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Old 01-18-2007, 02:50 AM   #1
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AW Poet Laureate Q&A

William Haskins, AW Poet Laureate, January-March 2007

1. When did you start writing poetry?

I wrote poems as early as the age of 7 or 8, but it amounted to little more than the mimicry of a child—simple concepts that were stylistically derivative of whatever I had been exposed to by that time. I do remember I was hell-bent on rhyme and, although I don’t use it most of the time, I still feel pretty confident about being able to pull one together when the situation calls for it. And I think it’s largely a result of toying with it a lot as a child.

It wasn't until I was 10 or so that I began to comprehend the nature of individual vision and voice, and this was reinforced by a fortunate crossing of paths with my 7th grade English teacher, who greatly expanded my knowledge of poetry and its potential.

By the age of 14, I was working pretty steadily toward developing a style and experimenting quite a bit. But it was still mostly observational stuff, very externalized, like a sketch artist sitting on a park bench. Some time around this age, it became more internalized… psychological, philosophical. And, let me tell you, most of it was pretty bad.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?

Well, I’ve written a lot of stuff to pay the bills, much of it in the video/computer games and film industries. But in terms of my own writing, it’s poetry first and then fiction.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

I try to, you know; but life has a way of beating the poet out of you. Still, when the mind is firing on all the right cylinders and language starts clinging to the invisible, it’s a pretty good feeling. But I realize and accept that considering myself a poet is something I do for me. I would never print it on a business card, or try to force people to see me in that way.

4. Why do you write poetry?

The same reason people take photos on vacation—to keep a record of my travels.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?

I think it helps most with economy and compression of language. It helps me write more sharply, more succinctly, more visually.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?

I published a dozen or so poems and some short fiction in small press and university magazines in the late 80s and early 90s. But, once the Internet came along, I really stopped worrying about publishing. I put a good deal of my writing on my site, so it’s there if someone wants to read it.

I understand that some poets want to sort of climb the prestige ladder that comes with publishing in increasingly bigger markets, ending up one day in the big glossies, but that doesn’t really appeal to me. And I have absolutely no patience for people who see poetry as a commodity and attempt to fashion careers whereby they plan to get rich.

7. How often do you write poems?

I average a poem a day, I suppose. Some days I might write three or four; another day I might only write a line or two. But I try not to let a day get past me where I don’t at least tinker with one.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

To go back to the photography metaphor, I guess I’d have to say my goal is to achieve the most accurate snapshot of the feeling, idea or object. To me, the poem is an end in itself.

I write it, I post it on AW, then eventually on my site. And that’s about it.

It’s mostly just for response, though. I’m a horrible poet for peer critique. Unless it’s a glaring grammatical error, I usually resist revision. From my perspective, it’s like (again to invoke the photography metaphor) someone looking at your photos and saying, “Wow, it’d be great if you’d been turned 60 degrees to get that sunset in there.” All you can do is roll your eyes and say, “Okay let me dig up Aunt Mabel's grave and haul her back to the Grand Canyon and re-shoot that for you…”

I enjoy and appreciate critical comments, but I rarely act on them.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

I’m convinced that some people are just wired for poetry. Two people could be standing outside a restaurant and see a woman walk by, obviously tormented. One might just think: “Wow, something’s bothering her” while the other might think: “She takes every step as if approaching a cliff”. The physical observation is of the same person, but it’s processed in much different ways.

But to answer your question, I think the poem writes itself. I just try to take accurate notes.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?


I’m not much on formalism, though I enjoy reading formalist works. I write a great deal of free verse, and I sometimes seek out the symmetry of form, but always on my own terms, in the places of my choosing. I don’t like writing to a template.

Semantically, I love words with double meanings, and I like to construct playful language, especially when it will be juxtaposed with fairly dark subject matter. There’s something about the emotional contradiction of it that appeals to me.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

Form always follows function. The idea is the main thing and the words are chosen to illuminate, explain or support it. Form, inasmuch as it’s used, is self-evident.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?

Very rarely, and it’s almost always limited to punctuation and line breaks. I trust myself to make the right word choices right away (though others may well disagree).

For the vast majority of them, it’s done when the last line is written.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

There were always a lot of books around the house, so I was lucky to be exposed to a lot of writers before other kids my age might have been. I think that was a big part of it. But I always loved language, and I recognized, and was attracted to, the poetic aspects of everything from the elevated language of the Bible to the lyrics of the Beatles. Like I said, I think some people are just wired for poetry.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?

It probably started with Robert Frost. But Poe and Lewis Carroll and Longfellow were all heroes and influences in my pre-teen years.

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?

I embarked on a study of poetic movements in my early teens. I was searching for some touchstone I could use to break free from a fairly traditional style that I had slipped into like an old pair of hand-me-downs from the poets I had been exposed to by that time.

Fortunately, I never sold my soul to any of them, but rather picked and chose elements and approaches that seemed intuitive to me. If I were to point to those that influenced me the most, I would have to say it was the Imagists and the Surrealists.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

A single one, huh? Probably “Colors”.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

In terms of a poem on a page, I think it’s all but dead, to be honest. It’s sad in a way, but it doesn’t deter me from writing. I just recognize that for Western culture, in particular, it no longer resonates. Most fans of poetry are poets themselves, and this makes for a sort of inbred, incestuous game of “show me yours and I’ll show you mine”. It might turn around and become important again, but I don’t have high hopes. I take some comfort, though, in being a kind of monk, toiling in the shadows to preserve an ancient art form.

That said, there can be no doubt that elements of poetry show up in song lyrics and raps, in children’s books and greeting cards and ad campaigns. If anything, it shows that there’s something about it that appeals to people on a primal level—as long as they don’t have to think too hard.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

For me, it comes down to metaphor, which I feel is the fundamental building block of language and, by extension, human communication.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

I like that it is, for the most part, an honest representation of what I thought or felt at a particular moment.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

Get to writing. Along the way, you need to read widely and learn as much as you can about various techniques, but there’s no substitute for actually creating poems. They might be shallow, perhaps even bad; but each one will be a step towards greater clarity, better use of language and deeper meaning.

As with anything, there are no shortcuts.
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Old 04-07-2007, 05:40 PM   #2
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Stew21 (Trish), AW Poet Laureate, April-June 2007

1. When did you start writing poetry? At a very young age, probably 8 or 9. I would take my allowance and spend the money on notebooks so I could write poems. I continued through junior high and high school and college writing constantly.

2. What other writing do you do regularly? I write fiction - short stories and am working on my second novel.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?
For a long time I didn't. I neglected it for a few years. Then I came to AW because I had finished my first novel and found the poetry forum, and the pull to it re-emerged. It has taken me this year or so to get comfortable writing poetry again, and to make some improvements on the work. I had forgotten the "voice" I had and needed to sharpen the tools a bit. Now, yes, I would say I am more comfortable in my poetry writing than story writing.

4. Why do you write poetry? Because I always have. Love of words. They are music to me. I have always been inspired by well-written words. Poetry is the outlet for that creativity, that, at least to me, is a story in its most powerful and distilled form. A lot can happen in a very small span of words, with the discipline to choose the right words and right form. It is a craft I want to master.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?
Description with metaphor, meter, inference and rhythm are all part of prose, too. Poetry hones those skills. It is an integral part of my other writing.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history? I have 2 poems published and a third in June. I haven't been so great with submitting. I don't feel the skill level is where I want it to be and I have a fear of failure (and some would say fear of success). Though mostly the publishing part of it isn't so wholly important to me, its the writing, and study of the craft, and knowing that people read them and like them.

7. How often do you write poems? At least a couple each week. Some days I would write several in a day. I try to put pen to paper every day for poetry.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry? No particular goals other than to improve my own abilities.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else? It happens a lot of different ways, sometimes I set out to write and see what lands on the page, other times an idea comes to me that requires writing. Many times, in the writing about people (particularly writing about people at AW), I have thought of a person and chosen a metaphor that suits him/her and the poem flows from the metaphor. Really it happens in so many different ways it is hard to say.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems? I am lousy with form poetry. I am much better with free-form. Though I do try to make sure there is a union between the layout of the poem and its subject. Thematically, I tend to lean towards nature and elements. Subject matter tends towards characters. People are a driving force in most of my work.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?
Sometimes a phrase will come to me. As an example Past Lives of Grass was written when the phrase "a sentiment from the past lives of grass" came to me. Sometimes I will think of a particular person, such as in the AW collection, that person + the metaphor that best suits them = the poem. Sometimes a memory triggers them. Form is never first. I never set out to write a particular kind of poem.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?
I revise while I write, after I write, there is always a tweak or two. Sometimes I will consider it done and then weeks later go back to it to make more changes. The stepping away is a helpful tool for me so I can see it with fresh eyes. If I let go and just write, I do best with minimal revision. I can kill the flow of written words swiftly when I “get hacking” at it editorially.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?
I don't really think I know. My Grandmother always loved poetry. She had several poems around her house, on the refrigerator, in a frame with a picture, in books, etc. She is a big influence on me still. I think it was her love of poetry that made me want to write it. Then at an older age, my stepmother had a box in the attic full of notebooks and binders, and a lot of poetry in them. I read them constantly, and it focused the desire to write even more.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry? It was such a young age, I can't remember any poem in particular that attracted me to poetry. All of it I could get my hands on. Nothing stands out to me as "the first".

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward? Some influences for me include the Beat poets, Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare, I also love reading Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, EE Cummings, Edgar Allan Poe, etc. I could go on and on. I am not biased to any particular style or poet.
We have a vast amount of poetic talent here and I would venture to say that I have also been influenced a great deal by our very own William Haskins, Poetinahat, Trumancoyote and KTC, to just name a few. I have made more improvement in this last year here with the guidance of good poets than I did in all my time reading them for years before I think.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work? My favorite work changes frequently. Right now the answer is Words Without Paper, tomorrow any number of others, but quite often I would recommend the newest.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?
Wow, this is a tough one. It is highly accessible now through electronic media, and shared by groups like this, though I wonder at how many people actually read and study it.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem? Use of poetic tools such as metaphor (and the bazillion others that could be used as well), and the ever-present requisite of intention.

19. What do you like about your own poetry? My poetry is frequently emotionally driven and we all have those, so people can relate, I think. And the topic is generally accessible to the reader. I also like those elusive "perfect words". They don't happen too often, but occasionally I write a phrase that is a gem and it makes the whole poem around it worth it.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well? Practice. Keep writing, don't be afraid to try new things, take constructive criticism and give it to other poets. The evolution of a poet's body of work is so important. It marks the progress. Consider that what you write today is the stepping stone for the poet you will be in a year, or two, or ten. Read a lot of poetry, challenge yourself to grow.

Last edited by poetinahat; 07-10-2007 at 04:14 AM. Reason: updated duration of term
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Old 07-10-2007, 04:18 AM   #3
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NeuroFizz (Rich), AW Poet Laureate, July-September 2007

1. When did you start writing poetry?
I started writing fiction about six years ago, and soon thereafter, the desire to write poetry bloomed. I messed around in my early years, but probably to the tune of about five attempts in fifty years. I’ve been doing other kinds of writing for much longer, long enough to develop arthritis in my words. But for poetry, I am still teething.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?
My day job requires a significant amount of writing. I write and publish results from my research, I write grant proposals, I review manuscripts of others, and help my students with their theses and dissertations. This is all scientific stuff, though, where I have to tell the truth. I have nearly 70 publications in peer reviewed scientific journals (and counting). I’m also finishing the Marine Science volume of the Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (publisher = Facts-On-File). My research is on the neural control of locomotory speed changes, and I use a marine critter as an animal model. My work goes from biomechanics to the molecular level (function of ion channels).


I also write fiction – my first novel came out in July 2006, my second will be out in October of this year (2007), two more are under contract (August 2008 and sometime in 2009), and I’m shopping number five. My first poetry collection will be out this coming January (in e-book format).

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

I am two people. I am a scientist and I am a writer. The writer side of me is further split between fiction and poetry. In terms of writing volume, I’ve produced way more on the fiction front, but on interest and passion, I’d rate fiction and poetry about equal.

4. Why do you write poetry?

I consider writing an intellectual challenge, and writing poetry is a special one. It allows me to play with words and thoughts, to experiment with structure, both formal and informal, and it throws constraints at me that don’t exist, or at least aren’t the same in fiction writing. If I said I write poetry to help improve my fiction writing, I’d be selling poetry way short, and misrepresenting my goals. Writing poetry does have this type of benefit, but it’s merely a beneficial side effect, not a driving force. I guess I write poetry because I like the challenge of weaving words into fabrics that have different colors, patterns, and textures. Finding the right words and playing with them is just plain fun to me.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?

Now I can talk about how writing poetry helps with my fiction writing. The mantra of science writing is “tighten the writing—be concise and exact.” In a general way, this applies to poetry as well (for me, anyway). While there is much more leeway in writing fiction, I like a relatively lean style of writing in that arena as well. By writing poetry, I think I’m gaining more perspective on how to write rich prose with an economy of words, while retaining the ability to elaborate when necessary or desired. I guess poetry instills more discipline in all aspects of my writing, although there is a strong base of this from my science writing as well.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?

I have answered this in question #2 above, so I won’t bore you by repeating it.

7. How often do you write poems?

My schedule is so full, I can’t achieve a regular output of poems. If I took a long-term average, I’d say I write somewhere around 1 or 2 per week. I tend to go in bursts, though, which is more a product of my time availability than of anything else.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

One is to entertain, but not totally in the way you might think. I do want readers to enjoy what I write, but I also find it incredibly fun. It is entertaining to me, in other words. With some pieces, like the ones in the Animalia collection, I want to give readers a little solid information about the wonders and peculiarities of the animals around us. But even there, the goal is to use these animal peculiarities to highlight human foibles and fancies. I guess you could say one of my goals is to define little slivers of human nature in my poems. Humor (in all of its forms) is a tool to this end, so if I can make someone chuckle as well, I’m a happy man.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

It can come from a word, a phrase, or an observation that serves as a nucleating agent for the poem. I don’t know if it is the scientist in me or not, but my mind tends to draw parallels, to see similarities in dissimilar circumstances or in dissimilar situations. I think this is a breeding ground for metaphors and other forms of literary comparison. When one of those parallels pops up, I am compelled to put it on paper.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?

In terms of structure, I’m all over the place, although I’ve been paying attention to rhythm quite a bit lately. I have no preference, though, and structure rarely drives the writing. If it falls out while writing, I’ll try to even it out, unless the poem requires a jolt or two. On the semantic side, I love plays on words, double meanings, twisting and twisted words, and sudden twists of the poems themselves. I love irony. I do tend to have pieces that fit a general topic (loosely at times)—description of the human condition. Much of the poetry I read is dark, moody, or centered on what I call “heavy emotions.” I write some of these, and I really appreciate poems of this nature (particularly those of william haskins). But I lean more toward the lighthearted, whimsical, humorous, or playful. Even when I write about a very serious matter, I tend to (or more appropriately, try to) make light of it, or give it a good dose of irony.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

More often than anything else, words and phrases, along with the parallels I mentioned in question #9. Sometimes, an animal peculiarity starts it all off, but that seed only germinates if I can find a good parallel in human behavior. Form? Not really. That sort of evolves as the piece is being written, which is why I tend to be all over the place in the structure of my poems.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?

Once I get it down on paper, I give it a couple of reads straight through. I tinker a little with it then, and once again when I decide to post it. I will tune it up when I receive good ideas or comments in the critique section of the poetry forum. At that point, I file it away in my computer poetry folder. About every couple of months or so, I go through the folder and read all of the pieces once again. With those fresh eyes, I sometimes give a tweak or two, but most of the poems remain unchanged at that point.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

This is going to sound really strange, but it was in the Office Party section of AW. There is a thread on Limericks where each poster adds a line to an existing limerick or writes the first line of a new one. If you go back a couple of years, when that thread was young, you’ll see I posted there regularly. It brought back pleasant memories of a scientific colleague I worked with in Scotland in the mid 90’s. He and I have similar senses of humor, and he was incredible in his ability to make up limericks “on the spot.” Most were bawdy or worse, but I tried my best to contribute, and found the challenge of cleverness appealing. But what really got me going was the poetry forum right here. People here have a genuine interest in the medium, and most are very encouraging to others who choose to experiment with it.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?

Once again, I’m going to give a strange answer. I read to my son every night when he gets into bed (he’s seven now). We both found we liked Shel Silverstein’s poetry books, and his unique look at things. Of course, he also had wonderful illustrations to go with his poems, but this presented another challenge to me once I gave poetry a try. I wanted to see if I could write poems that portrayed as much as his poem/illustration combinations, but without the help of the drawings. The words have to be the illustrations.

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?

I am ashamed to admit that I have not studied poetry to any significant degree. I’m doing so now, but my plate is so full, I have to steal time from other tasks to do it. But there is a very influential writer who has impacted my work, even though he worked mainly in short stories. He is one of my literary heroes, and went by the pen name of… wait for it… o henry (big surprise, right?). I just love those twist endings of his. I admire poetry in many forms and from many “eras” but I don’t aspire to fit into any of them. I’m happy to trudge along on my own path, with o henry whispering in my ear, not of destination or of hazard, but just babbling about all of the turns in that arrow-straight path.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

I’m going to be selfish and claim I can’t narrow it down beyond three (which is also true). For word-play, I’d recommend Paralytic Paralipsis; For a good dip into human nature, Parsimony Lost; for my favorite from the Animalia series, Pheromonics. Funny how they all start with the letter “P.”

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

The function of language is to communicate. Poetry is a form a communication. That hasn’t changed, and in my mind, never will. Its function is to entertain, to titillate, to make one think, to make one dream, to make one reflect, to make one identify. As for its future direction, I have to fall back on the line I use when students tell me “that’s what I meant” when discussing their essay answers on my exams—my crystal ball broke a couple of years ago and I just can’t seem to find a good replacement. Writing is too subjective, and I’m too much of a greenhorn, to make a meaningful prediction. Its relevance? As long as there are creative individuals with insatiable curiosities, and as long as these people hang around each other, and continue to challenge their intellects, poetry will inspire and grow, if not in popularity, in the lush green of its foliage, nurtured by its deep and extensive root system. How can any human endeavor get any more relevant than that?


18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

Good question. Tough question. It’s an emotion, a feeling, a relationship, an amusement, a thought—conveyed in words of extraordinary language (rather than ordinary language). It’s the creation of emotion with words, that creation called imagery. But it’s more than that. It can be as simple as telling a story, and as complex as delving into the minds of maniacs. But it is done with words. Extraordinary words. And it is enhanced with texture and structure, even if the structure is totally random (there is still structure in line breaks and punctuation that usually distinguishes it from standard prose).

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

I like the way it seems to fit in with my general philosophy on my own personal growth. I want to be able to look back every year, every month, even every week, and say, “Wow. I’ve sure grown since then.” I sense great growth since I’ve been hanging here at the Poetry Forum, and everyone who posts here has had an impact on that. Whether or not that growth shows up in my poetry, I don’t know. I sure hope it does.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

Read, write, post, listen (to critiques/suggestions). Read, write, post, listen. Read, write, post, listen. Knead, fight, toast, glisten. Bleed, bite, roast, piss ‘em. Now… put some stank on it…
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Old 10-04-2007, 04:37 AM   #4
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Paint - aka Sandra Coker, AW Poet Laureate, October-December 2007

Paint


1. When did you start writing poetry?
I wrote love poems in High School, and kept them a secret. I have always kept a journal and through the years I have written poems in them as well. I may have to burn them someday, they are pretty sappy poems for the most part. I have never published any of them.



2. What other writing do you do regularly?
I write fiction short stories and have a couple of books written. One is actually edited and ready to go. It is a YA fantasy story I started in NaNo and finished. I am on the hunt for an agent, I send out queries occasionally.



3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?
No, honestly I am a painter first.



4. Why do you write poetry?
I feel a poem first and then translate that feeling into words. Sometimes a poem will wake me and I keep writing materials by the bed. I always like those poems and have published some of them.
I write them because they are.



5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?
In Red Sea, my YA book (shameless promo) the MC is a poet. I like to incorporate the two. I like to write a story poetically and lyrical.


6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?
Not as much as I'd like--online journals, "Stories of Strengh" and "Finding Change" a handbook for creating change in your life. I self published a Chapbook of poetry and art at lulu.com "Star In A Darkened Sky" I loved that experience and had great fun doing it. I haven't made my first million yet.



7. How often do you write poems?
I write more poems in the winter than I do in the summer. They come in bursts depending on where I am and what I am doing in my life. I find I am greatly affected by the weather as are a lot of poets.



8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?
Right now I am excited about the book we are putting together in the poetry forum. I take it as it comes.
I would like to do paintings that have poems included, but I haven't visualized it yet.



9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?
I get a word or a phrase and I can see the whole poem for the most part. Then I get excited and want to write it. Compel, I guess is a good word. It is exciting to think someone will get a peek into my soul, same as painting.





10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?
I don't like any restriction in my poetry. I write free form always unless it is a contest with rules I am writing for. Like I love limmericks, even they have rules.



11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?
Words followed by a vision. I see what I am writing a poem about, like the Snapshot game, I paint a picture with words.



12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?
Very little revision and some of my poems could use more! But I get too excited about them and want them out! out! out!



13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?
Wow--I think it was always in my head. School I guess, I had some inspiring teachers. I got good grades in Literature. I didn't like school for the most part. The teachers called me "dreamy." Imagine that!



14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?
When I really got going on it I loved Carl Sandburg. He lived near me in Galesburg, Il and I related to his poems about our area.
Later I became interested in some of the darker poets.
My mother told me I was a descendant of Edgar Allan Poe. My people are from England (and Scotland,) and some of them have Poe as a middle name as was the custom back then. She swears by it but I have never pursued it. I have the moodiness, that's for sure.



15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?
I love Sylvia Plath, but would never want her life. I like Robert Frost too, and Emily Dickenson. Rather diverse, eh?



16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?
"Black War Stone" from the "Blue Rock" collection.
It is a poem about a true story, written right from the heart. I like to write poetry about political issues and the Viet Nam War can always move me to tears. It's my people, my era.




17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?
I think poetry today is best described in RAP, Rythmic American Poetry. I get a lot of guff about this, but I think the young people of today are writing in RAP what we all think in our heads. They got the guts to say it. Maybe its not what we like to hear but the truth is the truth. I love RAP, but I don't have the booming speakers in my Pathfinder--



18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?
A poem can be one single word. If you see the story when you hear the word its a poem to me. Not always a popular view.



19. What do you like about your own poetry?
When it makes me laugh or cry. When it sends me straight to God like "Star in a Darkened Sky" it's best of all. I love the surge of joy I get when I have done well and the poem is my soul, written down for all to see and feel.



20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?
Just write from the heart and often.

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Old 01-06-2008, 05:09 PM   #5
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Limeydawg, AW Poet Laureate, January-March 2008

1. When did you start writing poetry?

I began writing poetry as an escape from a lousy childhood—probably around 7 or 8. I entered a contest at the time and it was the first time I actually received praise from an adult. After that, I wrote every chance I could until I became a teenager.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?

Unfortunately, I don’t write for a living. I regained my interest for writing only a year ago and I regret the loss of time. I have a trunked novel, the beginnings of an outline for my second novel, and I will be writing my first book review in the next few weeks. It has become a sort of addiction to me. I enjoy the challenge and try not to limit myself to one particular genre/medium/category. When I retire, I would love to teach a creative writing course—but that is more than a few years away.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

No. I don’t like the limitation of the label. Of course, being known as a poet would be a high accolade, but I prefer to think of myself as a writer.

4. Why do you write poetry?

To improve my prose. There is a certain skill that is developed through poetry; a way of gaining clarity in the way words interact to create stronger pictures. Poetry is also a great teacher of what does not work and what to avoid. People who create poetry, even unsuccessful poems, become better writers, in my opinion, simply through the benefit of the exercise.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?

Again, it improves writing as a whole. I think there are two major benefits. As Haskins pointed out, it helps when compression is needed and economy is warranted. I think, too, that a writer often has to go in the other direction. The show versus tell sometimes require us to paint a picture that describes a simple object in more expressive terminology. I often cite Joel Hutchinson’s short poem “Artichoke” as an example of this. He could have simply said “This is an Artichoke.” Okay, but boring. Instead, he wrote “Oh heart, weighed down by so many wings.”

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?

In all honesty, nothing to date. I have a drawer full of rejection letters, but that’s it. I’m still new to the writing game, and my regular job leaves me little time to write. Still, I’ll get there; I’m nothing if not determined.


I have a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia (one of the top J-schools in the nation, btw.) One of my projects this year will be series of columns that I hope to sell to one of the local rags.

“Merlin Rising” will become an e-book at some point this year. I have enough ideas to flesh that out into four or five more books, so my plan is to make that an e-series.

7. How often do you write poems?

I write when an idea strikes me. Lately, they come about every two weeks or so.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

I would like to get enough decent poems together to write a short e-book of poetry. To date, I think I’ve got maybe three, so there is a long way to go.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

There is inspiration in every moment. The problem for me is that I’m too busy to be in poetry mode all the time, so I don’t always view the world through the poet’s eyes. Still, when something strikes me as poetic, or even simply worthy of pursuing through poetry, I write it. Lately, I’ve had several instances where an idea that began as a poem ended up as a short story.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?


I like symmetry. I like consistency of meter. I like poems that incorporate internal rhyme, alliteration, consonance etcetera. I love poetry with a well-developed metaphor. Rhymed poetry, for me, is the highest form of the art because it is also the most difficult to pull off.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

For me, to use the sculpting metaphor, it’s truth to materials. That is, the idea comes first, and words are the result of our chiseling on the page.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?

I revise much more now that I used to, and still not enough. With everything I write, I try to ask myself if there is a better way of saying a particular thing, or if there is a better word that improves the sonics of the poem, or if there is something I can remove without blurring the picture.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

Before I was introduced to poets, poetry was an escape. The interest blossomed when I read A.E. Housman. The particular poem was “To an Athlete Dying Young.” Housman is the only poet that I can truly say inspires me with all of his work. There are others, such as Neruda, for whom I hold a particular affinity, but mostly I have favorite poems, not poets.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?

Housman’s “To an Athlete Dying Young.”

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?

I don’t think there is one that I enjoy more than others. I enjoy poems from across the span of time, from Robert Southwell to Dylan Thomas and WCW. Lately I’ve found myself looking for poetry in song lyrics. It’s there if you look.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

I'm not sure I'd recommend any, but there are some of my favorites available through the link in my signature.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

Poetry may have developed from people’s ideas to see the world in a memorable way—to describe the mundane in a fashion that gave them an outlet from the desperation of their situation. At least, I imagine that is true. Poetry requires thought and some degree of mastery of the language. I think the modern world makes poetry very difficult because people don’t want to spend the time creating or thinking about what is presented to them.


The future of poetry is song and damned good prose. It’s a tool for developing writing skills and a vehicle for getting people to listen to what a person sings. I don’t believe it’s dead. The number of sites dedicated to poetry show that there is a great interest in the form. The worst thing that is happening to poetry is the MFA degree, and the people in possession of these degrees who attempt to be the gatekeepers of what is and is not poetry. This is why AW is so important. It allows people who may not write a “supposedly” perfect sonnet to have an outlet for their work.

I also happen to believe that every poem has an audience. Look at the niche e-mags that publish poems. There are thousands of them, which seems to me to indicate that poetry is alive and well.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

A strong, well-developed metaphor couched in catchy word-play that paints memorable pictures for the reader.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

That it evolves, and that I am becoming a better writer through the exercise.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

Read poetry. Write poetry. Learn to take criticism with a grain of salt. Once you learn what doesn’t work, writing good poetry becomes much easier.
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Old 06-13-2008, 10:47 AM   #6
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jst5150/Jason - aka Jason Tudor, AW Poet Laureate, April-June 2008

1. When did you start writing poetry?
As a teenager. Writing poetry was a key to getting into a girls' pants. I figured the better a poet I became, the more girls I could woo. For the most part, it proved right.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?
I've written two novels, several short screenplays, a dozen short stories, a graphic novel script and have penned better than 2,000 stories as a journalist. However, the writing I do most regularly is e-mail.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?
No. I am primarily a renaissance man, a career soldier, a husband, and a father. I have my mental fingers into a number of different things. I like to keep it that way.

4. Why do you write poetry?
See answer 1. However, as an adult, I find poetry to be an opportunity to free emotion that I might keep contained; an exercise in the use of language. The fantastic thing about poetry is it's a lot like journalism; it demands you economize the words, the sentences and the verses. So, I can connect on a number of levels with poetry now because I've been a reporter for so long.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?
It doesn't. It's an abstract.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?
I've been featured by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Writers' Group, including a first-place prize in one contest. I've also been featued by the Southern Poetry Writers' Association. Beyond those, my poetry resume is paltry, but admittedly, I rarely send anything to anyone except the AW forums. I've won enough contests in my life.

7. How often do you write poems?
Sporadically. I find with more time on my hands, especially time to myself, I can be prolific. When deployed to the Middle East at the end of 2006, I wrote poetry almost every day. Since returning, I may write something once a month.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?
None, really. With the exception of the "Blue Rock" stuff featured in the AW Forums, poetry is mostly a one off affair to me. When I'm 60, I'll probably collect all this stuff into one tome and read it. I'll laugh at a lot of the dumb stuff I was thinking about. I'm so young figuratively right now and I know so little that when I'm 60, I'll be giggling about what an idiot I was for writing this stuff.

In addition, another poet laureate mentioned liking the response when posting here. Me, too. So do others who post here. We're all socially linked that way, I think.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?
It's simpler than that. Usually, I'll have one thought floating in my head. That thought is usually a statement, or an abstract. For instance, "Do Not Fork Under Coil" is a poem featured on AW. The idea for it came from a sign hanging on a generator in the Middle East. What the sign meant to say was, "Hey, don't use a forklift under this thing or you'll break it." But the phrase "Do Not Fork Under Coil" struck me as something entirely different.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?
First, God and Satan is one that pops up a lot; our mortality. I always liked the idea of God being all powerful. God would smote you for the smallest transgression. Humans are small. God is big. And throw Satan in there as a counterbalance, but really nothing compared. I'm always trying to refine the concept; make it a little broader and bigger than it is. I have a lot of poetry with nuns, priests, God, Satan and other theological imagery. Mostly, it seems to revolve around Catholicism. Catholic religious imagery always comes to the forefront.

Second, sex. Yes. Sex. I said it. However, I've always felt the key to writing about sex is to never actually mention it. It's like using the word "love" in a poem about love. Kiss of death. When writing about sex, I'm usually looking for imagery that conjures sensation. Sex poetry is a form of foreplay. And yes, I purposefully avoided the word erotica. I write about sex. And if you peek at the "Blue Rock" poems, I write about a great cross-section of sexuality.

Finally, the human condition. Writing about people with HUGE flaws has always enamoured me. I also like the sudden juxtaposition of people; the blonde housewife from the Spic-N-Span commercial who has a dungeon filled with lonely accountants and a 1-900 phone line in her basement. The stranger I can make it, the closer it usually resonates to reality.

In short, we all have some core things we gravitate around. I want to write about those things. That's why you don't see poems of mine with a lot of flag waving or gushy romance. At our core, we're animals. So, we're about survival, reproduction and whimsy.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?
Idea. Then form follows function.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?
I don't revise the idea. I will revise the words to strength and grow the verse. I'm always open to suggestions if the person offering them has a clear idea where I am going. That's what a good editor does -- keeps the idea but helps find the right assets to communicate the idea. In the end, that vehicle for communication may not be a poem.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?
See answer 1.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?
I have no idea. Not to be a broken record, but see answer 1. I just remember seeing another student's poem, thinking it was pretty good and then getting started.

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?
ee cummings is an easy influence. Wordsworth, too. Browning's Portuguese sonnets came late. Dr. Seuss is a brilliant poet (and a former neighbor in San Diego). Shakespeare, of course. However, I found that whatever I write as poetry is affected by other mediums more often than not. I'm aware of a broad base of fundamentals. And to know them is a great foundation. But part of the beauty of poetry is that you get a base of fundamentals -- then throw the whole thing out the window and write.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?
Almost anything from the "Blue Rock" collection. Thanks to AW's William Haskins, my Blue Rock poems are some of the most powerful works I've ever written.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?
Poetry is alive in other places. It baffles me the number of people who bash hip-hop culture. Poetry shows up there at every turn, and there's a ton of it that's very good. All other music, too. I've never seen "poetry" as a stand-alone medium in the first place. Shakespeare didn't write "Henry V" just to be ink on pulp. He meant actors to carry the water on his message. His verse was just a way to make it interesting for the audience. And that's what new media is about -- keeping it interesting for the audience. We continue to evolve in many ways. That stand-alone poetry is being left behind is a step in that evolution. Someone said it's dead. I disagree. It's evolved.

Poetry is more a component of things than a thing. It is part of music. Part of film. Part of other mediums. There's too much info chatter now for poetry to stand out in its own right. It is a small -- microscopic -- group of people that still reveres poetry as a stand-alone form and even then, those people are usually cheering the standards; the classics; something in forms they recognize and are comfortable seeing.

Finally, a note on poetry and social strata: there are plenty of people who see poetry as this niche carved into the elitist alabaster. That there's a certain summit you have to reach in order to be relevant, credible, praised ... a poet. That's bullshit. There are plenty of poets who have been stratified by social class and were darlings of the New York/Manhattan social circles. And if you're goal is to make The New Yorker, fine. However, again, poetry is a maliable animal. Impoverished, middle class or nose turned toward gargoyles, we all have these one-off opportunities of thought, grace and power to offer people. Don't worry about whether or not they will measure against Longfellow or Bukowski. Start with whether or not you've said the right thing to yourself. Then, publish.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?
Words. Accuracy. Brevity. Clarity. Moral (sometimes). A beginning, middle and end matter. In many ways, the same things that make up any good written work. Poems, however, are better as snapshots rather than feature films.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?
Little. Once I've written a piece, it's usually forgotten in about three days, unless someone else brings it up. Then I have to reread it to remember what he's talking about.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?
Three things: 1.) Learn what makes people, men and women, tick. Then, write about those things. 2.) Language. Absolutely every word matters in poetry. Some words are vague. Others are exact. Find the ones that are exact. For instance, "no" is one of the most powerful words in any language. For that matter, so is "yes." Both are clear, concise and absolutely have meaning to almost anyone who can comprehend. 3.) Don't take it too seriously. Do good work, but at the end of the day, it's just a poem. As a teenager, I started writing poetry to get laid. It's the same reason I took drama in high school and college. I can't attach too much philosophical infrastructure to it, other than to say this: sometimes people smile and sometimes that find something else to read.

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KTC - aka Kevin Craig, AW Poet Laureate, August-October 2008

1. When did you start writing poetry?
To be honest, I really can’t remember starting. I’ve always loved the sound of words and I wrote to reach that love since I learned to write.


2. What other writing do you do regularly?
I’m a freelance article writer. I write fiction and memoir too. Most recently, I’ve been writing advertorials and radio commercials as well. Whatever comes my way, really.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

Actually—and this is going to sound a bit crazy—I think all writers should try to think of themselves primarily as poets. The sound of words is really important in any writing. I’m a romantic when it comes to language. A poet has to think about words individually. In a poem, each word holds the weight of the world. Why shouldn’t we aspire to that in all writing?


4. Why do you write poetry?
Because I love words and the sounds they make when strung together. I do not mean this lightly. They make me high and give me life.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?
I think I may have answered this already, but I will try to elaborate. Every time I open a word file to work on my WIP fiction—or anything else—I first write a poem. I see poetry as an exercise to help me dip deeper into language. I get myself flexible through poetry and then go on to write whatever else it is I am working on.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?

I have had a few wonderful opportunities to read poetry at spoken word events. In 2006 I was invited to the Renaissance Café in Toronto, to be the featured spoken word performer for an evening. It was probably the highlight of all the readings I have done. I have also done readings in and around the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). I won’t go into my publication history. I’ll just say that I feel really lucky and blessed to have had some success in that area.


7. How often do you write poems?

Every day. Maybe two or three a day.


8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

I’ve never really had goals for my poetry, per se. My goal is always to attain the beauty that I can see just ahead of me. It’s like the world is dangling a carrot on a string, just outside my reach. Every poem I write is just my hand reaching out and grasping at that carrot. I want to get the beauty out. Is that a goal?


9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

I get a jumble of words in my head and I hear a chord of music. I guess at that poem you could say I set out because I’m compelled. Again, it’s all about the beauty of language and my severe addiction to that beauty.


10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?
I have to confess that I don’t really understand this question. I simply try to funnel my experiences and my love of the world into poetics. I’m kind of erratic with the subjects I tackle. I’m polar opposite of an intellectual. There is really no thought in much of anything that I do. I know that sounds bad, but it’s pretty much the truth.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

Words mostly. Sometimes I will have something weighing on me, though. And I will attempt to purge it through poetry. Poetry, for me, is linked closely to emotions and the past.


12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?
Up until a couple months ago, I USUALLY didn’t revise at all. To me, it was about getting it out. Once it was out, it was out…no need to look back on it. I’ve recently discovered the pleasure of revisiting past poems and editing them. In May I took a workshop at the Ontario Writers’ Conference (It was my first class of any kind on poetry…so it was really a thrill for me). My favourite living poet, Canada’s Barry Dempster, was teaching it. It was all about revision and I went into it as a non-revising poet. Barry offered me a lot of encouragement and I learned much about the art of revision and how it can be as much fun as creation. My stand on not revising was NEVER about me thinking it was good enough to stand unrevised. NEVER. It was always just about getting it out and leaving it to stand for what it was when it went through me. I’m not sure how to answer the when is it finished question. They are so organic…are they ever finished?


13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

I was always interested in the sound of words. This naturally sent me right to poetry at the very beginning.


14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?
I was first attracted by Dr. Seuss. His love of words showed through everything he ever did. That’s a silly answer, but it’s a very true one. He made me mad for language and desperate to learn more about it. My first OH MY GOD moment with a real poet was in my grandmother’s library when I was too young to fully understand the meaning of what I was reading. She was a fan of Pablo Neruda…and I loved his work. One of my biggest regrets is not being able to read it in his language.

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced y
ou as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?
I wouldn’t know a movement or an era if it hit me in the eye. I usually just pick up a poet and read them willy nilly. I don’t pay attention to their birthdates or any particular movement…just the words.Pablo Neruda and Barry Dempster—I admire both and aspire to reach just a fraction of what they attained. They seem capable of perfect reflection.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?
I don’t like doing something like this, as I am not one to see value in my own work. I can’t answer this question.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?
I can only speak for myself. It is an elephant in my life. I can hardly see past it, so for me it is extremely relevant. Its function, for me, is to translate the untranslatable…to reach for the beauty in the world and reflect it back. I’m hopelessly in love with the universe and I burn to get that love out into poetry. That’s the function for me…as a poet and as a reader. It’s the language of the universe we can’t grasp…the universe we sense viscerally. The future of poetry? Like everything else, people will say it’s dying. IT NEVER WILL. People feel. Poetry is the essence of this.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?
I did not know you were going to hit me—someone who does not know or understand form—with this question. If it lifts me…if the language is just so—and seems to hum along with the universe and pick up on that hum—then it is a poem. Other than that, you will have to get the poets to tell you the answer to this riddle. I am uneducated and not allowed to pontificate on such things.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?
What it does for me. I don’t really look at and ponder the finished product as much as I enjoy being wrapped up in the creation of it. When I’m writing poetry I feel like I am communing with a higher self. That’s what I like about it.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?
Listen, Grasshopper. Listen with your ears; with your lungs; with your loins; with your heart and with your blood. There is a natural rhythm in the world. All things have a sound and a beauty. On most levels we cannot hear it, but where we reach to write poetry…it is there. I firmly believe that. The most important thing an aspiring poet can do is listen.
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Old 02-25-2009, 07:31 PM   #8
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Godfather - AW Poet Laureate January-March 2009
1. When did you start writing poetry?
I started when I was about 14, but that was less poetry than angsty diary entries with line breaks. I gave up after a while of going nowhere, but I started again after talking to a girl on the bus. She told me about an open mic poetry night in a pub, and told me that she wrote lots of poetry herself. I got annoyed with myself, and started writing again. I guess I was about 16 then.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?
Not much. Letters, and sometimes I write essays if something strikes me and I don't have a poem for the subject. A few weeks ago, I was leaving my friends apartment after bringing Christmas presents, and I felt a shot of unspeakable joy. I wrote a poem about the joy, but then i wrote another page or so of my thoughts about the whole thing.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?
This is a tough question for me. I paint and take photos, and am studying art. Poetry is, and has always been, an infidelity. I never allowed it to trump the significance of the others in my mind. However, I have come to equate them. Poetry, painting and photography are, for now, equal in importance and my character. I'm learning all of them. Also, I wouldn't call myself a poet, I always felt there was something not quite right about calling oneself a poet. Was it Pablo Neruda who said that 'poet' is a title that's bestowed?

4. Why do you write poetry?
I adore it. There's a unique feeling that comes with completing a poem; it has never been written before. It is a new poem, it was written, and then it was bettered. At first though, it was about being a poet, and not the poetry. It's cool to be a poet, particularly a deep and troubled poet. When I started reading poetry, I felt the shudder that comes when one reads great poetry. "I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees", that line punches me in the gut, O want to write poems that punch in the gut. Also, I have an unhealthy and romantic obsession with greatness. I am determined to be great, and someday i'll write great poems. And don't forget, girls dig a guy who's eyes burn with poetic intensity, or something like that.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?
It validates it.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?
I once got a runner-up in a young poet of the year contest. I have no idea where to start with getting things published, and am not convinced that anything I've written is worth publishing.

7. How often do you write poems?
About twice a week, but I can't schedule it. I either have a poem to write, or I don't. I might not write anything for weeks, and I might write 5 poems in a day. I can't turn it on or off, its a feeling that can't be postponed.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?
I want to write great poems. They can be ignored completely in my lifetime or in my death, but if they are written and they are great, I've achieved my goal. I have no great desire to be a poet-about-town. I'm not encouraged by the notion of walking into a pub and being the poet. Its pure greatness I want to achieve, and everything else is tangential; recognition, publication, acknowledgement.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?
That's a difficult thing to define. I can't set out to write a poem and just write it. There's a way of thinking I have to be in, a way of seeing, but I don't know how to tap into that. It just happens. I have to work to write the poem, but the poem only happens if I'm in this state of mind.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?
For so long, I've been trying to write Imagist poems (without knowing what Imagist poetry was, mind you, I only discovered that a couple of weeks ago. Ezra Pound beat me to it, the bastard), but since I started reading Eliot, I've tried to bring more rhythm and rhyme to my poems. My poems are mostly first-person too, because I guess you write what you know and I can't write from the perspective of anyone else. I suppose any stylistic traits in my poems are habitual rather than intended.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?
Almost always the idea. Sometimes a line or two comes first, but they are mostly associated with an idea I'd been thinking about before. Form never comes first, form is a by-product of the poem.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?
I revise straight away. I almost always write and edit a poem in about half an hour, but sometimes poems drag out over days and weeks and get lost in revisions, like In Prague. I was interrailing in the Summer, and met an English girl who wrote poetry. We spoke about it, and she told me she never edited. She might spend half an hour over one word, but once the last line was written, the poem was finished. I told her that I felt it wasn't the last word that completed the poem, but the whole poem being what it should be. I have written like that before, and used to like the idealism of it. But it doesn't work for me. When I write, I write furiously, and so I write a poem before its gone, then go back and change it until its done or I've run out of steam. I can't write with that fury if I spend a day on one word.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?
I thought it was off the beaten track, and in my desperate angsty quest to be different, that was all that counted. Like I said, it wasn't until I started reading poetry that I fell in love with it. We had some poetry books round the house. Dylan Thomas I loved, Sylvia Plath.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?
Dulce Et Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen. I still know it word for word. Its such a powerful poem, brutal, honest and vivid. I still envy similes like "obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud".

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?
Bob Dylan carried me off. With him there was the beautiful simplicity of a folk song, and the untapped fury of Blonde On Blonde. Dylan Thomas was somebody who influenced me because I loved the form he used; no word was unnecessary, every word was huge. The same with Sylvia Plath. I don't know enough about poetry to be influenced by many movements or eras, but the era of Joyce, Wilde, Yeats, Pound and Eliot - that's something I admire and aspire towards. Francis Bacon spoke about it too, and talked about how great it would be to have these contemporaries as your friends, and to be able to share your poetry with them and they with you. At the moment, Wordsworth, Eliot and Neruda are very strong influences.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?
Our beloved Feiss recently suggested one for me for the Calling Card Thread, and for now I can think of no better answer to this question; Russia, Russia. Thank you Feiss.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?
Well, I have no clue about poetry today, which leads me to suspect that poetry is, in the mainstream, irrelevant. Unfortunately, poetry is for poets or poetry enthusiasts. I have no idea if it is going anywhere, and no optimism for its direction, though I hope somebody can prove me wrong. I remember in Irish class, we were learning about a contemporary Irish poet, Cathal O'Searcaigh. O'Searcaigh is gay, our teacher told us, and the guy in front of me said "Obviously. He's a poet", as if it was a requirement. I laughed til it hurt, but it does show how people see, or rather don't see, poetry.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?
I think what makes something poetry is some unexplained majesty. I think Kerouac's 'The Dharma Bums' is pure poetry, while most of the young Emo poetry I've read just isn't. Poetry has an inherent poetry in it that can't be affected. I guess what makes a poem is the translation of a way of seeing that is inherent in one's mind, which makes a poet a poet. That and line breaks.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?
The fact that it is my own, and has never been written before. There's something rare about that feeling.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?
Write, and don't stop writing.
__________________
You really should read this one. Really. You don't have to be a fan of poetry, just a fan of words:
A Poem in progress

This one tiptoes, quite beautifully
Thief

Fear of flying?
Aerophobia in poetry forum

You know who they are. Dharma Queens by Kylabelle

Kie's latest beauty

More poetry links coming soon!
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Old 04-08-2009, 08:55 AM   #9
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Dichroic - AW Poet Laureate April-June 2009

1. When did you start writing poetry?

I'm really not sure. The first specific ones I remember were for a weekly creative writing class in 9th grade (public school; it was part of the Gifted program). At the start of each day we were assigned a topic and given the choice of writing an essay or a poem on it. I often chose the poem from sheer laziness; it seemed like a lot less work. I don't have any of those now; if I did I think I'd find thoughtless word choices and lazy writing - but I bet they'd scan! I'd have been 14 in 9th grade; by then I was comfortable enough writing poetry that I think I had written some earlier but I don't remember specific examples.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?

On the one side, a lot of my job is creating presentations and technical process documentation; on the other hand I've been blogging regularly since March 2001.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

Heck, no. I think of myself primarily as an engineer! Even though my current job is more management than engineering, once it gets into your thought processes it never gets out. Though it would probably be even truer to say that if I had to describe myself as one thing, it would be "I am a reader."

4. Why do you write poetry?

These are the kinds of writing I get issued: poems and essays. Aside from some very rare murderously attacking plot bunnies, I don't write fiction, much as I wish I could.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?

There are posts about poetry or including poems of my own from the first month of my blog. At one point I even went in and indexed all my blogged poems; this was in the days before blogging software made tagging or categorizing easy.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?

I'm so glad you asked Especially because I give credit to AW for both motivation and some concrete information on where to look, and on what I've learned in crits for quality, I am very excited to answer this. (Very very excited. You have no idea - scratch that, you all probably do. And I've been saving the news for just this moment.) I received my first two acceptances for publication this spring. I even got paid for one.
One of them is already online, at a new journal called ExpatLit. Given where I am, I had to submit there! The other will be in the spring edition of Amaze Cinquain - I'm not sure when it will be online, as I think the print edition comes first.

7. How often do you write poems?

It varies, anywhere from every day to months between. I'm very susceptible to peer pressure, so I tend to write more often when hanging out at AW or elsewhere among writers. It also depends a lot on how many other demands there are on my attention - I write more when I'm bored.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

To get better at it; to say things and have people understand them.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

Sometimes poems jump me (vicious poem bunnies, cousin to the plot bunnies and far more frequent); sometimes there is something I want to say; sometimes I want to play with a particular form or conceit.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?

I'm all over the map. I rarely write minimal, because I tend to be verbose (oh, you noticed?) but rhymed verse of all forms, non-rhymed, free verse. I like playing with alliteration and assonance, and using the same word in different ways. I tend to hear poems "out loud" in my head, so sound is important to me.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

Yes. (See question 9.) The ones that attack me fully-fleshed-out are the most fun to write, though I think some of the others come out as well in the end.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?

Yes. I used to not do much, or not beyond the changes as I wrote it, but as I've gotten more interested in seeing how good I could get these poems, I've learned that even the ones that attack me fully formed can be improved. When I don't see any more improvements to make, I post for crit and other people tell me about more.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

My mom read it to me, as her father read it to her. A lot of kids' books already are verse, of course, but she also the grown-up poets. We always had a couple of those "greatest poems" collections around.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?

Apparently I had "The Night Before Christmas" memorized before age 3, which is pretty strange for a Jewish girl. (And I began to read at 3 or 4, so Mom would have had to read it to me.) Poe's "Annabel Lee" was a favorite early on; I knew it was about a young girl dying, but don't think I ever found it particularly spooky. Dr. Seuss, for the sound and the idea of having fun with words.

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?

Mostly the formal ones. Shakespeare. John Donne. Pope. My stuff tends to be more head than heart, or a balance of both, so not the Romantics. I have a perverse fondness for the balladeers of the Victorian age, like Kipling and Service (though I'd still say some of Kipling's poems are of the highest rank). Their stuff rouses my blood, especially Service's "Call of the Wild" - "Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost!"

Among more modern poets, Millay, Frost, Mary Oliver. What I have called the "author poets", like L.M. Montgomery or E. Nesbit or Christopher Morley - most of their poetry isn't among the greats, but it's good and worth reading. There are particularly a lot of good speculative poets right now, some of whom I can call acquaintances or in a few cases friends: Jo Walton, Suzette Haden Elgin. Elise Mattheson. Elizabeth Bear. Peg Duthie and others at Vary the Line. A few people right here on the AW forum. If the internet gives people a place to broadcast crap, it also allows transmission of a lot of gold that I might not otherwise get to see, and I love it for that.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

This is probably not what anyon else would pick, but one of the ones I'm proudest of is Deborah Milton Speaks. Because it's totally unfair to ask a writer to pick just one brainchild, I'll say that three that were a lot of fun for me are Song of a Wild Nebula, Will You Come Dancing Tonight (wish I hadn't blogged that one, so I could submit it) and the totally goofy Alice and Wendy and ... and ... but you asked for one.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

People keep saying that poetry is dying. They've been saying that for the last two thousand years, and I don't think it will be true until humanity dies out. We are a storytelling species, and poetry is a way to sharpen the story so that it pierces deeper.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

In a novel, I'm told, every sentence needs to do at least two or three things, for instance advance the plot and also build a character or a world. In a poem, every word counts. I do not believe, as some do, that everything but nouns and verbs should be stripped out; sometimes, for instance, you need articles and conjunctions to give a natural conversational feel. A sonnet needs more kinds of words than a minimalist koan, just to let the rhythm carry it. An epic can't be too starkly stripped or no one would ever get through it. But every word should be there for a reason, preferably more than one.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

I think I have a decent feel for words and rhythms, and I hope that comes through. I like to juggle words, and I like to build detailed structures. I'm tickled if I can sneak in a pun or allusion - and five times more so if readers spot it.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

Read. Then read more. Read the kind of stuff you write, but read other kinds too; you might learn something else you want to do, or something you want not to do. And don't be afraid; if you take your work seriously and yourself lightly, then the worst that can happen from writing. (In a free society, the worst that can happen from submitting is not that bad. But even the most brutally suppressed society cannot enchain the words you assemble in your mind.)
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Old 07-02-2009, 07:25 AM   #10
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moblues - AW Poet Laureate July-September 2009

1. When did you start writing poetry?
It all started with lyric writing and music at the age of sixteen. I was in a couple of really bad garage bands at the time. My buddy from H.S. wrote lyrics to my compositions. He envisioned himself as a Peter Sinfield (King Crimson) of sorts. He went on a family vacation and I decided to write my own lyrics to my music. When he came back, he came over to the boarding house I lived in (I moved out when I was still in H.S.) for a writing session. I showed him the lyrics. He said that he wished he could write like this and quit. I knew him for twenty more years. He never wrote again.

I then wrote a couple of songs for the lead singer of an R&B band in Chicago. We recorded them on a 4-track. The EP was never released. This was around 1987.

I realize this is a bit winded and this is only the first question, LOL.

I joined AW years ago because of the SYW Sci-Fi/Fantasy section. I received a lot of personal requests for crits. I tried to accomodate everyone's request but I got burnt out and starting turning them down. I needed something new. I turned to the Poetry critique section and never looked back.


2. What other writing do you do regularly?
Novel length fiction. I focus on SciFi/Adventure with a touch of paranormal elements thrown in for good measure. Horror shorts. Plus many have seen my Gift series for each holiday. In fact I've got to add one for July 4th. Next year I'll write one for Canada Day.


3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?
Fiction writer first and foremost.


4. Why do you write poetry?
Now I have to. I can't stop. Before, when I first started, I wanted to create something new. I worked hard at it. To accomplish this goal, I had to keep refining the form through writing and submitting. I thank you guys for telling me what works and more importantly, what doesn't.


5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?
I read everything I could find about fiction writing I could get my hands on when I first started out. Sol Stein's On Writing taught me the most. His editing is brilliant. His examples showed me how to cut out useless words and move the story. I applied the same approach to Modern Minimalism. He is just as responsible for this form as I am.


6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?
I submitted the Mound Builders (Sci-Fi/Adventure/Paranormal) to dozens of agents. I got positive rejections from more than half of them They encouraged me to not quit. They all like the writing itself. The biggest part of each rejection was concerns about genre blending.


7. How often do you write poems?
Every night unless I get stuck with a double-shift. This happens a lot. This also pushes my crits back. That is the most frustrating part.


8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

Continue to refine Modern Minimalism. The participants of the thread are fantastic. They help in the process. We've grown together, learned together, and helped each other. I think better things lie ahead. It's a thrill to open the thread and some WOW moments. Same with the main Poetry Critique thread. This was my classroom.


9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?
I take the southwest side of Chicago approach. Crack open a beer and pour myself a shot of JD. I usually log in and read others' stuff first and contribute.

There are other times when I have a germ of an idea and post before critting. Doesn't happen often.

What I do after logging in is wait. I think about everything relevent to me. The world. Friends. Work. Until I get into the zone.

When the first line pops into my head, I finish to the end and move on. It's interesting reading a poem I wrote the night before without remembering it.


10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?
I'm sorry. I'm a Philistine. I just write.


11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?
See above. I never know what the topic/idea will be. Well we know what the chosen form is.


12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?
Just for typos. I'm a lousy typist and I don't want to lose what my subconcious is writing. The form I write in usually decides this for me.


13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?
Lyrics. Exploring this site for a challenge.


14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry? Again, I'm unwashed. Great lyricists of my generation.


15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?
If I have to name someone, it would be Woody Guthrie for his stance against the establishment.


16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?
Innocence Lost.


17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?
Poetry will always be relevent. It's function will never change: self-expression and the exploration of the human condition. We need to keep our eyes on new poets to follow the direction.


18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?
In both cases--clarity. The poet must take the reader where she/he wants her/him to go. The poet still has to get the reader into the poet's world even if it is verse.


19. What do you like about your own poetry?
Self-exploration. That I'm not afraid to expose myself and my flaws to other poets.


20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?
Keep writing. Don't be afraid to try new things. Don't be afraid of what others think. You won't develop otherwise.
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Old 11-13-2009, 06:34 PM   #11
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Caseyquinn's Poet Laureate Q&A

1. When did you start writing poetry?

About six years ago I started to try and put some structure to my writing. Had always taken notes, ideas in notebooks, but never knew how to express them as an end product. After reading a lot more of free verse poetry I enjoyed the outlet and gave it a try.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?


I try to write a few micro/flash and short stories a month. Usually in horror or science fiction genre and send those on in to some anthologies or collections I see marketed. I have tried to write out a novel a few times, have two written, but that is just not my thing. I know my limitations and it is about 3,000 words. They will collect dust.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?


At this point, I would say yes but really think of myself as a writer. When I hear poet I think of someone who knows what they are doing. I am still very much in the learning stages of my development. I make more mistakes than I do have successes and so a novice writer I feel is a better way to think of myself.

4. Why do you write poetry?


Poetry is just what clicked with me. I do think that life is crazier than fiction. What people do in the real world is crazier than the greatest imagination can come up with. I think poetry gave me an outlet to write on what interests me and that is how people interact on a daily basis, our society, our relationships. Fiction creates this world of the writer but poetry involves the reader in the world they already live in. For me, that is more enjoyable, being able to relate.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?


Apples and oranges really. My poetry is more on personal observations while my short fiction is more horror and science fiction based. I think the only link between the two would be I try to apply the same minimalism in both. Not going overboard with descriptions but trying to get to the point of the story without beating it over the readers head.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?


To date I have had about 150 poems published in different anthologies, online and print publications. My first poetry chapbook was released by a small publishing company (Salvatore Publishing now bankrupt) it was called Snapshots of Life. My second chapbook was picked up by another small press run by the Boston Literary Magazine called Prepare To Crash and will be released in November 2009.

My short fiction has been included in 5 print anthologies and been published in about 10 – 15 print or online magazines.

7. How often do you write poems?

For a long while I wrote a poem a day at least a draft of one but lately the well has run dry and now back to taking notes. I try to jot down some notes each day and wait for some motivation to convert notes to a poem or realize my notes were garbage and delete. I try to produce something daily – garbage or not.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?


To be honest, my goal is to have my poetry reviewed or read by poets I respect and hear they enjoyed it. I would like to get chapbooks published every so often; I would like to build a name for myself, but only if the basis for that name was quality and respect of output. Poetry isn’t like fiction where one novel makes a name for you. I think writers of poetry need to consistently deliver for decades before they have a name. My goal is to be able to keep doing what I am doing three decades from now.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?


If I sit down to write a poem it always ends up like crap. Forced lines, cliché garbage that no one wants to read. Usually during the course of a day I will have some interaction that I thought interesting and I jot it down in a notebook or take a mental note of it. Whenever I have the time I open up the notebook and pick some notes or lines I enjoyed and try to develop them a little. Sometimes this results in an outpouring of many poems finished at once and at other times a dry spell where notes build up but no finished products in sight.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?


The scope of my writing is usually very low level. A second of time or simple interaction/observation. I try to avoid like the plague abstractions or trying to solve the world’s problems with one poem. I try to avoid writing poems about love or death as too many have been written already. I don’t feel the need to look up new and exciting words to use in poems, common language is okay by me. I think less is best and so often I get called a minimalist more so in my descriptions of objects. I try different forms and styles though I think it takes years to develop a voice and so it is fun to experiment but unless you are committed to a style it is hard to become successful unless you stick to your developed voice.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?


Content is King. Form is secondary. Too many people worry about how the poem looks on the page and not the words themselves. Form is to facilitate reading IMO – but if you write a crappy poem it doesn’t matter what it looks like, how it rhymes or what the syllable count is. No one will want to read it. Content is King.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?


Like I mentioned above, I usually take notes and work them into a draft for a poem. I will leave it for a bit and come back and revise some more. Sometimes I think I got it right the first time I might run with it but usually those come back in the form of rejections. Best to let it sit for a while. I know I am done with the poem when it was accepted somewhere… but still, it might get tweaked if needed.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?


When I started to move off reading form poetry and more free verse. I have complete respect for form poetry, it is a discipline and skill set I will never have no matter how hard I try but to me the reading of it often times felt like the form was dictating the lines, the words. Free verse writers could say what they wanted to say, without needing to fit a mold. Gave the flexibility to be more honest I felt in the writing. It attracted me.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?


I always have enjoyed ee cummings, Walt Whitman and Charles Bukowski - These guys pushed the limits a little.

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?


Breaking of the mold. Free verse poetry, minimalists, experimental poetry, etc. Anyone willing to take a chance and do something different with quality. Over the last two years or more I have learned a great deal from a poet named John Yamrus. He writes in a very easy conversational style. Writes about down to earth topics.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?


Damn. I have no idea. The title poem for my second chapbook is Prepare To Crash. That would be a good place to start most likely.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?


It serves as an outlet like it always has. Like any art form. I think the internet as much as it hurts the quality of poetry; it helps spread the good ones too. The issue I have seen is that poets don’t sell their own books. Your average chapbook sells 10 – 15 copies. Poets need to set up readings. Get motivated to sell books, push the heck out of their writing. Get known. Instead they lie down and say no one likes poetry, no one buys poetry, poor me. Poetry is fine and will always be fine. Poets just need to push their books harder to get more sales to support the small presses that backed them. Sales = Poetry Revival.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

When the words go beyond the page. Prose tells a story where the reader takes each word at face value. Poetry needs to go beyond that. Each word needs to be selected for a specific reason. You don’t tell the reader what you want them to know, you show them images and let them draw a conclusion which may or may not be what you wanted but that is the gamble of writing poetry.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?


I hope that it doesn’t try to do more than document life a little. That it is simple and that those who read it can relate in their own life.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

It is a combination of two things. Reading and writing. Read a ton of poetry and find writers who you enjoy. Once you find a style you like, read a ton in that style and a range within that style. Write daily. Even if it is crap, just write. Each time you write something you develop your voice. You begin to recognize what you just wrote was crap and work to improve it. Don’t be afraid to try new things out; don’t be afraid to lay out your thoughts and feelings on the page. People want to read truth, don’t write what you think something would be like, write what you know, have experienced or can relate to in some way.
__________________
You really should read this one. Really. You don't have to be a fan of poetry, just a fan of words:
A Poem in progress

This one tiptoes, quite beautifully
Thief

Fear of flying?
Aerophobia in poetry forum

You know who they are. Dharma Queens by Kylabelle

Kie's latest beauty

More poetry links coming soon!
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Old 03-08-2010, 04:07 AM   #12
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Feiss - AW Poet Laureate March 2010-Jan 2011

1. When did you start writing poetry?

Beyond school assignments, I think I first started writing poetry as an outlet my third year in High School. It was terrible, maudlin stuff. I'd write it on the back of my school assignments and hope that my teachers would read them later and be touched by how disturbed I was. >_<. I did a lot of stupid shit like that. Write stuff or make stuff not for the sake of doing it, but for the sake of trying to get somebody to see me. It really started to pick up in university though.


2. What other writing do you do regularly?

I try to write short stories, and I did nanowrimo, so I've got a novel about a woman whose husband has a wandering eye in the works. I think my attention span is too short, and also I'm obsessive in some respects. So it's easier for me to work on 50 words than it is to work on 50,000 words. The task seems insurmountable.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

No. I think of myself as a writer, but I suppose if you look at what I've written, you'd call me a poet.


4. Why do you write poetry?

Sort of like I said before. I write because I need someone to know what I mean. Growing up, it always felt like I was an extraterrestrial, living among perfectly normal, perfectly practical Asian parents. So I need people to know what I mean, and I need to say what I mean in a way that it hasn't been said before. Do you know what I mean?

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?

Poetry hones my syntax. I can get things more precise through poetry. It shows me which words are unnecessary (the ones I'd cut if I was trying to even out line lengths in a poem), and which ones are imprecise.


6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?

Not much. Some online publications.

7. How often do you write poems?

I year ago I wrote poems every day. Two or three of them. On the toilet, mid-chew, during a commute. Lately, it's been petering out. It's frightening. I don't know if it's the atmosphere here, so little exposure to anything. Also, I'm living in a huge city now, and for a while, the city itself was stimulating, but recently I've been having trouble seeing the beauty in my surroundings. It's also hard to get into that quiet place where the words flow because things are chaotic.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

I hope somebody will read it. Somebody out there, and it won't be because I shoved it under their nose going "look at this! Read this!" And I hope that person will know what I mean.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

I get a weird feeling, kind of like a burp, and it kind of hovers in my chest. When I get that feeling, I know it's time to write a poem, so I open a blank page in Word and just type whatever. Sometimes, though, a line will magically appear in my head, and the rest of the poem coalesces around that line.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?

Not so much prefer. The themes just appear. A lot about loneliness, lonely people, suicide, being lost, longing, depressing shit

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

It depends. "Why I have to dry-clean these pants again" came from an image and an idea. "Marbles" came from the line "I spit out the thoughts of you". Most of the time it comes from words: xylophone, lattice. I don't think I've ever written a poem for the sake of form though. The form kind of came alone once I knew what the words were going to be.


12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?

I get the whole thing out first, sometimes in paragraph form. Then I piece it together, and go over it a dozen or so times. Then I post it, and then I edit it three or four more times. Then I wait for comments, and revise it a few more times, maybe.

I really admire some of the other poets who pick up things from years ago and revisit them. I'm not brave enough to do that, I always feel like if I move something, the whole structure will collapse.


13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

I've always needed a creative outlet. For a while I wanted to become an artist, but I got frustrated b'c I just didn't have that good of a hold on my tools. The images in my head were totally different from the ones that ended up on the canvas. I found that by just writing the images, I could paint a better picture of what i was thinking. With words, I could get closer to my intent.


14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?

That's really difficult to answer. I don't have some sort of pivotal moment. The poet who attracted me towards writing poetry myself TrumanCoyote. Those words, the emotional depth in them, his looseness with language was amazing. It was like he unraveled English and weaved a new tapestry of never-before-said things. So I thought, I know Zach, he seems goofy, I'm goofy, maybe I can do it too.


15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?

Poets who've simply amazed me are Ginsberg, Nabakov (not a poet but a poet), Plath, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams.

Movements: Stream of consciousness, imagism, and to some extent Chinese poetry, because Chinese poetry really emphasizes distance, and writing around the meaning. Like if you're in love with someone, you don't say "I love you", you say "look at the birds in the trees, how they've paired up."

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

Maybe Marbles, because that's one of the ones I can memorize.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

I wish there was more of it, that it didn't have a weird stigma of being airy fairy and new-agey, because there are more people who can write poetry than there are people who actually are writing poetry.

People don't see a point in writing poetry, but it's a reflection of our thoughts and of our selves.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

The boundary isn't so clear for me. It's hard for me to give absolutes. Extreme care in word choice, focus on a theme, and length. There are lots of exceptions, so don't start trying to pick bones out of egg yolks.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

I like my images. I like finding the precise turn of phrase. I like making myself laugh. That Origami Mommy poem made me giggle the whole time I was writing it. It was almost like I had friends ...j/k.

There are areas in which I'm hugely lacking though. I want to try more form poetry, want to pay more attention to rhythm. Sometimes I feel like my poetry is really lazy, like I'm taking the easy way out by writing free verse.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

Read other poets. Sometimes I'll read a poem and get this thrill in my chest at a phrase, and a moment of admiration, so I try to remember that feeling of awe, and try to write something that's almost that.

Know your theme - at least at first. not meaning you have to only have one theme, or that you can't deviate, but write organically around that thought in your head.

Keep an image in your head

These are just some things that I do. I'm no authority. I look at the people who've had this title before me, and I feel utterly unworthy, and very very flattered at the same time.

Last edited by poetinahat; 01-11-2011 at 09:37 AM.
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kdnxdr - AW Poet Laureate January-March 2011

1. When did you start writing poetry?
The earliest I can remember attempting to write some feelings into the form of a poem was when I was in 6th grade. I’m sure we were probably studying that subject and it influenced me. When I was very young, my mother read to me from Mother Goose and other children’s books of poems. There was one about a calico cat and gingham dog and one about a a land of candy that are still vaguely rolling around in my head. By the time I was in high school, I was getting a little more serious about writing poetry but there was so much more going on….it was the 70’s, what more can I say? After high school is when I really began what I thought would be My Book of Poetry. I worked on it continuously, even typed up and mounted everything in a bound journal book with those old-time photo mounts. I probably had over 15 years worth of collection in that journal, always thinking I would have it published. Only what I thought was ‘my best’ went into that book. I lost it while traveling a couple of years ago. I have this crazy dream in my head that someone found it and some day, that person’s family will be going through their things and ‘discover my writing’ and the rest will be history! Ha!



2. What other writing do you do regularly?
Well, I have attempted a few short stories and a novel over the last few years. The one that I got to where I thought I was about half way through was about a woman that had amnesia and was homeless, it was about identity. But, I didn’t back up and my old computer crashed and it’s frozen in there. I have the computer still, hoping to somehow have it liberated. It haunts me, I can’t bear to start it again. Then, I tried my hand at another one but it turned into a long, short story. It was a little futuristic, a love-triangle that involved a man, his wife and a lifelike android. Didn’t back up, computer crashed with story frozen inside. I also have that computer, hoping for liberation. You would think that I would learn to back up, which I have done in a work environment. I guess I’m technically lazy, no really, I’m lazy to use technology. That’s sad.
I submitted a short story to Glimmer Train that was about a mom writer and how her real world and her writing world sort of collided with her in the middle. I didn’t get accepted, but I really enjoyed writing the story.
And, (please don’t judge me) I have written a true-life account of an encounter with an unidentified flying vehicle that my children and I had experienced.
 
I have played around here at AW and have shyly visited various sites like the memoir thread where I was picked one time for the ‘winning’ memoir. I like to visit the philosophy area and I’m sure they don’t like me running in and out and being silly but I love to lurk around in there and occasionally attempt to articulate my feelings….they are way over my head in that thread. I hope no one ever thinks of me as someone who just likes to pop in and spout off and run away. It’s just that it’s very scary to attempt to voice your thoughts when you know everyone in there is so educated and intelligent and I’m such a bear with a little brain.
On mine and my husband’s website, I started my first serious blog that I’ve been ‘consistently attending’. It is a few paragraphs related to food. I’ve started my own website that has to do with early child development that is at brainplay.weebly.com.
I had a poem accepted into the Bluerock Collection, one in Hollister Brown and several in the AbsoluteWrite Poetry Collection.



3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?
I do think of myself primarily as a poet mostly because I’ve yet to do anything else, really. I do play with my photography, which I think of as visual poetry. For me, the arts are separated by thin walls and often bleed into each other. I suppressed my artistic self for most of my life and it’s only in my ‘maturity’ that I’ve begun to give myself license to come out and make a fool of myself trying to be artistic. I actually feel a hurt, a want, a need to express myself as an artist and I do feel a bit crippled in that aspect of myself. I think I need therapy, like lots of crayolas and reams of paper. I wish I could be a poet but I do consider myself a ‘wanna be’.



4. Why do you write poetry?
It’s fun to write poetry. My brain loves words. It’s fun to pronounce them, use them, study them and play with them. I’m not really interested in word puzzles, because I want the words to interact together so that they get larger than just the words themselves. (Hope that makes some sort of sense.) I like the presentation that words make, when they have an affect outside of themselves. So far, poetry is the only medium I have to express those artistic needs, as I mentioned earlier. (My photography is limited by my access to some good equipment but I’m happy with what I’ve learned with what I’ve got.)
I’m a concept person and words are tools to dig out particular concepts when constructing a poem.
5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?
I use to think I was really in bad shape because the only thing that I was “writing” was what came out of me playing the various one word games here on the forums, like the rhyme game and some others. But, the more I play those games the more I saw that they were helping me to make fast word associations which I think is helpful when writing. Those games are a good way to build up your vocabulary-association repertory. Also, when you are writing poetry, you really have to work with such a limited amount of words and that’s challenging. I’ve learned that when writing prose, so much gets stuffed into what a person wants to say that it’s half the job just to get all the excess and unnecessary out. Writing in the Haiku thread is like a discipline for me because it is so exact as to what you can use to present your ‘word-picture’. The story lines have to be very succinct. When I do attempt to write prose, sometimes I feel I’m ‘waxing poetic’.



6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?
Not much. I have had some stuff in college that went into something or other….a little thing here and there on different ezines, and that’s about it. Sad, sad, sad. You know the old saying….if you don’t submit, that’s it. Well, maybe I just made that up.



7. How often do you write poems?
I write poems almost everyday, in my head. Something will fire off a synaptic impulse and I’ll work on it a little and it probably gets scribbled on a piece of paper and I find them stuck into books, lying in piles of other papers, mixed in with important stuff like BILLS and just about everywhere in the house and the vehicles. But, those usually don’t get any further than those pieces of paper, even though I’m really excited about them when I’m writing them. Sometimes, I write them when I’m driving and that is really dangerous; not highly recommended, almost as bad as texting in the wrong place at the wrong time.
My ‘grounding’ is AW forums. If I didn’t have you guys, I would probably be a basket case. But, I have to be honest and admit that I do frequent another poetry writing group on the internet but consider AW my mothership. You all are much more personable and family-like. You all have nurtured me and guided me and provoked me and kept me generally fired up about writing poetry and I so thank you all (especially MacAllister) for ya’lls existence.




8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?
You know, everyone who writes would love to make some money doing it, but I really think that regardless if that money ever comes, or not, an artist, whether a poet or a painter or a dancer or a musician, is going to express his/herself through the medium that seems most suited to that individual, that’s just how an artist (good or bad) rolls.
I have said so many times that I want to get a chapbook together and I have been so distracted taking care of elderly parents/children and helping my husband, I’ve not done that yet. Hopefully, I can change that this year.
I also have said that I would like to attempt , at least once, a poem in every form, whether or not they are good poems. I think it would be a great challenge and at one time, we were very active here at AW poetry forums with threads that challenged us to try various forms. I think I would like to try and revive some of that while Poet Laureate. I did try several different forms and really learned a lot from the members who shared their expertise with those forms.



9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?
I probably will hurt some feelings and I apologize, in advance, but I don’t believe in the whole muse thing. (Please don’t anyone throw things at me or curse me or anything.) I do believe that there are sufficient ‘triggers’ both inside of us and in the world we experience to inspire poetry. It’s a matter of wanting to use poetry to say something about those things that trigger us. To be honest, where I really have applied myself is when I’m given a specific challenge either by my own self or by a challenge in a group or in a competition, then “it’s on”. I’m more motivated to do research, to flesh out my concepts and to work on my symbolism. I usually do write spontaneously but I really go after a poem when I “see a specific target”. Not long ago, for example, I read a news article about how the native peoples of Easter Island were being driven from their homes by developers and corporate crooks who want to financially exploit the Island and disenfranchise the peoples’ who legitimately have a right to the Island. There was fighting and bloodshed, the people being evacuated from peaceful protest with violence perpetrated by the government and the corporations. I challenged myself to translate that news story into a poem. I think someone called it a historical poem and I had never heard that term before. Who knows, maybe someone who would have never been inclined to read the news story about the event might, instead, be drawn to read a poem about it and be compelled to learn what was behind the poem?




10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?
Yikes! I don’t know if I’m smart enough to answer this question! I know that I am primarily a free-style poet but, as I said, I would like to attempt to write all the forms, just as an exercise and, here at AW, I have had the opportunity to try my hand at several, enjoying each challenge. I like to use symbolism when I can pull it off . I like alliteration and whatever else I can muster from those poetry classes of my youth.
One thing that I’ve been attempting, probably not well, is to write poems that solicit the reader to interact with the poem. I like poems that bring in smells, sounds and textures. My favorite are poems that provoke people to think out of their own experiences and ask them to look at things from multiple perspectives. A big one for me is the idea of erasing timelines and letting the past, present and future sort of collide together. I do believe that is how people really think because, we have thoughts coming at us continuously from those timeframes and it’s linear reasoning that sorts it all out and turns our thoughts into some sort of consecutive line of experiences.
I am not educated to be able to get into the technical aspects of writing or poetry. I think I write, for good or bad, more intuitively, hoping that I’m not making a muck of things.



11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?
It’s funny. Sometimes, when I write, it will be based on just one word. Either the sound of the word or the look of the word or the associations I have with that word will get me going. Sometimes, it will be some event, internal or external, that will do the trick. Again, I like the challenge of translating life into poetry, so, it could be anything that I feel inspired/challenged to convert into as few, and hopefully poetic, words, as possible.




12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished
with a poem?
Yes, I revise. I revise when I revise. It’s not my favorite subject. I think a poem can always be tampered with because they’re not sacred and life is not static. I don’t know if I’m ever finished with a poem but I also can go years without touching a particular poem and then decide something needs to be added or taken away.



13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?
I don’t know. I’m sure I was initially exposed to poetry through the books my mother read to me when I was a child. She reads about a book a day, so she made reading a big part of my childhood. I think the projects we had during elementary school were what really got me to actually writing poetry.



14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?
Mother Goose and Edgar Allen Poe are my biggest memories from childhood but I know there were so many more that I was exposed to through my education as a child. I do remember studying minimalism around the 6th grade. I know there were so many more but my memory is not so good.



15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?
Here is where I get embarrassed. Again, I’m sure I’ve been exposed to so many of the classics and the modernist. My memory is so fragmented. I can think of Hiawatha. Plath. Poe. The Illiad and the Odyssey. Spanish poets. Kirdish poets. Japanese poets. There is so much that I’ve read or read about and sadly, for whatever reason, nothing really stands out. I’m not proud to say it, I just believe it’s all been absorbed and is just part of the mush that is inside my gourd. I read a lot but I’m horrific to tell you who I read, but I am happy to discuss what I read about. I think I have a terrible brain disease and I’m sure there a lot of ‘literature people’ out there that think I’m sacrilegious because I have this defect. I do remember I liked to play a lot with minimalism and made lots of interesting pictures out of my poems typing them out visually on a manual typewriter. Those were in the set of lost poems I was hoping to have published. Now, I prefer to paint my pictures with the words themselves.
I truly enjoy reading anything, more so, to see if I can find something within the poem that specifically speaks to me personally. I might not like a whole poem, but find a word or a phrase that intrigues me. I consider each poem I read to be an experience with the potential for discovery.
I know I am not attracted to poems that dwell heavily on morbidity, sexual perversion or words that are only used for supposed shock value. I really think it’s getting to the point, in our culture, that no word really has any shock value left.




16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

Yikes, another hard question. You know, I have a weirdo poem that really gets to me but probably doesn’t do much for anyone else. It’s in our thread called Calling Card Poems, I think. I wrote it as a ‘translation’ of how I was experiencing the whole Terry Shievo incident that happened at the same time the previous Pope died. I took those two events and played them side-by-side, in my head, and came up with the poem The Indictment: Shievo in Two Parts. That poem did a lot for me to express how felt in regards to such a tough issue with so many complexities. I’m not saying it’s a poem worth reading, it just says a lot about me and how I use poetry to ‘make sense’ out of the world around me and how I experience that world.
My recent poem Binding Love is an example of me ‘targeting’ or being challenged to write within certain parameters and to accomplish a specific purpose.



17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

Well, I personally believe our world is going to get smaller and smaller, for a variety of reasons. I believe technology is going to turn out to be a true bane for culture. Really, I think for humanity, in general. I know a lot of people would argue that thought; to each his own. I’ve seen articles where computers and robotics are moving in on human turf and artistic expression is not exempt. Crazy talk, I know. Sorry, I read weird stuff. I’ve seen articles where it’s almost impossible to tell if an artistic work has been done by a human or not. In the Age of Spritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil, soon it will become more and more difficult to separate our lives in every aspect from the influence and infringement of machines (computers and robotics). Here is the link that gives some information if anyone is interested : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Age_of_Spiritual_Machines.
I do also believe that it will not be guns that saves humanity from destruction but a raised consciousness that understands that we, in fact, came into existence through The Spoken Word and that music created us. Our spirituality is born of creativity and it is essential to our wellbeing to discover our center of creativity and it’s purpose, whatever that might be. I know that when I went on my spiritual quest to find my creative center, I discovered that place within me that was created for the indwelling of Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I found the fulfillment of my creative center. I believe that is often expressed in my writing.
I do believe that the supreme age of deceit, fraud and counterfeit is rushing upon humanity and that our best defense against it is a resolute spirit to be true to the song/poem that is in every created being’s heart. Poetry is part of the warp and woof of our very being.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?
I’ve never performed a spontaneous, spoken word poem, that would be an ecstatic experience! I have read poetry aloud, like in a class and it is such a wonderful experience to read poetry aloud. I encourage everyone to do so, even to yourself. It’s amazing to play with the reading of a poem because, as you do so, you often discover subtleties that escaped your previous readings. Also, you can work out the nuanced meanings by experimenting with your voice and reading the poem in your own dramatic interpretation. (Can you tell I don’t get out much?) It’s fun to read aloud, even for adults! I think “what works” has it’s own criteria that can sometimes take away from a freedom to write and read poetry. If “what works” means a well executed poem that has merit and shows skill, that’s all good and great and is what the ultimate goal should be for the professional poet. But, I do believe that poetry, regardless of quality, works on so many levels, even “bad” poetry, because it is a working-out-process and for some of us, we like to be caught up in the process, on any level, as much as enjoying the well executed poem.
If a well executed poem meets all the given criteria of its form, then it works. If it brings its audience into a vicarious experience, then it works very well, in my opinion.



19. What do you like about your own poetry?
I think what I like about my own poetry is that it is a medium that I can creatively express myself and that it is an ongoing learning process that I experience some feeling of accomplishment and still feel challenged to continue learning and producing.
I also enjoy digging into poems. For me, analyzing a poem, not just critiquing it for the sake of telling someone how they could write it better or to correct their mechanics, but to go after the real meaning that is buried within the poem, which I believe is a window into the poet, is often more intriguing than the poem itself.
There have been a few times where I posted a poem and if someone offered a critique or some feedback of some sort, I took the liberty to deconstruct my own poem. I sometimes have more fun doing that than actually writing it. It’s like the old technique they taught us to check our division/multiplication. When I take my poem apart and expose what I was attempting to do, I often, for the first time, really ‘see’ my poem. (I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone besides me.)




20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?
I would say be open to advice from other people who write poetry, especially by not being argumentative or defensive. On the other hand, I would say to be prepared to give a good account of what is that you are doing and what you want to do. I think the more we can have healthy dialogues that affirm and yet challenge one another, the more we all benefit as a poetic community.
If you find that you are affected by fear, doubt, confusion, face off with it. Explore. Discover. Experiment.
Accept that people are just people. We’re all in this boat together and the more positive energy that we can create, the better we are for doing it. Accept differences and resist being homogenized.

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Old 04-17-2011, 04:42 PM   #14
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Magdalen - AW Poet Laureate April-September 2011

1. When did you start writing poetry?

I began writing poems around age 8 or 9 in a leather-bound diary that could be locked with a key. When I read an entry (misspelled and sloppy) that I hadn’t written, I realized that my brother had been reading my personal, private thoughts and became enraged to the point of ripping out pages and scribbling “I quit” on the remaining pages. Still, I continued to write poems, songs and stories on loose leaf notebook paper, taking care to relocate the stash frequently. At age 12 I finally found a safe place to keep my writing – a place inviolate and beyond the reach of nosy brothers – the bottom of the Kotex box!

2. What other writing do you do regularly?

I’ve been working on a short-story for 5 years. I think it’s almost ready.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

No, but I love it when others do.

4. Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry because I have a driving need to put words to good use.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?

So far my poetry and prose have failed to make a meaningful connection with each other. A smattering of polite civility at weddings and funerals is about the most they can muster at this point. I’m considering an intervention.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?


I’ve had a few poems posted at Every Day Poets, one of which will be included in the upcoming EDP Anthology II. I’ve had a poem posted at AuthorScoop, and later this month one of my poems will be online at the new e-zine Evertalis. I have attended a few local poetry gatherings on open-mic nights and read some of my work. I won First Place in a VFW “Voice of America” competition in High School and read it aloud at the awards ceremony.

http://www.evertalis.org/

http://authorscoop.com/

http://www.everydaypoets.com/

7. How often do you write poems?

WooHoo! Sometimes I do it three times a day! I’m a spontaneous type, so there’s really no telling, but I’ve had my share of dry spells where nothing happens for weeks.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

My goal, or purpose, in writing poetry is to gather words and put them together in a way that sounds good, makes sense and reveals or reflects upon a particular truth about myself or life in general. Of course, I’d love to write a poem of great significance and meaning, a poem that would make a difference or somehow change the world for the better. lol.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

Years ago, I would sit down with the intention of writing poetry. Now, if I am really “in the mood” to write something I look over older poems that are in the edit or to-be-finished pile. Usually I write when the feeling (a bloat-y sort of mental cramp, like the sloughing of excess verbiage) strikes me. So basically, I’m compelled to write poetry and I hope I always will be.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?

All of them! (but not in a single poem)

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

Since I usually write from an internal or external prompt of some sort, I often begin a poem when a word or phrase occurs to me (all the better if accompanied by an overall sense of the topic, idea or image) seeking release or expression. So I guess the answer would be: Other?

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?

I’ve revised many of my poems and I’ve written some that needed few, if any, edits. Sometimes edits are instigated by the comments of others; (a big reason why I so appreciate the Critique Forum here at AW) at other times I make changes to a poem (especially those I haven’t read in a while) because I think of a better way to say what I was trying to say in the first place. A poem is “finished” when I read it and nothing niggles or feels out-of-place – a barely technical and ultimately subjective set of conditions.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

I became interested in poetry when I heard Bullwinkle reciting “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv1L-8f2erg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBWhk...eature=related


14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?

Well, after reading a lot of Dr. Seuss and watching the Bullwinkle show, I was primed for poetry. I can’t say for sure if “Charge of the Light Brigade” was the breakthrough poem for me, but I did go around saying, “Cannon to the right of them, /Cannon to the left of them, /Cannon in front of them /Volley'd and thunder'd” an awful lot, to which family members will attest.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?

My personal study of poetry followed a thread loosely chronological; after initial attempts to see the entire tapestry of verse from Siren Songs to Howl, I studied my Paradise Lost and a few of the Romantics, (Wordsworth, Keats, Poe & Dickinson) then engaged in readings on the side (sometimes in both French & English) from the Symbolists (Baudelaire, Rimbaud & Verlaine) thru Surrealists (Apollinaire & Breton) to Dada; then I slipped into the Beats, which of course led me to Dylan, which of course led me to the other Dylan; later on, a study of some Celtic poetry, via my interest in Yeats, led me to Seamus Heaney, a contemporary poet for whom I have great admiration. I have also investigated the tonal & rhythmic expressions of primitive cultures. My formal study of poetry in college was unremarkable save the acquisition of one of my all-time favorite books, The Norton Anthology of English Literature.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

This one I just posted in Chapbook:
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=210981

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

Poetry seems overshadowed by song lyrics (and RAP) now, and I don’t know if it will ever regain even a modicum of its former relevance with that kind of competition. I am confident that there will always be, perhaps small in number but surely eclectic in sensibilities, a group of people who appreciate poetry. As for the future of poetry: I’m not sure where it’s going but I am definitely up for the ride, wherever it may take me!

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

I’d like to say that I give a lot of latitude and allow for the expansion and contraction of certain criteria when considering whether a group of words falls into the prose, poetry or even prose-poem category, but I’m pretty sure I often fail in that regard. I won’t pin myself down by saying something arch that I may later regret, but I will say this: “I know it when I see it.”

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

That it exists!! Seriously, I like it when my poems have a rhythm and movement that propels the reader onward and (hopefully) back to the beginning of the poem for another read. I strive to deliver that kind of “motion” while ever mindful of the need to keep the actual meaning or message from getting lost in the “sound & fury” of the words.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

Good Luck.

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Old 09-20-2011, 06:26 AM   #15
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Blarg - AW Poet Laureate September 2011-June 2012

1. When did you start writing poetry?

In grade school, the kids used to snicker over the rudest limericks they could find and try to write ones sillier or nastier still, usually about each other or a teacher. It was great fun, and you could rib a kid with a really good one for weeks. I got a kick out of those and sometimes got kicked back.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?

I've written a lot of marketing materials like brochures, catalogs, business plans, and web copy. Long ago, I wrote articles for a local life-and-leisure rag. I'd like to work my way back to writing short stories again, but apparently not enough to do more than think about it.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

When it comes to creative writing, yes. I put little effort into other forms, though I enjoy reading widely.

4. Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry because I have always been in awe of the magic in words, and find poetry to contain the most beautiful and challenging ways to experience and express that magic. When prose rises to its heights, it tends to do so by expressing a poetic essence and control. Poetry also has a musical nature that helps it span the senses. Poetry presents multiple challenges that provide multiple opportunities to create something marvelous at once. Its potential means that even at its most relaxed, it has an essential tension I find consistently intriguing.

There is also something to be said for the line, "I write so that I know what I think." Poetry lets me capture my spirit and the world around me and put it into some kind of order. If the unexamined life is not worth living, poetry gives me the chance to examine very closely indeed.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?

A "word sense" is helpful in all kinds of writing. Poetry provides constant practice in refining one. When I write marketing copy selling people on a line of furniture, I often need to evoke more than describe. And to evoke, I need to empathize. Some of what I have written, for example, has been directed to investors whose first language is not English.

Oddly enough, it's sometimes not sufficient to have the perfect words, because they will be pointed toward a difference audience than the one you've got. Sometimes the perfect word is actually one less artful, precise, information-packed, even less clear ... it is the one that is more simply, well, digestible. The same problem comes up in poetry. If you write only for yourself, it won't move anyone no matter how good it is. I believe constantly trafficking in nuance and questions of audience, as one does in poetry, is good practice in handling difficult problems in communication.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?

Nothing to speak of. I have written marketing materials, speeches, some small bits of business on a textbook, and the like. I've written SEO articles. But I don't take an active hand with what I would consider my creative writing.

7. How often do you write poems?

It varies widely. I don't have a set schedule, but admire the thought of one.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

I would like it to reflect my intentions more thoroughly and translucently. And I would like it to reflect more and more reliably interesting intentions.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

A little of everything. I'll take a poem any way I can get it. While I often put aside time to commit to writing, sometimes a poetic image or idea simply intrudes on my consciousness colorfully enough that I know I'd better not let it slip, because the next one might not be as good.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?

I am writing very experimentally now, actively digging into different styles, energy levels, and emotional registers to see what I can do with them. So I'm inconsistent. I do see myself refining and discarding somewhat, but am not sure what the end result will be. I think I know what I am moving away from more than what I am moving toward.

I read about someone asking some literary figure how to become a better writer and getting told, "Read all the Faulkner you can, and then all the Hemingway you can get your hands on to clean it out of your system." I do find myself steadily gaining respect for an artful yet translucent use of straightforward, accessible language. I hope to grow in my ability to craft poems along those lines.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

Sometimes I choose the poem and sometimes it chooses me. And sometimes, other.

I have turned developed thoughts and concerns into outlines and then filled them out until they became poems. I have been suddenly struck by an image, phrase, or strong feeling and found myself writing a poem around it. And I have written poems as a sort of accident. Sitting down to write one, I ram my head into a wall over it for hours, going nowhere, maybe left with a piteous few phrases I can't connect. Creatively exhausted, sore-bottomed, and altogether disgusted, I'm suddenly off like lightning on a new subject I hadn't given a second of thought to. Sometimes I have to crumple myself up and throw myself away before I'm worth anything.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?

I revise a lot, even obsessively. Always right away, almost always later on. I'm finished with a poem when I can't figure out how to improve it, but there are different levels to that. I may be able to improve it later, when time has given me a bit of perspective or even disinterest in it. So it's rare that I feel confident a poem is truly finished. I tend to reserve just enough hope to keep me returning to poems long after they're written.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

Perhaps by not having English as a first language. For a while as a kid, I spoke German and English at the same time, not knowing which word came from which language or what word order was correct. I'd get very confused by it and sometimes mortified by my public gaffes. Sorting it all out made me have to think about how language was made and how to use it in my favor. Is phonics poetry? I believe they both share a kinship to puzzles.

But perhaps more by Dr. Seuss. I was in awe of Seuss books. You could never get them from the library because they were always checked out, and they were too expensive for my family to buy. I was astounded by every page. Seuss books taught me the pure joy in words.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?

Again, Dr. Seuss. Later, in secondary school, Wordsworth and Wilfred Owen.

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?

I have made less concerted effort in studying poetry than I have prose. Having read poetry widely but not with any kind of plan, I have been perhaps more impacted than influenced by most poetry.

From the West, the poet I've read the most of and the most often is Wallace Stevens. I like the way he stresses imagination creating the world. My poems often have people struggling with imaginations misaligned with the world.

A lot of what has influenced me has been the Taoism and Buddhism I have read. Many of my poems are about losing or righting a balance. People are tipping off the edge of something or scrambling to find their way back. They are often uncomfortable. I might not judge them, yet will set them up in positions to be judged and, hopefully, recognized as expressing something readers can see -- and maybe even judge -- in themselves. I like poetry that leaves one with a question. Eastern philosophy often stresses psychic regulation, or "spiritual ecology," as I read a translator putting it recently. I like to engage with how people achieve, come back to, or fall away from balance. In Christianity, The Fall happened once. In Buddhism and Taoism, it happens every moment. There is enough terror and grace for a lot of poetry in that.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

I would probably recommend she not take any particular poem as a fair definition of my writing. So many of my poems have been in drastically different voices and aspire to such different things that it makes little sense to judge them against each other. Is light verse inherently better or worse than weightier stuff?

If I had to choose a single one, it would probably be Chrysalis, a darker piece with a closing stanza which I feel is among the best I've written. But it's not the one I sing in the shower.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

Discussion that broad fills whole books!

I'll just say that I believe poetry removes itself from the public sphere when too self-absorbed, which could -- and perhaps should -- be the death of it. It needs to reach out to people of every kind if we expect it not to disappear.

Too much poetry reads like one poet showing his new puzzle to another. When each comes up with enough puzzles, he comes out with a book of puzzles that only the other would buy. Then they both call each other geniuses and begin again.

No wonder John Q. Public tunes out. Poetry isn't written for him. It's out of the habit of being written for him. And he knows it. We will need to start writing about every kind of person, about real things again, and in language which communicates rather than surrenders to an empty pursuit of style and acceptable subject, frame of reference, reader. If we want him back. If we don't, we will deserve the irrelevance and voicelessness we so assiduously cultivate for our art.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

Poetry's unit is the line, not, as in prose, the sentence. This gives it the chance to play with line breaks, a manipulation not available to the sentence. This characteristic harks back to its descent from song, which existed before written language, and recalls other virtues it shares with song, such as meter, rhythm, and rhyme. You can not only listen to poetry; some of it, you can dance to. Prose is not as organized. It breaks apart into strange mouthfuls.

Poetry also has other common characteristics, which tend to bring about and reinforce each other's use. Its compactness encourages precision. Even good prose has a lot of breathing room in comparison to poetry. It can be edited with a facile looseness that would destroy a poem. Poetry's compactness also encourages the use of figurative language and suggestion to bring into a small space more meaning than prose would allow. Prose is less pressed to fill its space. Figurative language and suggestion encourage resonance, the poem's effect not ceasing after its reading has ended.

Many things work together to define poetry, but it's a loose definition. Some poems don't rhyme; some aren't musical; some are fairly prolix, some create figuration or resonance only by what they leave out, not what they include.

Everyone seems to know what you're talking about when you say a passage reads too much like prose. We may not instinctively know what to put in, but we can tell when something is missing.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

That the better poems tend to look you in the eye and be accessible. You don't have to know Sanskrit to figure them out or collect all the different colored keys to open the secret door to the monster gun. You can play right now. If you look in, somebody's generally looking out at you.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

Learn language well. Poetry is about such small things in such perfect balance. You can't be stumbling about. If you don't know how to use commas or what a clause is yet, it's never too late to learn. But if you mess up a smooth read because you don't know how to punctuate, it may be too late to ever get that reader back again. Don't come in already making excuses for yourself -- greet the reader at the top of your game. He *will* be judging you. Count on it. And you deserve it. What else could he do?

Read a lot, probably much more than you'd like. It is hard to know what's cliche if you haven't read widely. It's also hard to know what you like or dislike if you haven't been exposed to much, or how to do it if you haven't seen anything like it done.

Get in the habit of thinking about writing when you read. In one ear and out the other is no good. When a passage has an effect on you, figure out why. Writing is a heist and the reader is the bank. How are you being set up?

Remember it's about people. Technical virtuosity, should you achieve it, can still ring hollow. Don't look for polite approval, but to make a poem stick in someone.

And try not to use the word "translucent" too often. It gets annoying.

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Old 06-18-2012, 07:36 AM   #16
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TexasPoet - AW Poet Laureate June-November 2012

1. When did you start writing poetry?

TJM - Encouraged by my mother from a young age to read the American and world classics, I read poetry my entire life but didn't start writing poetry until January 2009.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?

I enjoy writing Flash Fiction, but I'm new that genre. I've written text and articles on Web design and eMarketing.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

I think there are many parts to me...however...being a poet is one of the aspects of my makeup that I enjoy most.

4. Why do you write poetry?

I started writing poetry as a way to deal with my mother's illness (she died of ALS in 2010). However, after entering some of my poems in a local poet's group contest and winning, I decided to pursue poetry more intently. In the beginning I just wanted to get publish and win contests. I was quite successful at that, but then I started looking at poetry in a different way. Now I spend the majority of my time trying to improve my poetry....to make it something many will want to read. What poet doesn't want to have an impact on the lives of people?

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?

I often use metaphors in my other writing (both flash fiction and technical work). When I look at something now, I frame its context into poetry, then decide later if it warrants a prose treatment.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?

I've been published in scores of online and print publications, have won numerous poetry competitions, and have published three books of poetry. Search for "Poet Terry Jude Miller" on Google and you'll find links to much of my work. You can also visit www.PoetTerryMiller.com.

7. How often do you write poems?

Nearly everyday, in one form or other. Tony Hoagland once wrote that poets are cursed....we see poetry in everything that moves, stands still, or is no longer there.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

My goal is simple.....to write great poetry. I'm no where near where I want to be as a poet. Like most poets, I don't think I'll ever be good enough for myself.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

I know we've heard it before, but I read everything. More often times than not, it is something I read that initiates a poem, but very often it's something or someone else who lights the fuse....an senior citizen getting off a bus, a child in a supermarket, a misplaced shadow.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?

A few of my favorite poets are Tony Hoagland, Ted Kooser, Dylan Thomas, Bukowski, and Walt Whitman. I've also been heavily influenced by modern minimalism. I avoid punctuation, and depend on spacing and word selection to bring emphasis and de-emphasis into my poetry....but the influence of my favorite poets is evident in my poetry. I don't yet think I have my own voice....but I'm practicing the scales like crazy.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

I usually start with a simple, small idea. I wrote a poem once about the way my wife places her hand on the back of my head when we're on long drives and linked through a metaphor of a musician playing an instrument. If that's a style, then that's mine.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?

I revise all the time. I start revising right away, then put it aside and revise it again, especially after receiving input, and then again before I'm ready to submit the work for publication consideration. I think of my poems as all linking together...when I write my last poem......I'm hoping it will be a Rosetta stone that makes everything I've written before clear and important to many.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

I used poetry as a stress management tool, but then incorporated it into my life. Before I knew it, poetry became one of the most important things in my life, properly ordered behind family and friends. Poetry and work sort of teeter for supremacy in my mind's hierarchy.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?

Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night." It was one of the first poems my mother read to me. The second was Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee".

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?

I enjoy Bukowski because he's so tragic and he wrote poetry to which a blue collar guy like me can relate. But Hoagland, Kooser, Wright, Plath, Dylan Thomas, Kay Ryan, Bob Haas, Robert Creely have written poetry and I would like to emulate...but not emulate too closely. I think many poets become composites of previous poets and sometimes that creates a poet with a new voice not anticipated.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

I recommend my poem "Mantra" to high school students. To adults, I usually suggest "The Long Kiss."

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

When I see what comes out of many academic publications I see poets who are pushing the limits of form and imagery for the sake of creating something new. A lot of what I see as winning work in publications like Gulf Coast is quite disappointing. Also, I see the same themes repeated over and over again. It's as though those poets want to pick a fight but there's no cause to champion. I was encouraged to see in the last edition of American Poetry that over one-half of the poets and poems were worth reading. It is said that poetry has dropped out of the main stream, but you can't blame the main stream....some poets have distorted poetry to the point of being untouchable, unrelatable. I don't mean that poets need to "dumb down" their poetry.....but I think they need to speak in a voice that can be heard.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

Imagery, relevancy, artistry, and delivery.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

Every poem I write helps me toward becoming the poet I want to be. When I look back at poems I wrote a year ago, I think "You can do better than this." Then I try to write a better poem. I also like that my poems are part of me....the secret part of me I permit the world to see through a protective unveiling. My poetry started out as a treatment for stress....I don't think it's ever stopped being that for me.....but now....it's so much more.....poetry, reading and writing, is such a large part of who I am now that I believe I have been changed forever and will continue to change.


20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

Read, read, read, read, read. If you can't afford books, go to the library, ask for books as gifts. Go to the used book store. Once you find the poets and writers you want to be like, then start studying their work. Then read everything else and try to look at the world through the prism of poetry....a single brown leaf on a tree is no longer just a leaf on a tree.....a word spoken in a restaurant takes on dual meanings. When you think you've read enough, read some more. Then write....write everyday, write every where, carry a pad with you everywhere....inspiration is sneeky tart....she jab her finger into your side when you least expect it...demanding you drop everything else and attend to her. Kiss her softly....she likes that.

- o -

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Old 11-14-2012, 08:14 AM   #17
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kborsden - AW Poet Laureate November 2012 - December 2013

1. When did you start writing poetry?

I’m not entirely sure. I’ve always been interested in poetry as far back as I can remember reading. I recall putting together rhymes and short verses from a young age even before I could write—actually sitting down to compose, with clear and concise ideas, with the intention to write a poetry came later.

My teenage years is where words slung together became song lyrics; not being able to play an instrument and being totally musically illiterate meant my lyrics became poems—adhering to the beats in my head and the rhythms of spoken language.

I’ve suffered from mental problems most of my life and when all things came to crunch point in my early twenties, poetry became my outlet, my focal point. I used poetry in a therapeutic way, not cathartic but as an anchor to myself during some very difficult emotional and personal moments; it’s always been that part of me that couldn’t be changed, psychotic break or otherwise.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?

I write flash fiction; tried my hand at a novel once. While I can concentrate the intensity of my thoughts into a poem of 14 – 30 verses, it doesn’t seem to hold when attempting to maintain it across lengthy fiction – my mind tends to wonder and begin a new branch almost as soon as I get halfway in.

Instead I drive my hand at essays, reviews and articles when not writing poetry.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

One word – yes. But I’m also a man, a father, a partner, a lover and friend to many; these aspects are part of being the poet I am. So the poet exists because of the rest.

4. Why do you write poetry?

As I said earlier, it is my anchor.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?

It doesn’t – ha. Other than writing essays and articles about poetry.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?

I am widely published; I’m a member of the Cymric Bards Society, and Association for the Lonely Send-off who write and read poems for persons who have died alone and have no family to attend their funeral; I write poetry on commission – and have been known to do readings at request. I’ve run workshops and still do an online one via skype.

7. How often do you write poems?

Good question. I don’t actually write a poem very often. I write fragments of poems; sudden impulses to write down a phrase or single verse – other times perhaps a few lines. It’s only later when things are quiet that those fragments reformulate or evolve to poems.

I find if I sit at my PC, readied to compose, the result is forced and without substance. I always keep a notepad on me for my ‘moments’ and write those whenever they come. This is not always as fun as it sounds, because the need to jot them down can be somewhat consuming.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

I would hope my poetry that intends to emote will reach people in a way that is recognisable to them. But overall, I see my poetry as a gift to whoever reads it – a bridge between myself and them by whatever means, be it expression, sentiment, intellect or craft – I want it to be enjoyed and therefore be memorable. My poetry is not vanity, I am not dictating it to my readers, it’s there for what it is, solidarity, unity, safety, art, pleasure, entertainment, joy, melancholy; my anchor for you or anyone else to hang on to if you need it, want it or otherwise.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

Something else – there is a compulsion to write, but the poem doesn’t compel me. I find these little intrusions to the day, sometimes images, sometimes words, sometimes sounds that spark my ‘moments’ that I mentioned before. Swirling clouds of nonsense that suddenly strike out forks of macro-inspirations.

These are what I compel to be poems, what I compose and revise, and ultimately fuse together through my personal compulsion to write.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?

I am experimental, furiously so at times. However, I do fall back on formal theory as my base.

Above all verse forms, my favourite is the sonnet, and all derivatives and variations of it. I love the honesty the sonnet brings to the table; the conversational and dialectical internal paradoxes of human nature it allows us to explore in what most would see as a rigid framework.

The misconceptions of formal theory and verse forms are what I try to break with much of my experimentation – just like the beauty of the sonnet is born from structure, it is an incredibly versatile structure that lends itself such an allowance for experimentation – I do the same. I take the elements that make things work for me and mix them up, play with words, play with form, and play with theory.

I love poetry, all poetry, and my love for it drove me to expand my knowledge of its craft and theory – but that knowledge is now my aid, whilst good to fall back on (500+ years of accumulated experience from the greats is never a bad thing), I don’t hide my work or my expression behind it; poetry is more than the sum of its parts.

If I had to name recurrent aspects, semantic, thematic or otherwise, I’d say peripeteia and paradoxical language are very common to my work.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

Whatever. My poems aren’t always decisive movements on my part. I do sometimes write with clear intent to produce or follow a theme, and this may on occasion work – the poetry prompt thread is a prime example – as an exercise and to keep the juices going.

I prefer to draw inspiration from the world around me. There is so much wonder in the universe, from the most distant exploding start and swirling cosmic gasses to the little boy who says goodnight to me every evening… and so much to question.

The most amazing thing about being human is that we are beings driven by both logic and emotion. This conflict is what spurs us to create and express.

I spend a great deal of my time analysing the smallest things and wondering at my private thoughts – my poetry is the space between the lines.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?

I never see my work as finished. Polished, maybe, but finished, never. I’ve dug out works from decades ago that I revise with a new take, or rework.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

I want to say I’ve already answered that, but the truth is I don’t really know of any specific time or age.


14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?

Poe attracted me to designed and structured verse, but before him I read a great deal of Victorian fiction. Being somewhat of an emo-kid, I blame Poe for a lot of very depressing pieces

Frost came later, toward the end of puberty – but throughout my adolescence, I found myself returning to many post-victorian poets.

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?

The romantics, much of the renaissance, and latter-day formalism. Surrealism is something which has always greatly inspired me. The removal of immediate perceptions of reality allows a reader to personalize a work on a different scope.

We have a great capacity for abstract thought, and an incredible ability to process and interpret abstraction. As I said before, we are beings of both intellect and emotion. When presented with no dictated reality, we create our own by applying personal knowledge, experience and interpretation. If abstraction requires an anchor into the concrete, what happens when every anchor is a new abstraction?

Haiku, true haiku, has also always interested me. Not just the sum of 17 syllables in 3 lines, haiku are macro-realities, a world in which the poet is one with a single motion, thought, experience etc. They come from that frozen moment, the poet one with the poem, the essence of the poem without lengthy analysis. While I am too wordy to ever be able to write a true haiku and shy away from other arithmetrical and syllabic verse forms, the ideal is ever-presently shared in my work; leads me back to the sonnet and what it represent to me.

That self understanding and no need or requirement for absolute intention is the purpose that I have in my poetry.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

Single poem? I don’t think any poet can be judged on a single work. I see my poetry as individual pieces of a larger work, tiles/squares on a patch-blanket. If I had to offer up one, I’d ask you to name it for me.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

Poetry today is a gimmick. It has little relevance outside of those who read it, or write it. That doesn’t mean it’s an outsider art, just that it has little corporate or commercial function.

Poetry is a thing of the people, and in many ways, that’s where it is nowadays, with the people who want it in whatever form.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

Whether narrative, expressive, emotive, experimental, fragmented or fluid; spoken or written, visual (like Emmers) or musical, poetry is something we discover and feel more complete for having discovered it.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

I like to play with words and phrase; I like restatement and refrain; I love the rhythm of language. My poetry has these aspects. Most of all, my poetry represents the aspects that I wonder about, whether directly or indirectly; I like to think, and I hope my poetry thinks for me on occasion.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

Read and read some more, write and discuss, then read some more. Repeat.

Last edited by poetinahat; 01-15-2014 at 05:23 AM.
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Old 01-15-2014, 05:25 AM   #18
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Ambrosia - AW Poet Laureate December 2013 -

1. When did you start writing poetry?

I can't remember the exact age, but I have been writing since I was a child. I don't have any copies of poems from my youngest years, but I have a few from my mid-teens.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?

Currently I am not doing much writing of any type due to life events. I have given myself permission not to write to lessen the stress I am under a bit.

When I am writing, I work on fiction. I have an unfinished novel sitting there begging me to restart, but I keep reminding it I'm on vacation. I have also written sales literature and press releases, and did a stint in college as a journalist for the college paper. But my heart is in fiction and poetry.

3. Do you think of yourself primarily as a poet?

I think of myself primarily as a writer. As a writer, I also think of myself as a poet. Writing is a creative endeavor, whether it is fiction, poetry, or even sales literature. Perhaps we should remove the common designations altogether and just say I am a creator.

4. Why do you write poetry?

Because I can.


The beauty of poetry for me is that it is a quick release that is immediately finished. I can't sit down and finish a 100,000 word novel in one go. But I can sit down and finish a poem in one go. Or two or five poems or more. It feeds that need in me to create and see my creation birthed on the page.

Beyond that, poetry is making love to language. I love making love.

5. How does writing poetry relate with your other writing?

Learning to caress words to bring out the best of their attributes benefits any writing. Learning to choose just the right word for the right sentence in the right place tightens the piece, whether poetry or prose. Poetry teaches not only how to say the most with the least amount of words, but how to keep flow going. Meter exists in fiction the same as it exists in poetry, it is just more subtle. Poetry, being in such a small package, refines the art of writing prose. It is part of its beauty to me.


I also am using poetry in my WIP. I write fantasy and I have a prophesy to start the book which, although not poetry per se, is still poetic. Along with that, I have spells being cast. The wording of the spells is done with poetry.

6. Beyond Absolute Write, what is your publication/performance history?

During my time in college I had many of my poems printed in the college newspaper, as well as a two-page center spread of my poetry and artwork in one of the issues. My Modern Minimalist poem, Winter Carnival, was published in the Carnivale edition of "Emerald Tales" magazine in February, 2010. Other than that, I haven't had anything published, but that is likely do to not submitting anything. I have a horrible habit of not sending anything anywhere. Something I am going to be working to overcome in 2014.

7. How often do you write poems?

Not often enough.


As I mentioned earlier, I am currently on a hiatus from writing anything. Even so, every so often I have a poem slip out. Sometimes they are persistent little monsters and will not be denied daylight.

When I am not on hiatus, I usually produce several poems a month. Often five or more a day, when the mood strikes.

8. What goals, if any, do you have for your poetry?

I want to have a book, or perhaps books, of my poems published. I want my work out there so someone can run across it in the future, read it, and hopefully be touched enough by my voice to pick up their own pen and give it a try. So someone can be inspired to find their own voice, that is what I want. I want my poetry to live beyond me.

9. Do you set out to write a poem, does it compel you to write it, or something else?

Yes. All of the above. I have times when I specifically set out to write a poem, usually when I have been silent for too long and know it is time to just write because the silence is getting to me. Sometimes I have a deep, penetrating ache inside and know a poem is trying to find a way out of my subconscious and onto the page. Sometimes my emotions are bursting and I have to write to get them out. Sometimes words just all the sudden slam into my brain and I have to sit down right then and write them down or lose them.

10. What formal, semantic, or thematic traits do you prefer to use in your poems?

I don't know that I prefer to use any of the three in my poetry, but definitely not traditional form. I have written poems in traditional form and found I enjoy it, but not enough to do it as a preference.


Of course Modern Minimalism is a form, just not traditional, and I do prefer it. I might actually assert that free verse, which is commonly used today, has “rules” regardless that people tend to think it doesn't, so it could be considered a modern form as well. I write in free verse when my poem doesn't fit MM's rules, so those two would be my preference.

As far as semantic traits, I do go to great lengths when writing my poems to find exactly the right word with exactly the right meaning. To do this I will go to a thesaurus and spend time looking up different words and meanings and comparing them until I find the one that matches my intent. I may do this many times in the crafting of one poem, as my poems generally rely on tight language with fewest words used.

As far as themes go, no. I write what I feel more than anything else. Probably at times it can seem I am going with a theme of heartbreak or abuse or love of nature or some other thing. But it all comes down to what emotions are at play at the time. If I am feeling hurt or anger, I may write a week or more about broken relationships and someone not familiar with my work might think that is my preferred theme. The next set of poems might have to do with nature or the love of writing or some other bright topic as my mood shifts from dark to light.

11. Which usually comes first: Topic/idea, form, words? Other?

Emotions usually come first for me. However, I have written from a topic, a picture, and from form. But feelings, that is the crux of all my poetry. Even when I write from a topic or a picture, even when I choose a form and write to that form, emotions are what make the poem a poem. So it always comes back to emotions for me. It's what makes poetry alive, tapping into those emotions.

12. Do you revise? Right away, later on? How do you decide when you've finished with a poem?

Honesty it depends on the length. If it is short, there isn't much to revise. If it is a longer piece I may revise even while writing it. I will usually revise a piece when I finish it, just to make sure it is exactly as I want it. Then, I post it in the crit forum and listen to the comments. Sometimes I agree with a crit and will make the changes. Sometimes I don't. But I always listen and play with the advice before I discard it or accept it. I know it is finished when it feels right to me.

13. How did you come to be interested in poetry?

Hearing it and reading it. I grew up in a dirt poor family, but one of the things my mom can be credited with is filling the house with books and instilling a desire to read in her kids. A whole wall of our living room was filled to overflowing with bookcases stuffed with books of all types. Even a couple of poetry books wound up on the shelves.


Also, my mom made sure I attended church. There is a great amount of poetry in the Bible.

14. What particular poem or poet first attracted you to poetry?

That is really so hard to say. Two poems in particular stand out in my mind, but where they came in the scope of my love for poetry I don't rightly know. Those two poems are
Trees by Joyce Kilmer and The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

15. What poems, poets, movements or eras have influenced you as a poet: which do you particularly enjoy, admire, or aspire toward?

I haven't put much study into the past eras or movements of poetry. I find a poem I like and read others by the author. My education in poetry was stifled in high school when I had an abusive teacher who delighted in making me a laughing stock in front of the class. Although I still wrote a few poems here and there, after that I stayed away from any formal education regarding poetry.


When I joined AW, I came into the poetry section and once again started creating poetry after decades of not writing it at all. I found the form created by a member here, moblues, fit my particular voice. Indeed it allowed me to find my voice. I have been writing Modern Minimalist poetry ever since. I also write free verse.

But, thanks to the encouragement and a bit of tutoring from another poet here, Kie (kborsden), I've been able to branch out into traditional formal verse. He's worked with me to overcome some of the fear of form and terminology caused by the teacher from high school. Through his gentle guidance I've been able to write sonnets, triolets, a villanelle, as well as come up with my own form. I'm very grateful to him for helping me over my stumbling blocks. I no longer fear form. Just don't ask me to explain iambic pentameter. Write it? Perhaps. Explain it? I'll pass that on to Kie.

I admire a number of poets here at AW and am grateful to be among the ranks of such talented people.

16. What single poem of yours would you recommend to someone who had never read your work?

That's a tough one. I don't believe that one single poem will say who I am as a poet, nor represent the truth of my work. Mind if I mention two? A more recent one of mine,
Games, was written about a year ago. It is indicative of my Modern Minimalist style. And, to cover my delving into form, Scholar's Credentials, which was my first sonnet.

17. What are your thoughts on poetry today: its function, future, direction, relevance?

I believe poetry's function is to touch a person deep inside, in some manner beyond what prose can do. I believe as long as there are people, there will be poetry. Whether that is in traditional forms like sonnets, or in song lyrics, free verse, newly created forms, or in some way we can't begin to imagine today there will still be poetry. The essence of poetry is inside the human mind. As long as there is somebody creating it and somebody being touched by that creation, it will always be relevant and it will always exist.


As to the rest, I can't say. I think people tend to over-analyze things and find problems that aren't really there. Change does not mean the end of something. Just a different appearance.

18. What, in your view, makes a written/spoken work a poem?

I can't define it. I just know it when I see/hear it. I also know when it isn't.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

That it's real. I pour myself into my poems. The honesty sometimes astounds me, that I could bare so much of myself to strangers. But the poems that have touched me most by other poets have been always been bone-deep honest. I hope I can always be brave enough to share who I am deep inside with my readers.

20. What would you say to someone who wants to learn to write poetry well?

Read. Read widely and divergently. When you find what voice(s) appeals to you, what style(s) strike your fancy, read some more. And write. Then share your work with others and listen to their comments. Pay close attention to the praise and pay closer attention to the criticism. Be willing to toss a “darling” if you find that word or that phrase doesn't do your poem justice. You can always use it elsewhere, in another piece. And comment on other people's poems as well as read other critiquers' comments on those poems. There is much to be learned by becoming involved in the critiquing process, much wisdom is shared.

So, to write poetry well, read it and write it and comment on it. But never stop. Never give it up, just keep going until you “get there”. That is my best advice.
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