This week I introduce to you to Bryce Milligan, one of the most active participants in the San Antonio literary community. He is the publisher behind Wings Press, the oldest small literary press in Texas, which he runs out of his home in the historic King William district. He is a strong force in the bringing together of writers and artists from various walks of life into vibrant interaction and community. I got to sit down with him for a very enjoyable interview recently, in which he shares his new book, Lost and Certain of It, and even plays some of the songs featured in it. You can watch it right here in the woai.com Media Center.
A true artist-of-all-trades, Bryce Milligan fills many different roles -- writer, sculptor, instrument-maker, publisher, poet -- and the list goes on. His life as a writer is just as diverse, with a list of personal publications that includes poetry, children's books, young adult fiction, and anthologies.
Lost and Certain of It is his latest work, published in London by Aark Arts. The first part of the book is a collection of poems, followed by a few of Milligan's songs. It reads as a journey through memories, myths and dreamscapes, creating an atmosphere that is serene and melancholy, but also joyous and hopeful. Milligan weaves his words together thoughtfully and meticulously, in his careful way creating vivid and colorful images that turn into passionate stories and reminiscences.
Milligan is a self-professed sort of Christian pagan, immersed in many different cultural dialogues, and the hybridity and diversity of his experience is a tangible part of this new collection. It's not every day you come across a book of poetry that can blend the distinctly Texan with the mystically medieval in perfect harmony. But that is Milligan, a modern troubadour wandering through time and place, capturing the pieces of his verses and songs along the way. Here is a stanza from one of the poems,
"Summers in the Country"
Summers in the country
I drove grandpa's air conditioned tractor
while field hands bent double down the long rows
sometimes singing chopping cotton always sweating
everyone of them a philosopher of labor
a poet of the machete an Odysseus
making his way back home every one of them
knowing more about the land than I ever would
in a lifetime of summers in the country.
Another one of my favorites is "Instructions for the funeral," which somehow avoids being morbid and, in Milligan's hands, becomes gentle and even playful: "Do your best to avoid /the law; follow only / the oldest conventions / /especially avoid any professionals / in the business of death. . . / Lay me out in the morning / in my oldest jeans / and the red Guatemalan shirt / with buffalo nickel buttons / to provide the crows with whatnots."
"Revising a story among wolves" is a story of a loving encounter, strong, violent and mysterious. "Metaphor" exudes longing and passion for inspiration, following one of Milligan's most prominent themes -- that of the Muse. Milligan speaks often of the Muse, the vehicle of inspiration that propels his writing, music and art. The Muse is the subject of one of the songs, "Lady Rides the Rails." The lyrics drip with musicality and regional imagery, as Milligan once again pulls ancient tales into the places with which we are familiar. "Lady takes the midnight train to New Orleans, / leaving Texas souls in the dust; / she leaves old men and young men wondering / what they'll do now their dreams have all gone bust... / On Bourbon Street the saxophones sing high -- / hear 'em rip in rhythm with her hips; / and the poets sigh each time she walks by / and they pray to catch a word from her lips." You can see Milligan play "Lady Rides the Rails" and a couple of other songs that are my personal favorites from this book in my Beyond the Book video segment in the Media Center.
Lost and Certain of It is a beautiful tapestry of verse that brings together many different parts of Milligan's personal talents and background. I strongly recommend it not only as a wonderful reading experience, but as a great way to get to know one of the many treasures of our city's cultural and artistic community.
Causes Bryce Milligan Supports
Almost anything that is not Republican. I am a pacifist, vegetarian, Green and Left.