View Full Version : AW Poet Laureate Q&A: AWPL XIX - Steppe

01-13-2015, 05:55 AM
1. When did you start writing poetry?

When I was a boy I drew a picture of a fish in school. The fish was wider through the middle then long, end to end. I remember writing a small poem about a life that would be happier if it was wider through the middle, then long, end to end.

2. What other writing do you do regularly?

While I am usually writing something here and there, it is nothing to crow about, nothing to publish or to try and publish.

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

I am one who writes poems. If that makes me a poet, I will accept it, but in my opinion, I have a way to go yet. I started off on the seat of my pants with poetry when I was a boy, and have been sliding on them ever since.

4. Why do you write poetry?

Truth is, it's one of those things I came out of childhood with, and just can't seem to get rid of. I write also because it's in the family. We all do it.

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

I find my self rhyming at odd times; letters to family and friends, emails, even applications I fill out. Even in conversation with others, who give me that odd look I'm getting used to. I find myself using as few words as possible whenever.

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

There were about twenty poems published on "EveryDayPoets. They are now on hiatus for poems. They were going to include six of mine in their new volume three, but never finished with it. Several poems in "Avocet-A Journal of Nature Poems". A self-published book of poems I would like to forget. I just wasn't ready for it. I haven't submitted in a long time.

7. How often do you write poems?

Almost everyday something. I carry a book of poetry with me ( current count 10 in my car ) at all times. Always have one at the Doctors. My photography and travel also provide inspiration.

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

Just to improve and find a personal poetics for myself. That is why I probably experiment so much.

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

I'm always on the lookout for inspiration. I'm particularly open to first-line material. A good first line will practically write the poem for me. A good first line always compels me. I carry writing material all the time.

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

Short-lined free verse for the most part. Don't ask me for a definition. There isn't one to satisfy everyone. But like the port said, "I know it when I see it".

I usually write about landscapes, birds, family or just things. Old things especially.

I try to relate to things I perceive to have a moment, special to itself: a fallen leaf, a ray of sun.

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

Hopefully a good first line will come first. Then a topic appears: and originating idea. I try not to stay with this O.I too long. The longer I do, the poem will unravel. This is probably why I write mainly short poems.

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

I revise constantly. Sometimes right away, sometimes not for a year or so. I have read of major poets who revised right up to the time of their deaths. I am never finished. I stop with it when I find myself tempted to explain everything I've written. If I keep writing, the poem is worthless.

Something compels me to stop and say it's finished (for now). Is that my muse? Or just and understanding that it's not history I'm writing.

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

The songs of the great Irish bel canto tenor John Mac Cormack that we would listen to on cold winter nights on an old Edison cylinder phonograph player from about 1899 that we found in an old abandoned house (complete with cylinders).

Songs like "Silver Threads Among The Gold", The Rose Of Tralee", "Love's Old Sweet Song", and "Mother Machree".

I knew at that age I would like to write poems. I sorry I did not follow my urges then, but waited till late in life.

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

We had to memorize Poe's "The Raven" and "Annabelle Lee" for school projects. He became a favorite, but it was the great operatic singers on the cylinder records that sealed the deal.

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

The Objectivist movement and the imagist.
I am fond of poets like George Oppen, Charles Olsen, Louis
Zukofsky, and later poets like Barbara Guest and Denise Lervertov. Also Larry Eigner.

The great German poet Johannes Bobrowski is probably who I aspire toward.

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

I think "Quintessence". I quote it here because it's short -

tranquility of
the curious muse

diverted from
its grandiosity



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

Better than ever! Work shops everywhere. Poets experimenting.

There are those who, poetically, hold on to the past for dear life. But poetry waits for no one. It's moving on into the age of space. The poetry of that time will be universal, and will bear no resemblance to what we have today.

Our poetry is moving into that future.

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

I like the story of the Ugh People. Man and woman watching the moon rise and exclaiming, "Ugh, Ugh". They became known as the Ugh People.

Later, ugh became umm, and then later still umm became moon (supposing they all spoke English).

I'd like to think that every poem should have some "Ugh" in it.

It's what separates it from common prose.

19. What do you like about your own poetry?

Striving for as few words as possible.
Striving for "best words, best order".
Try to give words their own power.

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

Read other poets constantly.
Experiment with your voice.
Above all have the courage to be yourself, to let others critique your work.

It isn't easy, but the payoff is worth it!