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

10 Questions for Thaddeus Rutkowski

thad 4 Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of the innovative novels Haywire, Tetched and Roughhouse. He teaches literature as an adjunct at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York and fiction writing at the Writer’s Voice of the West Side YMCA in Manhattan. You can read his fiction and poetry in The Fox Chase Review at these links:  http://www.foxchasereview.org/12AW/ThaddeusRutkowski.html   http://www.foxchasereview.org/09AW/11-TRutkowski.html  and http://www.foxchasereview.org/09WS/09-ThaddeusRutkowski.html

and visit him at: http://www.thaddeusrutkowski.com/

Interview with g emil reutter

The Interview 

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GER: Tell us about the Unbearables, The Unbearables Manual of Style, your experience and how that experience manifests itself in your current writing?

TR:  The Unbearables are a group of writers based in New York City. They might be known for their literary activism; they “sat in” at The New Yorker to protest the editorial policies of then poetry editor Alice Quinn. She came to the sit-in and talked to them, and as a result some poems by the Unbearables were published in The New Yorker. The Unbearables have also staged parades and “happenings,” such as a chain of poets reading in a line across the Brooklyn Bridge.

                  The name Unbearables  comes from a longer version, The Unbearable Beatniks of Life, which is based on Milan Kundera’s title The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The group was formed, I think, in the mid-1980s. They were neo-Beatniks, reading at the Life Café. Beatniks of Life! There are hundreds of Unbearables, with a core of about 50 people.

                  I had to look up The Unbearables Manual of Style on the Web. It is an objet d’art that looks like it was hit by bullets, based on the Chicago Manual, put together by writers who worked as proofreaders, typesetters, etc. I wasn’t a contributor. I don’t know why. But I am a contributor to several Unbearables anthologies. I’ve often written on an Unbearables theme, e.g., “the worst book I ever read.” Doing the assignment gives me something to write about.

                  I edited a selection of work by 20 Unbearables in the current online issue of Many Mountains Moving, at http://mmminc.org

thad 5GER: You grew up in Central Pennsylvania, an area dominated by rural areas. Tell us about being raised in the area and how you ended up in New York?

TR: I felt like an outsider in central Pennsylvania. There were no kids of color in my high school, except for my brother and sister and me. I didn’t even know what it meant to be “of color” until I was about 12. That’s when I could “see” race.

Of course, the response to me by other kids and adults was subtle. Only a few kids would start speaking in mock Japanese when they saw me. Girls would talk to me, but dating was another thing. What would their parents think? A date with me was an interracial affair, though “affair” is the wrong word. An interracial experience.

My immediate goal was to move away. I had visited New York as a child (World’s Fair) and on high school field trips (Whitney Museum, Broadway musical). Before I got to the city, I went to college in Ithaca, N.Y. (which seemed like a big town compared to Hublersburg, Pa.), then to grad school in Baltimore. At the end of grad school, I could have stayed on at the university press (to continue my work-study job), but instead I moved to New York and found work, like a good Unbearable, as a production editor in the journals section of a scientific publisher.

GER: Your write novels, short stories and poetry. Where do you get your inspiration and when crafting your work what is the difference when you write fiction or a poem?

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TR: Fiction is the form that seems most natural to me—which is not to say it’s easy. I form sentences in my mind. I seem to say what I want to say in relatively few words. I call my short prose pieces “stories,” and I call a collection of them (united by voice and arranged in sequence) a “novel.” However, my stories and novels aren’t conventional. I start with an idea or a strong feeling, and the form it takes is secondary. Sometimes (rarely) it takes the form of a poem—a work in free verse.

I took fiction workshops when I was in school, with great writers like John Barth and Alison Lurie. I’ve also studied with great poets—Richard Howard and John Yau. I have respect for them all. At some point, though, you have to find and develop your own voice.

My inspiration comes from my experiences in life. I select and distill—I even make things up—for dramatic effect. I hope the subjects of my writing are more exciting or interesting than my daily life.

GER: Your father was a visual artist and teacher. You also dipped a toe into visual art. How has this contributed to your development of images in your writing?

TR: Right, my father was a visual artist. He taught calligraphy and silk-screening at the craft center at Penn State University, and he had a small business silk-screening Penn State images on T-shirts and other objects. For his own work, he made paintings and drawings of landscapes and antique things. One reason he moved his family to the country, I believe, was to rediscover an older way of life.

I began college as a fine arts major, with a focus on painting. To finish the degree, I took studio courses in drawing, sculpture and printmaking (etching). I also had to take 18 credits of art history. Meanwhile, I was studying English literature. I was a dual-degree major. The two disciplines came together in my mind. I’m conscious of visual detail in my creative writing.

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GER: You have traveled the United States and overseas to read your work. How important is it to you to perform your material in front of a live audience and are there differences between audiences in the states and overseas?

TR: I was talking with friends yesterday about visiting a high school in the New Territories of Hong Kong in 2012. In public schools in Hong Kong, all of the students wear uniforms. In the classroom, I tried to encourage the students to express themselves. I gave a prompt, and all of the students wrote at their desks, but few wanted to share their writing aloud. From what I could tell, their English was good, and they were in this class voluntarily. Do uniforms act against self-expression? Or are teenagers by nature shy? Was the exercise (about a personal victory) not interesting? Maybe it was a combination. In any case, I was able to engage with a couple of the more extroverted students, girls and boys, and that made the visit totally worthwhile. The teacher gave me a letter opener as a present, and that weapon-like tool got me into trouble with customs later, but that’s another story.

Anyway, no, I don’t think there are essential differences audiences in the U.S. and elsewhere. In countries like Germany and Hungary, I was lucky to have a translator. I would read in English, and the translator would read the piece in the local language.

Aside from the barrier of language, people have much in common. I always like meeting new audiences—people who haven’t heard my material before. I’m usually able to make a connection. I remember reciting a piece on the top deck of a boat on the way from Hong Kong to Lama Island. Two people were listening, one from Australia and one from England. We were just lying there in the warm air. I was interrupted by our cruise host, but after the host left, the Englishwoman said to me, “Do the rest of it. I want to hear how it ends.”

Thaddues Rutkowski in Hong Kong: http://asiasociety.org/video/thaddeus-rutkowski-white-and-wong-hong-kong

thad 7GER: You teach at the City University of New York and lead a workshop at the West Side YMCA. In interacting with students do you see a change in the writing landscape and if so what are the causes?

TR: I teach literature at CUNY and lead a fiction workshop at the Writer’s Voice of the West Side YMCA. The main change that I see is, I’ve become a better teacher over the years. I’m better able to communicate with people and encourage them. Earlier on, I might give an in-class exercise, and someone would sit there with a blank sheet of paper and write nothing. That hasn’t happened for a long time.

                  I don’t know about the “writing landscape” I don’t know if there are more or better writers out there. I believe the writers who succeed are the ones best able to motivate themselves. These writers (or writers in the making) have something to say and the means to say it, and they’re not going to let anyone stop them. In fact, they are going to win people over with their words.

HaywireGER: Haywire is a collection of 49 flash fictions. Why did you use this form for the novel?

TR: As I said, I write short fiction. But I always have the idea of a book in mind. This is common sense—first spelled out to me by my friend Paul Beatty. If you want to be writer, you have to write a book. So while I’m making these short pieces, I’m thinking about how they might go together in a longer, coherent work—a work with a beginning, middle and end. That’s how I put together Haywire and the two books before it. Sometimes, a short piece doesn’t fit anywhere, and it is not in the book. Other times, there are big gaps, and I have to add “chapters.” I’m not too worried about little gaps—I trust the reader to fill those in.

I reread Haywire last summer for the e-book edition, and I thought it held together pretty well.

rough house

tetchedGER: You used a similar method with Roughhouse and Tetched. Describe these collections and how they differ as well as from Haywire?

TR: All three books share a similar approach: snapshots or vignettes connected by voice and theme. I think there’s an evolution in form, since the books were written over a couple of decades. Roughhouse is the most minimal, but that doesn’t mean it has less value or less to say. I wanted a smoother narrative as I went along, more exposition, more commentary. I can’t say, though, that those elements are clearly developed. I’m still a minimalist.

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GER: You have said some of your influences were Barthelme, Brautigan, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and that you had an admiration for Mad Magazine. How have they influenced you and are there others you would like to mention?

TR: I don’t recall my references to Chaucer and Shakespeare, though I don’t doubt I said that somewhere. I have great respect for those authors. They are, along with Milton, the giants of English literature, and their works are what we study here in school. We could just as well study the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West, featuring the Monkey King. Or we could study the Hindu epic The Ramayana. They are all important.

                  I grew up reading Donald Barthelme and Richard Brautigan. They were experimenting with form, and their experiments worked, as far as I could tell. What they were saying affected me. I’m not saying they should be imitated, but they should be considered, taken seriously. Their stuff, especially the early stuff, is worth rereading.

                  Yes, I liked Mad Magazine, and Cracked magazine, too. Nothing wrong with a little satire and parody. I can still partially recite a Mad Magazine parody of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, ” which begins “Whose woods these are I think I know.” The Mad Magazine parody read: 

 “Whose Buick’s this? I think I know.
 
The keys are here. Hop in; let’s go.
… The road is clear; the hour is late,
 
so speed right past that turnpike gate.
They may jot down our license plate,
but what care we? It’s not our crate.”

 

thad 1GER: What projects are you currently working on?

TR: I’m working on a number of short fictions and gathering them into a book. I have a manuscript that’s almost complete. It’s about my experiences, my memories of experiences, and my subconscious perceptions of experiences. It covers a lifetime. I hope the writing is clear, and does what it needs to do.

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Thaddeus Rutkowski is reading at Ryerss Museum and Library on June 29th. You can find more information on this reading at: https://foxchasereview.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/rutkowski-and-smith-in-fox-chase-june-29th/

You can check out his books at this link:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Thaddeus+Rutkowski

g emil reutter 2.

-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA)  http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

10 Questions for Rebecca Schumejda

Rebecca Schumejda 2Rebecca Schumejda is the author of Falling Forward, a full-length collection of poems (sunnyoutside, 2009); The Map of Our Garden (verve bath, 2009); Dream Big Work Harder (sunnyoutside press 2006); The Tear Duct of the Storm (Green Bean Press,2001); Cadillac Men (NYQ Books 2013) and the poem “Logic” on a postcard (sunnyoutside). She received her MA in Poetics and Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and her BA in English and Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz. She lives with her husband and daughter in New York’s Hudson Valley.  http://www.rebeccaschumejda.com/

Interview by: g emil reutter 

Rebecca Schumejda courtesy of words dance

GER: You often speak of your father and his influence in your life. Could you share with us his impact on you and on your poetry?

RS: When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher asked the class to write poems and I eagerly complied. A few days later, my parents were called into a meeting at the school where my teacher, the principal, the Vice-Principal, and the social worker discussed how my assignment was unacceptable and how they were worried about my mental state. After reading my poem, my father sat quiet for what seemed like forever before he looked right at me and said, “This is a great poem, Rebecca!” Then he looked at the teacher and said, “Don’t ask your students to write poetry if you don’t want to hear their truths.” My father, a hardworking roofer, has always been my inspiration.

GER: What poets have influenced your poetry and why?

RS: There are so many, but the one that stands out most is Raymond Carver because of his narrative approach to writing. I love some of the poems that he wrote to his daughter. Lines like, “You’re a beautiful drunk, daughter, but you’re a drunk,” and “She serves me a piece of it a few minutes out of the oven. A little steam rises from the slits on top. Sugar and spice -cinnamon – burned into the crust. But she’s wearing these dark glasses in the kitchen at ten o’clock the morning – everything nice as she watches me break off a piece, bring it to my mouth, and blow on it.” Poems like “To My Daughter” and “My Daughter and Apple Pie” helped shape my earlier work.

 

from seed to sin

dream_big_180map of garden

GER:  You’ve worked with several presses: Bottle of Smoke, Words Dance, sunnyoustide, New York Quarterly, and Bottom Dog Press. Could you share with us the development of the collections and what is like to work with the small press?

RS: I have been very fortunate as I have worked with some really great small press publishers and have grown and learned from each experience. Bill Roberts, from Bottle of Smoke, is an amazing craftsman, who is well-known for his letterpress printing and hand-binding. The quality of his books are phenomenal. Bill published a limited edition chapbook of mine, From Seed to Sin, which includes artwork by Hosho McCreesh. I love what Bill is doing and highly recommend his books. 

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Words Dance published a handmade, limited-edition chapbook for me, The Map of Our Garden. Amanda Oaks did an amazing job and the whole process was intimate. There were so many cool features included such as a map I drew, a picture of me drawn by Hosho McCreesh, glow-in-the-dark fireflies in a jar on the cover and a handmade bookmark that had an actual petal from the sunflowers in my garden. The book sold  out, but Amanda recently released a kindle version. In addition, I still collaborate with Amanda on projects at Words Dance. 

sunnyoutside published my first full-length collection, Falling Forward as well as my chapbook Dream Big, Work Harder and a poem of mine on a postcard. I really enjoyed working with David McNamara, he actually did some editing for my second full-length book, Cadillac Men, published NYQ Books. Most recently, I had the pleasure of working with Bottom Dog Press and being part of their working class series. Larry Smith’s vision for Waiting at the Dead End Diner paralleled with mine and he helped me fine-tune the collection  

9781935520689_cover.ai

GER: Your collection Cadillac Men was influenced by a pool hall you and your husband owned. Tell us of the people who inspired this collection?

RS: Well, pool players, a dying breed, men like Mikey Meatballs who convinced a kid that he shot like shit because he was using a left-handed pool cue, Dee who went out to buy ice cream for his pregnant wife and came back empty handed and in debt, and Wally the Whale who was once a well-known circuit player who now his toughest opponent is his failing vision.

John Dorsey and Rebecca Schumejda in Fox Chase

GER: You tour in support of your poetry collections. Traveling can be rigorous, can you share with us any stories relating to touring?

RS: I read here and there, but I don’t tour. I work full time and have a young daughter, so I don’t have the ability to go anywhere for more than a day or so. I will be doing some reading this summer for my new book and will be reading in Cleveland, Ohio in October for LevyFest. As far as stories, I read at the Dire Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts with Nathan Graziano and Daniel Crocker and because we are friends and don’t get together that often, we began drinking very early in the day. Somehow, I thought it was alright to take over for the host and introduce Nate, and then all hell broke loose. Dan and Nate, who could barely stand, had people in the audience read parts of their work and it was pretty chaotic. The moral: I don’t drink heavily until after reading.

waiting at the dead end diner

GER: Waiting at the Dead End Diner was recently released. Can you share with us the inspiration behind the development of the book and any reactions you are receiving concerning the collection?

RS: I had to wait tables while putting myself through college, and when I was in graduate school I actually worked in the college cafeteria’s dish room and dining hall. My life was very different from many of my fellow classmates because I did not have the luxury of just being a student. On the flipside, I lived in the real world which greatly impacted my writing. An early version of Waiting at the Dead End Diner was actually my thesis for SFSU that was rejected by my graduate advisor. My advisor told me that no one wanted to read about waiting tables, ha ha. So, I went back to the drawing board and the waitressing poems just played out in my mind for decades. Then after writing Cadillac Men, I decided it was time to go back and explore the restaurant world that consumed a decade of my life. I even went back and waited tables when I was working on the collection

 

Rebecca Schumejda by Keith SpencerGER: Where does the voice of Rebecca Schumejda fit in the poetry world?

RS: I don’t know. I kind of hope it does not fit in. I want to write work for people, everyday people. I hope I can do that.

 

GER: Could you share with us your thoughts on the submission process for publication?

RS: It is a little like gambling, the odds aren’t really on your side unless you pick your game wisely. I would not play money games against Wally the Whale or Mikey Meatballs and I would not submit to The New Yorker. I think you have to really read what is out there and see who may be interested in what you are writing. I also think you have to be persistent if you really want to get into a specific publication. I am a huge fan of Rattle and they rejected my work for over a decade before accepting my work. And for what it is worth, they actually nominated my poem “How to Classify a Reptile” for a pushcart. Ha ha. I did not take the decade of rejections personally and I did not stop being a fan of Rattle. I think that it is important not to lose sight of why you are writing.

Rebecca Schumejda by Dan Wilcox

GER: Do you have any favorite venues to read your poetry and any publications you would recommend to others?

RS: There are so many. I usually enjoy the reading because of group dynamics. I loved the Fox Chase reading because I got to read with John Dorsey and because the audience was receptive and fun. I love reading at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, New York because of the acoustics and The Social Justice Center in Albany because of the crowd.

P4171330GER: What are you currently working on and tell us something about Rebecca Schumejda we didn’t already know?

RS: I am working on a collection of poems about a working-class neighborhood, characters from Cadillac Men and Waiting at the Dead End Diner make appearances.

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You can read the poetry of Rebecca Schumejda in The Fox Chase Review at these links: http://www.thefoxchasereview.org/w14schumejda.html  http://www.foxchasereview.org/11AW/RSchumejda.html  http://www.foxchasereview.org/10AW/RSchumejda.html

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g emil reutter 2– g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa.

http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

10 Questions for Philip Dacey

philip_dacey_at_SSUPhilip Dacey is the author of twelve books of poetry, most recently Gimme Five (2013), the winner of the Blue Light Press Book Award. The recipient of three Pushcart Prizes, two NEA grants, and a Fulbright
lectureship for his poetry,  he has written entire collections of poems  about Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas  Eakins, and New York City. His work has appeared in the Hudson Review, Partisan Review, Poetry, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Esquire, Paris Review, The Nation,
and The American Scholar.  In 2012 he moved from Manhattan’s Upper
West Side to Minneapolis. To learn more about Philip Dacey please visit http://www.philipdacey.com/bio.html

Interview by:  g emil reutter

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GER:There has been much debate about the relevance of poetry and poets in recent years. Your career spans decades. Has this been a consistent presence on the poetry scene or a new argument?

PD: I think it’s inevitable that the question is a perennial one since
poetry is conspicuously both a necessary and a useless art.  “Useless” as in “non-utilitarian.”   We know it’s necessary because of its constancy in human history; we know it’s useless because that same history was, and remains, “a vale of tears,” unchanged by the poets. Dr. Williams famously said, “You can’t get the news from poetry, but men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” It so happens I’ve been reading the new book of essays about the work of Stephen Dunn, The Room and the World, where the issue you raised is much explored.  A consistent theme there is that poetry serves by shining a light on the limitations of language and human perception, and therefore the limitations of itself, and in the process of doing so points the way toward what truly is as opposed to comfortable illusions about what is.

GER:  Your poems have been set to various musical genres. How has this
impacted your poetry and how has the added exposure aided you in your
pursuit of the art?

PD: I’ve always thought that the poet envies the musician, as the musician can make pure music while the poet has to make music through the medium of language, with all its varied baggage.  Words as means to an end; the end as music.  Maybe I’m a frustrated musician and why I became a Juilliard junkie during my eight years living in Manhattan. Maybe I shouldn’t have quit piano lessons in grade school when it came time to give a recital and I panicked.  I’d like to think that musicians’ interest in my work has confirmed my tendency to see poetry as fundamentally a musical art, with words substituting for notes. I’ll call Frost as my witness: “The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader.” (An interesting coincidence: after answering your second question, I picked up Eliot’s Four Quartets to do some re-reading and the first line I flipped the book open to was “Words move, music moves.”)  Poetry as music versus poetry–back to question #1–as tool for accurately describing the self and world seem to conflict, but I’d simply say that Poetry as a Platonic absolute does not exist and instead there are poetries plural; no Chairness but lots of chairs of all sorts.

p3GER: During your career you have received a number of fellowships and residences. How important is it for a poet to pursue these types of programs?

PD: As with poetry itself, important and not important.  Clearly important for a career as poet, maybe too for building self-confidence, but in terms of actually impacting on the poetry and its strength I don’t see how there can be a connection.  How many fellowships did Dickinson get?  There can be a danger, too, in careerism, where “making it” takes precedence over “making the poems.”  And maybe the emphasis should be even more on the making than on the poems themselves; the process as the goal; the journey as destination.  It’s easy to forget, given the star-quality of so many poets, that only a small percentage of them will be read by posterity.  Yeats when asked to comment on his poet-ontemporaries said, “One thing is certain: there are too many of us.”  The many disappear, and the few remain.  My way of dealing with that fact is to be grateful for the life that poetry has given me, a life I couldn’t have predicted when I was younger

GER: Tell us of your New York experience, how it impacted your work and about your return to Minnesota?

PD: I don’t think it changed my work–my aesthetic, my work habits–at all but it did me give me some new material for poems. The result was my book of postcard sonnets.  I went there simply to learn what it was like to be a resident of that great city.  I’d been there many times over the years, starting with summers when my mother and I took a Greyhound bus from St. Louis to visit relatives in New York, where my mother was born.  I trained there one summer for the Peace Corps, in 1963.  I had been there to give readings.  I always knew it as an outsider and wanted to know it from the inside.  I discovered, contrary to what many people think, that it is a very livable city.  I must quickly confess, however, my apartment was on the Upper West Side, which is not typical of all New York.  I always said I lived in the greatest neighborhood in the greatest borough in the greatest city in the world.  My reasons for returning to Minnesota were multiple and complicated, involving my partner (her reluctance to live full-time there), my loyalty (sentimental or not) to the Midwest and Minnesota (coming full-circle back to the Mississippi, originally in St. Louis,
now in Minneapolis), the voice of my working-class upbringing guilting me for a certain uppitiness, my having stopped exploring the city and fallen into a pattern of narrowly focussing on my neighborhood (a cornucopian one but still a small part of the whole city), the consideration of where I wanted to spend my last years, and the accomplishment of my three goals (to have a post-retirement adventure, to learn what living in the city was like, and to write a book about New York).  Becoming a permanent resident wasn’t an explicit goal, though the possibility wasn’t initially ruled out either.

mosquitoGER: Your collection, Mosquito Operas, was released in 2010. How did this project come about?

PD: The publisher of that book, Rain Mountain Press, was also the publisher of the earlier book of New York postcard sonnets; at one point they said they wanted to do another book, and after thinking of various options I decided that scattered throughout my work were a lot of short poems that maybe got lost in the crowd of other, longer pieces.  And of course there’s a long tradition of short poems from classical epigrammatists to Basho and company and up to the Imagists. After such big projects of mine as the Hopkins and Eakins books, working with the new and selected short poems felt like a playground to me.

 

gimme-fiveGER: Gimme Five was released in 2013. What was the inspiration for the development of this collection?

PD: I had previously published two chapbooks of such poems, each with five stanzas and five lines per stanza.  It’s a format I fell into early and have frequently returned to over the years.  I decided it was time to make a larger collection of the best of my 5×5 poems that hadn’t yet been included in any of my full-length books.  One chapbook was called Fives, the other Mr. Five-by-Five.  My very first published poem in 1967 in The Beloit Poetry Journal was such a fiver.  For me, a 5×5 poem lets me take a stand on a border between free verse and formalism–thus I call it a format rather than a form–though of course I also like wholly entering the territories on either side of the border and regularly do so.

p2GER: You live with your partner, the poet Alixa Doom by Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. You are both fine poets in your own right. What is it like to be in love with a fellow poet and do you inspire each other’s work?

PD: I’ve published a chapbook of poems Alixa inspired, The Adventures of Alixa Doom, and have since expanded it into a full-length book, The Complete Adventures of Alixa Doom and Other Love Poems, which has no publisher yet.  I’m happy to say that as two poets under one roof we are not competitive with each other but supportive, in the form of both general encouragement and regular critiquing of each other’s work.  We have significant differences as poets–the term “nature poet” would apply to Alixa but not to me (to my discredit, no doubt)–but they don’t interfere with our teamwork; rather, they provide occasions for affectionate teasing and banter.

GER: What poets inspired you or continue to inspire you and do you consider yourself to have a direct lineage to any of them?

PD: James Dickey was an early influence.  Before reading him, I was mainly interested in writing prose fiction (which I was terrible at).  He seemed to open the door to the possibilities of poetry for me.  Of
course, I was familiar with Hopkins, given my sixteen years of Catholic education, and a book of poems about him was the ultimate result.  My favorite living poet was Seamus Heaney; there are no words for the loss his death represents.  Another living poet?  I’m a fan of  Ashbery although he’s hardly like Heaney.  I’m at the place in my life generally and as a poet that I feel I should definitely read more dead poets than living ones; thus my re-reading of Eliot, as mentioned above.  There’s less time now to “keep up” with new voices than to listen to old ones.   I wouldn’t presume to include myself in any literary lineage; I see my fate as that of compost in the vineyard where great writers have labored, a fate I’m happy to accept.

p4GER: Prior to your university education your received instruction from the Incarnate Word nuns and Jesuit priests. You were a Peace Corps Volunteer and have traveled to such various places as Africa, Asia and Europe. How has this impacted your writing and your life?

PD: I believe I received a good sixteen-year education from the nuns and priests and am grateful to them for that.  Part of my education was Latin; five years of it, and I even taught Latin for a year in Nigeria as part of my Peace Corps stint there (just what developing West Africa needed, right, Latin?).  In fact, I think my years with Latin have been a plus for my writing as a poet.  For a sense of both etymology and syntax.  I tend to be what I call a grammar Nazi.  I owe that to the Jesuits.  As to travel, I’ve written poems about all the continents you mention, so my jaunts have certainly given me material.  It occurs to me, now that you get me thinking about it, that all my travelling connects in some way to my eclecticism, for both as reader and writer I tend to be “all over the map.”   But now after so much  travelling, capped by my eight years in Manhattan, I’m feeling travelled-out..  Time to take stock ?  Time to give considered attention to the needs of the home stretch?

GER: What projects are you currently working on?

PD: I’ve written and published a book’s worth of poems on Walt Whitman and am currently looking for a publisher for that.  Also, the New York publisher who produced my New York poems and the collection of short ones wants to do another collection of mine, and I’m in the process of putting together a book of–unlike my last five books–miscellaneous poems.   The last five all had a special focus: Thomas Eakins, New York, short poems, sonnets, and 5×5 poems.  My last miscellany–The Paramour of the Moving Air, a Quarterly Review of Literature book–was 15 years ago, so my problem has been selecting from among all the poems I published during that time; too many to choose from; maybe a nice problem to have but still a challenge.  I’m something of a factory–I like to joke that the E. P. A. has threatened to shut me down–and always wince to recall Stevie Smith’s crack: “Mediocre poets publish every day of the week and twice on Sunday.”

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The poetry of Philip Dacey 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/11WS/PhilipDacey.html and http://www.foxchasereview.org/11AW/PDacey.html

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

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Interview with: g emil reutter

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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.

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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?

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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?
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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.

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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.

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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/

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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/