Bobby C. Rogers has an uncanny ability to wring what is profound and surprising from what appears humble and ordinary. In the words of Andrew Hudgins, he is “a near mystic of the domestic.” A story about a young couple moving into a new house and watching the neglected garden come to life as seasons change becomes a poem about the shifting sand of language and the bedrock of love that underlies it. A poem that begins by struggling to understand the photography of William Eggleston becomes a declaration of the necessity of beauty in unexpected places. Rogers’ artistry sneaks up on you. Raised in west Tennessee and now living in Memphis, he writes often about his native place, touching its shacks and roadhouses, highways and banks with a loving attention that makes them sacred. What feels like stream-of-consciousness reveals itself to be a carefully constructed piece of architecture, the logic building and the vistas opening as we move from works of art to dive bars to personal confession to theology and back: “Beauty is best when it’s accidental.... How empty / if the only thing left to look at is your own looking in this world so mysteriously encoded into / shape and color, where even a tawdry streetscape / is built of parts we’ve only happened upon and had no hand in making.” Rogers’ gentle, confident voice reveals a spaciousness in commonplace things. He can almost make you believe that the world around you, the very room you’re sitting in, no matter how unpoetic it may appear, holds the answers to the most profound questions in creation.
View Bobby C. Rogers' work in IMAGE issue 70 here.
I’ve been having fun promoting my Starrett Prize-winning book Paper Anniversary, with readings at Vanderbilt, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, UNC Greensboro, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, among other venues. The interviews I’ve done for Chapter 16, Keith Montesano’s first book blog, and Rafael Alvarado’s Moe Green Poetry Discussion broadcast have given me the opportunity to articulate some of my ideas about poetic form and narrative. For someone who’s just won a poetry prize, I’ve been writing a surprising amount of prose. An essay appeared in Afield: American Writers on Bird Dogs (Skyhorse, 2010) edited by Bob DeMott and DaveSmith. Another essay will be out shortly in From Fast Break to Line Break: Poets on the Art of Basketball (Michigan State UP, forthcoming) edited by Todd Davis. I’m also preparing an essay for Union University’s “KJV 400: Legacy & Impact” conference, looking at influences of the King James Bible in the work of Mark Jarman, James Tate, and Adrienne Rich. But most of my energies at the moment are being thrown into finishing the follow-up book to Paper Anniversary. I’m in the home stretch and hope to have it done before the leaves are off the trees.
Bobby C. Rogers grew up in West Tennessee and was educated at Union University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and the University of Virginia. His book Paper Anniversary won the 2009 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize at University of Pittsburgh Press. He is Professor of English and Writer-in-Residence at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. He lives in Memphis with his wife and son and daughter.