Michael Snyder is not a paperback writer but he is a published author, poet and literary critic whose 16-page poem “Beetles is Gone” was recently published in the Oklahoma writers anthology “Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me.”
The English and Humanities professor said “Beetles Is Gone” mirrors the title of a short story found in a James Purdy short story collection “Children Is All.”
“The title of ‘Beetles is Gone’ is grammatically incorrect and spelled like the insect,” Snyder said. “It is purposeful.
“I refer to the Beatles as Beetles throughout the poem in part because the poem deals with myths and legends — something that has been treated as godlike, something that has been worshipped and brings it to an earthlier level.
“(The) colloquial speech of the (Purdy short story collection) had a really cool ring to it with ‘What’s that noise? Children Is All,’ so I mirrored that kind of grammatical construction in the title.”
Purdy’s influence came about after Snyder did a dissertation on him while attending graduate school at the University of Oklahoma.
“I refer to him in the poem as well,” Snyder said.
He said the poem is reflective of his interests in beat poetry, conspiracy theories, ’60s counter culture and the Beatles.
Snyder said the idea for his poem just came to him “like one of those muse-came-to-visit-me type experiences,” he said.
“I sat and wrote this whole poem in a few hours: inspiration struck and I had to get it all down.”
Mongrel Empire Press, an independent book press based out of Norman, published the book Snyder’s poem is in.
Snyder said he met Mongrel Press Editor Jeanetta Calhoun Mish when he joined the Graduate Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma.
Mish said they had a class or two together, striking an instant friendship.
She said they enjoyed discussing Native American literature and music.
Mish was guest editing an online literature magazine “Sugarmule” when Snyder asked her to read his poem.
When “Sugarmule” evolved into “Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me,” Mish decided to include Snyder’s poem in the book.
“I chose Michael Snyder’s poem ‘Beetles Is Gone’ because I enjoyed its smart and witty take on American popular culture,” Mish said.
“Snyder is a poetic DJ, sampling the sounds and imagery of America, and capturing how we incorporate music and culture from around the world,“ she said. “He shows us why The Beatles belong as much to us as they do to our cousins across the pond.
Mish said she particularly liked a reference to the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album cover which conspiracy theorists believed gave clues to band member Paul McCartney being dead.
Snyder said he first discovered the Beatles through his older brother Tim. That was in 1985, toward the end of elementary school while living in Dayton, Ohio, he said.
Snyder said, at the time, a bit of a ’60s revival was going on.
“[My brother] was playing and buying Beatles tapes, ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘Abbey Road,’ and I had never heard those albums before,” he said.
“There was a lot of interest in these bands at the time, and I think people were reacting to a lot of consumerism and flashiness of the 1980s.
“Post-Duran Duran, everything was over produced, slick, and soulless. Everything was drum machines and synthesizers.”
Ryan Slesinger, an English professor and friend of Snyder’s who teaches a course titled, “Six Years in the Life: The Beatles,” at the University of Oklahoma said he Snyder has been “fearless in his pursuit of illuminating all facets of the Beatles phenomenon as well as the other cultural topics that he enjoys,”
Slesinger said he and Snyder primarily connected based on their mutual interest in the counterculture of the 1960’s, including “The Beatles.”
“The most sophisticated conversations that I have about ‘the Beatles’ are usually with Mike,” he said “It would be nice to have more opportunities to have those conversations, but hey, ob la di, ob la da right?”
Snyder also drew upon his own musical abilities for inspiration as well.
He said he plays guitar and drums on occasion, but said he hasn’t been in bands since he has became a father.
Snyder’s said his daughter’s bedroom is done in a Beatles theme of the songs “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’ Garden.”
“We have Beatles posters, but (also) whales and octopi in the room,” he said.
In addition to the Beatles, Snyder’s hobbies are primarily reading and music. He said he enjoys a lot of British shoegazer bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized and Ride.
One of his favorite poets and authors is Allen Ginsberg, who Snyder said, has a big influence on the poem.
Snyder does a lot of work with Native American literature as well.
“I really like John Joseph Mathews, an Osage writer from Oklahoma who wrote a novel called ‘Sundown,’ so I am doing a lot of research on him,” he said.
Much like his poem, Snyder believes the Beatles are open to interpretation.
“There was so much going on with their albums and art work.
“There were so many different layers you could just peel away like an onion on how to interpret it — very self-consciously layering on little enticing lyrics, tidbits and clues like the line ‘Looking Through a Glass Onion’ as an example.
“It’s very self-conscious, very post-modern and nobody was doing anything like that at the time.
“I see this poem as not a manifestation of paranoia or conspiracy, but a meditation upon these.”
Snyder grew up in Dayton, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor’s degree at Haverford College outside of Philadelphia.
He got his master’s degree in English at the University of Colorado and his doctorate in English at the University of Oklahoma, where he was a teaching assistant and lecturer.
Snyder said he would like to do a Beatles-themed lecture at OCCC, similar to the “Elvis as an Indian” lecture he gave this past December, but based on John Lennon, his favorite Beatle.
“I have theories of John Lennon’s sexuality, because he definitely was not heterosexual in terms of 100 percent straight.
“Clearly he was married twice, but he is said to have had multiple gay experiences so his desire was fairly freewheeling. I’m not saying he was gay, but in the contemporary sense of queer like queer theory, fluid, indeterminate.”
“Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me” is available online at www.bn.com for $17.84.