William Pattee’s favorite poem from his newly released poetry collection is “The Rain, As It Knows Us.” But not because it’s the titular work from his new collection. Instead, it’s a reminder to recognize his surroundings.
An underlying theme in the collection is to acknowledge one’s own environment and recognizing where you currently are. So while rain has the potential to prohibit people from going outdoors and is often seen as just a facet of nature, Patte wants his readers to see it in a different light.
“Something like rain serves as an apt part of nature to slow down and stop and say, ‘OK, well, this is something that obviously hinders our ability to do things to go outside or to go for a run or whatever.’ But maybe we should stop and zoom out a little bit and think about the bigger picture,” Pattee said. “And so, in this case, rain takes on a totally different meaning, the perception of rain is kind of subverted in its own way.”
Helping readers to recognize where they are is a major theme in the Scotia author’s first poetry collection, The Rain, As It Knows Us, which he released back in November. Pattee, who has been journaling since high school and began planning the book — which was illustrated by friend Zachary Ladouceur — in September 2019, says the work not only highlights specific events in his own life, but it uses them to help change his readers’ own perspectives.
“A lot of my poems have to do with personal trauma and domestic trauma, some very specific events from my past and some other more general feelings and thoughts,” Pattee said. “Poetry and its form, its structure and its purpose allow me to say certain things that I couldn’t if I were just writing a literal sentence. It just wouldn’t come out the same way. And so that’s what I latched on to is, for myself and for others, I was able to express things in this different lens and put things into a different perspective to communicate the way I wanted to.”
While Ladouceur’s illustrations are a direct representation of how he viewed his friend’s poems, Pattee said that he felt the process of making the book — which comes after his 2018 historical fiction book “An Uneven Stitch” — was more of a 50/50 effort. He didn’t see Ladouceur’s images of a hand holding a strawberry and other similar depictions as just “art supplementing poetry,” but rather a collective effort to bring their vision to life.
“I wouldn’t have trusted anybody else to interpret my poems so deeply and make an illustration for it,” Pattee said. “Very little editing had to be done in terms of the overall tone and atmosphere of his illustrations. And that was mostly because he read these poems and he knows my thought process, and he knows who I am. He understood where I was coming from, and because of that, making an illustration for what he interpreted, I think came a lot more easily to him.”
The book, which is currently being sold online and at Schenectady Trading Company and Storied Coffee on Union Street, is partly inspired by the idea that people can pull through and “hold on for better times,” according to Pattee. Including works like “Self-Deserted” (“I inherited his trees, / Adopted his storms. / I catch fish with his line / But burn them on a fire /Built too bright, burning too hot.”) and his fiance-dedicated “Strawberry Princess” (“She’s a burgundy cup of coffee. / Her heart runs vermillion, / With a porcelain finish.”), the poet isn’t looking for it to be a commercial success. He wants it to change his readers perspectives of not just rain, but the world around them.
“If I can just help one person and make a difference, I would feel that I’ve done some kind of moral job here in my own lifetime, and not just not just doing things for myself. I think that absolutely applies to the book,” Pattee said. “If somebody can read, even if it’s just a line or two or a stanza to have a moment where they feel validated, and they feel like somebody else out there gets it, whatever they’re going through, that’s worth more than any amount of money I’d make.”