January 2024
Dee Cohen on Poetry
Dee Cohen

Dan Seaman

Riding the deadman’s pocket

Longtime Prescott resident Dan Seaman’s poetry has been called “romantic realism.” His poems primarily deal with love and loss, but also contain strong references to experiences of the working class. “I have always lived my life as simply as I could and with a yearning for the common person’s struggle, world vision and sensibility because, in my view, it is the most grounded and real.” 

Many of his employment experiences have involved manual labor, where he developed understanding and compassion for the daily lives and struggles of working people. “My skills, training and aptitude have given me a respectful point of view of the working man, having been one so often.”

Dan has lived in Prescott since 1970, “when the town was only accessible from two-lane roads, there were only three TV channels, and the radio stations went off the air at 10pm.” He’s had a long association with local poetry venues, beginning with hosting open mics at the Full Moon Café in 1997. From there he founded Prescott Area Poets Association (PAPA), also known as Poetry As Performance Art, where he hosted readings for the following ten years. These events took place in many locations downtown, finally ending up at the MAD Linguist in the old McCormick Arts District.

During that time Prescott became known for its vibrant poetry scene, turning out strong poets, hosting performers from many cities, and holding the first regular poetry slams in Northern Arizona. In 2001 Dan and other organizers established a statewide slam-poetry competition at Arcosanti that ran for seven years. The Prescott team won the inaugural 2001 Arcosanti Slab City Poetry Slam, competing against nationally ranked teams. “I tend to immerse myself in projects, and PAPA. was one of the best things in my life. I lived and breathed poetry and public performance for ten years.”

Since that time, Dan’s become involved in fire-dance performance and production, staging shows on the streets of Prescott and other venues.

While Dan is a natural performer, his first experience with reading poems in public was overwhelming and helped shape his attitude toward readings. “I forgot to exhale completely, my hands were shaking holding the papers, and my knees felt like they were going to give out at any moment — and I had been a radio host, public speaker, event planner and sat on many committees before that open-mic moment. From that I knew it was important to alleviate some of that anxiety for others. I tried my best to create a performer-friendly venue where first-timers or veteran readers would feel relaxed.”

For Dan, poetry originates in life experience. “All my poems are reality-based dives into momentary epiphany. The things I’ve done, the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met and loved (and hated) are the very core of my poetry.” Some poems come quickly to him, others take much longer. “I’ve written poems two minutes after an experience, or I can be (subconsciously) stewing over something for years. Then I’ll see, or hear, or smell something, and the opening line will force itself out of me like a repeating lyric.” Breakthroughs are often unexpected. “I’m not looking for them, they just happen. I call it 'riding the deadman’s pocket’ in reference to the many thousands of hours I’ve traveled on motorcycles, where there are things that come at you unexpectedly from your peripheral vision.”

From there, Dan uncovers the poem's direction. “I follow the voices in my head. Most of my poems have developed as snippets of larger stories that reflect my world view of life: a thing, in a thing, wrapped in some other thing, and all the layers of wrapping contain relevance to each other. That is what lends gravitas to the phrasing, the words chosen, the rhythm set in the line choice, and the eventual overall imagery.”

Ultimately poetry has both a personal and universal purpose for Dan. “I want to say I get catharsis from writing, but I don’t. If I get anything out of it, I get clarity. I desire to give a sounding voice for others who may be experiencing something similar to what I’ve written, letting them know we are all in this and most of us don’t have it figured out either. So relax, breathe and learn.”

More info: youtube.com/@danseaman2257/playlists


I have — in my past and on my palms — the callus

of many hours, splayed and cracked skin

Hours toiled in effort straining to gain the grip

to last another minute ... another hour

Stiffened digits wrapped in eternal grasp

of handles on picks, shovels, hammers, saws

Steam boiling up from under a hardhat on a cold

winter’s day, or in the bowels of the earth

Endless tasks satisfied only in their completion

nullified by repetition, glad to be over, glad to begin

Sweat-stained muscles aching in their rest

sweat-stained vision, the best way to know the world

We have all done our time, paid our dues

in gritted teeth and clenched jaw



We have all callused our hands

and some, our souls, the better for it

Look at a man’s hands and a woman’s

see how they are held, not what they hold

Some, from the joy of it wrap that eternal grasp

on a handle of steel or ash

Others — from the lack of chance — are welded to

a forever of callus upon callus

and die cradled in the grave’s shovel

Look not at the surface, spy not the callus …

it may be gone ... it may never have been

Experience is carried in the eyes, on the shoulders

and the way a hand is held

The grip and callus of a smooth hand may be

as strong as a leathered palm, or stronger

from having broken the chains

that held it still

Dee Cohen is a Prescott poet and photographer. deecohen@cox.net.