interviewers over the years. Is there any question about poetry in general and/or your poetry specifically that  you wish someone would ask and what would be your answer to that question?

GARY: In my experience people don’t tend to ask questions about poetry. Certainly many want to tell me what poetry can and can’t be. From the admonition that this or that word is overused and should be avoided, to “we have a moral obligation to protect the world from bad poetry.” This last one came after I refused to talk about those poets who didn’t inspire or compel, etc. From a well known poet who we had gathered to meet and greet, if you will.

I love poetry, even those pieces or books that don’t generate for me interest. I love language and words equally. Poetry is at its basic level language at play. I try not to dictate the rules of that play.

JAMIE: Your style is certainly engaging and rather singular, improvisational and fragmented like the voices about which you write in when voices detach themselves. Did it arrive one day in a flash or is it something that evolved and is perhaps still evolving? 

GARY: Thank you. For this particular book I returned to poems I’d written a few years earlier and then left behind. When I reintroduced myself to them i realized that in their fragmented way they fit together. So I listened and then the book was reallized.

My writing practice is pretty consistent in that I usually write every day. But I don’t begin with a sense of where the writing is going to go. That is, I have little interest in dictating where the words lead. Rather, I’ll jot something down, a fragment or phrase and then what’s on the page begins to dictate direction.

Naturally, when I first began to explore writing poetry I followed those dictates of teachers and peers. I worked to write the poem expected, the poem of rules. I also wrote specifically out of or from my life experiences. It was a good practice to be sure.

However, eventually I began to understand that such writing, for me of course, was more a group writing than writing as it came to me. My life did not seem to fit easily into the formulas I’d been encouraged to use. Perhaps because I hadn’t really begun to recognize my queer identity, but my world was not constructed within easy narrative or linear structure. Rather, it was filled with false starts, disconcerting interruptions, and a sense of loss and failure. I began to listen to that rather than any central sense of self. Naturally this is an ongoing and delightful adventure in discovering where the writing wants to go. 

JAMIE: You write about the discordant notes in life, the fears, the jolts that come out of nowhere, the losses, and the distancing that seems to happen between lovers and friends, and the way expectations and outcomes don’t necessarily jive … all the aches and pains of life, the vulnerabilities. Is there healing for you in the writing, in the naming? Is your hope – expectation – that there might be some healing for the reader?

GARY: This is an intriguing question. When I write I have little expectation past the writing as it unfolds. Certainly, when I return to what has been written, especially after a few months or years, I suppose there is some kind of healing; although, I’d prefer insight. A few years ago I moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to be with a lover and friends. It was a good experience; however, it was also not so good. After I returned to Montana I reread my first full length collection, heartbreak elopes into a kind of forgiving. I was preparing to give a reading and hadn’t really thought very much about the poems. However, as i read through the pieces, all written before my move, there were warnings throughout. I could see that however it came, evidently I knew I shouldn’t make the move. The poems were written a couple years earlier. Curious to be sure. While I try to pay attention to such meanings in my poetry, unfortunately, for the most part I miss them consistently.

I have no expectation for my reader, nor of even having a reader. I am convinced that if there is a reader they will find their own sense of what’s going on in the poem as they listen to the poem. While writing certainly and clearly assumes a reader, I don’t. I write for the pleasure of writing, and, perhaps, to keep me in some way grounded.

JAMIE: I suspect you’ve been writing since high school and college and I know you have quite a body of published work.  What’s up next? 

GARY: Well, to get some few pieces published in magazines and journals; perhaps land another book or two. But foremost is simply to continue writing, and reading, to continue learning about those facets of my compound and complex sense of self and world.


as i have to do i bring this to a more personal
level. certainly in my writing part of the task has
been to find a form that not only expresses what
i have lived. but the stories of what i can live. feel
certain that every marginalized person has this
task. or remains subordinate and enslaved. yet
as i struggle with the how of actualizing this. or
getting to the story not in unremarkable and
familiar narrative. i realize how troubling and
difficult it is.

i apologize for loading you down with images.
just excited to get closer to present. and maybe
a future.


as out of remarkable past
a slight look aside peripheral desire
another over written story lies
indeed it may only be overdue bills
envelopes stacked against the south wall
last years dishes long the growing mold


you came to me later after other women had
taught me their possibility and mine while men
kept warning their usual mantra it is a mans
world but it isn’t after all and a reality exists
outside even their peripheral gaze even outside
their understanding a desire full of exception and
expectation for a different kind of language a
different kind of life where ego shrinks to the size
of a pea and life become quite suddenly more
about more than usual

gary’s poetry is shared here with permission

© gary lundy


reading the signs can be terrifying, gary lundy, Cutbank, The Literary Journal of the University of Montana

gary lundy has published five chapbooks, the two most recent, and still in print, when voices detach themselves (Is A Rose Press, 2013), and at | with (Locofo Chaps, 2017), and has two book length collections, heartbreak elopes into a kind of forgiving (Is A Rose Press, 2016); and each room echoes absence (Foothills Publishing, 2018). He has published his writing throughout the US as well as in Canada, Czeck Republic, and Israel. Most recently his poems have appeared in Fence, Meta/Phor(e)/Play, Cutbank: Weekly Flash Prose & Prose Poetry, Setu: Western Voices Special Edition, and Alexandria Quarterly.

gary was raised in Denver, Colorado. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth Century American Poetry from Binghamton University. He taught English at SUNY-Oswego, St. Paul’s College, and for twenty years at the University of Montana Western. gary, now retired, is queer and lives in Missoula, Montana.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a Lebanese-American freelance writer, poet, content editor, blogger and the mother of a world-class actor and mother-in-law of a stellar writer/photographer. No grandchildren, but my grandkitty, Dahlia, rocks big time. I am hopelessly in love with nature and all her creatures. In another lifetime, I was a columnist, a publicist, and an associate editor to a regional employment publication. I’ve had to reinvent myself to accommodate scarred lungs, pulmonary hypertension, right-sided heart failure, connective tissue disease, and a rare managed but incurable blood cancer. The gift in this is time for my primary love: literature. I study/read/write from a comfy bed where I’ve carved out a busy life writing feature articles, short stories, and poetry and managing The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton