Songs from the Back-in-the-Back
by Marcia B. Loughran
If you grew up in America in the seventies, you grew up in the back of the car, squabbling with your siblings, fighting for the best seat, singing car songs. The littlest kids were thrown in the back-in-the-back, a private cockpit with a view of where you’ve been. Now we have iPhones and TVs in the car, but back then you had to entertain yourself: staring out the window, torturing your parents with endless knock-knock jokes, the occasional screaming contest. It wasn’t pretty but it was fun, at least in this poet-passenger’s rearview memory.
This collection begins with poems inspired by her father, the family driver/chief storyteller. They capture aspects of the father-daughter relationship as well as the role reversal that takes place as child becomes adult and parent becomes “old.” The second half of the chapbook takes to the open road: memories of family trips, a scrapbook of stories from a storytelling family. Unapologetically narrative in form, these poems pay homage to grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and the ancestors. The chapbook concludes with three mini-essays (messays) about car rides, family, and the possibilities of discovery when you’re trapped next to a window with an ever-changing view.
About the Author
Marcia B. Loughran received an MFA in Creative Writing from the Bennington Writing Seminars in 2013. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Verdad, Spoon River Poetry Review and elsewhere. Marcia’s two prize-winning chapbooks, Still Life with Weather and “My Mother Never Died Before” and Other Poems are available either at her website, through The Poetry Box or on a huge conglomerate website whose name shall remain nameless. Marcia reads her work in bars, bookstores and black-box theaters in New York City and the Catskills. She is a nurse practitioner and proud resident of Queens, NY.
To say I’m a fan of Marcia B. Loughran’s poetry is to put it mildly. Songs From the Back-in-the-Back is her third chapbook, and like the other two—Still Life with Weather and “My Mother Never Died Before” and Other Poems, the poems rock. Loughran’s voice captures moments and scenes with a directness that brings the reader into the experience, whether you’re in the “back-in-the-back” on a long family car ride, or you’re taken back in time with her parents to Baghdad, 1963, when their lives together are just beginning. Loughran manages to write poetry that is funny, poignant, accessible—and inimitable.
—Nancy Jainchill, psychologist, author of Thai-Thai’s Very Curly Tail
I have known Marcia B. Loughran’s father since the Saturday matinee movie in the suburbs was a Western followed by an Abbott and Costello comedy, and I have been “Uncle Mac” to her and her siblings all of their lives. I am, thus, not an unprejudiced reader of her poetry, but I admire her gentle but unblinking accounts of a family’s foibles and inalterably deep affection. She reports her father’s endless recollections of movies and of our misspent youth and also his endless loving loyalty, whether to a supposed grandchild in need or for a departed friend. Riding in the back-in-the back of a station wagon becomes a family tale akin to Mitt Romney’s dog-on-the-roof. A weekend that Marcia spent caring for my hospitalized, dying wife becomes a reflection on urban displacement, Hopper-like visions in windows across an urban void, and puppy-love. The same wry, loving, knowing perspective informs her rumination on extended family experiences. Marcia B. Loughran’s penetrating truthfulness combines with her gentle and forgiving humor to create a healing and uplifting vision of her family and her world. We need more moments like these in our ruptured time.
—Milton McC. Gatch, author of “Till the Break of Day”:
Philip Gatch and Some Descendants Through Three Centuries
I don’t often read poetry because I often feel that the poet is selfishly trying to confuse me. I read Marcia B. Loughran’s poetry. With her generous and accessible words and images, she touches those places in me that spark both memory and imagination. Songs from the Back-in-the Back is a gorgeous collection of Marcia’s best family tidbits.
—Franny Forsman, Las Vegas lawyer and author