Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Robbi Nester, "A Likely Story"

Cover art by Mary Bullington
Robbi Nester: It’s important to note that A Likely Story, my first full collection of poetry, is a first book. Yes, it’s true that I’ve published a chapbook—Balance (White Violet, 2012). But a full collection is different, especially since I waited my whole life to publish one.

I’ve been writing poetry as a serious pursuit (as serious as any play can be)since I was a teenager, so why not before now? I just simply knew the work was not ready. I was not ready. I got two degrees in writing—the first at Hollins University (then, Hollins College), where Richard H.W. Dillard taught me the craft and he and Dara Weir set me off on the right path, and then, after a few of the brief turns life threw my way, an MFA at UC Irvine, where I studied with Charles Wright, Heather McHugh, and James McMichael. 

But following that second degree, I didn’t write poetry again for 20 years. Instead, I got a PhD in Comparative Literature at UC Irvine, writing a dissertation on Vladimir Nabokov’s literary games, and thereafter settled in to teach writing and literature as an adjunct in a few different places, as well as being a mom and a caretaker daughter to two elderly parents. In 2011, I found myself free—my son pretty much grown, my job gone, and plenty of time to write.

So write I did. I turned out the three books you see above in as many years, and also have a manuscript of ekphrastic poems, Together, in my back pocket. I hope it will be published by next year or so.

A Likely Story is composed of poems written during many different geological layers of my life, but I found in all of them a common thread of narrative. So this is the theme that I have used to construct the book, which is composed of nine different sections related to the elements or themes relating to narrative, from “Tall Ones,” to “A Cast of Thousands,” “Location, Location,” etc.

Some poems seemed to belong in a couple of different sections at once, and so I made these the ones to open or close a particular section.

The book went through eight different versions. Then a publisher who almost took version seven told me that many of the poems’ endings were weak. And though it stung, I realized she was right, especially after another reader told me the same thing.

They may have believed I was not up to the task of doing anything about this, but I did. In a matter of a month or two, I rewrote many poems, threw some out, put in new, stronger poems, and created the collection that now exists.

A funny thing happened during that twenty years I was not writing poems. I guess all that pent up poem energy made me a better writer, more confident, more willing to try new things because I have never looked back.

And I am thankful that people like my friend Marly Youmans, a writer whom I very much admire, who has been a guide and model for my doings as a writer, encouraged me to keep on going since I would never be happy unless I was writing and also very pleased that the poetry community has embraced me so generously and wholeheartedly.

Sometimes, even when it seems unlikely, a story can have a happy ending.
Moon Tide on Robbi's new book:  Moon Tide is proud to announce the release of its 22nd book, Robbi Nester's A Likely Story. The book, which consists of 59 poems and features a wrap-around cover painting by Mary Boxley Bullington, is Nester's first full-length collection. Coincidentally, it follows the first full-length collection by her husband, Richard Nester, whose Buffalo Laughter came out from Kelsay Books in February. 
Robbi’s past credits include the chapbook Balance (White Violet, 2012) and the anthology The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014), which she edited. A longtime fixture at Orange County open readings, she lives in Lake Forest and has had poems published in Broadsided, Qarrtsiluni, Prompt & Circumstance, Poetic Diversity, Edwin E. Smith Publishingand elsewhere. 
Robbi's book will have its official launch at a private party July 10, with public readings July 27 at Gatsby Books in Long Beach and July 30 at the Ugly Mug in Orange. In the meantime, you can click here to order a copy or check out two of her poems on our Poet of the Month page.

And Moon Tide on Moon Tide: Moon Tide Press, founded in 2006, is a publisher dedicated to showcasing the finest poets in Southern California. The press has released books — many of them first collections — by national award-winning poets, Pushcart Prize nominees, longtime reading hosts and gifted up-and-comers. Authors published by Moon Tide have featured across Southern California and out of state, been covered in numerous publications, read their work on KPFK 90.7 FM and starred in the press' own reading series at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful post, Marly and Robbi. Robbi, your story is so encouraging to many writers who, for one reason or another, have had to step away from their writing, sometimes for years. That you were able to return, after twenty years, to publish three beautiful and accomplished books is a real inspiration to me! Thank you for showing me the way!

  2. Thanks for those words--it is good, isn't it?