Interview with American Writer, Sara Backer

February 6, 2016
Photo: Sara Backer

Photo: Sara Backer

Biography:

Sara Backer’s novel, American Fuji, was a book club pick of the Honolulu Advertiser and a nominee for the Kiriyama Prize. Backer lived in Japan for three years and was the first American and first woman to serve as Visiting Professor of English at Shizuoka University. Her poetry chapbook, Bicycle Lotus (whose title poem is set in Japan), won the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Award. She currently teaches composition at UMass Lowell.

Backer, who received fellowships from the Djerassi Resident Artist Program and Norton Island Resident Artist Program, has written short fiction and poems that appeared in Poetry, Bamboo Ridge, The Rialto (UK), Carve, Crannóg (Ireland), Gargoyle, New Welsh Reader (UK), Southern Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, Arc Poetry Magazine (Canada), PANK, The Seattle Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Turtle Island Quarterly, Waccamaw Journal, and many more. Her writing has received six Pushcart prize nominations. Follow her publications on Twitter @BackerSara or her web site: www.sarabacker.com.

Geosi Gyasi: What actually took you to Japan?

Sara Backer: I needed a job, and there weren’t many teaching jobs in the U.S. when I earned my graduate degree from the University of California at Davis. I had travelled a lot before graduate school–Europe and Central America–and was up for adventure outside the U.S. I was neither a Japanophile nor a Japanophobe. I had no agenda with Japan; it was simply a place where I could teach and explore another culture. In short, I had no idea what I was in for. I left for Japan like the tarot card The Fool, cheerfully stepping off the cliff.

Geosi Gyasi: So you ended up spending three years in Japan. Was your time spent enough to immerse yourself with their lifestyle and culture?

Sara Backer: It was both not enough and too much. Some Americans live in Japan oblivious to the culture. I was observant, but I only figured out my mistakes months later because Japanese people were too polite to correct me. For example, I asked a train station clerk for a ticket from one city to another. He answered, “Muzikashii . . .” meaning “difficult.”  Being American, I was prepared to handle difficulty–money? schedule? all something that could be solved. I was frustrated with the clerk who would not sell me a ticket. Later, I learned there was no train track between those cities, and “difficult” was his polite way of saying “impossible.” In three years, I developed a lot of awareness, but I was always aware of how much more I had to learn.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you compare the literary culture between America and Japan?

Sara Backer: I wish I could, but I didn’t learn enough Japanese to handle such a task. Japan is a highly literate nation and people were always reading in the trains. That impressed me.

Geosi Gyasi: In your three years stay in Japan, were you able to learn Japanese?

Sara Backer: I reached the level of Competent Tourist Japanese but I was far from fluent. If I had a do-over, I’d study Japanese before I left. Unlike most countries, immersion doesn’t work in Japan. Japanese is a deeply inflected SVO language chock full of status markers–not an easy hear it/say it language.

Geosi Gyasi: Is “American Fuji” based on your experiences in Japan?

Sara Backer: Yes and no. The plot was entirely invented, but everything about Japan was real–such as the banking and medical systems, the food, the song of the sweet potato vendor, etc.

Geosi Gyasi: How did you manage to choose character names for your book, “American Fuji”

Sara Backer: Character names are always tough for me. I wanted my male protagonist’s name to be unpronounceable in Japanese: thus, Alexander Thorne, who was called Zone-san. My female protagonist was a groundbreaking feminist, so I named Gaby Stanton after feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Eguchi was the name of a spirited student in my class.

Geosi Gyasi: I am so eager to know what “Fuji” means?

Sara Backer: The kanji for Fuji means wealth and abundance. Mt. Fuji is pictured on the 5000¥ note–in beautiful purple ink–and to dream of Mt. Fuji on New Year’s Eve is considered the luckiest of dreams.

Geosi Gyasi: You keep a blog online called American Fuji. What led to the setting up of the blog?

Sara Backer: Boring answer: my publisher wanted me to. I decided to show what wasn’t in the novel–that is, my life in Japan. I vowed I would never blog about writing itself. So far, I’ve managed that.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you mind being referred to as a travel writer?

Sara Backer: I don’t think I am referred to as a travel writer, but I wouldn’t mind if I were. Just being referred to as any kind of writer is a compliment!

Geosi Gyasi: What was your greatest challenge in writing “American Fuji”?

Sara Backer: Making the reality of Japan seem real to skeptical readers.

Bicycle Lotus by Sara Backer

Bicycle Lotus by Sara Backer

Geosi Gyasi: Did you always want to be a writer?

Sara Backer: I started writing when I was three years old. Writing is something I do because I’m me, but I didn’t think of it in terms of wanting to be a writer. As a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, an actress, or a nun–in that order. Later on, I wanted to be a composer, and later still, a teacher. That’s the one I got traction with, for better or worse.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you predominantly read?

Sara Backer: Literary fiction, literary and science fiction poetry, and whatever I come across online.  These days, perhaps due to my worsening vision, I mostly read poetry.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you write every day?

Sara Backer: I wish–but no. Teaching is not only a time-consuming, but a mind-consuming job. I mostly write during summer vacation and breaks.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you read reviews of your book?

Sara Backer: I did at first. While praise is nice, I didn’t find most reviews to be useful or interesting, so I stopped seeking them out.

Geosi Gyasi: Are there any writers that inspire you to write?

Sara Backer: Life inspires me to write.  I write from my own observations. I’ve never had the desire to write like a certain author, though I admire many.

Geosi Gyasi: Does teaching teach you any lessons about writing?

Sara Backer: Mostly that if you want to be a professional writer, don’t get a job as a teacher. It’s a definite clash. You use the same brain cells. I think Jack London had it right–living a life of physical labor and adventure and then writing about it.

Geosi Gyasi: Did you get the kind of feedback you expected to get after the publication of “American Fuji”?

Sara Backer: I didn’t know what to expect. I hoped American Fuji would be discussed in terms of character, plot, setting, and so forth. Instead, I got more commentary on whether Japan was or wasn’t as I portrayed it. Also, several readers seemed to want a memoir instead of a novel, and there was nothing I could do about that, you know? But I appreciated all the readers who took the time and trouble to email me and tell me how my novel reached them, and I answered each one. That’s the best part about getting published–reaching readers in a meaningful way.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you keep a journal?

Sara Backer: No, but my desk is a mess of scribbled notes on the backs of first drafts.

Geosi Gyasi: What most excites you as a writer?

Sara Backer: The ongoing challenge to transmute the vision in my mind into words on a screen or page. Nothing beats that.

Geosi Gyasi: Is it true that a writer ought to be disciplined —— write regularly —— so as to produce great works?

Sara Backer: Oh, gosh, I have no idea. I think writing regularly is a good idea because ultimately quantity will lead to quality, but with so many definitions of “great works” and “regularly” and so many things beyond a writer’s control, I resist endorsing any one way to achieve greatness.

Geosi Gyasi: When did you first begin to write poetry?

Sara Backer: I wrote a poem about a butterfly when I was three years old.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you feel poetry is an art of the past?

Sara Backer: What?! No, no, no! Poetry is alive and eternal in many guises.

Geosi Gyasi: How do you think we should conclude the interview?

Sara Backer: How about with coffee and apple pie? (Oh, and a link to my web site: www.sarabacker.com) Cheers!

END.


Interview with Speculative Fiction Writer, Tawny Kipphorn

January 31, 2016
Photo: Tawny Kipphorn

Photo: Tawny Kipphorn

Brief Biography:

Tawny Kipphorn is a speculative fiction author with a passion for poetry and short stories. She has been writing for nearly ten years, and is inspired by authors from the 1800’s Romanticism period. She describes her poetic style as Edgar Allan Poe meets Dr. Seuss. She has been published in Tales From the Shadow Realm, Inner Sins, Sanitarium, and A Shadow of Autumn Halloween Anthology.

Geosi Gyasi: You’ve been writing for nearly ten years. What circumstances led you to start writing?

Tawny Kipphorn: It was a combination of things. As a kid I had an affinity for language and literature, I was an avid reader, and was always drawn to macabre things. It also helped that I’ve always been very pensive and inquisitive about people and life in general. I eventually reached a moment in which it became a deep passion to create scenarios similar to those that enraptured me my whole life.

 Geosi Gyasi: What was the nature of your first published work?

Tawny Kipphorn: It was a short story called “The Hellequin of Volterrum” and it was published in Tales From the Shadow Realm. It was a tale of an elderly man suffering from schizophrenia who had ended up overdosing on his anti-hallucinatory medication and in doing so, he ended up facing his biggest fear, himself. The “Hellequin” I made to be a twisted and maniacal jester, the polar opposite of what a jester is considered to be, and I felt that really reflected the old man’s inner psyche.

Geosi Gyasi: What challenges do you face as a writer?

Tawny Kipphorn: The biggest challenge for me is trying to remember that whatever I create, it is most important that I am the one who likes it. As I began to have success with publishing, I began to feel as though I needed to cater to the desires of others, and where I do believe that is important to a degree, I feel as though staying true to myself in my work is key. As long as I can relate to my work, at the end of the day I know that somewhere out there, someone else will too. I feel with any type of talent or art, you must stick to what you feel over what others want, that’s the best way to keep the passion burning.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you specialise solely in supernatural and psychological suspense?

Tawny Kipphorn: Yes. I have dabbled in other genres such as romance and every now and then I’ll try my hand at science-fiction (which kind of fits into supernatural), but I mostly write those for my own entertainment. However when it comes to sending my work into the public, I like to stick with the supernatural and psychological suspense because when I imagine trying to make it as an author, I can only see myself being associated within the field of Horror.

Geosi Gyasi: Which writers did you read as a child?

Tawny Kipphorn: Edgar Allan Poe, Dr. Suess, and R.L. Stine. Those three were absolutely pivotal in my becoming an author. As a teenager I got more into Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson, and they were just as important as their stories took my lexicon and elevated it, which enabled my passion to really grow.

Geosi Gyasi: Where do you get the names of characters for your stories?

Tawny Kipphorn: I usually have an image of a character in my mind and with that I just think on it for a while. The name always just comes to me and it just feels right. As for non-human characters, I’ll imagine their characteristics of personality and do some digging into the vocabulary that best describes them and then I’ll put some sort of spin on it. For example, the Hellequin. I had the image of a court jester in my mind, so I thought on the fact that they are sometimes referred to as Harlequin’s, and since he’s evil I put a spin on it and called it Hellequin.

Geosi Gyasi: I am wondering whether you have a specific audience for your stories?

Tawny Kipphorn: I feel as though a lot of my writing would be entertaining for children of a little bit older age. Being that I did grow up reading Goosebumps books and Dr. Seuss, as well as my love for Poe, I’ve found a way to combine all three styles and I believe that would work for young people really well, but could also be enjoyed by anyone. I’m happy with whoever reads/enjoys my writing.

 Geosi Gyasi: What is the hardest part of writing?

Tawny Kipphorn: I struggle with writing longer stories. I have amazing ideas for novels, so I try to cut them down into novellas or novelettes, but I still find it a challenge to drag the stories out. I’m always so excited to get everything down and out fairly quickly and get to the point. In some ways I feel that weakness of mine could actually be something I could use, as attention spans are decreasing as generations go on. It’s also difficult for me to have a specific assignment with a deadline, my ideas come to me when they want, it’s not something I can force nor would I want to, that would make for poor writing.

Geosi Gyasi: How do you find time to write?

Tawny Kipphorn: Being as passionate as I am, I always find time for writing. If I’m running errands, I usually have a notebook and pen with me, any little thing inspires me and I’ll just take a moment to jot it down. Good work takes time. I have stories that took me years to finish but I always had time to take notes. Those small notes over time end up turning into something pretty amazing later.

Geosi Gyasi: How did you get involved with poetry?

Tawny Kipphorn: With my love for the rhyming style of Dr. Seuss embedded within me, once I discovered Edgar Allan Poe in high school, it was set in stone. I was meant to be a poet. I had read “Annabelle Lee” and something just awoke in me that I could never explain. It was almost like the feeling of having just found a soul mate, or every thing you never understood just making sense finally. It burned in me to create things just as beautiful, things that made me feel the same way his work did. It became a love of mine to re-create the old style romanticism feeling and being it back to be appreciated today.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you know how you often start a poem?

Tawny Kipphorn: I’ll have the story in mind I want to tell, and I’ll just think of a good opening sentence that captures the reader. Once that is done it’s basically smooth sailing for me. I’ll just think of the following sentences that would fit and make sense to the story, while making sure it rhymes. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and I have to change sentences around but I always make it work.

Geosi Gyasi: What is it about Edgar Allan Poe that inspires you as a writer?

Tawny Kipphorn: I’m a big fan of the 1800’s lexicon and that has a lot to do with it. The fluidity of his words that you just don’t hear anymore really resonated with me. The amazing and twisted stories he had in his mind and the ease with which he created them really inspire me. I love that he was such a dark and brooding person but at the bottom of all that, he was just a regular person who wanted all the same things we all do. He was a very real and relatable human being, the kind of person I feel I could have sat with for hours on end discussing the existence of everything.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you define your voice as a writer?

Tawny Kipphorn: My voice as a writer is that of just a simple storyteller. The person who tells all the scary stories while sitting around a campfire in the dead of night in the middle of nowhere. I try to have an approach of creepy yet somewhat whimsical and theatrical at times. I’m here to tell stories, that’s my calling, simple as that.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you write on a computer or in a notebook?

Tawny Kipphorn: Both! I usually start out in a notebook and then once I have the first stanza or paragraph, I’ll transfer to computer. I find the computer works best when I have a clear-cut vision and everything just flows, and the notebook is better when I’m not so sure and I need time to play around with different words and ideas.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you approach poetry the same way you approach short stories?

Tawny Kipphorn: No. There is definitely a lot more discipline and research that goes into stories, whereas poetry just sort of comes much easier for me. I feel as though writing stories is a lot more about logic and brain power, and writing poetry is all about intuition and emotion.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you mind giving me a brief synopsis of your poem, “Rosalee”?

Tawny Kipphorn: Rosalee is about a woman who loses the love of her life, and she longs to join him in the spirit realm. Eventually, his spirit beckons her and it is her time, so they are united once more.

Geosi Gyasi: Are you the type of writer who read before writing?

Tawny Kipphorn: Yes when I’m writing a story, if it’s poetry no because that’s all feeling, not thinking. So if I’m about to write a story, I will often times read first either to exercise my brain or often times for inspiration on how to begin and how to keep the fluidity.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a special way of ending your stories?

Tawny Kipphorn: Not particularly, I just try to either make the endings something that was unexpected or something that hits home and makes you sit back and think about what you just read. I try to make the ending in a way that will make the story stick in your mind for a while.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have any formal education in writing?

Tawny Kipphorn: No. Aside from what I’ve learned from Elementary through High School, and learning from other authors, I’m self taught.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you think of the role of poetry in the 21st century?

Tawny Kipphorn: I feel as if poetry is a dying art. I feel saddened by that, and it is important to have good poetry in the world because I really feel that it teaches good vocabulary and sentence structure. It’s not only a beautiful way to tell stories, but it’s something that anyone can learn from. Poetry is something that you don’t just read and forget, it’s something you feel in your soul when you read it, something that stays with you. Very much the same way lyrics to a song stays with you, and that’s what is so beautiful about it. When you read and feel poetry, you create its music in your own mind the way you interpret it.

Geosi Gyasi: Are there any projects you’re currently embarking on?

Tawny Kipphorn: Yes, I’m going to be creating a new poem/story of possession called “Mother Maggie” about a resentful spirit who’s making life hell for one family. I’m also planning to re-write my short stories “6 Minutes 2 Madness” and “The Bloody Balfours” and giving them both new life and a lot more blood!

END.


Interview with Joan Jobe Smith, Author of “Tales of An Ancient Gogo Girl”

January 30, 2016
Photo Credit: Elaine King

Photo Credit: Elaine King

Biography:

JOAN JOBE SMITH was born laughing during a norther in Paris, Texas, January 25, 1940. Founding editor of PEARL and BUKOWSKI REVIEW, she received a BA in creative writing from CSULB, then an MFA in fiction writing from University of California Irvine after working 7 years as a go-go girl during the swinging, rock-n-rolling 1960s-70s. Her poetry, prose, art, essays and literary reviews and critiques have been published internationally since 1972 most recently in AMBIT, NERVE COWBOY, LUCID MOOSE, LADYLAND: Anthologie de Litterature Feminine Americaine (13enote, Paris, France, 2014) and she’s published more than 23 books of poetry (and one cookbook) that includes THE POW WOW CAFE (The Poetry Business), a finalist for the 1999 UK Forward Prize. In 2012, her literary profile CHARLES BUKOWSKI: Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me) was published by Silver Birch Press and her memoir, TALES OF AN ANCIENT GOGO GIRL published in 2014 by marJo books. She lives in Long Beach, California, 2 blocks from the Pacific Ocean with her husband of Hi Ho Silver 25 years poet Fred Voss.

Geosi Gyasi: You’re the founding editor of Pearl and the Bukowski Review. Could you narrate to us how you started out?

Joan Jobe Smith:  Before I narrate how I started Pearl, I want to tell you Why: Backlash, in 1973, when I was a feisty, know-it-all 33-year-old undergrad at California State University Long Beach during one of those pinnacle peaks of ferocious feminism. Backlash against the male chauvinism of small press literary magazine editors who published very few women poets/writers. One editor back then, an admitted misogynist/womanizer, dismissively epigrammed all his litmags with the declaration: “Men write Poetry; Women live it.” Also, my intent to do Pearl was Outreach and Patronage of the femme arts as I editorialized in the first issue, declaring my honorable, possibly self-righteous pursuit: “ars poetica feminae,” “…to provide proper pages to publish poetry by Women Only.” And here’s HOW I started Pearl: with funding from the CSULB Honors Program via a grant procured for me, ironically, by one of those aforementioned “male chauvs,” with whom I’d later  become friends for 2 decades, Leo J. Mailman, a CSULB grad student and editor (1971-1981) of Maelstrom Review. Soon, however, after 3 issues of Women Only, I discovered why women poets in 1973 didn’t often appear in literary magazines–there weren’t as many female poets as male poets submitting their work out there in the literary world, perhaps “living” their poetry after all rather than writing it. Therefore issue #4 and future Pearl pages for the next 40 years were beefed up with Men–the good, bad, smugly and chauv pig of them. And during those 40 years, I developed a keener comprehension of the eternal, ambivalent War Between the Sexes along with a gentler-natured ego to such an extent I sort of joined ranks with those early 1970s’ men, men who had been literarily mentored–as was I–by poet-writer Charles Bukowski when I published 4 issues (2000-2006) of the BUKOWSKI REVIEW. P.S. All Pearl projects these past decades were labors of love funded via personal penny-pinching and prodigious patrons as we editors devoted our non-profit endeavors to the perpetuation of literary arts.

Geosi Gyasi: Has the aim for which Pearl and the Bukowski Review established been achieved?

Joan Jobe Smith: Oh, yes! My co-editor and the artistic and generous genius behind Pearl, Marilyn Johnson and I are very pleased to have published Pearl for 40+ years. With Marilyn’s creative expertise extraordinaire, and co-editor/First Reader Barbara Hauk’s wise and witty hawk’s eye we published many of the world’s very good
poets–established and emerging and esteemed and eclectic–from Charles Bukowski to a nun to a former Mousketeer, 4 Poet Laureates (viz: US’s Billy Collins, Delaware’s JoAnn Balingit), a stripper, 3 ex-go-go girls, 100s of housewives, outlaw poets Todd Moore, Mark Weber, Kell Robertson, a machinist poet Fred Voss, Okie Poet Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, iconic Gerald Locklin and Edward Field and Jim Daniels, legendary Linda King, Lyn Lifshin, Ann Menebroker, Long Beach, California luminaries Lisa Glatt, David Hernandez, Frank Gaspar, Clint Margrave, Donna Hilbert, oh, and so many, many good and greats. Lately, I’ve had prestigious literary critics say that Pearl should be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Prize for Literature: lauded because of our hard work in hanging in there for so long–and for our many, many pages of properly placed words of excellence written by so many prodigious writers–and our always-distinguished, often breathtakingly beautiful covers by some of the finest contemporary artists we know: John Kay, David Scott, David Hernandez, Elaine King, Anna Badua, Marilyn Johnson. No such award exists in the USA; but we know in our hearts, Marilyn and mine, that we did a good job. And proud of it!

Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever had to turn down or reject works submitted to Pearl and Bukowski Review?

Joan Jobe Smith:  Regretfully, yes. But Pearl’s First Reader Barbara Hauk was the brave one who performed that unpleasant task. Many times, however, she had to reject a good poet because we simply did not have the room, were irreducibly backlogged because Pearl became very popular internationally and our submissions were enormous, 100s a month, in fact, for 40+ years. In my opinion, I don’t think an inspired poet ever writes a Bad Poem; every poem ever written that comes from the heart and soul is worthy of a reading. But, of course, there are many who would disagree. One poem that might be an editor’s anathema might be another’s anthem. William Carlos Williams’ “little red wheelbarrow” to one editor might seem too much reliance on visual imagery and Bukowski’s “crucifix in a death hand” seem bleak. I love what Robert Frost says about poetic inspiration: “A poem begins as a lump in the
throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness or a love sickness. It is a reaching out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

Geosi Gyasi: How did you get into writing?

Joan Jobe Smith:  How? Destiny? DNA? Indefatigable Determination? I was born babbling, began talking at age one (but I was not a prodigy!), and when I was 2 years old, in 1942, I didn’t “get into writing,”writing got into me as I drew swirling circles in the dirt with a stick, thinking I was writing a story. When I mastered the question and exclamation marks, wow, I really thought I was writing up a dust storm. The movies and radio and my book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales made me do it. And so did my talking Texas folks who were natural story-tellers in the oral tradition of the Welsh and Scots who fed my fancies with delightful similes, hyperboles and Tall Texas Tales–most of them true. When I actually learned to write with a pencil, pen and ink, I scrawled out my first novel when I was nine, a 6-pager titled “Helen and Elaine and the Leprechauns,” an attempt at comedy (by then I was deeply influenced by Popeye and Little Lulu and Superman comic books) and a quasi-memoir because Helen broke out with a rash and got sick like I did when I had a near-fatal reaction to my small pox vaccination; I illustrated poor hapless Helen lying abed unable to ever meet up with a leprechaun; and neither did I. A coma wears you out so I began to
write corny Limericks (influenced by Lewis Carroll) and didn’t write prose again until I was 15. When I was ten, my first poem, a didactic aphoristic rhyming couplet (“Always wait for the green/and you will become a Safety Queen”) won second place in a regional children’s safety poster competition sponsored by the American Red Cross. They chose my couplet for “publication” on billboards across Southern California illustrated with a cat chasing a mouse but stops when the light turns red–and the cat was changed to a King wearing a crown smiling smugly–but safely–when the mouse gets run over by a car.

Geosi Gyasi: Tell us about your publication, “Charles Bukowski: Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me)”?

Joan Jobe Smith:  My intent for my BukBook, a literary profile depicting my 12-year platonic friendship with Charles Bukowski: an homage, hagiography, though I do depict some of my personal experiences with his “dark side” that many critics hold against him. I was, admittedly, Charles Bukowski’s “groupie.” Lucky me, I attended 12 or more of his live poetry readings, 1972-1978, possibly holding a record of some dubious kind. My BukBook tells about some of those exciting readings and what he said when he was alive and also tells of some of the happenings I attended honoring Bukowski after his death: the premiere of the 2004 John  Dullaghan documentary “Born Into This” (of which I am an “out-take” after Dullighan video’d me 6 hours’ worth) and the 2010 Celebration of Bukowski at the Huntington Library. Included in my BukBook are also insightful Interviews with many of the important–and fascinating–Women in Bukowski’s Life: Ann Menebroker, Linda King, Frances Dean Smith (mother of his only child, Marina), and Pamela “Scarlet”/”Cupcakes” Miller Wood.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you hope to achieve with your writing?

Joan Jobe Smith: I never began writing with any specific “hope” of achieving anything; I wrote because I wrote. To alleviate loneliness for one reason. I was always home alone, an only child of a WW2 single mother who worked two jobs. And it was fun to write down buzzing thoughts and perceptions that filled my brain–even those little swirling circles I drew with a stick in the dirt brought inexplicable joy and gratification. Writers write. (Don’t hate me, but I’ve never had a “writer’s block.”) I guess my main Hope is that people will read me, “hear” the buzzing, enjoy it, and buzz back at me.

Geosi Gyasi: Who reads your works?

Joan Jobe Smith: Bukowski fans mostly read my Bukowski Review and now, I presume, some of them read my Charles Bukowski: EPIC GLOTTIS: His Art & His Women (& me)–both endeavors well-received. Poetry lovers read my poetry in the many international journals that have published me since 1972. My stories and poetry have been translated into Swedish, German, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, French, Italian, and soon Portuguese. And now my go-go girl memoir Tales of An Ancient GoGo Girl is being read by readers who enjoy prose and novels though my Tales are a true story of survival of terrifying domestic abuse and near-uxoricide while, to support 3 children, I worked hard days’ nights 8 days a week as a go-go girl, my main perk amongst my pathos: my good luck to live in a fabulous, far-out time and place and dance live upon the same stage with The Doors, Dick Dale, Ike and Tina Turner Revue during the swinging 1960s rock-n-roll era.

Geosi Gyasi: What is the most difficult aspect of writing?

Joan Jobe Smith: Getting readers to read you. Most writers write to be read, don’t they? Putting it down on the page has never been difficult for me–the Doing It aspect, that is, not the aspect of “excellence.” Just because I’m prolific, I do not wish to imply that all I write is good or publishable.  Oh, but possibly the most “difficult aspect of writing”–for me, that is–is being tidy about writing; keeping track of it: e.g.: “Where’s the re-write of Chapter 3? Where’s that poem I wrote a month ago that I’m CERTAIN will get me a Nobel nomination?!! In that file folder or in Old Mail or under the bed or in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator?” For me, the most pleasurable aspect of writing is placing a blank page of paper before me, my clean slate, my tabula rasa to create, bloviate, perpetuate, write a letter to a friend, begin the beguine of a new story or poem–write.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you tell us something we ought to know about Charles Bukowski”?

Joan Jobe Smith:  What can I possibly tell you that Bukowski the poet/writer man hasn’t told you himself a hundred times in his many many books? He told All, you know. But perhaps what is possibly essential to know about him that I have privy to is that he was a deep, caring, wise man who loved Women. Especially Women who loved him.

Geosi Gyasi: What’s the inspiration behind your book, “Tales of An Ancient Go-Go Girl”?

Joan Jobe Smith: My 50-years’ worth of angst and inability, my failure to “heal” from my wounds, my scars–emotional and physical–caused by the unforgettable trauma of my near-death caused by the attempted murder of me perpetuated by my psychotic estranged husband in 1966. Such violent, near-fatal abuse that I survived back in 1966 was not much discussed in those male chauv days. Nowadays, with misogyny accelerating, statistics say that two in four women will endure violent abuse from a male. Ultimately, I hoped that while I wrote about my own violent abuse that I’d experience an epiphany, a grand denouement to help me find a tender spot, a wiser inner angel in my heart to forgive, forget, heal. But I did not. My recurring dreams continue. All my scars are still there. And they still hurt. Sorry. I tried. But it really wears you out when someone tries to kill you and nearly succeeds.

Geosi Gyasi: As a pushcart prize recipient and a Forward Prize finalist, do prizes matter to you at all?
Joan Jobe Smith:  Winning at age 10 in 1950 my first prize (a faux gold watch worth $2 for 2nd place) I was disappointed (in the prize because it was a woman’s watch that didn’t fit my wrist till I was 20) but also thrilled to see my “poem” on billboards. Winning prizes, yes, is thrilling, and sometimes they matter–if you’re aiming for a prize that will bring some bounty, prestige or a chapbook which I’ve done often as an adult and I won a few competitions and received many generous grants from the UK Arts Council that included 7 reading tours 1991-2012 (from my debut at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival to a fabulous 2012 reading at the London Betsey Trotwood Pub) with air fare and expenses paid plus stipends. But, overall an impecunious poet all these years, I’ve never expected Big Bucks for my similes and hyperboles; I just always wrote because writing is what I do. I don’t enter competitions any more. It hurts too much now that I’m such an old lady to lose–and also, I don’t know how to master the password computer tech-torture to enter contests or apply for grants, especially that coveted NEA. My honorifics of the 1999 Forward Prize and the 1979 Pushcart “Excellent Writer” mention were very satisfying because my publishers had nominated me and those awards were icing on a cake I hadn’t had to bake for myself.

Geosi Gyasi: You’ve published about 22 books of poetry. Do you see yourself writing and publishing more books?

Joan Jobe Smith: Currently a collection of my poetry is being translated for publication next year by Manuel Domingos the distinguished Portuguese poet and editor of Medula Livros. Also, New York Quarterly has solicited a New and Selected collection of my poetry for publication summer, 2016. Hopefully, those new books will happen; the poetry publishing business right now–as always–is so precarious.

Geosi Gyasi: Are you a poet or writer?

Joan Jobe Smith:  May I be both!

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific style in which you write?

Joan Jobe Smith:  I don’t specify anymore. I used to try to emulate the goth of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, then the wit of comic books, the melodrama of radio soap operas when I was a child; then the smooth earnestness of Ernest Hemingway, the historical romp of Margaret Mitchell when I was a teen. In my 20s I tried to write like the humorist Jean Kerr, then the fatalistic Sylvia Plath, the romantic D.H. Lawrence, and then the verbose streamer of conscientiousness Virginia Woolf; then I met Charles Bukowski. And ka-pow: with his encouragement I became Me: a tell-all memoirist narrative blabbermouth! Similar to Buowski, I didn’t have much choice but to be a memoirist because my life has been so strange and hectic; some of the strangest stories I’ve ever heard have happened to me. About my “style”: a TLS litcrit calls my writing style “exuberant syntax.” The blues/rock music producer Sam
Charters called my style “go-go writing, dancerly.” A French critic called me “flamboyante.”

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have specific theme(s) you write on?

Joan Jobe Smith:  No.  Unless, that is, The Truth is thematic. I’m a realist narrator–with some occasional “magical realism”/hyperbole tossed in. If I haven’t lived it, I can’t write it. I do not have a good imagination. My own strange and hectic life interferes with and supercedes my imagination. I can’t pretend to be any one other than myself. I’m not an actress. I can only Be Me. Go where I’ve been, going and going, trying to go on and on. Picaresque Picaroon like a river-rafted Huck Finn or a Moors-meanderer Jane Eyre. Jerzy Kosinski said: “The Picaroon is always practicing the Art of Becoming.”Charlie Parker said: “If you haven’t lived it, it won’t come out your horn.”

Geosi Gyasi: How did you first come in contact with works of Charles Bukowski?

Joan Jobe Smith: In 1972 when I was a under-grad student at California State University Long Beach, I first heard of Bukowski from my poetry workshop professor Richard E. Lee. CSULB prof, the young Dr. Gerald Locklin, a big fan of Buk’s, was promoting Bukowski’s work and had seen to it that Buk’s books were available in the campus bookstore–the very first university/college to sell Buk’s work. So I bought The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills–and loved it. Finally: a poet whose voice spoke to me, rattled my intelligence, captured my heart. Leo J. Mailman, my future Pearl funding-go-getter, was also a big fan of Buk’s and ferreted funding to book Buk readings at CSULB twice a year; so soon I saw Buk read live upon the campus stage for the first time. And admired him more. As I did his then-girlfriend, the sexy-vexy Linda King, also a poet, whose saucy feminist poetry I featured in my 1974 first issue of Pearl.

Geosi Gyasi: What is it about Charles Bukowski’s works that you admire?

Joan Jobe Smith: His wit, his grit, his gutsy and original, invigorating Voice; his intuitive visions, his muscular sincerity, his courageous, iconoclastic genius, his tight-fisted, sometimes tough, most times tender grasp on a big, bad, rad, sad, mad, mad, mad world and his persuasive ability to inspire, incite, delight his reader, capture his/her heart in the hands of his sprightly, enlightened declaratives and imperatives.

Geosi Gyasi: Are you happy as a writer? Do you earn a living from writing?

Joan Jobe Smith:  Writing has always brought me joy as I go on and on trying to keep on becoming, direct my emotions find words to speak to the gods and goddesses, alleviate my loneliness and that lump in my throat, achieve enlightenment and acceptance of this big, bad, rad, sad, mad world that’s become1000 times worse since Bukowski died 20something years ago. There was a brief time, in 1979, when I thought I might earn a living from writing, or at least earn a windfall of a large advance for a book of mine (“Mr. & Mrs. Silverfish”) John Dodds, an editor at Simon and Schuster was interested in that I was proposing for my MFA thesis at University of California Irvine. But my mother fell ill and I had to care for her; Dodds’ wife Vivian Vance fell ill, and time and Dodds and the publishing world marched on. I’ve earned a bit of money internationally from my writings: sales of stories to journals and book royalties, grants, and prizes which I’m so thankful for since my writings, my subject matters and points of view are not mainstream, are often unusual and countercultural, and considered by some as politically incorrect.

Geosi Gyasi: Is it true that poets have a defined way of life?

Joan Jobe Smith: They, we poets sure try to define way of life. But basically, for me, I am busy trying to define the indiscernible and word scape the ineffable and refine my language to speak to the gods to help me find my way through life so’s to cope with all the austerities and “to care and not to care” and try to find answers to the ancient
mortally-coiling questions: What’s it all about? and WHY?

Geosi Gyasi: Could you give me a list of five favourite books?

Joan Jobe Smith:  Reflecting my own kind of “chauvinism”: I love books about women, preferably written by women (Colette, Margaret Mitchell, Anita Loos, screenplay writer Frances Marion, Alice Walker, Rachel Carson, Maya Angelou, Edna Ferber, Gloria Steinem, Barbara Ehrenreich–and my Mother Margie who wrote poignant poetic letters). And please don’t groan: I love Love Stories–preferably with happy endings–and I name as my Top 5 favourites today: Isak Dinesen’s “Babette’s Feast,” Daphne de Maurier’s Rebecca, Charles Bukowski’s Love Is A Dog From Hell, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, especially the chapter “Fantine” and if I might add a #6: Modernly, I am in love with the young contemporary writer from Pittsburgh U Lori Jakiela’s loving, forgiving memoir about lost-and-found Motherhood: Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe. And in conclusion if I may be so bold and carpe diem-ish: I like my own memoir written by a woman (me) TALES OF AN ANCIENT GOGO GIRL–a true-tale “glotessey” influenced subliminally by Bronte, Bukowski, D.H. Lawrence, Dickens and Victor Hugo–because my TALES have a happy ending.

END.


Crownfeathers and Effigies by Jerry Bradley

January 23, 2016
Photo: Crownfeathers and Effigies

Photo: Crownfeathers and Effigies

Year of Publication: 2014

Genre: Poetry

Publisher: Lamar University Press Books

“Crownfeathers and Effigies” is my first introduction to Jerry Bradley’s body of works. While I sought after the meaning of the title even before I began to read, it would all too soon become clear to me; that with tact discipline, Bradley tackles complex subjects, oftentimes told with wry humour. The poems have central themes of love, relationships, divorce, history, death, and so forth and are beautifully crafted in an equally beautiful language.

The opening first segment, “Broken Glass”, is the strongest with a pack of original, carefully composed language with a unique voice. “If you can bring nothing to this place but your carcass, keep out” —— while the inclusion of this quote from William Carlos Williams (an American poet often associated with modernism and imagism) prepares the readers mind, we are equally enthralled by the imagery that the poems in this collection leave us with by the end of the reading journey.

Bradley’s poems silently speaks into our souls in a way that “…only the poem says what cannot be said” p3 After reading each poem, as readers, we are tempted to question our souls, perhaps, in response to the subject matter in question. In “An Old Familiar Offering” we come across one of the most striking lines in this collection: “Money isn’t everything, but it sure keeps the kids in touch”. p4 As the saying goes that “money isn’t everything”, Bradley refreshes our minds and reminds us of the truthfulness of this old wise saying. As the first two lines of the second stanza compare money with God, one is left with outmost surprise at the play on words:

 

“Like God, he needs money, always has ——

and like his mother spends it.” p4

 

Bradley’s “Crownfeathers and Effigies” is divided into four segments, yet we notice in the end, how the individual poems come together to form a complete interesting book. Perhaps, the order in which the individual poems are arranged scores the full mark that ignites the readers’ interest from the first page. The first poem, Primer, for instance, is a voluptuous creation that hooks you in once you begin to read. The central theme in “Primer” is universal as love is a thing of the human heart, and a heart that is so fragile that “that is how a heart learns to break … then life repeats itself.” p1

The second segment however, opens with the poem, “Reel Life” where the main character in the voice of the first person “I” succumbs to the supernatural power of the moon: “feeling small under the moon, I cast my attention toward the far bank”. p31 Bradley tactfully provides room for even the supernatural in his poetry; bringing together the body, soul and spirit which all have important roles to play in the portrayal of mankind. In “Instructions Received in a Dream”, Bradley’s relation of forgetfulness to power and the relative use of dream and night is all the more truthful to life:

 

“Forgetting is a kind of power too,

like satisfaction and desire

and the stammering shadows

 

they make when they wake in the night.” p 37

 

Bradley’s poems are not your usual static-like poems on paper but are also lyrical and sing to the reader in a way that is pleasing to the ear. In the end, readers are left with unforgettable memories. In a deceptively simple poem, “What We Said”, Bradley offers us a conversational narrative ending in a way that gives much to think about:

 

“we both said things

neither of us meant

 

I said I can’t live without you

She said prove it” p75

 

All in all, the poems in “Crownfeathers and Effigies” is an affirmation of a writer who knows his craft best and as such, manages to woo readers along with ease; of which I am certainly a victim. The poems themselves sing to the reader in times when they ought to and tackle issues at the core of the human heart. There is a certain beauty that emanates from word to word while reading. Bradley, in just 91 pages, have woven words into lines in a special simple language that will completely leave you wanting more.


Interview with Scott Thomas Outlar, Author of “Songs of A Dissident”

January 18, 2016
Photo: Scott Thomas Outlar

Photo: Scott Thomas Outlar

Brief Biography:

Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa where links to his published poetry and fiction can be found. The site also features a page with an extensive list of links to literary venues, as well as a page dedicated to the work of other contemporary writers and artists. Scott’s chapbook “Songs of A Dissident” will be released in January 2016 through Transcendent Zero Press. His words have appeared recently in venues such as Yellow Chair Review, Dissident Voice, Dead Snakes, Harbinger Asylum, and Section 8 Magazine. He is always happy to connect with new people, so feel free to reach out and contact him on Facebook and Twitter.

Geosi Gyasi: To begin with, I find your obligatory biography quite intriguing. What do you mean by saying you “survived both the primordial fire and the cataclysmic flood”?

Scott Thomas Outlar: I, like everyone else, have had to deal with my fair share of suffering and sorrow so far while I’ve been alive in this world of flesh and blood. I’ve experienced the same sorts of tragic circumstances that are inherent to the human condition. The fiery flames of horror that burn one’s heart after losing a loved one did not kill me. The Biblical floods of righteousness that rage through the dogmatic sectors of society did not stop my progress. I have survived such things as these, and they have only made me stronger. I am a firm believer in the power of positive affirmation. The Great Yes to it All, however it may arrive. Yes to the sorrow. Yes to the suffering. Yes to the joy. Yes to the jubilation. Yes to the wars. Yes to the peacemakers. Yes to sickness. Yes to health. Yes to life. Yes to the eventual grave. Yes to the trials, tests and tribulations which force us to either adapt or perish. Yes to the chaos which forces us to evolve into higher states of order. I have learned how to survive, and I seek now to thrive. I have learned to survive, and I say now, Yes, Yes, three times Yes, and Hallelujah.

Geosi Gyasi: Were you born to be a writer?

Scott Thomas Outlar: It’s difficult to say for sure. Perhaps. I believe in both fate and freewill. There is a certain dharmic path that each of us is meant to walk in life, but no guarantee how soon or even how many lifetimes it will take to reach the destination. So every one of our choices through the process either accelerates or impedes the progress toward the ultimate goal. From a less metaphysical point of view I can say this: My Grandfather worked as a sports writer and editor at the Atlanta Journal Constitution for thirty years, retiring when I was still a young child and so didn’t really understand yet what it was he did. Some have said that the seed of writing is in my genes and blood. This may well be true. However, to account all of my craft to genetics is, I think, unfair, for it undermines the years of sacrifice and behind the scenes work put in to reach the point I’m at now where the first little taste of success is finally being enjoyed. I know this much: I was born to rebel against the corrupted institutions of this world; I was born to rant and rave; and I was born to set fires in the collective consciousness. Writing, I believe, is simply the best weapon I’ve found so far to use toward such ends.

Geosi Gyasi: How many poems are in your chapbook, “A Black Wave Cometh”?

Scott Thomas Outlar: Twenty-three poems; thirty-one pages.

Geosi Gyasi: Was it difficult securing a publisher for your chapbook, “A Black Wave Cometh”?

Scott Thomas Outlar: One of the poetry sites that has been very kind to me and where I have been fortunate enough to be published at frequently is Stephen Jarrell Williams’ Dead Snakes. Having an insatiable appetite for poetry, I also read the work of other poets there quite often. While at the site one day I happened upon a poem by Kristopher D. Taylor, and in his bio was a mention of the new venture he’d just undertaken, Dink Publishing. I immediately put together a batch of poems to send his way for consideration at the magazine being advertised. I received a positive response and an acceptance from Kristopher which prompted me to send the chapbook I had just recently compiled “A Black Wave Cometh” his way, as the site also had an open call for chapbook submissions. In the same vein as so many other occurrences that have happened while following leads such as this one, the chapbook was accepted. The moral of the story is this: When you see an open door, don’t hesitate, don’t stand around pondering whether or not to walk through…in fact, don’t walk at all. Run as if your life depended on it…because, if you are a writer, it very well may.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you give me a brief summary of your book, “Songs of A Dissident”?

Scott Thomas Outlar: This chapbook, my second, will be released in early 2016 through Houston, Texas based publisher Transcendent Zero Press, run by Dustin Pickering and Z.M. Wise. The title stems from some of the poems which have been published by Angie Tibbs at Dissident Voice, where I’ve been writing a weekly piece for a little over a year now. The work I do there is generally themed around politics and society, and I thought it would be a good idea to use a small selection of that work as the seed upon which to build a collection of verse. Dustin added a subtitle of “Protest Poems” to the chapbook, and I think this aptly describes the basic tenor of the material. Some of the points hit upon in “Songs of A Dissident” are my thoughts concerning the American Empire, the military industrial complex, the wars being waged around the world, the devious nature of the Federal Reserve and World Bank, Machiavellian politics, and a bit of conspiracy theory thrown into the mix just to spice things up.

Geosi Gyasi: You had more than 400 poems published in over 100 literary avenues in 2015. How did you achieve this feat?

Scott Thomas Outlar: A burning passion at the very core of my being along with an absolute obsession to make waves while announcing myself upon the literary scene are the underlying factors in whatever modicum of success I’ve been fortunate enough to achieve so far in the first year of submitting and publishing my work. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of the matter, it basically boils down to this: time, energy, focus, persistence, patience, proper perspective, mindfulness, and courage. A fearlessness in sending out my work, a willingness to make connections with editors, fellow poets, and my audience, and the ability to not only shake off rejection but to use it as a propelling force to work even harder are all key points that have moved me along the path. I’d also like to think that there is at least something fresh and unique about my style which captures the attention of those who read my words. I’m beyond thankful to have become acquainted with publishers whom my poetry seems to resonate with, and they have been extremely kind and gracious to continually allow me a forum in which to present my work.

Geosi Gyasi: Where do you get your ideas to write?

Scott Thomas Outlar: Some of them must be chased down…stalked like a hunter after his prey. Others must be delicately coaxed and caressed to slowly emerge from the seeds of dreams. But most of my ideas come unannounced from the levels of consciousness which are not exactly on the tip of the tongue. Hard to explain those types of mysteries. But the door to the unknown realms is always left wide open, and I am the sort of host that never turns down a guest who shows up to the party. The thoughts arrive and so we feast, dance, and make merry until the mood and excitement of the celebration have been captured upon the page. Such guests may have traveled from the war torn desserts of the Middle East; some come telling tales of corruption from the corridors of Washington, D.C.; some are full of fire and brimstone; some fall gentle as rain during the sweltering Summer; some are friends; some are foes; but all, as I say, are welcomed with open arms and a ready pen.

Geosi Gyasi: Is there any real difference between an essay and fiction?

Scott Thomas Outlar: Well, yes and no, depending upon the context of what type of essay is in question. If we are referring to a non-fiction essay about history, politics, religion, psychology, science, or any number of other fields of study, then yes, there is a mark of delineation which should be drawn. I sometimes dabble in these fields and try to hammer out something concrete, logical, and of sound reasoning in my effort to make sense of this mad world and society in which I live. In which we all live, I should say. However, the term I like to use when describing my work is: prose-fusion poetry; and by coining this term is such a way, I sought to essentially allow myself the leeway to combine any genre or form in any way I deemed fit at any given moment. A neat trick, that. It basically gives me a get-out-of-jail-free-card in which I’m allowed to roam without rules, regulations, or restrictions in how I choose to let the words flow. Borders, boxes, and boundaries have never been my preferred playground, and so the open fields of creativity are where I seek to frolic, combining the forms of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, essay, and any other specification in such a way that might give nightmares to those who are rigid in their perceptions of structure. Literally and figuratively, as the case may be.

Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever experienced writer’s block?

Scott Thomas Outlar: No. I have a complete trust and faith in the process by which I work. If something needs to come forth from my pen, it will. I don’t question it. I don’t second guess it. I don’t fret over it. I don’t get anxious wondering how it’s going to happen. It just is.

Geosi Gyasi: What is the best time to write?

Scott Thomas Outlar: My first thought is that whatever time it happens to be is the best time to write. In the morning when dreams are still buzzing through the synapses. In the afternoon while smoking the first cigarette of the day. In the evening after the sun has gone down and the crickets are creating the chorus to which lyrics can flow. I keep a pen and paper with me almost all of the time, and so if inspiration seizes my mind, I’ll crack out the tools and lay down some fresh ink. That being said, I am also a very habitual person, and so I am quite fond of my daily routines. These routines do tend to shift from time to time as I enter different phases of life, but while in a specific routine I try to use it for all its worth.

Geosi Gyasi: Where do you often sit to write?

Scott Thomas Outlar: Lately, most of my verse has been written on a picnic table that is situated in the woods at a local park near my home. It is a chance to get away from all technology, breathe some fresh air, seclude myself from other people, and allow nature to inspire my work. I’ve been doing this for many months now, almost daily, and it has been an amazingly productive session. There have been times where I’ve gone through phases of sitting down at the computer upon first waking and typing out first drafts. My books “Zero-Point Graduation” and “Raw Electric” were both written in this manner. But for the most part, I prefer to write everything by pen and then type it up afterwards. I think, ultimately, that there is no best time or place to write. All places and all times are perfect, depending on who it is doing the writing, what their intention is, and where they happen to be. The gist of it is: Just Write!

Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever received any negative criticisms of your writing?

Scott Thomas Outlar: I have to say that since diving into the depths of the publishing arena last Spring, I can count on one hand the times where I’ve received negative feedback on my work. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that a whole host of editors who gave my stuff a once over didn’t gag themselves with a spoon before sending out a rejection letter. I have, no doubt, had my allotment of rejections, which is part and parcel to the game, and is something I am sympathetic to and so have no issue with. On those rare occasions where someone has decided it was necessary to spend their precious time insulting my work, I must admit that I’ve found the comments to be quite amusing. The dirty little secret is that I have a bit of a masochistic streak which is alchemically mixed with just a hint of narcissism, and these dual energies cut a winding path through my soul…so when I receive negative feedback, it actually serves to fuel my ego and tickle my hubris bone in a way that I assume is not in alignment with whatever the initial intention of the clownish character who has leveled such insults my way had in mind. As I continue along this path I’m traveling I fully understand that more resistance will arise from those who don’t dig the whole vibe of the Renaissance which I so openly spout off about. I find this to be perfectly normal and acceptable, and, as I say, actually welcome to a certain degree. At the end of the day, my time and energy is singularly focused on the mission which I seek to accomplish with whatever time remains to me in this mortal flesh, so while I do get a kick out of the occasional dagger someone tries to place in my side, I honestly don’t have the luxury of worrying myself over it too much. There is a massive amount of work that lies ahead, and I’ve only just begun to start sowing the fields…

Songs of a Dissident

Songs of a Dissident

Geosi Gyasi: What was your first published poem?

Scott Thomas Outlar: “Three Part Harmony” – A poem I sent to the wonderful Angie Tibbs at Dissident Voice. I had published a few creative essays at DV by that time, and so thought I’d send a poem their way for consideration. Thankfully, it was accepted, and I’ve been publishing a weekly piece at the Sunday Poetry Page ever since. It was one of the more fortuitous events in my life so far, and I will forever be grateful to Angie for the confidence she had in my work which helped set the spark of confidence that is still burning now inside of me.

Geosi Gyasi: Which specific writer has had the greatest impact on your writing?

Scott Thomas Outlar: This is, quite possibly, the most difficult question you’ve posed thus far because the list of names of those who have influenced and inspired me through the years is long, and I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for each of the figures whom I would place upon it. To choose just one is a daunting task, but I’m never one to shy away from a decent challenge…so, in this context, at this particular moment, I will ring the bell and sound the alarm for the great Hunter S. Thompson. His style, his poignancy, his ability to cut to the quick against his foes, his fiery rhetoric, his hyperbolic exclamations, his fusion of politics and sports, his fast-paced lines, his rants, his drug-induced ramblings, his humor, his wit, his sharp bladed pen, his refusal to suffer fools – all of these characteristics resonate with thunder at my core. But it was just as much his rock star persona that attracts me to his words. The good doctor liked to strut around like a flamboyant peacock, and I dig that type of pizzazz with a passion. He was not just a writer, but a primal force of nature; not just a wicked wordsmith, but a wild beast of unbridled fury which was directed against those rotten swine in high offices who must be smashed and driven back into the sea. He was a beacon of light that burned out far too soon…or maybe not…after all, we all must leave this place at some point, so his having exited the stage of life on his own terms was probably the exact thing that needed to happen. His ashes were spread from high above his estate in Woody Creek, Colorado after being shot forth from a towering cannon built specifically for the occasion. It is from those ashes that the idea of the Phoenix Generation was born…

Geosi Gyasi: How often do you write from personal experiences?

Scott Thomas Outlar: From a certain perspective I suppose everything I write is based on personal experience, because even if I’m chronicling something which happened outside of my own consciousness, the words are still my own reflection on whatever that event might happen to be. There is no escaping the self at the end of the day, so it’s probably best to make peace with your own mind and welcome its thoughts as friends. That being said, when it comes to writing autobiographical poems or stories, I’d say it happens more often now than it used to, and I believe this is directly correlated to my having become more comfortable in my own skin over the past few years. When I was turned on to Bukowski last year I definitely entered into a phase where I wanted to shoot straight and say things as honestly as possible, without metaphor, without allusion, without abstractions, without pretentiousness, and without any fancy tricks or fluff. But, then again, I also enjoy using all these devices at times. I have no desire to ever permanently limit my range based on any particular structural system. I seek to keep my pistol loaded with as many different types of bullets as will fit in the chamber. There are many techniques of war in this world, so it’s nice to have a weapon ready for any occasion that may arise.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you spend much time completing a short story as compared to a poem?

Scott Thomas Outlar: My focus during the past year has been almost exclusively on poetry and so I haven’t written any short stories in quite some time, though I certainly do plan on doing so again at some point down the line. Poetry for me comes like lightning…all of a sudden it is on the page. I view my poems as I would a photograph that has been taken. Each one represents a snapshot of time. The emotions of each piece are tied to the specific moment in which it was created. So editing poetry is not something I do lightly. I tend to make as few changes as possible to the original intention from which the piece was inspired. There are exceptions to every rule, and so there are certain occasions when I’ll take a hatchet to a poem and largely rewrite it, but this is rare. A short story on the other hand is always fair game. Though the first drafts are usually written in a similar style as my poems, quickly and during one session, I feel that fleshing these pieces out is necessary in later edits. If a short story needs to go through ten drafts, so be it. If it’s good to go after one edit, that’s fine, also. I’m far more open to outside critique and suggestions on a story than I am on a poem. In fact, I welcome and encourage input on stories I’ve written. Whereas with a poem, I’m willing to listen to what anyone has to say, but ultimately they weren’t there with me in that moment it was being birthed from out of nothing, so it is rare if I’ll follow up with advised alterations. Again, there are exceptions. There have been some excellent recommendations editors have made to me that I’ve been thankful for. Context is always one of the most important aspects of any life circumstance, writing included. I just try to stay open to all possibilities while maintaining original integrity of ideas. You never know where gold might be found.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you gain anything from writing?

Scott Thomas Outlar: Not just anything…at this point everything. The words are my steam valve…a release point…an escape route…a way to tame the shadows…a way to embrace the light…a way to connect with what is boiling just below the surface levels of consciousness…a meditation on what I don’t yet understand about my own psyche…a reflection on what is happening in the world around me. If I didn’t write I would grow too full…I have to empty out to make room for more…a purge of the past…an embracing of the constantly renewing present moment. Writing is the remedy to the sorrows of this life. Writing is the medicine with which I dose away the suffering…but it always lurks right there at the edge of the mind’s awareness…so there must continue to be more words to keep the existential horrors at bay while simultaneously allowing the exclamations of exuberance to be released.

Geosi Gyasi: What are your future literary ambitions?

Scott Thomas Outlar: There is currently a general aura that hangs heavy over the indie poetry scene that is rooted in the downtrodden energy of apathy, disillusion, and nihilism, and that is burdened by the belief that making money, being successful, and having a steady career as a poet is next to impossible. From a certain perspective I can understand such a belief, as, up until now, it has been a rare case to see someone break through and emerge in the wider culture as a financially successful poet. However, it is my intention to not only prove such a theory as being wrong, but to drive a stake through its heart, bury it twelve feet deep in a grave, and then dance upon such a cemetery plot while singing a new high-spirited song with lyrics of affirmation and hallelujah vibrations. Partly my intention is to pave my own path toward such an outcome, but the larger cause has been and always will be to do whatever I possibly can to help herald the artistic Renaissance Revolution of a burgeoning community of writers and artists from all fields that shines a bright new light of consciousness into this decadent and corrupted modern day world. The mainstream, pop culture, shallow, vapid, vacuous, sold-out, propaganda laced, mass marketed, celebrity idol nonsense that is spewed forth from television screens and corporate radio stations is on its way out. The new wave artistic expression is set to rise. My bottom line, bottom dollar, bottom of the bowels roar is to announce such a happening, and to inspire confidence in my peers and contemporaries to start doing the same. Revolutionary movements are manifested through action, it is true, but before action there is intention, before intention there is belief, and before belief there is a dream. The nightmare of what passes for art these days is over, and the new dream is ready to come fully awake. I’m just here to help shake it loose from its coma.

END.


Interview with 2015 Cider Press Review Editor’s Prize Winner, Susan Azar Porterfield

January 12, 2016
Photo: Susan Porterfield

Photo: Susan Porterfield

Brief Biography:

Susan Azar Porterfield is the author of two book of poetry, In the Garden of Our Spines and Kibbe  (Mayapple Press) as well as of a chapbook Beirut Redux  (Finishingline).  She is the editor of Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk (Ohio UP) and has written on Stryk for Poets & Writers and The Writer’s Chronicle.  She is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Poetry and is the Associate Poetry Editor for Fifthwednesday Journal.  She is a Professor of English at Rockford University. Her manuscript of poems, “Dirt, Root, Silk” won the 2015 Cider Press Review Editor’s Prize.

Geosi Gyasi: Tell me something about your first book, “In the Garden of Our Spines”?

Susan Porterfield: A first book is always the writer’s apprenticeship, no matter how complete or mature it may or may not be. In the Garden of Our Spines is a short book, because even though I had many more pieces that I could have included—and the publisher had to prod me to include more—I only wanted to include poems that I was utterly sure of. The works in that book, more than anything else they may do for anybody else, show me how important I found the process of writing to be, not that I didn’t know this before, but I didn’t know that it was quite that important for me.

Geosi Gyasi: Did you struggle finding a publisher for your first book?

Susan Porterfield: “Struggle” is relative, I suppose. Yes and no. It didn’t take me that long—maybe a year of active looking—and “active” is also relative.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you think “In the Garden of our Spines” was a success?

Susan Porterfield: Well, there again, the word “success” is a minefield. I’m sure that all writers have different definitions of this concept. Did publishers in NYC come calling after the book came out? No. Is that success? One kind. Not sure if this is what you mean. Other kinds of successes: connecting with my audience (whoever read the book and took the time to tell me what they thought), connecting with myself as a poet (and this is no small thing, especially perhaps for women—I mean seeing themselves as having something worth saying, seeing themselves as having a right to try to infiltrate the canon), connecting with the empirical world on a special, more spiritual level. Well, then yes, it is a success.

Geosi Gyasi: What influenced your second book, “Kibbe”?

Susan Porterfield: Two things, really. My father is Lebanese, and because of him, I’d always had an interest in the country and culture of Lebanon. I’d never been able to visit, in large part because of the Lebanese Civil War. When it was over, however, I was in a position to be able to apply for a Fulbright to Lebanon and was accepted, so I spent some time there. My experience there also influenced the book.

Geosi Gyasi: What is the main difference between your first and second books?

Susan Porterfield: The second book centers around a theme—my time in Lebanon and what I found there in terms of my heritage, my father, Middle-Eastern politics. It’s also more narrative.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have any special theme(s) you often write on?

Susan Porterfield: I notice that I’m very attracted to science—particularly to theories about time and the universe, which is strange, since I was always a humanities person in school. I also am attracted to writing about animals—I think because they have no words and are as mysterious as the universe. Crazy, when you think about it, how we share this planet with them—the only other sentient beings in our sphere. Shouldn’t we pay attention? I write about social and political situations. I think that one of the great things that poetry (all art) has done is to confront or address the wrongs that we see in society. This has historically been one of the roles of art, and I like that. I’m impatient with art that only focuses on itself—art that’s only about art I find to be boring.

Geosi Gyasi: What is the best time to write?

Susan Porterfield: In the morning. In the afternoon. In the evening. In the middle of the night.

Geosi Gyasi: You have studied and taught in both London and Lebanon. Could you tell us what you know about these two countries?

Susan Porterfield: This is a big question. I’ll tackle Lebanon first, though I love both places. Lebanon breaks my heart. So beautiful, so fragile, situated as it is between Syria and Israel. Does it have a chance of survival? No one knows. The people are marvelous, trying to accommodate many different religions, to overcome the legacy of their brutal civil war and to live normal lives again. They are naturally drawn to beauty and to art; I think it’s in their bones. In their hearts, I think that they are a joyous people, but they also know darkness.

As for London, one of the world’s greatest cities. You are never at a loss for something to do in London. Just take to the streets, just walk around, and if you’re in a bad mood, that mood with soon lift. I’ve been both a tourist in London and I’ve worked there (I’ve also been a student—I have a M.A. in 19th-century British art from the Courtauld) and to me, there is very little difference. Yes, when you work there, your days are more routine, but the energy and excitement of the place is always there. It’s so alive, and I feel more alive when I’m there.

Geosi Gyasi: What is your greatest achievement as a writer?

Susan Porterfield: Knowing that not everything that I write is golden.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you remember your first piece of writing?

Susan Porterfield: Yes, I was eleven. It was about trees.

Geosi Gyasi: How is the process of writing like for you?

Susan Porterfield: Awful. Some people say that they “must” write. I never feel that way. Writing for me is always an act of will. I think this is so, because, for me, there’s so many opportunities to be disappointed. I’m not really sure why I do it, then, since it can be painful. I know, however, that I feel as if I’m not doing what I should if I’m not writing. And besides, if I feel that I’ve gotten something right, then, honest-to-God, nothing else compares.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you often do when a poem you’re writing is not going well?

Susan Porterfield: Depends upon when—if I just can’t get it, I’ll abandon the poor, little thing. If it’s just normal “not going well,” then I do this thing, where I put copies of the poem in places where I don’t expect it to be so that I can, if you will, just happen to come upon it and read it. It’s amazing how often, when I just “come upon” the difficult draft of a poem, I can jiggle it in ways that I couldn’t have just half a day earlier.

Geosi Gyasi: Is it profitable to be a writer?

Susan Porterfield: Of poetry? No, of course not. We don’t value it, which may be why it’s valuable.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you mind telling me a bit about your work as a Professor of English at Rockford College?

Susan Porterfield: Rockford College just became Rockford University—though it’s virtually the same place, but anyway, as is common at small, private schools, we teach 12 hour loads each semester, and in some ways, we are expected to be generalists. We do have our specialties, and mine is poetry and poetry writing as well as 19th-century British lit., which is what my Ph.D. is in, but, for example, I also teach the seminar on literary criticism. Our department is one of the largest at the university—we have 6 members.

Geosi Gyasi: What is the most boring part of writing?

Susan Porterfield: I’m sorry, I don’t think it’s boring. Frustrating, yes. Tragic, yes, sometimes. Maddening, yes. But boring? No.

Geosi Gyasi: Are you a fan of short poems?

Susan Porterfield: I really am. I love those pieces that can say so much with few words. It’s thrilling. Like a punch to the head or gut—like a remarkable piece of music. You don’t have time to think; it just gets you.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you engage in poetry performances?

Susan Porterfield: Not in the traditional sense. Though all poetry readings are performance, or should be.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you consider as the greatest poem you’ve ever written?

Susan Porterfield: The one I haven’t written on paper yet.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you tell me anything about your birthplace, Chicago?

Susan Porterfield: A remarkable place. I still live near Chicago, and like any great city, it has its own character. I would say, for me, Chicago is and always will be home. It can be brutal, we know, but it’s the Midwest. It’s accepting of others, other cultures, oddities—whoever you are, you could have a place there. People truly are friendly and, unlike NYC, not really in-your-face. Midwesterners tend to avoid confrontation. Live and let live. It’s odd for me to say this, when we think of the whole Chiraq thing, but it’s a gentle place, deep down.

Geosi Gyasi: What are your future literary aspirations?

Susan Porterfield: To learn to be the best poet I can, to write better (more insightfully, more intelligently) every day.

END.


Interview with James W. Moore, Author of “I Am the Maker of all sweetened possum”

January 8, 2016
Photo Credit: Frances Binder

Photo Credit: Frances Binder

Brief Biography:

James W. Moore is a writer living in Winooski, VT. His work has appeared on Vermont Edition, and in the Houston Chronicle and Found Poetry Review. I Am the Maker of all sweetened possum, his debut collection of found poetry from Scarlet Sister Mary, was published by Silver Birch Press in 2014. As a playwright, he is responsible for in apparaticart, [an adaptation of] Robin Hood, and Ubu’s Last Krapp, amongst others. His on-line home is jameswmoore.wordpress.com

Geosi Gyasi: You’re often regarded as a poet and playwright. Do you have a special preference over the other?

James W. Moore: I do not have a special preference – I go through phases where I focus more on one than the other. Lately I’ve taken to calling myself a writer, as it allows me more freedom to pursue whichever avenue currently occupies my fascination. There’s a set of short stories, for example, that would quite like to see the light of day…

Geosi Gyasi: Do you continue to live in Winooski, VT? If so, could you tell me a little bit about the place?

James W. Moore: I do live in Winooski, VT with my wife, two cats and a fish. Winooski is a lively, developing community – a one-mile square town right next to Burlington. Its name means “the wild onion place,” which sounds just about right. There is a lot going on: housing has been affordable enough that Winooski is home to a good number of Vermont’s refugee population and also to young professional folks. It feels to me like there is a real pull between how to provide for both groups. I love it here, and I hope to see it sustain all of its residents. Intriguing side story: in the 70’s, there was a real push to cover the town with a dome – R. Buckminster Fuller was involved, plans were drawn, but the dome never came into being.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you give me a brief synopsis about your book, “I Am the Maker of all sweetened possum”?

James W. Moore: “I Am the Maker of all sweetened possum” is a series of found poems created from Julia Peterkin’s book Scarlet Sister Mary. Inspired by a National Poetry Month initiative from the Found Poetry Review, I used a variety of mediums to cover, obscure, and manipulate the text in order to create new poetry out of Peterkin’s already poetic work. I think of the book as part poetry, part art project, and part suggestion that people rediscover this unique book.

Geosi Gyasi: Was it difficult finding a publisher for “I Am the Maker of all sweetened possum”?

James W. Moore: It was not as difficult as I had imagined, actually. Silver Birch Press had linked to an unrelated found poem on my blog, and in a series of emails, I mentioned this text, and everything fell into place quite nicely. I feel pretty lucky that they stumbled upon my work and took an interest in more. Silver Birch is a very avid supporter of found poetry.

Geosi Gyasi: How do you often start a poem?

James W. Moore: I usually start a poem with a gesture or a moment – something that caught my eye or ear. Sometimes it’s immediately recognizable as poetry; other times, it struggles to make itself a poem. For example, I saw a person kneeling to tie their shoe, and there was something in the movement, how they reached and almost melted down, that felt like a poem to me. It still lingers somewhere in a journal though, decidedly non-poemed.

Geosi Gyasi: How do you often end a poem?

James W. Moore: I end a poem when I know that to write more would ruin it.

Geosi Gyasi: Who is a found-poet, if I may ask?

James W. Moore: I really like this question. I think anyone who finds poetry in their life is a found poet. A found poet is a person who jots down that overheard line at the bar because there’s some beauty in it. It’s the person who underlines that sentence in a book that changed their life. I’ve started to think that all poetry is found poetry – we find an image, a moment, a word that says something, and we try to make it say that thing to more people than just us.

Geosi Gyasi: How long did it take you to write your play, “cart”?

James W. Moore: All told, cart took two years to write. It started as a sketch of a frustrated man taking his aggression out on a metal shopping cart, which I sat on for a few months (the sketch; not the cart). Then it became a 20-page script about being somewhere one shouldn’t be. Over the course of a residency at Caldera Arts, it became a more completed story about conformity, racism, and the dangerous mistakes we make when we vent frustration outwards instead of finding out what’s really behind it. The rehearsal process for the world premiere at defunkt theatre really crystallized what it was and wasn’t. There’s nothing like hearing your words from other people’s mouths to help you realize what you’re doing.

Geosi Gyasi: How did you come to write, “in apparati”?

James W. Moore: in apparati came together more quickly. The piece came about as a response to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. I was sickened by the idea that people could be held for any duration without stated reason or trial. A number of people called the situation Kafkaesque, and the idea took off from there. My four prisoners are unnamed and held by two guards – one convinced of his mission and the other…not as convinced. I wanted to say something about what happens to us as a country if we put our stamp on actions like this. It’s not a traditional protest piece, nor is it a traditional jail break piece – though it has elements of both. It’s like Beckett and Kafka put together a science fiction protest piece.

Gyasi: What’s the inspiration behind, “wish”?

James W. Moore: wish. is a twisted little piece that looks at how two people try and fail to connect through their interaction with a boy who might have killed his mother. It was inspired by a real case that took place in my home town of Salem, Oregon. The whole incident seemed so unreal and so strangely out of sync with our town and the people I know – so this other-world version of the incident emerged as an attempt to understand how something like this happens. I actually started writing that piece in college. It was a pretty compact 30 page play – too long for a one act, too short for a full-length. It was only when a show we had planned on producing fell through that I worked with a cast to improvise a more fully fleshed out script. The director, actors, designers, and I ended up with a completely different beast than I would have imagined. As an example, there is now a scene where a puppet hamster sings a rock ballad.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you come from a family of writers? Can you say something about the musical collaboration you did with your brother, Richard E. Moore?

 James W. Moore: My grandmother was a poet, and my great-grandmother was a writer. I also come from a family of artistic enablers. If we wanted to do something, we were encouraged everywhere. My mom always supports our creative endeavors, and my grandparents were the first to introduce me as an artist, instead of as a legal secretary (the job I held at the time).

My brother and I have collaborated for years. We made sock puppet shows as children, and Richard designed sound for a number of shows I directed or wrote. He is a talented singer-songwriter, and an award winning sound designer and composer in his own right. When the (brilliant) director of the Northwest Children’s Theater, Sarah Jane Hardy, suggested that the two of us take on an indie-rock version of Rapunzel, it was a no-brainer. We had a lot of fun bandying ideas back and forth and creating a whole world that worked for us as a funny, engaging show for kids and their parents and/or adult friends. There were many late night chats, emails, phone calls with flashes of inspiration and random musical jokes. He is one of the easiest people with whom I have had the pleasure of working.

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever tried acting?

James W. Moore: Acting is where my love of theatre began. I have acted for the past 22 years, and I still get nervous in that moment before I step on stage. I love that energy between my fellow actors and the audience. The Back Door Theater (where I spent most of my acting time) was in the back of a coffee house and held 40 people. On a good night, we’d have 2/3rds of that in the house. The intimacy this created really made you feel like they were part of the show. It was lively, surprising, and never the same experience on any given two nights. Lately, my wife and I have been more and more interested in dance as a theatrical performance. While I love words and love working with scripts, there is something empowering and especially challenging in trying to communicate with an audience without those tools…

Geosi Gyasi: Do have a special purpose for why you write?

James W. Moore: If there is a common thread in my writing, it’s in trying to find beauty in any/all parts of our world. I want to use a slightly fractured lens to look at how I (and we) live life – holding up all of it for examination – not necessarily in a critical way, but in a way that takes nothing for granted. It’s not just the beautiful earth that we live on that’s amazing – it’s also the fact that I have a working machine that is my body and keeps me alive and engaged with the world, and when my shoe is untied, all of this stuff works together to help me kneel down and tie my freakin’ shoe. And that’s also amazing.

Geosi Gyasi: What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

James W. Moore: Getting over my own doubts. In my work as a teacher, I am always encouraging students to be do-ers and to get out of their own way. However, as a writer, that’s exactly what hangs me up. I doubt, so I don’t write. I doubt, so when I do write, I don’t submit that work. I doubt, so I freeze up. It’s a nightmare, really.

Geosi Gyasi: Which specific writer do you regard as your favourite?

James W. Moore: Hands down, it’s got to be Mac Wellman (poet, playwright, theatre thinker). Wellman uses language in such interesting ways – he is easily our most linguistically playful writer. For him, language is a tool to communicate, but it is also a tool that constrains us. He explores (and/or makes fun of) the difficulty of how to convey unique thoughts in a language that is hamstrung by cliché. Wellman pushes us further and deeper into the dark side of language, fully embracing deep cuts from the OED, streams of profanity and half-unfinished words to create an image of America unlike any other I’ve seen. It’s challenging work that is certainly not to everyone’s taste, but if you surrender yourself to him, he’s an enthralling creator. As a writer, he encourages me to look beyond what’s easy and go further, go harder.

Geosi Gyasi: What are your hopes and aspirations as a teacher?

James W. Moore: My hope and aspiration as a teacher is to empower students to find answers and not settle. I want to encourage students to communicate clearly face to face and to take chances and explore different avenues. Our culture encourages us to seek confirmation from the outside world; I want to encourage learners to find their own satisfaction and let them find out who they are without relying on others. I want them to be informed, engaged members of our communities. So…ya know…nothing big…

Geosi Gyasi: What do you think of the future of poetry?

James W. Moore: It’s so bright, I have to wear shades. Poets are finding new ways to get their work read or heard or seen – and the internet is providing many avenues for that. In a time where people are embracing “old school” information delivery systems (like vinyl), it seems like the printed version of poetry isn’t necessarily going anywhere either. It all just feels full of possibility to me – but then, I’ve always been an optimist (wrapped in a cynic’s skin).

Geosi Gyasi: Do you hope to continue writing found poetry?

James W. Moore: I do hope to continue writing found poetry. It breaks me out of my shells and tricks. I have a way that I like to write poems, and when I am forced to use the tools of another, it pushes me in new directions. My own written poetry has gotten stronger since playing with the words of Peterkin, Douglas Adams, the Coen Brothers, my friends, etc… I also find that when I don’t know what to write, found poetry is a great version of a prompt. I can take a page of whatever I’m reading and mess with it. I have a blackout tool on my computer so I can hack away at any web page that is currently stalling me from writing. Found poetry helps me always be creating.

Geosi Gyasi: I learnt from online that you’re fond of making shortbread. This may sound silly but who taught you how to make shortbread?

James W. Moore: In a way, my mother taught me how to make shortbread. I did learn to bake from her, but she taught me a more important lesson than just how to make that one kind of cookie. She told me that as long as I could read the instructions, I could do anything. So I learned to make shortbread by reading the recipe. I had heard that shortbread was difficult to make, but I find it rather relaxing and soothing. And so freaking delicious.

Geosi Gyasi: Who taught you how to build Adirondack chairs?

James W. Moore: And here’s the same answer. I learned it by reading the directions. In fact, my mother actually bought me the instructions for how to build our Adirondack chairs. I learned my basic tool usage from my parents (and my grandfather) (and some set designers in my work in the theatre) and applied what I knew to the new task. It probably took longer than it would take a skilled carpenter – but the fact that I built them makes them that much more cozy…

Geosi Gyasi: You have the liberty to ask yourself a question and answer it?

James W. Moore: What will you do directly after finishing this interview?

James W. Moore: I will go outside and see if the laundry on the line is dry. If so, I’ll take it down and fold it, and I’ll hang up the next load. If not, I’ll let it keep drying. And then: lesson planning…

END.


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