“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


Six poems by Gary Lundy with illustrations by Michael Dickel


Re-published with permission from Meta/ Phor(e) /Play (originally here)

description fools the eyes into believing 

what’s seen and what remains unrelated. time an error sign warning. nothing falls loudly in snowfall. pronouns lock up favor in a room filled with promises. the most beautiful numbered in group of tens. synthesis sewn into bunches of colored thread. to list brings forth a kind of living. tongue tied along with arms and legs. to find a modicum of stability. happiness a terrorist slogan. unless children playing. the anonymity that accompanies sorrow. never trails in the fresh snow covering. bound backwards in an unintentional circuitous pleasures. enlighten in a beyond what’s meant. intention a rousing crowd noises.

Digital landscape from photographs
©2019 Michael Dickel

a conversation moves across the boundaries of years

no. those interruptions are part of it. how abstraction innervates the painting. when sets of eyes follow from several heights and distances. why imagine their clothing marked by unexamined biology. or agreed upon genitalia. not everyone stands the same height. or the strength of mobility weakens. how an other coughs and pukes in the alley. privacy a construct of entitlement. they already. get over it. as the lover refuses birthed name. notorious in a broad circle of strangers. the gun used in a high school shooting belongs to someone. carries with it the fatality of not looking back. according to community standards. which is another private property sign. who but those intimates will even stop to grieve. and the hot water’s off once again.

Digital landscape from photographs
©2019 Michael Dickel

outside an actual frame of reference

a serious question then. what to do with the excessive immediacy inundating consciousness. as easy as turning on and skimming surfaces. locked within screen time. along side an apparent necessity to for once gain notoriety. be finally seen. how simply breathing exercises little in the way of memorable. of more importance is being noticed by an unexpected glance. how not to be impressed by such a shocking occurrence. flattery imbibes a momentary elevated sensibility. or when hiding under books to avoid gunfire. often there’s a thoughtless need to protect others. concern then reverts to counter intuitive action. walk out. displace. argue over semantics. over noun and pronoun choices. volume as sound resists capture and redistribution.

Digital landscape from photographs
©2019 Michael Dickel

on an ordinary any other day

the intimacy of a shared cigarette or gin on rocks. lock lips within narrow boundaries. again indentation separates one body from another. impossible to get close enough to be a part of individual insights. and the rising sound of surrounding voices turn into a storm of thunder. and violence. quite naturally possessions belong to the outside others. heavy base lines a snow speckled fence. guaranteed to keep what’s original outside the boundaries demarcating one from another. or the many flooding the town violently. arguing about every perceived errancy. waiting word from someone for days. then forgetting that time itself companions. repetition may be a sure sign of pleasurable moments entwined.

Digital landscape from photographs
©2019 Michael Dickel

headlines useful only to reduce the size of turmoil

bodies dumped in a winter ocean. color barriers and marching drums. dozens of missed opportunities vanish in the ether. beauty is when faced reflection. some appear so comfortable in their bodies. while many others resist the encampment of pronouns. lighten the barriers to authenticity. stiffening neck in refusal. while rubbish shredded an alley away. break out into flailing body parts. such rapid departures within a single cellular event. all the while identities reside within frequent arguments. arms and legs painted red swelling. held in the collective unexamined violence. among the fear of hurt feelings. of pronouncing certainties.

Digital landscape from photographs
©2019 Michael Dickel

breaths gloss over frames of reference

when temperature is below zero chill grows customary. even when framed otherwise transparent entitlement rules. few see themselves as inherently wrong. through fault lines another image unfolds. pronouns aren’t a recognized sport. yet listen to the bullying exchange. threat level perceived as high for the one committed to thought of how it’s always been. not on our watch the chorus disrupts. have gun will travel bravely. synchronized blame game. where tickets are distributed freely. whether sought after or not. the negative rising to a height witnessed as governing. actions retreat into a darkened room. where light cannot penetrate. deep in the refuse of the closed minded. where choice of colors might have liberated. each contradiction its own typo.

Digital landscape from photographs
©2019 Michael Dickel

gary lundy
photo by Kaylen Krebsbach ©2018

gary lundy’s poems have appeared most recently in Cutbank: Weekly Flash Prose & Prose PoetrySetu: Western Voices Special Edition, Alexandria Quarterly, Incidia, and Spider Mirror. his most recent collection, each room echoes absence, was released by FootHills Publishing (2018). his most recent chapbook, at | with (free PDF download), was published by Locofo Chaps (2017). gary is a retired English Professor and queer living in Missoula, Montana.