The Flapper Press Café: Dee Allen 2022
Updated: Sep 2, 2022
By Annie Newcomer:
The Flapper Press Café features the work of poets from around the world. This week, we highlight new poems from one of our regular contributors, Dee Allen.
Dee Allen. is an African-Italian performance poet based in Oakland, California. Active in creative writing & Spoken Word since the early 1990s he is the author of 7 books (Boneyard, Unwritten Law, Stormwater, Skeletal Black [all from POOR Press], Elohi Unitsi [Conviction 2 Change Publishing], and coming in February 2022, Rusty Gallows: Passages Against Hate [Vagabond Books] and Plans [Nomadic Press]) and 46 anthology appearances under his figurative belt so far. Dee Allen. applies his pen to notebook and responds to current events, long-suppressed historical events, inscrutable human nature, and love for the natural world.
We reached out to Dee to ask him about his work and inspirations.
AN: The backstories on your work are extremely helpful and center us well. How would you categorize your poetry? It is always fun to see how a poet sees himself.
DA: Thank you, Miss Newcomer. This is the first time I had to do that for Flapper Press. That's Elizabeth Gracen's idea: "Submission guidelines" and all that. I'm glad you found the backstories helpful in explaining my original content.
I leave placing my writing into categories up to the reader (or listener, in the case of a live performance). Whenever I sit down to write a piece, the end-result, however, could come from either one of four frames of mind:
Miscellaneous (meaning, the inspiration can come from anything/anyone/anywhere)
Personal (the hardest stuff for me to write)
Philosophical (did more of that style of writing back in my 20s than I do now)
Political (what I'm best known for)
AN: You mentioned that you used a prompt for "Foggy Corridor." Can you share with our audience why prompt writing can be extremely beneficial? Do you often use prompts?
DA: Prompts are extremely helpful, especially in writing-workshop sessions. When you come into such a workshop and the desire to write is there but the ideas aren't, then prompts from the workshop facilitator are a good way to get the figurative gears-and-cogs inside your head rolling and, ideally, producing good content within a fixed time limit. Basically, prompts help you quickly think on your feet while cranking out your next great piece.
I use prompts often. Anything that I cannot write in a single sitting one day can be put away to work on the next day.
Regarding "Foggy Corridor," I've been a fan of Vampira (Maila Nurmi) since seeing the 1994 biographical film Ed Wood. For a time in the 1990s, there was a brief Vampira revival. The prompt from Zoem enabled me to think of the spookiest thing at the moment: the intro to The Vampira Show from KABC Channel 7 (1954).
AN: Your new book, Rusty Gallows, debuts in February 2022. Can you share with our writers/readers how you decide when a manuscript is ready to submit for publication?
DA: With me, a book manuscript is ready when the last piece in it fits the rest thematically and feels right. Editing and revising are parts of that process.
AN: Dee, thank you for stopping by the Flapper Press Café. We always enjoy having you.
From a televised nightmare:
Form-fitting black dress
Pale arms and
Long crimson fingernails that could
Slowly walks a dimly-lit
Approaching, approaching, slowly approaching
Closer, closer, ever closer--
Scream To The Night
An Ear-Piercing Scream of Terror
With a gentle, elated coo
To suggest the ultimate
Oooooh! Screaming relaxes me so!
[For Maila Nurmi, a.k.a. Vampira,1921–2008]
About the poem:
"Foggy Corridor" began as my written reply to a writing prompt for a Colorado-based Friday night open mic called Zoem. The host, Valerie A. Szarek, wanted something "spooky" for Halloween. 1950s late-night TV Horror show host Vampira's opening was it.
The Shut Door
The shut, locked door
Stands between me
And the disaster
Outside I cannot see
Having no effect
On animals in the least.
It chooses to pounce
On human beasts.
Streets nearly empty,
Cars and buses free to roam.
Shelter from disaster is easy to find
Inside my own home.
Libraries remain closed,
Restaurants will not serve.
Rectangular wood on hinges
Will help me bend the curve
Flattened for a longer, robust life
Beyond respirator masques
And hands covered in latex—
No telling how long this infection lasts.
While the most fool-hardy
Fall to the floor,
Safety is mine, sequestered behind
The shut, locked door.
[From the new book Rusty Gallows: Passages Against Hate, Vagabond Books, 2022]
About the poem:
In March 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom imposed a mandatory "stay-at-home" order to all California residents in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. Since this was the one way to prevent infection, I placed my own thoughts on this "stay-at-home" order on paper. By nature, I'm a homebody anyway, and my home never felt like a prison cell during this pandemic.
Season of spreading flames
Make the hot months hotter,
Make short work
Out of sequoia groves
Days and nights blur
No slowing down seasonal inferno
Fright runs through spotted owl and other animals
California woods' future—drained of color
Two paths in Sequoia National Park
Lead to the first forest guardian
Standing at 275 feet high, 2200 years old
In need of protection—
Firefighters apply aluminum sheet
Covering roots and trunk at the very base
So flames of Summer
Won't leave scars on the tallest, oldest soldier
Who have seen
Ages come and go,
Beings become born and die,
Whose name evokes
Visions of past field battles between