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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: 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 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.