Poetry Drawer: The Drowned City by Robert Beveridge

When the water began
to fill the coalfields
I, the last inhabitant
of this city
had tied myself
to the basement post
looking for—what?—
a revelation?

Possible.

The water, coated
with coal dust,
swirled around my feet.
The rope tightened
around my neck.
The darkness
in my basement was pure.
I had to feel
the water
the coal dust

and I could feel
the great manuscripts of Florence

covered with coal
illuminated
with potential combustion
even as the water
permeated pages so thick
to be almost cloth.

As we drown
we have the potential
to burn.

What?
A revelation?
Possible.

Water around my waist now
cold as coal
cold as the mine in winter

and still the rope grows tighter
around my neck.

Water mains broke
in a thousand earthquakes
around the world last year
and flooded the streets.
Now certain third world countries
find it suitable
to sacrifice whatever
first comes to hand
on the anniversary of the flood

chickens, cows, in one
case a firstborn.

Water sustains us
but at times is our adversary.

A revelation?
Possible.

The rope soaked
and dusted.
I taste coal on my lips.
The last inhabitant
of this city,
I give myself
to whatever powers guide
these waters.

A revelation?

I wake up,
afloat,
clean.

Poetry Drawer: Lowering The Lights by Stephen Mead

Grey eyes, wolf’s, cold steel
in the glint with fire behind, steel
of a new street grid, a warmth
in that whiteness
glowing gold through the black
of its own holocaust….

Tender yet, it is animal fragrant,
mortal through the mist where
in absence, presence, absence,
we, hunted, touch through
tenements, the graffiti of city woods.

I draw close my curtains
as though inside the vestments
of your flesh robes, the fur & grey
gazes you pierce the lowered lamp
lights with,

& also my beating heart.

Check out Stephen Mead’s Inky Interview

Elf Corner: Deborah Edgeley, with Kev Milsom

Hello Deborah, and thank you for agreeing to this interview, to share some thoughts with our readers. Can I start by asking you about your literary roots? As a young one, what types of writing and books enthralled and captured your imagination?

As a child I was always passionate about books, even before I was old enough to read the ones in my parents’ library, like The Moon’s A Balloon by David Niven, and Valley of The Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. I used to pretend that I was a librarian, and mark their books in pencil with an imaginary name and ‘date due’.

I guess the first author that I serial-read, apart from the Ladybird books (aw, Rumpelstiltskin ) was Dennis Wheatley. The book that I remember the most is The Haunting Of Toby Jugg, a tale of satanic possession and madness of a fighter pilot, confined to his bed. It was the imagery that was vivid and believable, the character of Toby, and how easy it was to empathise with him, and, of course, the suspense of an occult thriller.

Thinking about it, I was always interested in characters and different accents. Even though I was shy at school, I jumped at the chance of reading the main characters, like Will Mossop in Hobson’s Choice and Eliza in Pygmallion, then fell back into being an introvert. My Dad used to call me Mike Yarwood.

In my twenties, my colleague Sally suggested Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. She raved about it. It looked boring to me, but I gave it a try and ended up setting my alarm for 5am, every day, so that I could read it before work. It was the character of farmer William Boldwood that fascinated me, with his obsessive pursuit of Bathsheba, buying her fancy clothes and labelling them with a ‘B’, in preparation for their phantom marriage. It was both heartbreaking and exciting at the same time. Passionate. How could an author affect you so much, with words? There began my literature obsession.

When did you first embark on the literary journey of not just admiring the works of others, but take those fascinating first steps into creative expression within poetry and writing?

I’ve always read a lot, and had/have a big collection of books. Every book I read, I make notes in the back, of ideas, favourite quotes, quirky words or concepts, or snippets of history that I am unfamiliar with. It wasn’t until I began studying with the Open University that I realised why I made these notes. I wanted to be a writer. It was only by chance that I signed up to do a Creative Writing course to fill 30 points for my English Literature degree, and I got a taste for words. Also, as an introvert, it was an excellent way for me to express myself, which I don’t really manage in speech, unless I’ve had alcohol, or no sleep. I also found that I was making sense of things as I was going along, in my notebooks, as therapy, understanding the world, feelings and people, and getting perspective, really.

Your book Testing the Delicates covers various aspects of the social stigmas relating to the breakdown of mental health. How personally challenging was this task to initially plan and create? Also, did the creative expression of these thoughts uncover any surprising emotions, with the benefit of time & hindsight?

Emotionally, it was difficult to write. Not only did I re-live painful events that some of the poems were based on, I went through a stage of worrying if this was the right thing to do, to write about such a personal subject of my mother’s mental health, and share it with the world. Would she have been ok with this? As a loving mother, I’m convinced that if the book helped somebody, if someone could identify with it, then she would think it was worth it. There was, and still is, a lot of prejudice, with regard to mental health, and it is something I detest. I wanted to give my mother, myself, and others, a voice.

You’ve recently created a deeper layer for your expressive talents via public performances of your poetry, alongside the artist/musician Mark Sheeky as duo Fall In Green. Could you share some thoughts on how this added to your initial inspirations and goals for Testing the Delicates? Do you foresee further public performances in the future?

When Testing The Delicates was first published last year, there was a local event, raising money for North Staffs & UK Mind, with a call out for performers. I thought of performing some of the poems from my collection, and Mark Sheeky suggested a piano accompaniment. The organiser, musician Glyn Sutton, asked if we had a stage name, which was something we didn’t think of, so we decided on Fall In Green, taken from Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights (we roll and fall in green…). Since then, we have done several gigs in Acton, Crewe, Holmes Chapel, Nantwich, Sandbach, Warrington and Whitchurch.

It was fun listening to the style that accompanied each poem. It seemed to bring the writing alive, in a theatrical way. For example, ‘Walking Tears’ has a sinister, funereal undertone, ‘Whose Apple Thou Art’ has a theatrical, posh, Shakespearean voice, with bits of bumpkin, and a harpsicord accompaniment, and ‘Quick Get your Lows Before they Run Out’ is spoken in an American drawl, resembling a TV advert for happiness. We also perform a canon called ‘Gauging A Life’, creating the effect of identity confusion through layering voices.

Another layer of expression and understanding was created by Mark Sheeky, who illustrated Testing The Delicates with pen and ink.

With regard to further public performances, it would be great to take our act to festivals. Performance and theatre is something I have always loved.

Aside from writing, what other forms of creative expression appeal and build inspiration for you, Deborah?

Reading. I’ve always got a book on the go. I’m reading Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (go and buy it) and have just finished Douglas Coupland’s Hey! Nostradamus, topical, based on the Columbine massacre. Oh, and a couple of Jeanette Winterson’s, in particular, Why be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Absolutely wow!

I’ve had a few guitar lessons, so would like to accompany some new poetry with strings, but it might take forever as takes such a lot of motivation for me to learn (and it hurts my fingers!).

My personal enjoyment from working at Ink Pantry focuses strongly upon the element of learning and discovering what makes other creative writers ‘tick’ and what inspires them. In this vein Deborah, what was the initial inspiration behind the creation of ‘Ink Pantry’ and what factors continue to inspire you for the future?

Aw Ink Pantry 🙂 The initial inspiration behind Ink Pantry was to find a platform to promote our work, and inspire and support other writers, ‘our’ being my comrades from the Open University: Berenice Smith, Jennie Campbell and Alyson Duncan. We had lots of other students involved. During our degrees, we managed to publish two anthologies and maintain the website. Recently, Ink Pantry we have been added to Duotrope, which has sparked international interest. We’ve connected with many authors from America, China, Italy and India. There have been rumours of a third anthology…

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Finally, the big question! What is coming next from the pen of Deborah Edgeley? New genres? Different challenges? Further creative collaborations? Do tell!

As Fall in Green, our poetry and piano duo with Mark Sheeky, we will be releasing an album of Testing The Delicates. We have been filming the videos to accompany both of our single releases. Our first single will be ‘Who is Afraid…She Floats’. It is based on Virginia Woolf and Ophelia from Hamlet. Can we take poetry into the charts? 🙂 We’re going to give it a go!

I am also working on my father’s memoirs of his army days. The working title is Charlie Stockton. One of his stories called ‘The Bridge’ was published in War Memories by Ian Billingsley, with a foreword by Norman Wisdom. He would have loved to have published his own book.

I would like to work on another poetry collection, and perhaps a short story collection. Potential themes of grief, introversion, and more mental illness. You know, the hell yeah happy stuff 😉

Elf Corner: The Awesome Kate Foster

Kate Foster is an editor, both by day and at heart. She loves nothing better than getting stuck into a manuscript and then, constructively of course, ripping it to pieces! Structural or developmental editing is her forte, particularly bringing characters to life, and she is an eternal student taking regular courses and reading blogs, articles, and books about the craft – there is always something new to learn! She works with authors preparing to self-publish, as well as those who’ve been traditionally published, but she definitely has a soft spot for teaming up with brand new writers unsure of how to move forward.

Mentoring new writers is another passion, and Kate was a middle grade mentor from 2015-2017 in the annual Pitch Wars writing contest, which is renowned for launching many authors’ careers. She has also mentored writers and judged writing in other contests such as TeenPit. She’s forever buying new books, both physical and digital – because both can and should be able to exist happily side by side – and her TBR pile is perpetually growing. As editorial director at Lakewater Press, Kate is able to make authors dreams come true by publishing their books, several of these having won awards and attracted the attention of film production companies.

Also a writer since her early years, Kate now writes mainly middle grade fiction (8-12 year olds), particularly for the upper end as she leans toward writing horror with dark content. Scaring kids is a great pastime! With three sons who like to read, she is lucky to be able to run ideas past them to gauge just how scary her works-in-progress are – middle grade is a lot about balance. After a bumpy start after taking her writing from laptop and notebook to sharing it with the big wide world, Kate finally self-published a middle-grade sci-fi called WINELL ROAD, which won an award in 2015, with two more books planned in the series. Now represented by the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, Kate is preparing to go out on submission to editors with her latest novel, a spooky children’s horror with paranormal elements.

A mum, a wife, a dog-owner, and football lover, Kate is an Englishwoman living on the stunning Gold Coast in Australia. It’s quite nice there!

Elf Corner: The Delightful Claire Faulkner

Benjamin Zephaniah, Thankyou.

I’ve confessed many times that I love poetry. I love reading it. I love writing about it. I love it when I find a poet I’ve never heard of before and can climb into their world through their writing. I love having poets and poems recommended to me, and I’m starting to re-discover spoken word and performance poetry all over again.

Recently whilst chatting with friends I was asked where my enthusiasm came from. To be honest, I’m wasn’t sure. I was always encouraged to read and be creative, but none of my immediate family had any interest in the arts when I was growing up. The question left me quietly curious, and I began to wonder where did my enthusiasm come from?

I have vague memories of learning about alliteration at primary school. I remember writing a poem about a witch’s cat when I was 8 or 9, and then nothing until my GCSE’s. No, I’m wrong. There was something just before my GCSE’s. There was a Saturday TV show and it was called ‘A Beetle Called Derek’.

It was the first show to teach me about the environment, about animal rights and about ethical consumerism. Three issues which I’m still passionate about. The show also had a poet. Benjamin Zephaniah, who appeared in each episode performing a poem relating to that week’s topic. One of those poems was ‘Eco Warrior A Beetle Called Derek’.

The poem is about a new kind of beetle discovered in the forest which is then destroyed by humans. I remember being totally captivated by the words, by the rhythm and the topic. This was the first poem which seemed to speak to me directly about issues I cared about. I had no idea poetry could be so powerful and personal at the same time. From then on, I was hooked on poetry. I read as much as I could find in the school library. Some of it I didn’t understand, but that didn’t seem to matter. If I kept reading, I might find another poem that spoke to me in the same way ‘Derek’ had. I’ve been reading poetry ever since.

It was 1990. I was too young to have a bank account, I asked Mum to write a cheque, so I could send off for the information pack which was advertised on the show. When it arrived, I was delighted to see that it had copies of all the poems from the series. I copied ‘Derek’ out by hand for friends, and even sent it to my American pen pal. I still have that information pack. I keep it on the bookshelf with all the other poetry anthologies and chapbooks I’ve collected over the years.

In 2018 the poem still inspires me just as much as it did in 1990. I knew that it sparked my interest in animal welfare, but I didn’t realise that it started my love affair with poetry.

Benjamin Zephaniah, Thankyou.

Inky Interview: Shannon Donaghy from Montclair State University, New Jersey

You are a junior majoring in English at Montclair State University. What texts are you studying?

Nothing currently. I just finished a semester abroad with Semester at Sea, so my English classes on the ship mostly focused on literature from all of the different countries we visited. At my home university, however, it depends on the class, but I mostly study poetry. This coming semester I will be studying YA Lit in one of my classes, which is exciting. My favorite book I’ve studied so far, I think, is Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi. It was very cool to read and fall in love with a book I was studying, then have an opportunity, by some twist of fate, to visit the country it was written about. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity, as a student of a major that primarily works on paper, to experience the physicality of my studies; witnessing the things one reads and dreams about is a rare and beautiful thing.

What is it you love about poetry?

I think I value poetry over other kinds of literature because there are no rules unless you want there to be. Poetry is literally open-ended, it can be anything, it is anything! I think I like setting my own limits, being able to break them on my own terms, and following behind the narratives I write as they manifest in front of me, no matter where they take me. The possibilities are endless, and I think being able to create something out of nothing with any kind of comprehensive narrative, not to mention a good something, is a skill I find invaluable, and I wish others saw the merits of it that I do.

Another thing I love about poetry is how diverse it is. The term “poetry” encompasses a lot, and like everything else in the world, it’s not for everyone, but only in the broad sense. It’s not for everyone in that not everyone is going to love everything. There are so many different kinds of poetry and poets out there; odds are if you don’t love one thing, you’ll find something else that speaks to you. The most frustrating thing is the misconceptions people hold about poetry that keep them from exploring the genre.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

I mostly write about nature and the relationships in my life, though after this most recent chapter, having circumnavigated the world on a ship, I find myself writing a lot about travelling, the ocean, and my perspective as it’s changed while I was voyaging. I care about my place in the world, that of other people, and the unfathomable diversity of the world. I’m in this transitional period where I’m slowly but surely becoming an adult, and so all the angst has been taken out of my literary sails; I’m much more grounded and aware, I think, with my ponderings nowadays, and I consider each poem a pondering, a grasp at the answers to questions unknown. I care about a lot of things, and it’s hard to condense that into a more tangible passion, so that it becomes something that manifests in my art, but I think the core of it might just be humanity and all of the nuances of being a person.

How do you think technology is affecting humans in today’s society?

I think technology is having both a positive and negative impact on society. If we look at social media, for example, on the one hand it promotes interconnectedness and communication, and for some speaking through social media can give them a voice they might not otherwise have. I also think there’s something to be said about the ability to communicate with someone on the complete opposite side of the globe with a tiny little rectangle you can fit in your pocket. It is becoming extremely special to me to be able to communicate readily with the people I have met in my travels, as well as my old friends, each of us scattered to different corners of the country after graduating high school and going off to college. Social media is also an incredible way to spread information; I don’t recommend using something like Twitter as a news source, but there have been times where I wouldn’t have known that something was happening (and then gone on to research it on my own) if I hadn’t opened my social media. Inversely, social media does, at surface level, appear to be an abyss of nonsense, and the more trivial things are obviously a negative contribution. This goes for all kinds of technology, I think. For every advance it provides there’s potential negatives. I think it comes down to the manner in which we use technology, which ultimately is up to you, and the very least we can do is keep our feet on the ground while our heads are in the clouds.

Describe a typical day in your life.

As of right now, my life has recently taken a startling, brakes-screeching halt. About two weeks ago, I was still riding the tail end of a 112-day-long voyage around the world, to 12 different countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe, barely even stopping to breathe. So, I think it’s safe to say the “typical day” is ever-changing for me. The contrast between the full-throttle of non-stop travel and my sedentary home life has been a culture shock in itself, but a welcome change. Right now, my typical day consists of me meandering awake at my leisure, nowhere special to be, drinking at least one cup of coffee before getting myself ready, and the rest of the day is a product of my to-do list. Lately, I’ve been grabbing meals with friends as they return home for the summer, though when I have no plans, I find myself either reading or writing. My house is on two acres of woods, so I spend a lot of time doing so outside while my dog, Angel, romps around the yard. The end of the day is normally spent either out with friends or facetiming the friends who live too far away to visit. I wouldn’t say this is normal for me, but I am in a particularly transitional time, and it’s looking like this is what the summer will be for me.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

I think this question would have been easier for me to answer four months ago. That being said, I don’t know that I have an answer to this question. It’s hard to think of one singular thing that wouldn’t cause literally every other aspect of existence to change along with it. In the interested of keeping things simple, I think I would change the way language barriers affect communication. I’m not sure how to go about this – it hasn’t happened for a reason, right? – but assuming my answer doesn’t need to make full sense, I would want the differences in language  between people to be less politically and socially charged. The root of any kind of negative interaction, I’ve found, is misunderstanding, so if we could somehow minimize the misunderstanding in interlanguage communication, I think the world would be a much better place.

Who inspires you and why?

I think the people who inspire me the most are my friends, to be honest. It’s really important to me to have a support system of people who raise each other up and cheer each other on. Knowing that at least one person loves and appreciates the effort I put into my work keeps me going. My mother also inspires me, but in slightly different ways. My mom stayed at home with my sister and I until we were maybe 12 and 14, simply because she wanted to watch us grow up. Before that, she was a full-time accountant, then became a lunch lady at our school so that she could still be home for us if we needed her. Once we were mostly self-sufficient young adults, she decided to go back to work as a bookkeeper, and she now has her own company. My mom taught me that there’s no right or wrong time to do something big and milestone-esque in your life. Watching her professional journey showed me that I can do everything I want to do in my life, that I have plenty of time to accomplish everything I’d like to accomplish, and that there’s no shame in doing what you feel is right for yourself, even if it goes against the vision of the path everyone else might have in mind for you. Ultimately, she taught me that it’s my life, and I should do with it as I see fit.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I think so, yes, in two different ways. The first has been about me moving away from YA as I get older and learning what kind of stories I want to not only read, but write as well. This particular pilgrimage has been forcing me to look at things from all different perspectives, and I think the more literature I consume, the more I shape my own perspective. The other pilgrimage I’ve been on is immersing myself into the world of poetry in general. It’s so hard to get into something like poetry, and for me, it took roughly three years to find where I fit into the fabric of it. Poetry is such a big, daunting world, there’s so many different kinds of poetry, and if you have no idea where to start it’s hard to guess and hope you find something that speaks to you. All of this, especially because poetry books are so expensive. I am still very much growing into poetry and trying new things, trying to find more things that speak to me, but for the most part it feels more like a fun adventure now that I mostly know what to look for, as opposed to an intimidating task I really had to push myself to work at before.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I am currently writing two different books at the moment, both of which I hope to have published eventually. Both are inspired by, and a product of, my Semester at Sea voyage. The first is a collection of poetry I wrote while on my voyage. I somehow happened to start a notebook on the first day of my voyage and end it on the very last, which is the happiest accident I’ve enacted, I think. So I have been attempting to edit a full notebook’s worth of poems into a comprehensive collection. I have also been working on a short story collection about different kinds of stray animals I noticed in some of the countries I visited on my voyage. I’m planning on writing it from the perspective of each different stray – each chapter will be a different animal from a different country, and I’m going to attempt to thread myself and sometimes my friends into the background of each story, almost like a cameo, so that you can follow my path as I progress along my journey. Other than that, I’ve been writing like the wind and trying my best to get some stand-alone pieces out there.

Inky Interview: Author Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois from Denver, Colorado

Describe your journey towards becoming an author.

I published my first short story in the school magazine when I was in the fourth grade.

Tell us about your novel Two-Headed Dog.

Two-Headed-Dog is a wild romp. Hank Ribinthal, psychologist in a state mental hospital, falls in love with one of his chronic-schizophrenic patients, Tiffany. When she escapes he sets out to find her. Escapades follow.

You live in Denver. What is the literary scene like?

No idea. I keep to myself.

Have you been awarded any literary prizes?

I never apply for prizes, because they usually require a fee. But I did submit a flash fiction to 4W, the magazine of the Booranga Writing Centre (Australia) and they awarded me their 2017 Prize for Fiction. It was quite a surprise.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

The intrusion of the irrational into the rational world.

What is it you love about flash fiction, as opposed to other forms of writing?

I’d written seven novels, gotten a couple of agents (not simultaneously) but was unable to get one published. Novels are very difficult, time-consuming projects. I thought I’d go back to poetry, my first love. Poetry led to flash fiction. My poetry tends to be prosaic, my fiction poetic.

Describe a typical day in your life

Not too interesting. I get up, read (usually zen books) and meditate (zazen). Then I’ll go to the gym for a couple hours, or for a long walk around the lake. Then I might do some writing or writing correspondence (like this) or work in my garden. You might be able to tell that I’m retired 😉 From 11:30 to 5:30, my wife and I take care of our granddaughter. We’ve done that from when she was three months old, while her ambitious parents work.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Get rid of ego, greed, hatred, confusion. And all the bizarre, irrational, ancient mythologies (such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam) that cause so much grief in the world.

Who inspires you and why?

The students at Parkland High School in Florida (whose school was attacked by a shooter) who stood up and demanded stricter gun laws, in spite of attacks on them by the NRA.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Work through your karma—that’s all you can do.

Tell us a story in five words.

He aspired to write haiku.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Same advice everyone gives—read a lot, write a lot, live a lot.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Great Gatsby—can you believe I’ve never read that? So far, I’m not too impressed.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I’d like to put together a collection of flash fictions—I’ve had over 500 of them published. And I’m still trying to get an agent or publisher for my last two novels. Creatively speaking, I’m in a bit of a dry period right now.

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Inky Interview Exclusive: Professor John J. Brugaletta from California State University, Fullerton

You are Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at California State University, Fullerton. Tell us about your days there as editor of South Coast Poetry Journal.

The English Department at CSUF was generous toward its faculty in many ways, one of which was the always-present opportunity to design and teach a new course. That’s what I did with SCPJ, the course being called Editing a Literary Journal. I picked ten to twelve students to help as intern editors. Almost every student chosen performed wonderfully, especially when reading submissions, nominating their choices, and then discussing them with other interns at the Friday meetings. Among the excellent poets we published were Rita Dove, Richard Eberhardt, William Stafford, Robert Mezey, Kay Ryan, Lucy Shaw, Denise Duhamel, X. J. Kennedy, Denise Levertov and Mark Strand.

You have six collections of poetry in print, the latest of which is Peripheral Visions, published by Negative Capability Press in 2017. Can you tell us about this?

Yes. The first two volumes came out while I was still teaching a four-course load at Fullerton. The third one hit the table fourteen years after my retirement. We had sold our home, moved, and settled into the new place. I built garden structures and indoor tables until I’d had enough of that. And that’s when it struck me that I had a large stash of poems written in my spare time. So that put me in fifth gear, and the more recent three collections were the result.

Why do you think poetry is important?

I grew up in a blue-collar family where physical activity alone was considered work. But at some point I sensed that there were many topics we never talked about: people and things we loved, or forgiveness, or self-restraint in the presence of temptation are just a few examples. But poetry, I soon discovered, could and did talk about those and more. It was as if I’d been a tadpole and unexpectedly became an air-breathing and hopping frog.

Describe a typical day in your life.

Six a.m. is my usual rising time. I feed the pets and make coffee. Not long after, my wife and I have breakfast, followed by her embroidering while I read aloud from whatever book takes our fancy. Then to my daily walk with our Labrador. After that, it’s my study, reading to myself or writing. I constantly look for poets I have ignored who are worth reading. After lunch I drive into the Post Office in our little town for the mail, return home and lie down for a short nap. And then there’s dinner. In between all of these, I try to write what I would like to find on bookstore shelves.

Who inspires you and why?

After exiting the Marine Corps, I found the writer I admired most, Shakespeare. (Eventually I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Hamlet.) But later I opened Homer’s epics, and now I’d be hard put to say which of the two greats I admire more. There were others of course: Wilbur, Auden, Dickinson and Gjertrud Schnackenberg. And now that I’ve said they inspired me, I’ll amend that to say the benefits I derived from reading them did not include a sense of competition with them, but a feeling that I’d found a soul mate.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I’d say, “Give up this fame business. It makes you trendy instead of sincere. And don’t try to publish anything new until the paper has turned yellow in your desk drawer. In the meantime, READ all of the greats, from Beowulf to Thom Gunn. This won’t guarantee your success as a poet, but it will give you a leg up on those who didn’t do it.”

Tell us a story in five words.

Kissing his palm, she departed.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I’ve visited the Bard’s haunts and toured Robinson Jeffers’ house, but in general I prefer that friends do my literary pilgrimages for me. Their reports are far more enlightening, which tells me that I am less adept at imbibing the essence of an author from his or her surroundings than most people are. Also, I’ve just about given up on flying, and my wife gets seasick easily, so we’re two happy homebodies.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Find peace. Then write.

What are you reading at the moment?

Marilynne Robinson’s essays, Schnackenberg’s poetry, and Rachel Naomi Remen’s book on her grandfather’s blessings.

Your seventh volume, Selected Poems, is forthcoming by Future Cycle Press. X.J. Kennedy described it as ‘a vital contribution to American poetry’. What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I plan to keep doing what I’ve been doing, and I’m grateful that retirement allows me to do that. There have been several times when I’ve thought my end was near, but I’m on the edge of eighty now, having survived polio and cancer, so I’ve stopped guessing how much time I have left in me. But I’m enjoying every minute so far. As for writing and publishing, I have another collection out there looking for a home. And then there’s that New Poems file that keeps getting fatter.

Inky Interview Special: Author Steve Carr from Richmond, Virginia

You began your writing career as a military journalist. Can you tell us about this? Did you write print articles, or material for radio and television?

I entered the Army right out of high school. It was during the war in Vietnam and I wanted to go there, not to kill anyone, but to see for myself what was going on. My grades in English in high school were excellent, and thanks to high verbal test scores in the military, I was afforded the opportunity to attend the Defense Information School, which was a joint military school for training military journalists and photojournalists. The same day that I graduated they stopped deployment of many military occupations to Vietnam, including journalists, so I was assigned to the District Recruiting Command Headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. It was a civilian office and my job was to travel the state and write articles for local newspapers and radio spots for radio stations about men and women who were enlisting, those returning from Vietnam, and aspects of Army recruiting. From the time I arrived in Florida until I got out of the Army three years later, I never stepped foot on an Army base. Of course, I never got to Vietnam.

Can you tell us about your collection of short stories, Sand, which was published recently by Clarendon House Books?

There are 30 stories in the collection in the literary, fantasy, horror, sci-fi, speculative fiction, absurdist and humor genres. There is no central theme. What the publisher and I wanted to do was produce a collection of my stories that would appeal to different literary tastes.

Your plays have been produced in several states in the U.S. Interesting. Tell us about one of them.

A Cowboy Comes to Dinner is a farcical comedy with a cast of ten. It was staged in Kansas City, Missouri, and Rio Rico, Arizona. It’s about a play being performed about a cowboy coming to a posh dinner that goes awry when the cast performing it break out of their roles during the production and an accidental murder occurs.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

I’m not the type of writer who has a planned, specific message or agenda in my stories. I love the short story form and I write short stories in many genres with many different themes. With over 160 different stories published in over 170 different publications since June 2016, there are bound to be some similar themes, but as often as I’m asked that question, I still don’t have an adequate answer. I’m not an “intellectual” writer. I don’t analyze my work while I’m writing a story or after it’s finished. I tell a story. It’s as simple as that.

How do you think technology is affecting humans in today’s society?

We are becoming more connected on a broader basis but less connected on a personal basis.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I wake up. I eat. I write. I nap. I wake up. I eat. I write. I eat. I do some other mostly mundane stuff. I write. I go to sleep. Somewhere in between waking up and going to sleep I read books that my peers have written, I hang out on social media, I watch a little television and I spend time with other human beings. My days of adventure are behind me, but they were great fun while they lasted. I’m retired and have no need to prove that I can still act or live like I’m twenty years old.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

This is going to sound so much like a Miss Universe pageant contestant answer: I’d bring world peace.

Who inspires you and why?

There are a group of individuals, mostly other writers in the Inner Circle Writers Group on the MeWe social site, who encourage, support and inspire me every day.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

As a person, don’t sweat the small stuff. As a writer, don’t try to write the same way as your favorite authors. Find your own “voice” and write with that.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

Yes, but I have gotten off track a few times and for long stretches of time and had to find my way back.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Travel as much as you can, meet as many people as you can, observe nature, get involved in the world. Take mental notes on everything until you’re ready to write from those notes.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m re-reading some of Grant Hudson’s How Stories Really Work. Every writer at every level of expertise should read it.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I’m hoping to reach my goal of having stories published in 200 publications by the end of this year. I have another collection possibly being published by another publisher, so I’m waiting to hear about that. I have a completed novel that has been gathering cobwebs in my computer for a couple of years. I may get that out, dust it off and find an agent for it. Some days I think about retiring from writing altogether.

Steven on Twitter

Steven’s Website

Flash In The Pantry: Serotonin Reuptake by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

1.

In my memoir, I discuss sea lions. Sea lions lack subtlety. They never suffer from depression. Even when they’re thrown off an ice flow by a killer whale and their offspring are eaten, they never get blue, never suffer hate or thirst for vengeance—that’s not the way they’re made.

2.

On the glass table near my cruise ship cabin’s window, I lay out my thirteen pills on top of a brochure for shore excursions. Thirteen pills—the number seems lucky. There’s my anti-depressant, the pill to lower my blood uric acid so I won’t suffer from gout (the rich man’s malady), my baby aspirin, my boner pill.

3.

We pulled up to Yawzi Point, where the victims of Yaws had been quarantined by their ungrateful masters. The fat girl told us that the sign at the head of the point read Go No Further.

4.

My memoir is full of emotion. It has depth. I sometimes suffer depression and have many notes about how depression gets one in touch with one’s soul. However, if I had my choice, I would forego depression entirely.

5.

That sign now hangs on the wall of a Copenhagen museum. The souls of those dead slaves reside there, disfigured by the sun and hunger, toil and illness. Scandinavia is no longer a utopia, as the past merges with the present and the future. The fat girl shoves pastries into her pie hole.

6.

A theological mystery: does serotonin act in God’s mind the way it acts in ours? Was He the first to understand the concept of the inhibition of serotonin reuptake?