“Poplandia”: EMU prof publishes First Book of Pop Culture Poetry

During his undergrad days, Eastern Michigan University English professor André F. Peltier wrote a poem about sci-fi icon Flash Gordon, which has since been lost to time. 

However, Peltier, 48, of Ypsilanti, had an epiphany. 

“When I started teaching science-fiction about 10 years ago, I realized that there isn’t much sci-fi-based poetry, so I ended up writing a poem about “Star Wars.” I’d never actually submitted my work anywhere until the beginning of quarantine and, since then, I’ve had nearly 200 poems published by various journals and magazines. After 1½ years of that, I made a New Year’s resolution last year to get a book published this year.”

The result is “Poplandia” (Alien Buddha Press $10.99), which debuted in August.

“It’s a collection of poetry dealing with pop culture. These poems include topics ranging from “Star Wars” to Elvis (Presley) and Taco Bell to comic books,” he explained. “People should buy my book because my poems try to speak to a readership raised on MTV and Comedy Central. I don’t try to take them too seriously, but people seem to relate to the more personal commentary (regarding) the more general references throughout.” 

Peltier quipped getting a book published is the second New Year’s resolution he’s ever kept. The first is resolving to eat more tacos in 20201. 

“With this in mind, I have collected my stuff into a few different manuscripts and the pop culture-based work is the first to get accepted, thanks to my awesome publisher, Alien Buddha Press. Hopefully, I can get some other books published in the next year or so,” he said.

Baffled by Elvis  

Peltier stated there are two poems in the book about Elvis, who is featured on the cover. 

“One (poem) is about a trip my wife (Sara) and I took, which included a morning at Graceland (Presley’s home in Memphis, TN). While there, I was struck by a young woman weeping at his grave. I’ve tried to understand the deep connection she could have to Elvis, and I’ve been left kind of baffled for years,” he said. “The other deals with an idea I got while watching the show “The Great” about Catherine the Great.  In one particular episode, I was fascinated by the idea that her husband Peter was furious when someone showed up in court with nicer clothes than him, and I wondered what would have happened had that happened to Elvis and his jumpsuit.”

Tim Fielder of Dieselfunk Studios in Harlem, NY provided the cover illustration for Peltier’s book. According to Peltier, the image emulates a movie poster of a low-budget sci-fi B-movie of the 1950s. 

“We decided on the poster for an Elvis sci-fi movie he would have made with someone like (Detroit native/B-movie filmmaker) Roger Corman had (Elvis) not died when he did (in 1977). Another few years and we would probably have had a movie very similar to the imagery on the cover,” explained Peltier. “It’s kind of ironic, though, because I wouldn’t really call either of us giant Elvis fans. Of course, we’re familiar with his music, but I wouldn’t say that there was ever a major Elvis period in either of our lives.” 

“Interesting and Super Goofy”

Born in New York, Peltier moved to northern Michigan when he was 2 and spent the majority of his boyhood in Petoskey.

Peltier graduated from Detroit Catholic Central High School (when it was located in Redford) in 1992. From there, he earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in literature from EMU. 

“When I was younger, I planned to become a high school teacher (teaching either English or history), but as I got closer to graduating, I realized that wasn’t for me. One of my professors suggested grad school and being unsure of my future, I went for it. It kind of snowballed from there, I guess,” he recalled. “I started as a grad assistant (at EMU) in 1998, then I became a full-time lecturer after I finished grad school in 2000. I generally teach our first-year writing class, which deals with research and argument. I also teach African-American literature, science-fiction, mystery, and intro to poetry.”

Peltier has been writing poetry since high school. Influences include the works of Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and T.S. Eliot. He remembers buying Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Allen Ginsburg‘s Howl upon graduation and “really just took to their stuff.”

The poetry in “Poplandia” was heavily influenced by the works of Ernest Cline, Nikki Giovanni, and Paul Beatty

Peltier spoke about what he enjoyed the most when writing this book. 

“I just love the time I get to work through ideas,” he said. “Sometimes, I have seemingly great ones that just fall flat because nothing comes together right. Other times, I start with a really stupid or obvious idea and then get to watch it blossom into a fully composed work. It’s really exciting. The other thing that has been great is connecting with old friends. I’ve heard from people I knew 20 years ago who have read (“Poplandia”) and are loving it. It’s not just encouraging, it’s a reminder that we have these giant communities out there and our actions and ideas can touch everyone.”

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