Category Archives: “10 questions for….” interview series

10 Questions for Louise Halvardsson

Louise HalvardssonLouise Halvardsson is a Swedish novelist and performance poet who spent 10 years in Brighton, UK. After her latest book Swenglish, a personal study of life in Sweden and England, she moved back to the country of her birth. See www.louisehalvardsson.com

.

.

.

Interview with: g emil reutter

L4

GER: Tell us about your Swenglish Project and the documentary related to the project.  

LH: It all started with a midlife crisis. Well, you could argue that I’m too young for such a crisis, but in Swedish there’s a word for it: “the 30-year-old-crisis”. I’d reached a point in my life where I felt fed up with pretty much everything, so I decided to live other peoples’ lives for 30 weeks. One part of the crisis was that I didn’t know which country to live in: Sweden or England. I stayed with 30 different people, half of them in Sweden and half of them in England; for a week I observed their everyday life and took part in their activities – including going to work with them. I also had to eat the same food as my hosts and follow their patterns of sleep. Now I’ve written a book about my journey and there’s also a filmmaker in Brighton who has documented parts of my adventures. The original aim was to focus on cultural differences and similarities between the two countries, but in the end it turned out to be more of a personal story. At the moment I’m in Gothenburg, but the conclusion is that I still don’t know where I really want to live … And I couldn’t decide which language to write the book in, so that has delayed the publishing process.

poindGER: Your latest novel project is “Punk industrial hard rocker with attitude”. Share with us the development of the novel and what was your inspiration?

LH: Punk industrial hard rocker with attitude is my first book and was published a few years ago in Sweden and won an award for best debut young adult novel. It was never meant to be a teen novel; I see it more as a crossover, a coming-of-age-story for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider. It started with a short story about a girl wanting to become cool and then I just kept on writing, using loads of old diary extracts from when I was a teenager. In a way it’s a fictionalised document of my last few years at school. The title deals with the frustration of not fitting into a box. Being too cool for the geeks, but not cool enough for the rockers. When I grew up I felt that you had to choose, you could not be both a punk and a heavy metal chick. The writing is very honest, I wanted to show what happens in the bedroom as well as in the toilet …

My latest novel project is “Replacing Angel”, a novel set in Brighton with a Swedish girl as the protagonist. It’s about wanting to live somebody else’s life, but realising that your own life isn’t too bad after all.

L1
GER: You are a performance poet as well as a page poet. You have said, “If it wasn’t for the poetry I would tear my hair and slit my wrists. Poetry keeps me on track”. Tell us how poetry keeps you on track?

L6

LH: I didn’t use to take poetry seriously. It was something I did for fun and to release emotions. For many years I saw it as my hobby, something I did that wasn’t related to “writing work”. You never hear about someone hating their hobby or being fed up with their hobby, if that’s the case they quit. And that’s how I found a freezone: poetry was just a hobby, and through the performance poetry scene I made loads of friends and could forget the woes of novel writing. I do like novel writing but it’s such a long and lonely process that it can make you go mad. A couple of years ago something changed though. I started winning poetry slam competitions and all of a sudden poetry became more than a hobby. Funnily enough I’ve made more money from poetry than novel writing lately … I have to remind myself not to take it too seriously. I want to keep the fun bit in. What really helps when I’m stuck in my novel writing is to write a poem, find an open mic and go for it. Instant publication.

GER: You write short fiction as well as poetry. Do you have a preference and why? 

LH: Poetry! It works better when I have a feeling or a thought that I need to process. I’m not always up for crafting full sentences and thinking of a structure and a story. My poems have always been free from rules. I find it really hard to write short fiction that works. It’s something I have to force myself to do, but in 2010 I think it was, I decided to dedicate a whole year to short fiction and it paid off with quite a few publications and performances.

GER: What poets/writers have inspired you to a life in the literary arts?

 LH: Many! I’m a big fan of J.D. Salinger. He didn’t publish very much, but the work he did publish has had a big impact on the world. I much prefer authors who publish three books in their lifetime to authors who write a book a year. I also have romantic visions of the beat poets and their lifestyle. But there are two Swedish authors, Linda Skugge and Unni Drougge, who have meant more to me than anyone else. They’re both very strong and outspoken and inspired me to go my own way. The UK poet Bernadette Cremin is another amazing person and writer who has encouraged me to write and perform.

L7GER: How important is it to you to have your poems and stories appear on line and in print?

LH: Very important. Today I received Stand magazine where one my stories is included and it made my day, reminding me that I’m a writer for real, not just a dreamer. And seeing my work in Fox Chase is equally important; it’s nice to have something to show the world. As it has been a long time since my first novel was out, it’s good that other things are happening while I’m waiting for the next big publication. It’s all about the journey. Every single publication is an encouragement to keep on writing and it makes it easier to deal with rejections. Even though it’s not much money – or sometimes no money – in it, it’s worth a lot to see your work in print and online; it confirms my identity as a writer. Publication of shorter work works better online than in print nowadays – it’s great to be able to share links on social media. I don’t know anyone who goes out to buy a literary magazine unless they’re a very dedicated writer.

L2GER: You participate in poetry and story slams. Tell us how the slam concept works and how your team interacts with each other?

LH: You’ve got three minutes to perform a poem without any props. People in the audience volunteer as judges and give you points between 0,0 and 10. There are usually different rounds and you count up the points at the end. Sometimes there are team competitions and up to four people perform a poem together and you compete with other teams based on the same rules as in an individual slam. At national competitions, different districts compete against each other and individual scores and team piece scores are added together.

I love poetry slam because anyone can take part. You don’t need any education, you don’t have to be good at spelling, you actually don’t need to be good at all: you just have to brave enough to step up on a stage. As anyone can judge the competition the scoring is very subjective and therefore you shouldn’t take it too seriously. The point is not the point – the point is the poetry as they say.

GER: Recently you have participated in workshops. How important is it to your development as a writer to attend workshops and how does it feel to be metaphor wrestler?
L3

LH: In order to develop both as a person and a writer you need to try new things. I think workshops are great for learning new skills or brush up on old skills you’ve forgotten about. I decided to take part in a metaphor wrestling workshop last year and it was fantastic. I don’t use metaphors that much in my writing so it was a great challenge and the fact that you had to improvise a lot forced me to let go and come up with some crazy things. You create an alter ego character and then you go up on stage and are only allowed to speak in metaphor as you battle against another character, trying to come up with more and more hilarious things. I now feel much more confident about using metaphors in my novel writing as well, but using it with care.

GER: Shake the Dust is a project run by Apples & Snakes. Tell us of your involvement in the project and how you see the project influencing poetry.

IMG_4656 (2)LH: It was a project that was linked with the Olympics in London. Experienced poetry coaches travelled round to schools all over England to make teenagers write poetry and join poetry slam teams. I was assisting the poetry coach Michael Parker and we had great fun, playing creative games and getting the teenagers to write without it feeling like writing. I think it was a very important project because a lot of young people realised that poetry can be cool! It’s not just about reading the old classics: poetry can be about your life here and now. The team we coached made it to the national finals and seeing how the young people we’d worked with had developed was amazing. In the beginning they were very worried about spelling and writing the right thing, but they found their own voices and some of them said they would carry on writing after the project because it made them feel so good.

L5

GER: Tell us five things we should know about you and why?

LH:  

  1. I find it very boring to go to the toilet. But this is also where I get a lot of ideas and I can’t help sneaking toilet scenes into my writing.
  2. I don’t use much make-up, but I always paint my nails. It makes me happy to see my coloured nails move over the keyboard.
  3. I wish that my mother tongue were English. It’s the world language and even though I master English quite well, I’ll never be as good as a native speaker.
  4. I once broke into London Zoo. You’ll get to read about it one day …
  5. I dream about milking a cow and driving a moped. Sometimes it’s important to do something that is completely unrelated to writing.

.

The fiction of Louise Halvardsson is forthcoming in the Winter 2014 edition of The Fox Chase Review. Previous work has appeared at this link in The Fox Chase Review. http://www.foxchasereview.org/11June/LouiseHalvardsson.html

You can watch and listen to Louise on YOUTUBE at this link: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Louise+Halvardsson+&sm=3

Sanna HellbergSome photographs appearing in this article courtesy of : Sanna Hellberg- 

http://www.sannahellberg.com/

.

g emil reutter bw almost uptown poetry cartel 2g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa.
.

10 Questions for Linda Nemec Foster

LindaPortrait2009- Photo Courtesy of Robert TurneyLinda Nemec Foster graduated magna cum laude from Aquinas College and received her M.F.A. from Goddard College. From 1980-2002, she taught poetry workshops for the Michigan Creative-Writers-in-Schools Program.

Foster is the author of nine collections of poetry: A History of the Body (Coffee House Press, 1987); A Modern Fairy Tale: The Baba Yaga Poems (Ridgeway Press, 1992); Trying to Balance the Heart (Sun Dog Press, 1993); Living in the Fire Nest (Ridgeway Press, 1996) which was a finalist for the Poet’s Prize; Contemplating the Heavens (Ridgeway Press, 2001); Amber Necklace from Gdansk (Louisiana State University Press, 2001) which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry; Listen to the Landscape (Eerdmans Publishing, 2006) which was short-listed for the Michigan Notable Book Award; Ten Songs from Bulgaria (Cervena Barva Press, 2008); and Talking Diamonds (New Issues Press, 2009) which was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s 2010 Book of the Year in Poetry.

Over 300 of her poems have appeared in various magazines and journals. In 1997 she founded the Contemporary Writers Series (CWS) at Aquinas College and currently is a member of the Series’ programming committee.  You can visit her at: http://www.lindanemecfoster.com/

TalkingDiamonds-Cover

GER: Tell us about your latest release Talking Diamonds and the inspiration behind the development of the collection.

LNF:  Talking Diamonds was published in 2009 by New Issues Poetry & Prose    (sponsored by Western Michigan University) and was the culmination of six years of writing the poems and sequencing the collection.  During most of that time, the title was different but the theme of the manuscript was always the same:  death, loss, faith, doubt, and the strong redemptive effect of art on the human psyche.  From the first poem, “The Field Behind the Dying Father’s House,” to the last, “Trinity,” there is a progression of imagery and metaphor that speaks to the life journeys we all experience.  The book is divided into three parts:  the first section deals with death and loss; the second part deals with how the landscapes we live in influence our sense of transitions; and the final section is devoted to ekphrastic poems–all the poems are inspired by visual art.  During the time I was drafting and revising the manuscript, I was dealing with a number of losses in my life–including the declining health of my father.  He died two months before the book was published.  That experience (and others) really influenced my creative process and the poems I was writing at the time.  When I started sending the collection out for publication, I actually thought that no editor would be interested because of its somber tone but I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) “lighten it up.”  When New Issues Press accepted the manuscript in the spring of 2008, editor William Olsen was impressed with its distinctive voice and lack of guile:  in other words, I was correct to follow my instincts and not try to “re-work” the poems.  Olsen also saw the collection as being more about transformation than strictly loss.  He suggested the book’s title from one of the poems that reflected this theme and it was “Talking Diamonds.”  I’m indebted to his careful and diligent reading of my work.

linda nemec foster 2GER: You have a long history of conducting workshops for poets. What are the benefits to the poets who attend and the benefits to you?

LNF: I’ve taught creative writing workshops for over 30 years.  From 1980-2002, I was very involved with the Creative-Writers-in-the-Schools sponsored by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs.  This program placed poets and writers in K-12 schools (both public and private) throughout the state of Michigan in residencies that lasted anywhere from several days to several months.  On the average, I would do 3-5 residencies in an academic year.  I loved interacting with the students (especially in grades 4-12); their enthusiasm and interest were infectious and always inspired my own work in the process.  The most memorable workshop I conducted during those years was in the spring of 1996.  I spent a week at an elementary school in Grand Rapids (with 3rd and 4th graders) where most of the student population were either Hispanic or African-American.  In the middle of that week, there was an after-school shooting in the playground.  Miraculously, no one was killed or seriously injured but it did “shake-up” the city.  This incident really gave my students in the poetry workshops a sense of purpose when they came to school the next day.  They all wanted to write about the incident; I channeled that desire to focus not on guns and violence but on their sense of identity in the community.  It was such a positive experience that the Grand Rapids Press did a major two-page article on the workshops.  I’ve also taught on the college level as an adjunct professor and guest lecturer on quite a number of campuses in the Midwest and elsewhere.  And I’ve lead community workshops for adults in art centers, libraries, museums, and galleries.  The most satisfying was a Master Level class I taught in 1999 at the Detroit Institute of the Arts:  I was awarded a teaching fellowship by the National Writer’s Voice (sponsored by their NYC office) to conduct an advanced poetry workshop.  The theme of the workshop was ekphrastic poetry and I used the exhibits at the Institute as springboards to assign the poetry exercises.  There were only nine participants–all women–who had gone through a competitive submission process to be accepted for the program.  As the semester progressed, I realized they were all fine writers who wrote  poetry that inspired my own writing–every exercise I gave them, I also did.  Several of these former students have gone on to win awards and publish books.  Nothing is more satisfying for a teacher.

GER: You have received a number of awards and grants. How important was it to your writing career to have received such recognition?

LNF: When I was at Goddard College studying for my MFA in creative writing, one of my teachers and mentors Stephen Dobyns had a discussion with me about awards, grants, etc.  His advice was not to be obsessed with winning recognition–just keep focused on the work.  But I have to admit, it is a wonderful feeling to get accolades for  your poetry.  My books have been finalists for the Ohio Book Award (Amber Necklace from Gdansk), ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year (Talking Diamonds), Michigan Notable Book Award (Listen to the Landscape), and the Poet’s Prize from the Roerich Museum (Living in the Fire Nest).  My work has also received awards from the Arts Foundation of Michigan, ArtServe Michigan, the National Writer’s Voice, and the Academy of American Poets, among others.  I was also selected to be the first Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Probably the most notable recognition was winning the Creative Arts Award from the Polish American Historical Association.  The award was presented to me at a ceremony at the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C.  The fact that all four of my grandparents immigrated to America from Poland made this award particularly significant.  I felt honored and humbled–as if the legacy of my family was also recognized.  Obviously, it is wonderful to have these kinds of affirmations for my poetry.  But, after all is said and done, Dobyns was right.  It really is the work that ultimately matters.  Without it, there really can’t be anything else.

linda nemec foster 3

GER: A large body of your work has been published. Where do you get the inspiration for your poems? What is your process of crafting each one?

LNF: Another teacher of mine, Ken Mikolowski at Wayne State University, once told the  class that “anything can be poetry, not everything is.”  In other words, anything you experience can become the inspiration for a poem.  The difficult work is transforming that experience–with a unique voice and vision–into a poem that can be accessible to the reader/listener yet can maintain a palpable mystery in its core.  I have gained my inspiration from family tragedies to strangers’ random conversations I overhear in restaurants, from crass tabloid headlines to extraordinary works of art.  Anything is possible and everything should be on the table.  Regarding my process, when I write a poem I always start by writing in longhand.  I go through 5-10 drafts on yellow legal notepads before I continue to draft and revise on the computer.  That’s when I see the shape of the poem as the line breaks, stanza breaks, and general form can be visualized.  In my process, the content comes first and then the form.  But both have to work as seamless, intertwined entities for a poem to truly become a unique vision.  It’s the ultimate balancing act.  “Without a net,” as another mentor joked.

Amber NecklaceGER: Tell us about your collection Amber Necklace  and the inspiration behind the collection.

LNF: Amber Necklace from Gdansk was published in 2001 by Louisiana State University Press.  This full-length collection of poems was inspired by my Polish-American heritage and the first visit to my family’s homeland in 1996.  The book reflects on the immigrant experiences of my grandparents–an experience of loss and discovery, of ambivalence and pride, of deep tragedy and redemption.  My own ethnicity as the daughter of second-generation immigrants from Poland is colored by America’s somewhat disinterested view of the “other” Europe–only recently emerged from history’s dark shadow–and of a country that for over a hundred years did not exist as a political entity on a map.  In the book’s opening poem, “The Awkward Young Girl Approaching You,” I struggle with this sense of ethnic identity:      “Who will speak for the dispossessed,/those who come from nowhere,/whose birthplace cannot be found/on any map…?”    My attempts to reclaim an ethnic heritage, to search for myself in the mirror of my family’s history, resonate throughout the poems.  Divided into four parts and employing a variety of styles and forms, the collection moves from lyric childhood memories and descriptions of immigrant life to prose poems that interweave the mythic past with the present.  Amber Necklace from Gdansk captures the sense of loss that can still permeate Poland–from Chopin’s self-exile, to the silence of rain, to the overwhelming horror of the Holocaust–and concludes with a group of poems that reveals resilience in the face of a haunted past and an iconoclastic present.  I have been back to visit Poland six times since 1996, but that first trip was truly a significant touchstone in my life and an amazing wellspring of inspiration for my writing.  It is my hope this book is a testament to the land, history, and culture of my ancestors.

GER: What poets do you read and who are your favorites?

LNF: I have a long list of poets who are my favorites:  Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Dylan Thomas, William Shakespeare, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lisel Mueller, Seamus Heaney, Phil Levine, Stephen Dobyns, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Heather McHugh, Li-Young Lee, Linda Pastan, Marilyn Nelson, Linda Hogan, Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert, Wislawa Szymborska, Adam Zagajewski.  The list can go on and on.  Extraordinary, rich, and diverse voices that I read again and again to make some sense of this world and my place in it.

linda nemec foster 4

GER: What advice would you give emerging poets on the submission process?

LNF: Have a thick skin!  The submission process is very competitive.  When you consider that some magazines and journals accept less than 5% of the work submitted, you can understand how many poets compare the whole process to a lottery system.  Book publishing (and I’m not talking about self-publishing) is also challenging.  Very good resources for submissions are the regular columns in Poets & Writers Magazine and the annual publication of The International Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses.  The latter resource is excellent for emerging poets since it gives them a good sense of editors and who, what, and why they publish.  In the submission process, patience and persistence are sometimes just as important as talent.  It demands time and energy–a different kind of energy that is used in the creative process–but you just have to stick with it.  Do your homework.  Read and research those publications you’d like to submit to.  If you’re  just starting out, don’t submit work to The New Yorker.  Concentrate on those publications that are open to and encourage new and emerging poets.

GER: How important is it to you as a poet to share your work with audiences at poetry readings?

LNF: Let’s be honest:  being a poet can be a lonely profession.  The creating, crafting, and revising of poems demand concentration, time, energy, and discipline.  For me, it is very important to “get out into the world” and share my work with audiences on a regular basis.  Some poets don’t like to give readings and/or are not very good at public presentations.  I’ve heard some famous poets give awkward, poor readings and some relatively unknown poets give wonderful readings.  The bottom line is that a poem should be strong on the page and in the voice.  After all, poetry started as a purely oral tradition long before the invention of paper, the letterpress, or the laptop.  

LindaNemecFoster-3GER: Tell us about the poetry scene in Michigan in particular various reading series.

LNF: There are several very fine reading series in Michigan.  The one that I am most familiar with is the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.  I founded the Series (along with my husband) in 1997 and we have hosted some of the finest poets and writers:  Seamus Heaney, Michael Ondaatje, Peter Carey, Li-Young Lee, Scott Turow, Thomas Lynch, Lisel Mueller, Maxine Kumin, Linda Pastan, Linda Hogan, Joy Harjo, Quincy Troupe, David Mura, Clarence Major, etc.  Every academic year, we bring in 4 authors–two in the fall semester and two in the spring–and our audience averages around 200 per event.  Seamus Heaney broke the attendance record in May of 2006 when he read for over 640 poetry lovers.  It was a memorable night, especially when he told me after his reading that he thought the Contemporary Writers Series was one of the best reading series in the country.  Here is a link to the CWS website.  http://www.aquinas.edu/cw/index.html   I’d like to list five other series that deserve mention:  the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series at Hope College (Holland); the Gwen Frostic Reading Series at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo); the program coordinated by Robert Fanning at Central Michigan University (Mt. Pleasant); the Hopwood Reading Series at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor); and the wonderful events hosted and organized by M.L. Liebler that take place throughout the Detroit area.  Last month, Poets & Writers invited me to write an article for their blog about one of the events in Detroit.  Here’s the link.  http://www.pw.org/content/linda_nemec_foster_ All of these programs attest to a lively and thriving poetry scene.

GER: What projects are you currently working on?

LNF:Earlier this year, I finished a collaboration with Hungarian musician Laszlo Slomovits.  This project had its beginnings when I first viewed the work of photographer Jacko Vassilev.  His portfolio, “The Dance of Zlatio Zlatev,” appeared in Harper’s Magazine and gave visual testimony to the impoverished and marginalized people of Eastern Europe.  Vassilev’s haunting portraits inspired me to write a sequence of poems, Ten Songs from Bulgaria, that was published by Cervena Barva Press in 2008.  The next step in this process occurred in 2011 when Slomovits read the chapbook and was immediately drawn to the poems as lyrics for original songs.  He began composing ten pieces to correspond to the ten poems:  our CD, Cry of Freedom, is the result of this partnership of art, poetry, and music.  It was released in 2013.  Michigan Public Radio (an affiliate of NPR) invited us into the studio for an interview.  Here’s the link. http://michiganradio.org/post/bulgarian-photography-and-michigan-poetry-inspire-album  Also, I am currently working on a new manuscript of prose poems, Fragments.

You can read the poetry of Linda Nemec Foster in The Fox Chase Review at this link: http://www.foxchasereview.org/13AW/Foster.html

g emil reutter-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA)

http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

10 Questions for John Dorsey

John_Dorsey.John Dorsey is the author of several collections of poetry, including “Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer” (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), “Sodomy is a City in New Jersey” (American Mettle Books, 2010), “Leaves of Ass” (Unadorned Press,2011). and, most recently, “Tombstone Factory” (Epic Rites Press, 2013). He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com and http://paladinmusic.com/johndorsey.html.

Interview by: g emil reutter.

GER: You graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Did your stay in Philadelphia influence your poetry and the presentation of your poetry during readings?

JD: Well, when I lived in Philadelphia I spent the majority of my time working on screenplays, and didn’t really return to poetry full-time until after graduation, though I did read at the Painted Bride Arts Center a bit back in those days, and yeah, I was deeply influenced by my time in the city after the fact. I can still feel the corner of 12th & Spruce in every step I take. I first found the work of Ted Berrigan and Charles Olson there and for that I am forever grateful. 

GER: As a screenwriter, playwright and poet do you find each of the genres influence the other when you are writing?

JD: That’s an interesting question. I do think that poetics plays a role in every form of writing I take on. The connection between play writing and screenwriting is much clearer, but the poetry is in there too. It’s always been a real push and pull for me, in terms of which one gets my attention, I can’t really do all of them at the same time, so I will end up taking breaks from one or the other every few years

StarDorsey_WEB

GER: You write a column for the Toledo Free Press, Glass City Muse in addition to working as a staff reporter. Share with us what you write about and how you develop a column and article.

JD: I got into newspaper journalism by accident a number of years ago, all of the articles I write are arts based, gallery openings, theater reviews, ballet, concert previews, film openings, celebrity interviews, they come my way through friends, contacts, social networking sites, and I approach it very much like a business, very by the numbers who, what, where, when, how much, and get a few great quotes. The column is strictly literature themed, mostly poetry, about books, readings, my experiences, anything I feel like talking about and is much more organic and emotional. 

GER: You have said that Berrigan and Corso have influenced your poetry. Are there any other poets you would add to the list as of today?

JD: As you said, Berrigan and Corso are the big ones for me, but yeah, S.A. Griffin, Kell Robertson, Ann Menebroker, D.R. Wagner, Scott Wannberg, they’re all wonderful. 

StarDorseyBOOK_WEB1-172x300

GER: Tell us about Tombstone Factory and how the collection came about.

JD: Sure, Tombstone Factory came about because I had done a number of small chapbooks after the 2010 release of my full-length collection Sodomy is a City in New Jersey that had, in many cases, very small press runs and I really felt like a lot of my work was falling between the cracks, so I contacted Wolfgang Carstens, the founder of Epic Rites Press,  at the beginning of the year and told him I wanted to put together a selected works that covered 2010-2012, as well as about 20 pages of new work and he agreed immediately. It really was one of the great working experiences of my life.

book-dorsey-boxcar-poems-512GER: Lead Graffiti recently published Boxcar Poems, a collection of 12 poems printed via letterpress and available in limited editions.  How did this project come about?

JD: On Boxcar Poems 1-12, that book came about through my longstanding friendship with Bottle of Smoke Press founder Bill Roberts, who first took me to meet Ray and Jill at Lead Graffiti after my Fox Chase reading with Rebecca Schumejda in 2011, prior to that they had printed a broadside for me and had expressed interest in doing a book together.  A few years passed, just because people get busy, and then they approached me again in March of this year and I wrote the whole book in my friend’s Missouri farmhouse in about 2 hours and was as shocked as anyone when it turned out to be something I’m very proud of, and the book itself just looks amazing.

GER: You hit the road from time to time on the poetry circuit. How valuable is it for a poet to tour and read their works and do you find inspiration while on the road?

JD: I travel constantly. As far as how important it is, that really depends on why you’re out there. Do you want to sell books? Are you attempting to build lifelong friendships? Unless you have really bad social anxiety, I think everyone should try to get out there. I myself need the book sales to eat more often than not, but the friendships that I’ve made outweigh $10 here, $20 there  or some silly idea of fame, when 99 percent of people could care less about poetry anyway.

John Dorsey and Rebecca Schumedja

GER: You have lived in an artist community in Toledo. How has this impacted your writing and what type of interaction occurs between artists of different genres?

JD: Yeah, I lived at the Collingwood Arts Center in Toledo, OH from 2003-2012. In my last two years there I also served as their Marketing Director and then their Program Director. I also spent several years on their Review Board, selecting incoming artists. To answer your question, we did have bi-annual resident shows that the artists were/are required to take part in. Outside of that people would work together from time to time, but mostly it was a very isolated experience, I did collaborate with a few filmmakers there, as well as the painter and graphic artist Terry A. Burton. I’m currently looking for another residency, if anyone is interested contact me at archerevans@yahoo.com 

DorseyJohnwMooreToddPhotobySAGriffinGER: How would you describe your poetry?

JD: Honest.

GER: What projects are you currently working on?

JD: I have a book coming out of Hydeout Press titled Twenty Poems about Girls, which is due in October, I’m working on pieces for a three poet collection Dog On a Chain Press with Mat Gould and James H. Duncan, I’m working on pieces for another collection with Lead Graffiti, a split collection for next year with Adrian Manning on his Concrete Meat Press, which will be dedicated to our late friend James D. Quinton, another book for Hydeout with D.R. Wagner called Dorsey/Wagner: 24 Poems, a book about my friendship with Gregory Corso on 48th Press, a book on Spartan Press with Jason Ryberg, Jason Hardung and Seth Elikns, titled Motel, Diner, Liquor and a collection of my early works due on Kilmog Press in New Zealand. I’m always trying to keep busy.  

You can read the poetry of John Dorsey in The Fox Chase Review at this link http://www.foxchasereview.org/10su/JohnDorsey.html and

http://www.foxchasereview.org/13AW/Dorsey.html

g emil reutter

g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa.

http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

10 Questions for Adrian Manning

Adrian 3Adrian Manning is a poet from Leicester, England. He has published 13 chapbooks and broadsides over the last few years and is the editor of Concrete Meat Press.  His poetry has been published in numerous electronic and print publications in Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.  You can visit with him at Concrete Meat Press at this link:  http://concretemeatpress.co.uk/index.htm.

Interview by: g emil reutter

GER: What drew you to the Meat Poetry movement and do you find there is still an active audience for this school of poetry?

AM: I became an avid reader of Charles Bukowski about 25 years ago through his novels and then his poetry. I was really attracted by his direct approach to writing – putting down the words in a way that anyone could understand and writing about the real things that happened in his life. Through Bukowski I got into reading poetry by William Wantling and Steve Richmond amongst others. I feel that Meat Poetry is about these real experiences and responses that these poets wrote about no matter how ugly or uncomfortable they may be. Because of this I think there is still a valid place for this type of poetry and I feel that in the poets and publications I read there is definitely an active audience still. There must always be a poetry that deals with this, in my opinion – straight, real and having meaning to the non – academic poetry reader.

GER: As an artist can you tell us of the interaction between your poetry and art and how they may influence one another?

AM: I am an artist in a very amateur way! I am totally untrained and some may say of limited skill – I would not disagree. The type of art I like to create is simple, direct and to the point – just like the poetry in many ways, so I guess there is a link there. I also like abstract, collage and mail art – juxtaposing random and unusual bedfellows. In a sense that has a link to my poetry where I like to find interesting uses of description or metaphor – something that would not be the obvious thought. In this way the poems and art may influence each other.

GER: You are the Editor of Concrete Meat Press that publishes chapbooks and broadsides. What do you look for in submissions and do you have a set list of contributors?

AM: The only criteria I look for is that I like the work. I like a poem to hit me and make me think. I like a good turn of phrase and interesting ways of getting a point across that stay with me for a while after I’ve read the poem. I don’t go for rhyming or cliché and I often pass on work that is ‘clever’ for the sake of being ‘clever’. Going back to the idea of Meat Poetry – something that is direct, straight and honest but written in an interesting way will usually be considered for publication. When considering submissions I look at the work. I know a number of poets who always send high quality work consistently and it is always a pleasure to publish something by them. I do also very much enjoy publishing work by poets who may be new or unknown to me. I send out invites to a number of poets I am familiar with, but am always happy to receive submissions from others who I don’t know of.

AdrianManning

GER: As a poet your work has been published widely in print and electronically. The submission process is sometimes daunting, what advice would you give to new poets regarding the process?

AM: First of all, be happy with what you are submitting – be confident that you think it is a good poem. Don’t send it if you aren’t happy with it. Follow submission guidelines! Read what the editor says! If you can, read issues of the publications and consider whether you feel your work fits the publication. Most importantly, be prepared for a knockback or two. It may take a while to be published, but don’t give up! Also if you get accepted, don’t expect to be accepted every time! Keep writing, keep submitting and keep working at it.

these-hands-of-mine-coverGER: Kendra Steiner Editions recently released These Hands of Mine. Share with us the development of the collection and what it is about.

AM: I wrote a poem which was a meditation on my hand – something that I noticed about it. I found myself focusing on my hands and going into this thought process about how important my hands were, what they have been a part of  and what they are capable or incapable of. I then began a process of writing a number of poems about these things – accidents, work, art, love – all aspects of life and eventually thought I had a short collection of poems which I entitled These Hands of Mine. I contacted Bill Shute, the amazing poet and editor at KSE and he liked the so he put the chapbook together.

Wretched Songs For Out of Tune Musicians

GER: Bottle of Smoke Press published three of your chapbooks, Wretched Songs for Out of Tune Musicians, A Tourist a Pilgrim, A Truth, and Repeating The Mantra. What was it like working with Bill Roberts and having the books published on a letter press?

AM: Bill Roberts is incredible! I had published a number of poems in different places when I sent Bill some poems for his consideration having read his first short collection by A D Winans. He wrote back with such enthusiasm and he had a plan including a cover artist, Henry Denander and he was such a professional! I was living in Spain at the time and he was in the USA, but it was a dream. Bill has since published chapbooks and broadsides of my poems and I admire him and his press so much – everything he does is amazing. The letterpress publications have always looked amazing and he is so creative and continues to be so. One of the best presses around!

buk_cover_ericksonGER: Silver Birch Press included your poem, Religion, in their Bukowski Anthology. How did this come about and what can you tell us about the anthology?

AM: I heard that Silver Birch Press were putting together a Bukowski themed anthology with writing  about or influenced by Bukowski so I decided to send them a number of poems I had written. Bukowski is my favourite writer and I have written a number of linked poems and luckily they accepted five poems to go into the anthology. I was very happy when they put Religion up on their blog. I haven’t seen the finished publication yet, as I believe it is out in the very near future. I am looking forward to it as I hear there are going to be some great writers in there including the wonderful David Barker, I believe.

Adrian 2

GER: Who are your favorite poets writing today and how do they influence you?

AM: I constantly find myself to be impressed by and in awe of so many talented and brilliant poets – it could be a long list! The way they influence me is that they write such fine poetry that I just have to sit up, take notice and think – I need to work to achieve something like that. I think I enjoy their poetry because they write in their own unique voice and they address the issues that affect me or those around me. They are also masters of their craft and the way they write their poems, use their words and know when enough is enough is something that continues to be an influence. To name some names I have read over a long period of time – A D Winans, Ronald Baatz, David Barker, John Dorsey, Robert L Penick and Hosho McCreesh have always delivered. Wolf Carstens is someone I happen to be reading at the moment and he is great. If you look at the contributors to Concrete Meat Sheet at the Concrete Meat Press website, you will see so many great poets who I have had the pleasure to be able to read and publish.

adrian-1GER:There has been some debate concerning electronic verse print publication. Do you see a difference or not and why?

AM: If I am totally honest, I prefer print publication. There is nothing to match holding a beautiful piece of work in your hands and being able to feel it between your fingers. The incredible work that so many small press publishers create is so breathtaking that I just want to see it. The aforementioned letter press or signed, illustrated copies of items that I get are a wonder and to see your own work in something like that is fantastic. However, often these are limited in number and it can be a costly business so I see why electronic publication is favourable to many. I had the same dilemma with my Concrete Meat Sheet, which started as a print publication. Due to costs and wanting to be able to share the work more widely, I took the decision to publish it online, but as I say, ideally I prefer print.

GER: What projects are you currently working on?

AM: I have just put Concrete Meat Sheet 15 up on line which is a short fiction issue and I’ll be working on issue 16 shortly which will be a poetry issue. I am hoping to publish a small chapbook in the near future which will collect some poems by one of my favourite poets, James Quinton, who sadly passed away last year. My chapbook These Hands of Mine, mentioned in a previous question is no longer available from KSE, but I am going to republish it through Concrete Meat Press. It will have a hand painted cover and will include the poems from the KSE publication plus These Hands of Mine in Dub – a stripped back version of each poem which is how each poem originally started before they were fleshed out. I like the idea of doing something musical, such as a dub version – hey I might even do a remix of some of my poems someday! I would love to put together a publication of a collection of the best poems from all my previous chapbooks, broadsides and magazine publications. If anyone is interested, I’d love to hear from them!

You can read the poetry of Adrian Manning in The Fox Chase Review at this link: http://www.foxchasereview.org/11WS/AdrianManning.html  and

http://www.foxchasereview.org/13AW/Manning.html

g emil reutter-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA).

http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

10 Questions for Michelle Cahill

michellecahill-copyMichelle Cahill is a Sydney poet who was born in Kenya and spent her childhood in the UK. Her most recent collection Vishvarūpa was shortlisted in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. She received the Val Vallis Award and was highly commended in the Blake Poetry Prize. In 2013 she is the CAL/UOW Poetry Fellow at Kingston University, London. She is a co-editor of Contemporary Asian Australian Poets (Puncher and Wattmann) and she edits Mascara Literary Review

Interview by: g emil reutter

The Interview:

michelle cahill 3

GER: You have written, “Poetry and poetics are being shaped increasingly by theoretical perspectives, tutored by academia. This signals a potential for innovation and transgression of established conventions.”  Can you expand on this statement?

MC: I guess I mean that theoretical approaches to writing poetry are frequently informed by philosophical and discursive awareness that shapes the poetics and complicates the poet’s natural voice. This can be dense and awkward; little more than a series of writing exercises that feels as if it’s tutored by curriculum and derivative. But at its best the poetry can be beautifully challenging of conventions, undoing the poet’s own previously held assumptions and voicing intrepid manifestos.

So I guess I am referencing the potential for intersections between poetic practice and philosophical or ethical discourses.

ACCov (1)GER: Your first poetry collection, The Accidental Cage, was written over a ten year period.  Share with us the journey from its inception to publication.

MC: It was about living my life, responding to nature, experience,whilst being quite remote from a poetry ‘scene’ as such although a few conferences that I attended did inspire and shape the poems in their later stages.  It was partly about my experience of Buddhism, which shifted my perspectives on understanding death, suffering, freedom. There are several poems about asylum which respond to the repressive politics Australia holds towards refugees and more generally misplaced people. There are also poems about motherhood and the difficult negotiation of domestic spaces that women frequently experience.

 I received quite a lot of editorial support from the publishers Interactive Press  and that helped to refine the book. I love that it is an unmediated response to these concerns and experiences, confident with its free verse forms.

GER: You have received a number of grants and residencies over the years. How important have they been to your development as a writer/poet?

MC: I’ve felt privileged to receive grants for writing; they have enabled me to take time out from the routine of a day job and fall into deeper rhythms of writing. Residencies are also marvellous opportunities to focus on writing and less on daily interruptions. The best residencies provide meals and room cleaning or laundry services so that you don’t need to waste precious time on the mundane tasks.

The other vital aspect is taking that journey elsewhere, meeting other artists/writers and being inspired by those conversations. Residencies may become a starting point for creative collaborations, for lasting friendships; a residency tends to open up my imagination to new possibilities and challenges. Sometimes it alters the direction of my work.

Vishvarupa

GER: Your second collection of poetry, Vishvarupa is a more recent full length collection. How does this collection differ from the The Accidental Cage?

MC: It’s less experiential and more deeply embedded in mythic and imaginative space where arguments about identity, power,  love, death, and representation take place. The poems are more formal in structure, though I don’t necessarily think they are more disciplined. The poems in Vishvarupa concern a partially real and partially imagined self, and the multiple layers are satisfying in deeper ways.

But even still, there is something fresh and unrehearsed about a poet’s first collection and nothing can quite replace that quality.

GER: As a writer of short fiction and poetry do you use different methods in the development of the two genres?

MC: Mostly it’s trial and error as with all writing. The more you write the more skilled you become in using language to achieve sometimes tricky outcomes. Fiction is painstaking and complex; it’s technically the most challenging genre to write , I think.

But the outstanding poems require one to live an uncompromising, often difficult life. Poetry is a way of life, really.

mascara

GER: You are the editor of The Mascara Literary Review. As an editor what do you look for in work submitted to the review that inclines you to publish the work?

MC: Good writing is what I look for, meaning that the poem, story or essay is confident, of a high quality, and risk-taking in terms of content or style. As editor of a journal  one can shape it to not merely reflect but also investigate one’s perspectives on diversity, on cultural and literary representation. It’s a two way process: I mediate MascaraMascara mediates me.

michelle cahill 2GER: How valuable has internet publishing been to your development as a writer/poet?

MC: It’s been hugely valuable and has far exceeded my expectations. It connects me to an international community. The ability to read and cross-reference writing over the internet is in my view, marvellous.

GER: What poets have inspired you over the years and how important is it for a poet to be well read regarding the work of other poets?

MC: Brigit Pegeen-Kelly, Robin Robertson, Dîpti Saravanamuttu, Judith Beveridge, Peter Boyle, Louise Glück, Seamus Heaney, Lucy Brock-Broido,  Sujatta Bhatt, Meena Kandasamy—

These are just about my favourite contemporary poets writing in English.

michelle cahill - steve sharpe

GER: You have lived on several continents during your lifetime.  How has this affected your writing and sense of place?

MC: It deepened my inner life and made me very independent as a writer since there was little external stability. It familiarised me with losses at an early age since leaving a country is a huge upheaval. It made the Australian landscape at first seem strange and hostile, though now I love it. There is a vivid connection to place in my writing, (often more than one place), and a sense of the journeys between them.

GER: How would you describe Michelle Cahill?

MC: Private. Sensitive. A lover of words.

You can read the poetry of Michelle Cahill in The Fox Chase Review at 2011 SU and vist her on the net at http://michellecahill.com/

*photographs from various internet publications

10 Questions for Chad Parenteau

Chad ParenteauChad Parenteau was born in Woonsocket Rhode Island in 1973 and grew up in Bellingham, Massachusetts.  He entered Framingham State College (Now Framingham State University) and majored in English.  He learned poetry and prose writing from instructors such as Alan Feldman and Miriam Levine and studied journalism under Desmond McCarthy.  Moving to Boston in 1995, he obtained his MFA at Emerson College, studying with Bill Knott, Gail Mazur and John Skoyles.  His involvement in the small press continued, publishing poetry in Meanie and Shampoo. 
In 2003, Chad self-published his first chapbook, Self-Portrait In Fire and won a Cambridge Poetry Award.   2008 saw the publication of his third chapbook, Discarded: Poems for My Apartments from Červená Barva Press.   In 2011, a catalog of his work was added to Framingham State University’s Alumni Collection at the Henry Whittemore Library.
Chad is the current host and organizer of Stone Soup Poetry, one of the longest-running weekly poetry venues in the state.  His recent contribution to the reading series is creating and editing its online tribute journal, Spoonful.

Interview by: g emil reutter

The Interview:

chad parenteau 3

GER: There has been a lot of criticism of MFA programs as producing “cookie cutter” poets and writers. What was your experience like at Emerson and do you agree or disagree with the criticism?

CP: As an undergraduate student I would have disagreed with the criticism.  I wanted to be a poet, I was far from a confident poet, and this was the only way I knew how.  In graduate school, there were poets who opposed the teachers, but I wasn’t one of them.  If anything, I found the workshop atmosphere, being judged by nearly a dozen people at a time, very intimidating, but I stayed on because I wanted to learn.  I couldn’t tell if anyone was cookie cutter because their poems sounded more realized than mine.  Twenty years later, hindsight makes me sometimes wish I went for something besides an English degree, but that’s not the same as not needing to pursue it at the time.  It’s very possible that I wouldn’t have become the poet I am today if I didn’t follow the academic path I did.  It’s true that I received my MFA at Emerson.  I finished at age twenty-five.  People my age today who are in MFA programs tell me how impressive just having this is.  However, I am not very proud of how I performed at Emerson and generally downplay my MFA degree in conversation.

chad parenteau 5

Either by slipping through the cracks in the educational system or just being a shoddy student, I was painfully inadequate as a writer before entering Emerson.  I went through my undergraduate years at Framingham State College (now Framingham State University) tutoring myself by way of extra reading and writing on top of my regular classes.  I got better, eventually becoming a medium-sized fish in a small pond.  When I went to Emerson for an MFA, I ended up being eaten alive in a large pond.  I was still unprepared for this new set of challenges, and it showed in my final work with a thesis collection of poems I never would have wanted to publish as a book.

Poetry was never a focus in my early education, so my time at Framingham State and Emerson actually gave me exposure to a variety of poets.  I used to randomly take out books of authors I’d never heard of.  It enabled me to expand my outlook, which every writer needs.  With twenty-first education, poetry seems to be part of every child’s curriculum.  If I had more of that as part of my younger years, would I have felt the need to pursue writing?  Would I have chosen an education that could have gotten me a better job?  Could I have still pursued writing on the side to good effect?  I can never answer these questions.  One thing I do notice is that several people I knew at Emerson who wrote circles around me never pursued writing much beyond obtaining a costly degree.  Or they pursued it but have long since stopped.   I never pursued teaching with my degree, which my father hoped I would do; but at the very least, I think writing and poetry take up a great part of my everyday life, even if it’s not on an economic level.

Chad Parenteau Discarded Poems for My Apartments

Chad Parenteau SFGER: Tell us about your collections Self Portrait in Fire and Discarded: Poems for My Apartment.

CP: Self Portrait was my first chapbook, and it was self-published.  It was intended as a likely swan song, my first and potentially last collection.  When I put it together, I finally removed myself from a horrible living situation and was in a new relationship in Rhode Island that had the potential to radically change my life.  I was trying to consign myself to possibly giving up any serious attempt to be a published poet.  Self-Portrait was actually what I named my MFA thesis.  I used the title piece and a few others from the original collection, scrapped the rest and added new work.  Fifteen poems in all, the best I had to offer.  It got me in the door as far as the local poetry scene went.  I can be a little embarrassed by the title and some of the works, but there are poems I still dig out and read today.  It also did what most books should do for authors, and that’s make me want to do a better book.

Discarded was my first successful attempt to create a chapbook around a central theme, that being my time in various apartments and living with a number of roommates ranging from interesting to straight out volatile.  Originally intended to focus on items I was throwing out from old roommates, I wisely expanded the theme and worked it into a manuscript that still make me feel proud to read.  When I finished the book, I was ending another relationship, living in the one bedroom apartment I occupy to this day, and dealing with the death of my father.  So I was still coping with a lot of flux in my life.  I suppose that’s true of almost any time you’re writing, but I’ve had some stability the last few years.  Hopefully, my upcoming collection, Patron Emeritus from FootHills publishing, will show more focused observation.

GER: Your latest collection HHH has a strong political bent. You have been active in the Boston area on social issues and Occupy. How strongly is your political/social activism reflected in your poetry?

CP:  My involvement with Occupy Boston is much less than I would like, though I am glad to sponsor readings from the Occupy Poets any time I can.  HHH I felt was more about local attitudes of the poetry scene and my feelings on writing on deadline and the need to produce and be public as a poet, along with my own feelings of inadequacy while trying, even while succeeding with 100 haiku in less than five hours.

As the current Iraq war was starting, I started a series called “Sarcastic Haiku,” and it turned out to be very politically charged.  Some are still on my blog today and an online journal or two.  Problem was, after 2004, the political climate stopped being funny to me.  Even with Obama’s victory in 2008, the racism that permeated so many factions of his opposition I found much more disgusting than amusing.  I had one offer to try to sell the haiku as an ebook of 100 pieces.  I think I went up to about 80 haiku, but I couldn’t finish.  Maybe someday, though I think most of the poems are too of their time to be enjoyed today.  

chad parenteau 4

The problem with political poetry is that much of it is in its timing.  Very little of it feels lasting.  The trouble with what I’ve written in the past is that there was a small window to share them any place outside of my blog.   Recently, however, I found a forum via Salon’s ongoing limerick contest.  A chance to write humorous verse on current events and have it potentially be seen by multitudes days after I write it?  Yes, please, thank you!  And I’ve even gotten more opportunities to submit light verse because of Salon’s readership.  Time will tell whether or not this translates into longer, more serious political poems in the future. 

Chad Parenteau FCRS

GER: You frequently write in free verse and haiku. Share with us your motivations and how you decide to form a poem on the page.

CP:  This year, I want to write in longer forms like sonnets.  Today, when I write a haiku, I have to stop myself and ask if this is the right form to use or if I’m copping out.  Growing up, I was exposed to more stand-up comedians than poets, so I tend to view poetry performances in terms of that (though I think there are parallels, at least in the slam and small press scene).  Haikus are the Henny Youngman one-liners.    Longer poems are the long interweaving monologues by George Carlin or Bill Hicks.  In recent years, when I’ve published a haiku, I started to suspect that it’s really a fragment and a product of laziness.  HHH feels like one long poem instead of the hundred poems I passed it off as.  I’ve also started a haiku series that I suspect might actually be joined together as one poem by the end of it.

GER: The New England area has an active poetry scene. Could you share with us your knowledge of the scene and how it continues to develop?

CP: I know more of the Boston scene than New England as a whole.  I am lucky that all of New England enjoys convening in the Boston area to hear and perform poetry.  This is good, because the scene always needs new blood.

I started going to the Boston Poetry Slam at The Cantab and later to Stone Soup and the late lamented Wordsworth Books, where there were crazy marathons hosted by Jim Behrle (who still comes back to host marathons at Outpost 186 in the summertime).  Today, there is not only a host of slam and music venues, but also amazing storytelling venues in the neighboring cities like Cambridge and Jamaica Plain and drivable suburbs like Lynn, Massachusetts.  There are even micro scenes in colleges such as Emerson and the teaching college Wheelock, home of the emergent Fundamental Lyricists of Wheelock (FLOW).  There are groups like The Bagel Bards who regularly meet every Saturday morning in Somerville.  Recently, I’ve written extensive hyperbole about an “invasion,” a flux of poets we are lucky to have coming in from the area of Lynn, Salem, Beverly and other towns that make up the Massachusetts north shore area.  Poets like Dennis Daly, Blaine Hebbel and the carpooling members of the biweekly Zig Zag Poetry open mic.  Not to mention that countless salons in individual poet’s apartments.  It’s hard for me to fit any more readings besides my own in a week, but I try to make as many readings as I can, as it’s my hope that Stone Soup become a focal point for all these different voices to converge at whenever possible.

Chad Parenteau Poets in the Park

GER: You have read a number of times for us in Fox Chase. Your last appearance was at Poets in the Park. Did you enjoy the travel and the experience of reading in Fox Chase?

CP: Fox Chase always has a hopping and fun scene, whether it’s performing outside or next to a working cash register in a coffee shop.  I’ve always enjoyed the adventure of going to Philadelphia.  I started going there for political rallies, including the 2000 Republican National Convention.  It’s fun to go there in recent years with a literary goal in mind.  The last time in 2011 was particularly fun because I traveled with my girlfriend, Margaret, and we were driven there and back by two fisted fiction author and poet Tim Gager.  Easily one of the best road trips of my life.  I hope when my new collection comes out, I can have one or two travel dates with that kind of energy.

chad parenteau stone soup 1GER:The Stone Soup Poetry Series has run for over four decades, once a week without missing a scheduled reading. Jack Powers established the series and you inherited the series. Recently an additional host was added. Tell us about Stone Soup, what your vision is and how difficult was it to fill Powers shoes.

CP:  Stone Soup does regularly meet every Monday night from 8-10 pm at its current home, the Out of The Blue Art Gallery in Central Square, Cambridge.  Though we try to do it without fail, we actually cancelled a week recently due to the Hurricane Sandy related weather.  I try not to pay much attention to our once alleged flawless attendance anymore, or any record others claim we have.  It’s undoubtedly a testament to Jack Powers’ legacy that Stone Soup has lasted for so long. It’s definitely one of the longest running independent poetry readings.  But it’s a mug’s game claiming we are the longest or that we’ve run 40-plus years consecutively without missing a beat.  I’d rather focus on the quality of the open mic poets and the features Stone Soup has every week.  Not brag about how many times we’ve run in a circle.  Would Jack’s legacy as an activist, advocate and publisher have been any less impressive if Stone Soup only met once or twice a month? Chad and Jack

Stone Soup was originally created because there wasn’t anything like it in Boston.  Now, we have many poetry readings on just about any given night.  I was called in to help with occasional hosting and booking.  It was only when Jack suffered a stroke that robbed him of his speech that any sense of permanence came to my position and I stayed on as host.  

chad parenteau 6

Despite what some people say now, back then he wasn’t thrilled that I had come to control so much of Stone Soup.  I know he was upset about it.  Having hosted it since late 2005, I completely understand why.  Even though I do all the behind the scenes work, there’s something about the title of “host” that has a magical effect on how people perceive you.  Saying “Chad Parenteau, host of Stone Soup” means something to poets and people on the outside.  Who would care if I was merely “Chad Parenteau, the guy who pesters feature to send their bios and photos to Stone Soup”?  That and the routine—one of the first things I ever committed to and stuck with—kept me going the first few years.  I know that it kept Jack, its creator, going for as long as it could.  I hope the knowledge that something he started was continuing gave him comfort.  With the wall between us his alcoholism and the loss of his communicative powers, it’s hard for me to know and hard for me to believe it when others tell me it was so.  In a perfect world, Stone Soup wouldn’t have been handed down to me, a guy who only started going to it in 2003.   But I have it, and I’m doing all I can with it.  

I first imagined Stone Soup’s function to be the Catch a Rising Star of the poetry world.  And I have proudly given many new poets on the scene their first feature.  I am still proud to serve that function, featuring a variety of newcomers from Jade Sylvan to new co-host Michael F. Gill.  My new function has been to keep Stone Soup relevant and take its history (which has largely been an oral one) into the 21st century.  If all goes well, in the next year, I will be adding more to Stone Soup’s archives, I will start to post new videos from our features, I will work on reprinting Jack’s first book Light From Stone, and I will continue to give other people from Stone Soup’s history their due.  

I would very much like for the organizational and hosting duties of Stone Soup to be passed on to someone else.  I don’t really know if I can keep doing Stone Soup for decades the way Jack did.  That’s largely why I passed on one night a week to Michael, who has been featuring so many new voices in such a short time.  Sure I want the time off, and I want the new perspective added to the venue, but I also want to be ready to let go, whether it’s five years from now or twenty.  But I would like to leave it know it’s going to live on well.  

chad parenteau 7

GER: How does a traveling poet get booked at Stone Soup?

CP:  Be persistent!  I deal with a ton of email, and some people get lost in the cracks.  It’s not uncommon to have to prod me a few times.  In the beginning, I was afraid to book features due to our small audiences.  I was afraid there wouldn’t be enough book sales to make it worthwhile.  Luckily, we are filing the chairs more than when I started, and I am doing everything I can to make sure all features are paid.  Plus I’ve been told by many a poet that we have a great book buying audience.  I apologize to anyone who has not gotten word back from me in a timely fashion, and I encourage you to try again.

chad parenteau poets in the park 2

GER: Spoonful is the on line publication of Stone Soup and you serve as the editor. Share with us how the concept was developed and what you look for in submissions.

CP:  Jack Powers had put out stapled issues of his Stone Soup journal for years, in addition to several books.  When I took over as host of Stone Soup, the question I had gotten the most was when there would be another print journal.  The last anthology was published in 2003 with the help of Ibbetson Street Press.  Without such backing, I was extremely hesitant to put money behind anything ongoing.  Also, my knowledge of how to create a print journal was lacking, but I had been publishing online for years, both on my blog and on an array of early online journals.  Not only did Spoonful scratch the journal “itch” for many of the regulars, it also gave the earliest Stone Soup contributors a 21st century forum and a chance for a larger audience.

Spoonful is part publication and part community project, as I strive to give voice to Stone Soup’s longtime goers and offer many people their first time at publication.  That said, we have published several people who may never have attended Stone Soup (though we hope they make their way down to see us soon).

I have never been able to match my style of writing from any period of my life with any journal.  As a result, I make sure to let people know that I look at all styles of poetry.  I want to give a voice to those who strive to share it.  And now that it’s years later, I also want to start putting out print collections, starting with Stone Soup Presents: Fresh Broth, which hopefully will overcome its many obstacles (printing issues) and be available soon.

GER: What poets do you read and what poets have inspired your own writing?

CP: I went through college and graduate school reading Philip Levine and Charles Simic.  Also, thanks to Alan Feldman, my poetry teacher at Framingham State (and another poet whose work I enjoyed),  I discovered a then-little known poet named Tony Hoagland, who went on to write some of my favorite modern poems (“Jet” and “Self-Improvement” I love reading at the beginning of Stone Soup open mics).  We recently lost Jack McCarthy, whose storytelling style was always a joy to hear and read.  These days, I workshop with Ron Goba, a local poet and a treasure who I hope to publish more of soon.   I feel his style has permeated into mine, which Patron Emeritus will show once it comes out.

You can read the poetry of Chad Parenteau in The Fox Chase Review at these links: 2008 WS2008 AW and for everything Parenteau visit: http://www.chadparenteaupoetforhire.com/

10 Questions for Le Hinton

Le_Hinton courtesy of alphcapoetryLe Hinton, who “lives and works, simultaneously, in Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Harrisburg, swims in the third stream that is somewhere between being a spoken word poet and a page poet, and thinks that everyone should own at least one copy of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. Hinton is the author of four books of poetry, including Status Post Hope and Black on Most Days and is the editor and publisher of the poetry journal Fledgling Rag.

GER: You were raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Did the city and the area of Central Pennsylvania impact your writing in any manner?

LH: For various reasons, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania doesn’t appear in my poetry very often. I’ve lived most of my adult years in Lancaster County and my college days were spent in Philadelphia at Saint Joseph’s University. So I have poems such as “47th and Baltimore” that acknowledge my time in Philadelphia or a poem such as “Storytelling on the Susquehanna” that tips its hat to Lancaster County. I might describe some of my poetry as being about a place in time rather than a geographical place. North Carolina, Hiroshima and Topaz (in Utah) during the 1940s have all served as backdrops for poems.

Lancaster County has been home for half my life. I love writing from this place, using it as my safe house. From here I am easily able to travel to places such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington to hear and experience live poetry. Lancaster can offer a small town feel, a somewhat urban atmosphere and rural farming esthetics all in one location

Le Hinton reading at Almost Uptown photo by g emil reutter

GER: What poets have influenced you?

LH: At different times during  my writing life, I’ve been influenced by Countee Cullen, Emily Dickinson,  Langston Hughes, Mary Oliver, e.e. Cummings and Dean Young. The influence of their work may or may not be obvious, but there are unique poetic sensibilities that have drawn me to each of them. There are other poets, lesser known, such as Tameka Cage Conley and Eileen Kinch who write with such an honesty of emotion and clarity of purpose that I cannot help but be influenced by their work. We will hear much from them in the future. Tim Seibles, Terrance Hayes, Tracey K. Smith and a host of other contemporary poets are currently finding their way into my neurons. I’m always open to the voices of other poets who may help me express my own voice. I never want to stop learning.

GER: You have said art and jazz have impacted your poetry. Tell us how.

LH: I’m influenced by the other arts, particularly music, particularly jazz. I’ve also written poems inspired by painters. I wrote a series of poems after spending a few late afternoons at the Philadelphia Museum of Art captivated by the Joan Miro paintings there. Many of the poems published in my books were inspired by listening to jazz pieces over and over again, trying to get to the core of  meaning and/or emotion. Poems such as “Season of Changes,” “Once I Fell,” “Black on Most Days – Where Dreams Go” and “Everything Happens When You’re Gone” where inspired by listening to jazz tunes by Jon Cowherd, Kenny Garrett, Mike Stern, and Michael Brecker respectively.  I listen, and then I write what I feel. After getting the emotion on paper, I revise the piece to shape it into something resembling poetry. Currently, I am working on a series of poems created by listening to the music of Jason Moran and simultaneously reading the poetry of Dean Young. I’ve matched a specific album of Moran’s music with a specific book of Dean Young’s poems. I loop Moran’s music while I read each poem in Young’s book. When I am finished, I write what I feel, what I’ve absorbed. There may be as many as 12 poems in the series when I’m finished.

Le Hinton--  poet    for  Sunday News  Photo-  Marty Heisey

GER: A number of your collections have been published. Could you please share with us the collections and how they differ if at all?

LH: I have four books. Each has its own personality. I love variety in most of my interests and passions, so there is a variety of writing styles and tones in each collection. The first book, Waiting for Brion, included poems that covered a period of more than twenty years. There is a mixture of styles and subject matter with no one central theme throughout the book. The styles of the poems were also all over the place, having been influenced by Dickinson and Cummings, among others. The second book, Status Post Hope, is divided into two parts, Reality, poems that tend to be rather narrative in their presentation, and Irreality, poems that are less linear, somewhat in a surreal vein. The focus in this book is on loss. The third book, Black on Most Days, seeks to focus on the various moods and meanings of the word black (African-American experience, death, depression, the color itself and other aspects of blackness). The most recent book, The God of Our Dreams, is the shortest and most focused of all of the books that I’ve published. There are five poems using the title and there is an arc to the poems that is rather positive and optimistic.

iris g press 2GER: You founded Iris G Press and have published quite a few poets. What do you look for in a collection to consider it for publication?

LH: I don’t necessarily get a collection of poems that is fully formed and ready to publish. It is more accurate to say that I collaborate with a poet who has written many good poems that I have read or heard. We come together to create a book. My poetic sensibilities are varied. I like Mary Oliver but also love Mary Ruefle. They are two very different poets.  So there may be no obvious similarities in the work of Marty Esworthy, Jeff Rath and Rebecca Gonzalez. All three are very good poets who work so very hard on the craft, but also have great emotional insights.

What is also very important to me in publishing someone else’s work is that I like and respect the person. I can honestly say that I like and love the three poets whose books I’ve published. There are many, many good poets, so why should work with someone I’m not compatible with? Why work with someone who is not humble and grateful for the miracles, small and large, that happen in life? I detest people (not just poets) who have huge egos. So even if the poet were great, I wouldn’t want to be involved with the ego or lack of gentleness.

fledgling rag

GER: The Fledgling Rag is an invitation only magazine on line. How do you determine who to invite and share with us some of the poets you have published?

LH: With a couple early exceptions, all of the poets of Fledgling Rag are poets whose work I experience first. Typically, I read  someone’s work or see/hear the person at a poetry reading. I read some great poems online by Alan King, then attended one of his readings with the purpose of inviting him to join Fledgling Rag, Issue 12. I attended a reading by Melanie Henderson, not knowing of her before the reading.  I was impressed, bought her book and then later asked her to become part of FR 12.

If I am moved (emotionally or intellectually), I ask the person to submit five poems from which at least three will be published. The first issue of Fledgling Rag featured Marty Esworthy and issue two featured Rich Hemings. Both are important figures in the Central Pennsylvania poetry scene. A later issue included the work of Philadelphia area poet J.C. Todd. I travel to other regions to hear good poetry, so the recent featured poets have been Marjory Heath Wentworth, the current poet laureate of South Carolina and Michael Glaser, former poet laureate of Maryland. The next issue will feature Yona Harvey, an amazingly gifted, intelligent and hard-working poet from Pittsburgh.

Le Hinton hosting Lancaster Poetry Exchange photo by g emil reutter

GER: You host the Lancaster Poetry Exchange Reading Series.  As part of the Central Pennsylvania poetry and arts scene share with us your knowledge of the scene in Lancaster, York and Harrisburg.

LH: Central Pennsylvania has a very active and dynamic poetry scene. There are poetry readings and events somewhere in the area nearly every evening. I’d also include Berks County in the Central PA poetry area. There are evenings when I have to make a choice between two or even three poetry events to attend. Marty Esworthy and Christian Thiede in Harrisburg, Liz Stanley and Marilyn Klimcho in Berks County, Keith Baughman, Carol Clark Williams, and Carla Christopher in York and Jeff Rath and Ty Clever in Lancaster all do so much to promote poetry at multiple levels. There are also colleges and universities such as the writers houses at Franklin and Marshall and Elizabethtown colleges and Millersville University’s Ware Center that contribute to enriching the poetry experience in Central Pennsylvania.

Le Hinton courtesy of poetry pathsGER: Artist Derek Parker included one of your poems in his sculpture at Clipper Magazine Stadium. You also threw out the opening day pitch for the Barnstormers and read a poem for the crowd. Please share with us how this project developed and your feelings regarding having your poem included?

LH:  My poem is part of a larger whole, part of Poetry Paths. Poetry Paths is a public visual and literary art project founded and produced by the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House at Franklin & Marshall College with funding from the Lancaster County Community Foundation.  It combines poetry and sculpture and places the result in front of public places such as the Lancaster Public Library, the Fulton Opera House, the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design and many others. There is a selection process that first chooses a poem from among many submissions written for a specific site and then later another selection process involving the choosing of a sculpture created for the site and the poem for the site. I was surprised and grateful when my poem, “Our Ballpark” was chosen for the Clipper Magazine Stadium site in the spring of 2011. In August 2011, as part of the process of choosing the sculpture, the designs of the finalists were placed on display at the stadium for the fans to vote on. I read my poem in front of 6,000 fans and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. It was a thrill to combine two of my three loves, baseball and poetry.

GER: What advice would you give to emerging poets?

LH: The best advice that I can give to poets is to read, write, revise and read some more. It is a mistake to not read the work of those who have come before us and those who are writing now. Look at what they are doing and how they do it. Shakespeare has something to offer. Hughes has much to teach. Lucille Clifton, Mary Ruefle and Terrance Hayes have lessons that should be absorbed. Apply those lessons in your writing, and then write. However, the really difficult part is the re-writing. Revision is where most of the writing effort is. Great poems do not spill out of a poet’s head fully formed. The inspiration may start there, but the real writing of a poem is in the revision. This is hard work.

Imposed upon all of this is the importance of challenging oneself. Move away from what is comfortable from time to time. Do what you haven’t done, even if what you have done has been successful in the past. Miles Davis changed the kind of jazz he played several times over the course of his life. We should remember that there are “twenty-six letters full of risk.”

Le Hinton courtesy of iris g press

GER: What is next for Le Hinton?

 LH: The most immediate project involves Fledgling Rag, Issue 12. It will be released in April 2013. For the first time, there will be a journal release event. It will be held at Millersville University’s Ware Center in downtown Lancaster on April 30. The event will feature Yona Harvey who has generously consented to travel all the way from Pittsburgh to read. There will be donations taken at the door and all money from the sale of both Ms. Harvey’s new book, Hemming the Water, and from Fledgling Rag will go directly to the Clinic. The Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic has been doing great and important work for 75 years.

For the rest of 2013, I hope to focus on publishing new books by Marty Esworthy and Rebecca Gonzalez. 2014 may see the release of a new title by Jeff Rath. I’m also writing and working on my own manuscript, tentatively titled Variants of Light.

You can read the poetry of Le Hinton in The Fox Chase Review at this link: http://www.foxchasereview.org/12SU/LeHinton.html   and visit him at www.irisgpress.org

10 Questions for Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri reads at Bollingbroke (2)Diane Sahms-Guarnieri is a native Philadelphia poet and currently the poetry editor of The Fox Chase Review. She has served on the Editorial Board of Philadelphia Stories magazine (2006-2008); founded The Center City Poets Workshop (2006-2011); founded and runs The Tenth Muse Poetry Workshop (2012- ); and currently co-hosts The Fox Chase Reading Series at Ryerss Museum and Library. She is a graduate of East Stroudsburg State University and has performed post graduate work at Holy Family University.  Her poetry has been published widely in the small and electronic press.

Interview by: g emil reutter

The Interview: 

FCRMasthead2011-RGB-for PRINT docs

GER: You are the poetry editor of The Fox Chase Review and served on the editorial board of Philadelphia Stories Magazine. Tell us of the experience and what does a poetry editor look for in a submission? DSG:

As Poetry Editor of The Fox Chase Review (2009 – present), and one of several Poetry Editors at Philadelphia Stories Magazine (2006 – 08), I have learned through explication how to detect well-crafted poems.

Crafting is an important factor when a poet submits his/her poem(s) to a magazine for consideration.  Basically, the appearance of the poem on the page is important – Does content match form?   Equally important (or maybe, a notch higher on the review level) – What is the poet writing to the reader, that is, what is the poem doing? Or not doing? Why is it relevant?  Is it informing the reader of something the reader doesn’t know or needs to be reminded of (philosophical); Is it entertaining (comedic); Is it sharing an experience about love, death, hate, misunderstandings, relationships, nature, etc.; Is it using words (language) in a modernistic or post modernistic way; etcetera.

A poem is written to be read.  As an editor of a magazine, I want people to read the poems that are published, so I am looking for any form of poetry that is well crafted and offers the reader something that they will continue to think about after they have read a poet’s poem.

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri where the Lehigh meets the Delaware River

images_being

GER: Your first collection of poetry, Images of Being, was released in 2011. Share with us the development of the collection and your journey from inception to publication.

DSG:I could write a novel about my ten-year- journey from the inception of Images of Being  to its publication, because to me poetry has been the purest art form that has allowed the inner me to express myself through images that have defined my existence as a human being.  It is my “Truth”: the truth that has set me free to be me.  As I grow as a person, I grow as a poet and vice versa.

GER: Although you are a Philadelphia Poet your poems not only reflect the city but extend their reach into the realism and imagery of life. How important is it for a poet not to be geographic centric?

DSG: Hmmm… hard question, because I can write about the human condition, in fact, I have written poems about injustice in North Korea and Afghanistan and poems about being human and the shared experiences that make us human – love and the absence of love; sufferings and the result of sufferings; death and the pain of losing someone; relationships with family, friends, co-workers, strangers, etc.  Life has no limits; and therefore a poet must have no limits and should write about the human condition, which spans the globe, the heavens, and even enters into hell.

diane sahms-guarnieri 2

I am not geographic centric; however I write about my city because I know my city and I love my city.  It runs through my veins, is the essence of my existence.  I have an immense respect for the people I have known whom lived, worked, and died in my city, including many of my own family members.   On my paternal side, my father and several of his brothers devoted their entire lives to working in the textile mills of Roxborough and Manayunk, and they died from emphysema.  {One-third of the poems in Images of Being are devoted to my childhood.  It is written  “In Memory” of my father and several poems were written about him, as follows:  “Still Life”; “Another Shirley Temple”;” Snowman”; “Rest Stops”;” Easter”; and “Machine Machines Monstrous Machines.”}   My maternal grandmother (“Madeline”) worked at Freedom Felt, a company that manufactured brake linings using asbestos.  She died from asbestosis.  Lastly, my mother worked as a cleaning lady (“Daisy”) at my elementary school, James Dobson, located in Manayunk.  This is not a trivial matter!  My family has given themselves to my city and that means a lot to me, and I write about them because I respect them and their sacrifices.  They are my connection to my city, the sweat and blood of my family.

Currently, and thinking more globally, Chinese textile workers, unfortunately, are being exposed to the same deadly diseases that caused sufferings and deaths to my family members.  So writing locally about Philadelphia’s Industrial maladies may enlighten the Chinese of potential sufferings, and maybe, the mill owners will protect their workers.  Somehow I doubt it, ‘cause money rules, but there is always hope that others will learn from our mistakes and misfortunes.  (Can anyone translate English into Chinese?)

Third Thursdays Poetry Night Doylestown Bookshop Pennsylvania (2)

GER: Over the last two years you have toured the poetry circuit in support of your work. Share with us your travels and experiences at the various venues you have read at.

DSG: Travels: Touring has given me an unique opportunity to not only share my work with poets and people in the Philadelphia region, but it also has allowed me to share my work with poets and people in New York, New York; Cambridge, MA; Woodbury & Millville, NJ; Wilmington, De; and in the following places in Pennsylvania: Lancaster, Harrisburg, Wyncote, Radnor, Bryn Mawr, Norristown, New Hope, & Easton.  I have been extremely fortunate to have met so many interesting and inspiring people.

Experiences:  I have actually learned that one will not make money from touring.  Yes, you will sell a few books here, many more there, none there, but you will never make money.  On longer trips (Massachusetts), you most definitely will come out- of- pocket, but you can justify this by telling yourself it coupled as a vacation.  Trips to Harrisburg and New York, well, you may break even depending on the audience.   After reading at “Second Saturday Poets” in Delaware, I was invited to host a well- attended all day workshop.  Thanks Delaware! Lancaster give me a magnet and T-shirt and despite the fact that I had to read in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble with Winnie the Pooh as a backdrop, their sound system allowed me to attract a few non-poet shoppers to listen for a while. For me, the best part of touring was meeting other poets from other places and non-poets who actually appreciated poetry!   

Benefits:   After a year of touring, I actually started to feel more confident reading my poems to an audience.  With confidence, I believe my “reading” performance has been enhanced.  I have come to the conclusion that there are poems that are “page” poems and “audience” poems.  To elaborate, “page” poems are more complicated and/or heady poems and are meant for a reader to read and re-read slowly, calmly, and in the confines of solitude.  “Audience” poems are those poems that are more musical and/or narrative in nature, which make it easier for the listener to follow, as you read with rhythm, feeling, proper breathing, and annunciation.  By reading and re-reading poems aloud, you learn how to accent the poem where you want the listener to really hear and feel what you are reading.  Three poems which have never failed me and fit nicely into this definition of “audience” poems, are “Laundry”;” Machines, Machines, Monstrous Machines”; and “My Lover.” 

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri (2)GER: What poets have influenced you as a poet and how important is it for a poet to be well read in the art?

DSG: The poets who influence me are usually the poets that I am reading at the time I am working on a poem(s), not always the case, but many times it works out that way for me.  In my early days of writing, I read Joel Conarroes, Six American Poets and then his Eight American Poets Anthologies and fell in love with all 14 poets: Whitman, Dickinson, Stevens, Williams, Frost, Hughes, and then Bishop, Merrill, Plath, Ginsberg, Roethke, Berryman, Sexton, and Lowell, respectively.   Although, I had a B.S. from East Stroudsburg University, as an adult and mother of three, I enrolled at Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) & Holy Family University (HFU) to earn a Secondary Education Teaching Degree in English, coupled with the fact that I wanted desperately to improve my literary skills. I studied American, English and World Literatures (I and II) and an array of literature and poetry  related topics (Creative Writing, Theatre, Public Speaking…), but gravitated toward Sexton, Plath, Frost, Browning, Roethke, Owens, Keats, Blake, and Whitman; and therefore wrote a lot of confessional, narrative, and character-type poems using metaphor (some floral), images, similes, listing, and internal rhyme.  At this time, I felt very connected to my childhood, marriage-gone- wrong, and ultimately love, which literally makes up the three sections of Images of Being, a poetic memoir of my life written from 1998 -2008.

Then I read Lorca, Neruda, & Rilke, and Merwin, Oliver, Olds, Ryan, Kooser, Gluck, and every poet under the sun in the translations set forth in Poems for the Millennium (Volume One) edited by J. Rothenberg and P. Joris.  This anthology contained a plethora of poets/poems from every imaginable school of poetry from all over the globe.  This overwhelming collection opened my mind and broadened my views on the construction of poems.  (Note:  Poems for the Millennium comes in a three volume set.)  Night Sweat, written from 2008-2012, my forthcoming collection, resonates the influence of some of these readings.

poet diane sahms-guarnieri reads (3)

My advice to any poet is to Read. Read. Read. poetry from the defined and undefined schools of poetry to translations of poems from all over the world.

GER: You have written poetry in free verse and a number of forms. How important is it for a poet to be diverse in the presentation of their poems?

DSG: I believe it is important for a poet to be diverse, but also believe that diversity in a poet’s poems comes with the growth of the poet, i.e., a poet must constantly challenge him/herself in various styles and forms, as the familiarity of various styles and forms will allow the poet an opportunity to place his/her words and/or poem(s) into a finished product, where form and content marry.

With that being said, I have personally challenged myself to convert a poem entitled “Hunger” into a ballad (because the poem wanted to be a ballad).   “Hunger” was written about a time that no longer exists in history, a time of a door- to- door salesman taking advantage of an illiterate mother and her improvised children, a home with no books.  A ballad seemed to sing it best.  I wrote a villanelle, because the form lent itself to my poem, “Narcissus,” about an egoist.  The repetitive lines of a French villanelle fed the subject matter of the egoist.  These poems appear in Images of Being.

In my second/forthcoming collection, Night Sweat, I didn’t use forms; however, I experimented with spacing and in some cases longer lines, concerning myself with how each poem appeared to the eye on the page.  For example, “Labyrinth of Dreams” is designed on the page to look like a labyrinth with dead ends and connective passage ways, so that the speaker’s journey through the poem emulates a labyrinth.  I also experimented with sound.  In “Drum Fire” I have long lines and repetition, as the poem is fantasy and fact; narrative and historical (Native American); and repetitive: “Drumming, drum drum drumming” echoes as a beating drum throughout the four pages of this poem.

Most recently, I wrote a poem a little bit in Spanish, but mostly in English, because the character Señor Rodriguez speaks fluent English, but also reverts in conversation into his native language.  “Unos Zapatos para el Señor Rodriguez,” honors not only Señor Rodriguez, but his father too, who spoke mostly in Spanish.

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri with Poet Jack Veasey at Almost Uptown 2 9 12 014

GER: Your poems have been published in the small and electronic press. Share with us the importance of a poet publishing their work and going through the submission process with magazines.

DSG: I do not enjoy sending my poems out, but enjoy it immensely when they get published.  Every so often I put myself through the agony of sending them out.   Two reasons to torture yourself with sending poems out:

  1.  You need to get “Acknowledgments” for your books.
  2. You hope that you will have a broader audience reading your work, other than the usual suspects, whom tolerate and humor you.

I have discovered that many of the more prestigious magazines (and everyone knows who they are) seem to have “Guest Editors” that invite their own sorority sisters and/or fraternity brothers to be published in these magazines.  I really think (in some cases) that Submishmash is merely a tool to weed out the “unknown” poets from the “known” poets, and that submissions are read (if they are read at all), at best, by graduate students with strict instructions about what not to consider.  And let’s face it, if you’re not one of the “in” crowd members then you are either “deleted,” so not to contaminate their system or thrown into the recycle bin before the letter opener has had a chance to bite the envelope.   It appears that it’s always the same poets being published in these so called erudite magazines.  I believe many times it is who you know, rather than your work that is your ticket into the big-name magazines.

Thank God for Small Press, but Beware, because sometimes fly-by- night small press magazines only publish their school of poetry and are not eclectic.

Poet Diane Sahms-Guarnieri readsGER: There are few poets who make a living at the art of poetry. Stanley Kunitz once said poetry is the last uncorrupted art because there is no money in it. As a poet who works full time how do you strike a balance between working and your creative process?

DSG: I don’t!  It’s a constant internal battle.  The work week takes so much time out of your poetic life: 40+ hours (workweek), the added time getting to and fro, and preparing for it both mentally and physically. However, you have to devise workarounds and manage your time the best way that you can.  You never want to choke out your artistic spirit/creativity/ or the Muse by the bombardment of “work.”  Funny you ask because recently I wrote an “Untitled” poem about this dilemma, as I am constantly faced with the dissatisfaction of not having enough time to write, teetering at cliff’s edge.
Diane Sahms-Guarnieri1GER: You began reading your poetry in the 1990’s at the Summer Breeze Series of the Old Philadelphia Poetry Forum.  How did this initial experience help you as a poet and propel you to read at other venues?

DSG: Summer Breeze 1998? A little background might help here.

I started writing poems in 1997/8, after the overwhelming death of my father from emphysema.  My “brand new” poems were about my childhood; the “truth” about my father’s drinking problem and his suffocating death from emphysema.   For me, at that time, it was a huge risk to read not only the first poems that I had ever written, but to share sensitive subject matter.  You see, when I grew up in Roxborough, everyone knew my dad had a drinking problem, but it was accepted and never discussed, a denial-type and enabling environment.  So, it was an extremely difficult decision for me to share not only my poems, but to expose his alcoholism through my poetry, a taboo topic, which was never discussed openly in my extended family.

This leads me to Summer Breeze!  If you start out reading your sensitive poetry to an audience then you need to do it in an environment where you feel safe and accepted.   The following people encouraged me, gave me tips on reading, supported me in my grieving, and more importantly believed in me.  I cannot adequately thank them enough:  Facilitator: Martha Collins, Mike Cohen, Steve Delia, the late Mariam Fine Brown, Frances Faraker, Don Suplee, Richard Gingrinch, the late Dr. Bill Hetznecker, the late Bill Schackner, Barb and Sy Pearlmutter,  and the late Arthur Krasnow, … during summer of 1998.

Their encouragement helped to propel me to learn even more about literature, and was influential in my decision to enroll in Spring 1999, as an adult and mother of three, in post graduate work, as discussed above.  Other students and I screened poems as part of a Student Staff for Limited Editions magazine at CCP (under Dr. Jeffrey Lee) and Folio at HFU (under Dr. Thomas Lombardi).  I was published in these magazines, read at their yearly readings, and won several Judith Stark Poetry Prizes, including first prize, at CCP.  

After earning my teaching certification in 2003, I taught high school English for two years (Council Rock High School and Cheltenham High School) and had very little time to write, so I enrolled in Suppose an Eyes poetry workshop at Kelly Writers House, under the leadership of Pat Green and continued to grow as a poet. We read at Kelly Writers House once a year.  I also enrolled in workshops sponsored by Manayunk Art Center (MAC) with various workshop leaders (J.C. Todd, Paul Martin, and Marj Hahn) and a Mad Poets Society Workshop under the late Len Roberts.  I read at Mad Poets’ venues and events.

The Tenth Muse Poetry Workshop 4-21-12 002

In 2006, I set out on my own and hosted the Center City Poets’ Workshop for five years: its first location was at Voices and Vision Bookstore (the Bourse) and then at Borders, Center City.   For two years (2009 -11),  I hosted an Open Mic at the former Blue Ox, now renamed as the Hop Angel  in N.E. Philly.  Presently, I conduct the Tenth Muse Workshop, upon request, and have hosted two workshops this past year in Delaware and Northeast Philadelphia. I also co-host the Fox Chase Reading Series at the historic Ryerss Museum and Library in Fox Chase.

diane-sahms-guarnieri-signing-books

GER: What current projects are you working on and what can we expect to see from Diane Sahms-Guarnieri in the near future? DSG:

I have submitted for publication my second manuscript, Night Sweat, which is written in four sections: Faces of the Moon over Philadelphia; Drum Fire; Under the Night Forever Falling; & Sunset.

My third manuscript is underway with an array of new focuses.

So far I have readings scheduled for Feb- July 2013.

Finally, I will continue to be the Poetry Editor of the eclectic and international Fox Chase Review; continue to co-host the Fox Chase Reading Series at Ryerss Museum and Library; and host an occasional Tenth Muse Workshop.

You can visit Diane Sahms-Guarnieri on the web at http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/ or http://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/

*photographs by g emil reutter

10 Questions for Mike Cohen

Mike CohenMike Cohen has authored two collections of poetry, Poet’s Pilgrimage and For Reading Out Loud, both awaiting discovery and broad dissemination (perhaps posthumously). Mike’s work has appeared in the Schuylkill Valley JournalPhiladelphia Daily NewsMad Poets Review, The Fox Chase Review and Poetry Forum Anthology. He has presented public readings in various bookstores, coffee shops, and libraries. Mike’s current project is Poetry Aloud And Alive program at the Big Blue Marble Book Store in West Mt. Airy, Philadelphia.

Interview by: g emil reutter

The Interview: 

GER: It has been several decades since the inception of “The Summer Breeze” reading series in Northeast Philadelphia also known as The Philadelphia Poetry Forum. How did participating in this series help you in your development as a poet?

MC: If I’d known this was going to be a history test, I’d have studied harder.  “Summer Breeze” was the offshoot of The Philadelphia Poetry Forum series of the Free Library.  The Forum was the first poetry series I attended.  In the early 1990’s it was led by a poet named Bob Forster, who was very engaging and encouraging.  He also loved to do performance pieces.  I started out thinking that all there was to do was to read your poems before people who were poets and find out if they thought your work was worthy.  But then I saw people like Bob Forster and Steve Delia who presented their poetry with a flair and fire.  I also saw others who just read their poetry (downcast and without emphasis), and the difference was evident.  A poem takes a lot of time and effort in writing and revising.  When presenting a poem you ought to do it justice.  I knew that much by the time Martha (Marti) Collins started “Summer Breeze” in ’91 or ‘92.  Marti is not what most would call a performance poet.  She has a reserved style and a proper demeanor that makes it very effectively surprising when she does one of her daring poems, and she has many.  I learned a lot from her too.   At “Summer Breeze” I also had the opportunity to meet the young poet Diane Sahms-Guarnieri.  She had just begun writing.  It’s been pretty amazing to witness the development of a poet like her.

mike and connie

GER: You and Connie have hosted Poetry Aloud and Alive at The Big Blue Marble for several years. The series attracts quality poets and has an outstanding open reading segment. Please tell us about the series.

MC: The Big Blue Marble book store opened up in the neighborhood in 2005.  Connie was quick to suggest I ask about starting a poetry group there.  Maleka Freuean, the book store activities director, was very receptive to the idea.  The book store has been very accommodating.  They never rush us out even after closing time.  The people of the community have proven supportive and creative.  There is a lot of talent in our midst… plenty of people with interesting things to say and interesting ways to say them.  I never expected the program would be this successful.  I’ve played a lesser role of late than I did at first.  Dave Worrell does the scheduling now.  Connie and I are just host and hostess.  People seem to like what we’re doing.  It was Connie’s idea to arrange the chairs in a circle to promote freer participation.  As a teacher she knew the dynamics.  It rang a bell with me, because Marti Collins had used that circular arrangement in the “Summer Breeze” series.  What goes round comes round, especially with circles.

mike cohen readsGER: You have read your poetry at a great number of venues and although you share your poems you also share monologues to the delight of your audience. How did you develop your performance style and presentation?

MC: It takes a lot of trial and error, and observation.  By observation, you can learn from other people’s errors… much less uncomfortable than learning from your own.  But you get to see what works and what doesn’t.  You let the audience show what they like – what makes them smile or weep or laugh, or fall asleep.  It’s fun.  But it produces a bias in favor of humor.  The most emphatic positive reactions usually consist of laughter.  I try to keep attuned so I can hear a gasp if one comes.  Laughter is great, but as reactions go, it’s hard to beat a good gasp.

GER: What poets have influenced you as a writer and performer?

MC: What poets haven’t influenced me?  We’re constantly writing under the influence of each other even when we’re not conscious of it.  But as I said Steve Delia was one of my early influences at the Northeast regional library.  Steve has become a good friend as well.  Steve and Connie and I would go to Christine Grow’s critique group regularly.  That was really instructive and inspiring.  Steve also started a group that does critiquing through the mail – snail mail, believe it or not.  The pace gives a poet a chance to ponder.

Early on, I also had the opportunity to do a reading with the late Daniel Kiner.  He was profound and dynamic.  He read first, and I read second.  But it wasn’t like he opened for me. The audience loved him, hated me.  I could have concluded that the audience had no taste.  But I had to realize at that point that compared to Dan Kiner I stunk.  It was good for me to recognize this.  It made me raise my performance level.  Also it made me realize that if you follow somebody the audience really likes, don’t try to emulate him or top him.  Try to offer something a little different so you don’t suffer as much by comparison.
It’s not just poets who teach you poetry.  The performances of stand up comics are pretty closely related to poetry.  Some more than others, of course… George Carlin had material that was poetic as well as funny.
It’s also good to pay attention to the extraordinary people in our lives.  Connie is not a writer herself, but she has a good eye and ear for what is not working.  She can very often point out a problem in a new poem.  Then I rework it, concentrating on that part, and it usually comes out better.


mike cohen performsGER: You have recently embraced the internet with your blog, Mike Cohen Says . What led to the development of the blog and could describe the experience?

MC: What led me to blogging would be the sage advice of one G. Emil Reutter.  You directed me to Diane’s blog and I started playing around with the on-line blogging facility.  I’m not a technological person by nature, but I guess I was driven by the desire to get my poetry “out there.”  So mikecohensays.com was born.  It contains written poems, comments, audio and even links to video.  I was surprised how much I could put “out there.”  The problem is that it gets lost among all the rest out there.  It is still a lot of fun to put it up and imagine that a fraction of the billions of people who are currently ignoring it may some day take a look.

SVJ Dickens

GER:You are a regular contributor of non fiction articles at The Schuylkill Valley Journal. Your articles range from the arts to Dickens. Tell us how this came about and how you research your subjects.

MC: Editor and poet Peter Krok got me started.  He puts a different Philadelphia area sculpture on the cover of each edition of The Schuylkill Valley Journal.  A few years ago he asked me to write a short piece on the Randolph Rogers sculpture of Lincoln near Kelly Drive.  He liked what I wrote and has had me do an article on every cover since.  He tells me what he intends for the next cover and Connie and I take a little excursion and go look at the sculpture.  I do background research as well.  The articles are about the subject of the sculpture and the artist.  At Connie’s recommendation I have made a practice of including anecdotal notes on our sculpture adventures.  It gives the articles a personal touch and takes the edge off the academic aspect.

MCohen

GER: As a fixture on the Philadelphia poetry scene for a number of years tell us of the changes you have witnessed and how the scene continues to develop.

MC: Poetry is more open than ever.  Poetry is so diverse it’s hard to define.  The surge of spoken word poetry has drawn in the young and the reckless, even though spoken word has very deep old roots.  The poetry-prose line has blurred.  It’s pretty much a matter of degree.  Poetry is very inclusive.  Just give it a pinch of style and a dollop of panache and you’re welcome to present it in an open poetry reading… so long as you keep it brief.  Also, Connie often remarks at how plentiful the venues have become.  When she first met me she thought it remarkable that I was a poet.  If it had seemed as common then as it does now, she would not have been so impressed.

For Reading Out Loud

GER: You released two collections of poems titled “Poet’s Pilgrimage” and “For Reading Out Loud – A Collection of Poems That Stand up To an Audience”.  How did the books come about and how do they differ?

MC: The idea for “Poet’s Pilgrimage  stemmed from finding that my body of work was heterogeneous.  Different poems had come out in very different voices.  I decided to write a book using the idea of Canterbury Tales with individual characters to tell different sorts of poems.  I ended up with a story of seven poets who got together in a subway to read their poems.  It was a pretty ambitious undertaking for someone accustomed to writing brief works.  The story just grew in length and density into something that was difficult to write, and I’m afraid it’s a difficult read as well.  I don’t mean difficult in the sense of great literature, but in the sense that not many people would want to read it. I wised up and was less ambitious in “For Reading Out Loud,” which is simply a collection of poems I have enjoyed reading in public.

GER: I have heard you are a Docent. Tell us what work a Docent performs and where is Mike Cohen a Docent.

MC: Connie and I are both docents at Woodmere Art Museum.  We guide tours of art exhibits there.  The term docent sounds more impressive than it is.  We both like art, but can’t do it (although Connie has some formal training having taken a painting course called, “I Can’t Draw A Straight Line”).  Lacking ability in that area, we particularly admire those who do.  It is good that there are non-artists like us who just appreciate art.  It would be great if there were more non-poets who appreciated poetry.

miked cohen poets in the park

GER: What’s next for Mike Cohen?

MC: Now that I’ve done these ten questions, what can be next?  Disneyworld, I guess.  But, no, I’m seriously considering putting together another book.  Some of the people who go to my readings prefer reading a book over a website.  I’ve got some new ideas and even some newer poems, and may be able to use them in a book.  I understand it’s easier to do these books as” Print on Demand” than it used to be, even for low-tech types like me.

Whatever comes next, I’ll keep writing. What is great about writing is that you can keep doing it for a long time.  Being a writer is like being a Supreme Court justice or the pope.  There’s no mandatory retirement.  It doesn’t have the physical demands of other endeavors.  Besides, poetry is so hard to evaluate that even if your work deteriorates, who’ll know?  They’ll just figure you’re going experimental.

I want to thank the questioner G. Emil Reutter, a fine poet in his own right, who takes the time to listen carefully to other poets and writers and the trouble to give them a platform from which to speak.  I’m touched that you took the time to come up with questions pertinent to my poetic career.

You can read the poetry of Mike Cohen in The Fox Chase Review: 2008 AW2009 AW

10 Questions for Russell Streur

russell-streur1 (1)Russell Streur is a born-again dissident residing in Johns Creek, Georgia.  His work has been published in Europe, certain islands and the United States.  He operates the world’s original on-line poetry bar, The Camel Saloon, catering to dromedaries, malcontents and jewels of the world at http://thecamelsaloon.blogspot.com/; and the curator of The Bactrian Room, a journal for bactrians, ghosts and travelers on the Long Silk Road with a story to tell at http://bactrianroom.blogspot.com/.  He co-founded Poets Democracy in 2010 with Christi Kochifos Caceres and is the author of The Muse of Many Names, The Petition to Free Zhu Yufu, and other works.

Interview by: g emil reutter

The Interview: 

GER: Why are you a poet? 

RS: That’s a term I duck and dodge, poet, because I’m not very prolific and I don’t work on it as a craft on a daily basis.  I looked up definitions for the word today and none seemed to really fit.  For myself, writing poetry doesn’t make me a poet.  What I’m missing and why I’m not comfortable with the word is a vocabulary of the natural world.  I can’t hear a bird’s chirp and say that is a finch; I don’t know the difference between one pine and the next; I can’t read the constellations in the night sky.  It seems to me, in today’s world, that some of those skills should be a requirement for using the term.  So I have hesitation there.  I easily confess to a life-long affection for poetry and a continual involvement with it.  I was ten years old in 1964 when poetry first bit me, a poem by Robert Frost, On Looking up by Chance at the Constellations, it begins

You’ll wait a long, long time for anything much

To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud

And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.

And I was hooked.  Pretty soon came Chinese poetry and another whole dimension and I was gone and across the border.  Two books I’ve carried with me through everything in life, like 45 years, The White Pony and The Jade Mountain, both anthologies of Chinese poetry, the pages yellowing and brittle now, never have let them go.

I am less a poet than a believer in the Muse.  So in answer to why am I poet, I’ll say because the Muse swept down on me at an early age and staked a claim.  My longtime friend and muse, Christi Kochifos Caceres, is at the heart of a lot of the stuff I do.  I wouldn’t be doing any of this without the inspirations she brings me.

Robert Frost, by the way.  We have the same date of birth—March 26.

Drink up.

the muse of many names

GER: Your latest collection is The Muse of Many Names, share with us how the collection was developed and the inspiration for the poetry. 

RS: Robert Graves in his Foreword to The White Goddess says “The function of poetry is religious invocation of the Muse; its use is the exaltation and horror that her presence excites.”   I relate to that, and the book develops from that theme, inspired by the joy and terror of the Muse, a homage to her, both in her ethereal and her physical forms, especially the last poem, “The Ten Commandments,” which in my testament translates as:

And the High One spoke these words saying, I am thy Sole Adored, who raised you from the grave and gave you breath when you were dead and voice to sing when you could not even speak; who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the House of Bondage:

Thou shall have no other Brides before me.

Thou shall not be deceived by hollow charms; for I am a jealous and green-eyed wonder: neither shall false spells beguile you; and neither shall you serve them; lest my anger rise against you and topple you from the face of the earth.

Thou shall sound the truth and truth alone like the bellow of the thunder upon a winter sea; for I will not hold him guiltless who takes my love and word in vain.

Thou shall honor the serpent.

Thou shall honor the vine.

Thou shall wield a Radiant Sword and slay my enemies with Abandon and Glee.

Thou shall play with fire.

Thou shall sow the whirlwind.

Thou shall remember the auburn hours of my outstretched arms and the mighty hammer of my fist upon the gloom of dawn. 

Thou shall kneel down before no one save for me.

For I am thy Fury, thy Grace, thy Muse, who favors you beyond compare and above all others.  Defy me not.

GER:Your poetry appears widely in the electronic small press. With corporate and academic control of the major presses many have described the internet movement as similar to the mimeograph movement of the 60’s and early 70’s. Can you describe how the internet has opened doors to both emerging and established poets to seek an audience for their work? 

RS: I’m glad the hard questions are over.

I’m old enough to remember those days, and I agree that there’s a lot of similarity.  I think one big difference between the eras is that many of the mimeos were geographically contained within a specific city, and sometimes even within a certain neighborhood, and often to a small number of coffeehouses and independently minded bookstores.   If a blog can be considered a mimeo, then the reach now is international with an equal increase in the size and depth of the supporting environment—readership, small publishers, electronic editions, and clearing houses of information—New Pages and Duotrope to name just two.

For emerging poets, the internet is full of tremendous opportunity: knowledge of where the markets and outlets, the ease of communication (it used to be we had to send letters out and wait weeks and months for a response from a small press), more publishers, all the communities to join.   It’s amazing what there is now compared to then.

I’m not so sure about established poets.  Established academic poets, established popular poets, established  counter-culture poets, who are these established poets anyway?  If we could label them the mainstream, then I think that those poets still stick to mainstream ways, which is fine with me, because it leaves the big, deep waters to the rest of us.

A huge benefit of the internet are the vast libraries that are now available to us at a couple clicks:  the myths and chants and prayers and poems among the sacred texts at http://www.sacred-texts.com/;the centuries of poetry that are archived at places like  http://www.public-domain-poetry.com/; and national archives of poetry at http://www.rampantscotland.com/poetry/blpoems_index.htm as an example.  What wealth to have.

Drink up.

the bar keep

GER: You are the editor of The Camel Saloon  that has been described as the world’s original online poetry bar catering to dromedaries, malcontents, and the jewels of the world. How did you develop the concept?

RS:  I was sitting three stools from the end of the bar at the local joint one afternoon in the early spring of 2010 when a number of thoughts came together.   I had gotten a lot of my work published in the preceding couple of years and I felt that it was time for me to move on into something else.  I was also becoming more and more personally interested in global free speech and self-expression issues and principles.  And with the next sip, reminiscing about my friend Danny Harmon, rest in peace, and how he and I would go to one particular bar and work on poems together and try out lines not only on each other but to other customers and the staff sometimes, a very social place it was and it all felt, safe, to write there, in all the noise with the ball game on and the jukebox playing and all the bustle of the place.  I was also in appreciation of some editors I had gotten to know to one degree or another, especially Chloe Caldwell at Sleep Snort Fuck for the courage it took her to create and run that space and Ross Vassilev of Asphodel Madness and Opium Poetry, for just the sheer energies of those sites and how much time he must’ve put it into it.

So out of all that came the resolution to start giving back, to start standing, and to do that in a social environment, and it felt like a bar would be a fine place to do all that in, especially since I was in one in the first place, online though.  So I went to the Barnes and Noble and bought Google Blogger for Dummies, tried out some things, figured I had the technical bent to become good at the process, and opened the joint from the same barstool a couple weeks later.

Why the Camel?  I was reading Persian poetry at the time, and camels appeared here and there in the poems, and there was an unrelated article I read on the value given the camel in Bedouin poetry, and it seemed fitting for a journey to have a mode of transportation, and so the Camel, which is real interesting animal in the first place as it turns out.

World’s Original Online Poetry Bar?  Far as I can tell, it’s the one and only.  Catchy phrase, ain’t it?

Dromedaries, malcontents and jewels of the world?  Dromedaries because they can carry a load on their backs, the only beast of burden that beat the wheel at the transportation game, they know how to spit when offended, at the same time totally useful and adapted to a harsh environment.  Malcontents, naturally poets.   Raphaelle O’Neil of New Orleans is the original Jewel of the World, jewels of the world all of her tribal sisters.  Invitations along the way are extended to ghosts, travelers and exiles.

And G. Tod Slone of The American Dissident also was in the mix of the Saloon, how he refuses to compromise his ideals and has given a forum to so many people who might not have otherwise found a place in the world for their voice.  I wanted to make something that could redeem that same promise, to create a space in the world for voices.

GER: Books on Blog  is an interesting venture in that you publish ebooks without using the standard formats such as kindle or nook. The presentation is simply outstanding within the confines of a blog format. How did this project come to fruition?

RS: A friend of the Saloon, Michael H. Brownstein, spent a recent summer in Viet Nam teaching English to university students.  One of the lessons Michael taught revolved around the poems “In Bed” by Jeff Flemming and “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams.   Then he had the students write their own poems, in English.  Afterwards he asked me if the Saloon would be interested in publishing the poems.  The results and the whole story were way too big and fun for a post, and deserved something more permanent.   The Saloon at the time included a concept for special editions titled The Eye of the Needle, and that’s where the collection was placed, First Poems from Viet Nam at http://theeyeoftheneedlevietnam.blogspot.com/

Something in producing First Poems with Michael reminded me of a couple collections issued by City Lights in the Pocket Poets series, Red Cats (1968) and Nine Dutch Poets (1982).    So I was sitting three stools from the end of the bar at the local joint one afternoon with my son Morgen and I brought up the subject of publishing electronic chapbooks at the Saloon in a serial mode.  His encouragement tipped me from the consideration of the series into the actual doing of it.  Darryl Price was the first Saloonatic to take the Saloon up on the project.  The newest issue, Number 42 in the series, is authored by that remarkable woman who runs Propaganda Press, Leah Angstman.  The whole series is linked here: http://booksonblogtm.blogspot.com/

During his time in Viet Nam, Michael became aware of the terrible environmental and human damage done by the US military’s Agent Orange bombings.  He’s committed to helping right those wrongs and has a couple sites highlighting the issue.  The home of his effort can be found here: http://www.projectagentorange.com/ and there is a companion poetry site here:  http://projectagentorange.com/wordpress/.

GER: Why are you a born again dissident?

RS:  I mean dissident in two ways.  First, how wiki describes it as people “who write and distribute non-censored, non-conformist samizdat literature.”  That’s not a bad description for the denizens of the Saloon in general.  Second, as someone who takes a stand against violations of human rights.  One of the Saloon’s stands is support for the imprisoned Chinese poet Zhu Yufu.  The petition can be signed here:  http://freezhuyufu.blogspot.com/

Speaking of dissidents, G. Tod Slone of The American Dissident was permanently banned from his local library for no apparent reason last summer.  Permanently banned.  From a library.  Unbelievable.  The Saloon has been active in that affair too.  More on that here:  http://sturgisbansdissident.blogspot.com/

Born-again as a new commitment to principles and ideals that I had neglected for a number of years and as a public statement of personal belief in the Muse.

GER: Tell us about Poets Democracy.

RS: Christi Kochifos Caceres invented Poets Democracy.  In one form, it’s the spiritual nation for the individuals Plato excluded from his Republic and a place of sanctuary for exiles.  In another form, it serves as a small publisher (http://poetsdemocracy.com/).   It’s a river, a bar at night, wine, a tone of light, a bamboo grove and a thing to come.   And best thing yet, it’s the home of A Cup of Storm:  Love Letters from a Sinner, the first book of poems by Taufiq bin Abdul Khalid, who is the 21st Century incarnation of Rumi, hands down.

Drink up.

GER: What poets have inspired you over the years?

RS:  These days Woeser inspires me the most.  She’s a Tibetan dissident and the book I like is A.E. Clark’s translation and selection of her work called Tibet’s True Heart.  Rimbaud I have always liked a lot.  Then the traditional Chinese poets.  Russian poets, especially Bella Ahkmadulina, especially her Volcanoes, especially the verse W.H. Auden translated as:

What future did you assume,

What were you thinking of and whom

When you leaned your elbow thus

Thoughtlessly on Vesuvius?

I like women poets in general.   Early on, the beats, go figure.

the camel saloon

GER: Your photographs appear on the masthead of The Camel Saloon. Is there any interaction between your art of photography and your poetry?

RS: I am using the camera to get at nature that I can’t get to through words.  So it’s less interaction than a substitution.  I’m still new to lens work, but I am carrying the idea that the camera is a prosthetic voice for me, if a picture is worth a thousand words.

GER: What projects are you currently working on?

RS: I am working on publishing a collection of poems by Russell Jaffe, from Iowa City.  He’s got this dangerous concept of making poetry interactive, of having the audience or the reader fill in predetermined blanks in poems.  For instance, the reader selects his or her own adverb to fill in a line here, or a childhood memory to fill in a blank here.  I saw him perform in early summer of 2012 at the Midwest Small Press Festival in Milwaukee and just went wow.  Then later I happened to be in the Windy City when he was doing a reading at The Beauty Bar on West Chicago Avenue and he just had the crowd in his palm.  Three stools from the end of the bar I asked him if he’d like to join Poets Democracy and he said yes.  Coming soon, his This Super Doom I Aver.   After that, I need to find another bar because I don’t have a’s next yet.

Drink up.