Inky Interview Special: Mumbai-Based Academic & Author Dr. Sunil Sharma

You are a Mumbai based senior academic, critic, literary editor, and author, with 19 published books. Tell us about your literary journey. How did it all begin?

Right from early childhood, I was interested in fine arts. Both mother and father were college teachers. Ma taught painting and Pa, literature. Picasso, Premchand and Dickens co-habited the same North Indian space. This love for things artistic and spiritual was my early legacy; a kind of teenage initiation into the higher realms of truth, otherwise obscured; a sacred exercise that allowed glimpses of parallel spheres out there in regions not accessible to eyes and mind ordinary; inaugurated new pathways, gateways and threw open hidden vistas; facilitated fresh perspectives and insights into a complex organic process called life. It is an amazing capacity of great art that is otherwise lacking in other fields or branches of knowledge.

The mint-fresh epistemologies prove empowering for the recipient and are conscious-raising in quality. The rare ability of an artistic artifact to open up spiritual dimensions for the disciple and simultaneously initiate a contemporary dialogue is, well, marvellous feature of such age-defying pieces. Art can renew the immersed and restore some sanity in an absurd world, thanks to the post-reading or viewing activity. So the fascination with such an art continues.

In a rough chronology of sorts, in a brief recall, I can safely say that I began writing from college days, some juvenile stuff, first standard you have to pass in the journey onwards as a writer. It was not satisfactory phase, it can never be. Dearth of life- experiences made these outpourings immature, sloppy, sentimental and raw. It lacked depth and distance, crucial for serious art.

Subsequently, harsh realities of a middle-class existence, in a post-colonial nation, took over imagination and cooled down the ardor for art that hardly pays in an anti-art market that tends to favour and promote best-sellers selling fantasies. In my 30s, I moved to Mumbai in search of a job that could pay for mounting bills. Mumbai is also a mega magnet for the poor, disenfranchised, the unemployed and dreamers, apart from the powerful and wealthy; it is powerful financial hub of the country and home to Bollywood, a powerhouse of ideas and talents with or without inheritance. I found home in a hospitable city, the most cosmopolitan and professional one in india, despite heavy constraints. Later on, it became my Muse as well.

Due to early lack of opportunities, I could not focus much on writing—no point in writing, when it does not get a reader somewhere, some place. Meanwhile, I began freelancing for major English daily. In the 1990s, many publication avenues were made available, courtesy the borderless revolution, officially called the Internet, the most liberating moment in the history of human civilization. Although, it presided over the slow and painful death of print, Internet also released the publishing space from the limited tyranny and limitations of print. Now, you can soar easily the stratospheres of the cyberspace spanning the global village and reach out its any corner. That sudden high-tech window motivated me to write again for a large, almost global audience.

Last 10 years or more, I have been publishing consistently. My tryst with art continues.

It is my means of survival in the midst of a frightening market economy that produces nihilism and cynicism of another kind.

How did you become involved in Setu?

It was accidental. My cousin Anurag Sharma—a gifted bilingual writer and IT wizard— called up from Pittsburgh, USA, one day and during a long conversation, we decided to launch a bilingual e-journal to be published monthly from USA. It clicked and the expedition began. It is our third year and we have got more than 4 lakh (100k) page hits!

We, through Setu, are building bridges of understanding across cultural geographies. That is the primary task of a bridge (Setu in Sanskrit).

A remarkable journey! Patronage by readers, fellow editors and writers have helped fuel this strange trajectory in a busy space.

What is it you love about poetry? What kind of fiction have you written?

Poetry is a refreshing breath on a clean-air day, a rare Sunday outing probably, some place outside the metro full of smog. It rejuvenates the innards and heals the fissures. It makes you whole!

My fiction explores the underbelly of development and growth and is often literary, referencing other writers that have stayed on with me for last 30 years. It questions state narratives and tries to subvert the status quo.

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

The underdog is my enduring concern; the insulted and the humiliated; the voiceless. The threats faced by liberal-humanism. Increasing racism and fundamentalism. The rightist forces on ascendancy—these have to be resisted and reversed through writing and praxis. These are recurring concerns—nightmares visited again and again in a glitzy mega-polis.

Can you share with us one of your poems? What inspired you to write it?

Sure. A published poem, my personal anthem.

Near the Great River

In the rhythms of the Great River
Embedded/sedimented: Ode to Joy
Symphony No 9 in D minor, among other artifacts.
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!

How refreshing the lines from earlier!
How different now— the millennial universe!
Hate-filled, bomb-driven, suicidal killer!
What a moral climb-down!
The post-Renaissance poor inheritors!
The Great River carries the old treasure
Disseminates the joy and thrill
Of voices, lyrics and compositions that
Capture the best of this world!
Rest—on us!

Creative Talent Unleashed: Near The Great River by Sunil Sharma

Both Schiller and Strauss inspired this poem and the inspiring message of oneness of humankind is still relevant and needs to be urgently re-enforced in a divided world of hate- mongers and solo merchants of death and mayhem, wanton acts of violence done in the name of one God and religion, laying sole claim to truth and salvation!

You were involved in the UN project anthology in 2015. Please tell us about this. What advice would you give to our followers in submitting work for consideration? Are there any places you would recommend?

It just happened. I was surprised when I got an e-mail from their New York headquarters, inviting me to make a poetic submission. I thought it was some prank or a fake mail but a fact check proved it to be genuine. It was claimed that I was one of the three Indian poets selected for this unique anthology on happiness. It was pure nirvana for a solo and suburban writer, my fifteen seconds of fame!

Follow the guidelines and deliver something cracking with energy.

There is one place I know intimately and it is also most welcoming— Setu that I edit. There are other venues in the cyberspace—some pretentious, some real sober; others pure snobbish—you have to find out what works best for you and what not. Archived sections help to understand the personality of the journal—and opening remarks of the edit team!

Describe a typical day in your life.

A working day starts at 7.15 in the morning in Kamaladevi College where I am principal. There I supervise a young team of pros. Interacting with learners is a real pleasure. Late afternoon, I return to my suburban home. The day’s sojourn ends at late night. There are typical daily pressures, deadlines and short-term timelines; challenges of a campus and civic life in an Indian metro bursting at its seams and due to poor planning; a brief nap, followed by a long evening walk and then few hours of reading and writing, before/after quick dinner.

And occasional Hollywood on prime-time TV—no binge-watching the idiot box. A daily routine of ordinariness and frustrations, interrupted by sublime moments of creation. In a pedestrian world, each creative becomes another Maud Lewis, or, almost.

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

Hatred. It has already resulted in lot of bloodshed and loss. It is an insanity that needs to be checked universally in every epoch.

Who inspires you and why?

Humanity. An apocalyptic world has got no appeal to me. Real lucky to be born into a species that has evolved and produced great artists, philosophers, doctors, sports persons, gurus and scientists, not necessarily in this order. Homo sapiens have made tremendous advancements and taken the civilizational project to a higher level. Politicians are trying to destabilize that order.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Patience. Faith.

Tell us a story in five words.

Rainbows are multinational and immortal!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Writing is a demanding craft. One has to work hard in order to achieve a certain level of perfection.

What are you reading at the moment?

Currently, I am reading Dostoevsky’s shorter works and enjoying them for their dialogic quality. I am revisiting the Master after thirty years and trying to learn afresh from a humble distance. The way he captures the darkness of the Russian landscape and its soul is, well, simply breathtaking! He is a summit that has not been surpassed so far. Towering Tolstoy, of course, is there, but his gaze is in a different direction.

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

Planning to bring out my next book of poetry, soon. Then, a collection of shorts by the end of this year.


Dr Sunil Sharma’s Website

Inky Interview Exclusive: Former Cheshire Poet Laureate John Lindley

You were appointed Cheshire Poet Laureate in 2004, and Manchester Cathedral Poet of the Year in 2010. Congratulations! When did you first discover your passion for words?

Almost as soon as I could speak it seems I was making up little songs. I’m not sure that’s particularly unusual. It’s what many children do. I became an avid reader and certainly essay writing – or ‘composition’ as it was referred to – was a joy to me. I began writing poetry (badly) in my early teens.

You have written many poetry collections including Scarecrow Crimes (New Hope International, 2002), House of Wonders (Riverdane, 2008), and The Casting Boat (Headland, 2009). Your new prizewinning collection, Love and Crossbones, will be launched in 2018. Can you tell us about this? Where is the launch?

I was fortunate to be shortlisted in an international poetry competition following my entering the initially required submission of 20 pages of poetry. The 3 prizewinners were to be published. On receiving the balance of my collection I learned after the judge’s selection that I had won 3rd prize. SPM, the publishers, missed the scheduled publication date and the launch at The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden at the end of June had to be cancelled. The book is now due for publication on 25th July 2018. Whenever it happens, I intend holding an eventual local launch in Congleton whatever other plans there may be.

You are an experienced performer, having read at many festivals, including Buxton, Edinburgh Fringe, and Ledbury. What were Bunch of Fives and Fourpenny Circus about?

These were 2 touring shows that attempted to combine original poetry with elements of theatre. The first involved poets Joy Winkler, Jo Bell, Andrew Rudd, Harry Owen and myself. Fourpenny Circus was the same cast minus Harry who was, by then, living in South Africa. We had Action Transport’s director Kevin Dyer working with us and sets and scenery were employed. The shows were far and away the most ambitious projects I’ve been involved in.

Tell us about your cinematic based show Reel To Real.

It’s a one-man show in which my poems, all taken from my cinema-themed collection, Screen Fever, are performed, accompanied by or integrated with projected film footage. Thankfully, it’s been very well received and seems to be a show that appeals to both poetry enthusiasts and, because of its subject matter, to those with little or no interest in poetry; those who would not normally attend a more conventional reading. I’ll be performing it again at The Old Saw Mill in Congleton on 13th September as part of Congleton’s Heritage Festival.

In Embers and Sparks (Riverdane, 2014) you go in search of Dylan Thomas, as poet Phil Williams puts it, ‘the legends, photographs, artefacts, and recordings echo through John’s rhymes.’ Could you please share with us one of the poems, and walk us through the inspiration behind it?

Laugharne 1949

Not waking to the wall of his wife’s back,
he wakes instead to her risen absence,
coughs twice, shakes the last dimp from the pack,
scratches a match, lights up, smokes his first since

last night’s last breath before sleeping. Rising,
he reads the morning away, buttons up,
climbs forty-one steps, breathes hard, starts walking
to his parents’ house, reaches their door, raps.

With no cross words but the one they work on,
he and his father read the clues, fill in gaps
in their relationship with pencil. Then
Dylan crosses to Brown’s for beer and gossip.

At two, in the shed warmed by anthracite
and Cat’s love, he nags a poem’s forming frame,
takes an hour to take a comma out,
another hour to put it in again.

That evening he shipwrecks in a warm tub,
a rack of boiled sweets bridging his crotch,
then supper and the cliff road to the pub
under the heron’s and the cormorant’s watch.

Not another sound on the darkening path
bar the odd cough and the scuff of his tread
but close behind him he detects the breath
of a poem that trails him from the writing shed.

Then, the kids in bed, Caitlin follows on
to Brown’s where he entertains and she mocks him
till, for better or worse, she and Dylan
make it home, make tea, make love or mayhem.

I would imagine that anyone familiar with Laugharne will recognise the geography of this poem: the Boathouse where Dylan lived with his wife Caitlin and their children in the last 4 years of his life; his nearby writing shed; his favourite pub, Brown’s Hotel, and the Pelican house opposite which he’d moved his parents into. ‘Routine’ (the poem’s title) isn’t a word one would normally apply to Dylan’s often chaotic life but it seems to me that there was a semblance of it in the first few months of his move back to Laugharne before things truly began to fall apart for him. I like to write in a variety of styles and chose straightforward quatrains with a regular rhythm and an ABAB rhyme scheme for this poem, perhaps to try to convey that sense of relative order in his day-to-day workings then. I preferred, though, not to end-stop many of the lines and to employ quite a few slant rhymes to aid the flow of the poem and to avoid it falling into a style more mechanical and predictable than I felt appropriate for it.

You provided distance learning workshops for writers in Africa as part of the British Council’s Crossing Borders project. How wonderful. Tell us more.

It was a British Council funded project run by Lancaster University. A number of writers were involved, covering various genres such as novel writing, playwriting and, in my case, poetry. We were providing distance learning via set tutorials to adult writers across Africa. At one point I was asked to visit Nairobi to run face-to-face workshops for a week with a group of students and to give a public reading. It was a thrilling experience and I’m grateful that I was given that opportunity.

As a creative writing tutor, have you any snippets of advice for writers? Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, what do you do?

‘Read poetry’ is my advice. It’s remarkable how many aspiring poets read no-one but themselves. I’d recommend reading a broad range – funny, serious, rhymed, free verse, ancient and modern and the stuff in between. It should be a pleasure, not a chore. Anthologies are a good start. Not every style encountered will be liked, of course, but I believe it’s good to be open-minded.

I suffered a long period – 3 or 4 years – of writer’s block in the early 90s. Keats’ dictum that “If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.” didn’t resonate with me. I finally ended the block by making a determined attempt to immerse myself in poetry again: reading, attending workshops and readings and generally trying hard to reconnect to a poetry scene which I’d been neglecting.

You recently performed at Holmes Chapel library as part of a band, and have a CD available called Wasteland. How did this come about?

I’ve always written songs but, with not really considering myself a singer/musician, have generally looked on songwriting as of decidedly secondary interest to my poetry. About a year ago I began to think that I would like some of those songs to see the light of day, rather than exist as merely lyric sheets with accompanying chords that would surface only at the occasional jam session I’d take part in at the pub. I had a tremendous amount of help from others I recruited to play on, record and produce the CD. The idea of doing live performances, before or after the album was done, never entered my head. We’ve done two so far with another in the pipeline but I certainly don’t view this as a new line of work for me! All proceeds from CD sales are for charity so it’s been good that money continues to be raised through these gigs.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Believe me, Deborah, he wouldn’t listen. He was a rebellious little bugger.

You also held workshops with people in prison. It must have been so rewarding?

Very much so. Demanding and challenging too, though. I was offered a 3 year residency at Lichfield Prison but enjoy the variety of my freelance work so much, I turned it down.

Tell us a story in five words.

My dog and coffee calls.

What kind of work did you collaborate on with American artist Daniel Bonnell?

I came across his work when searching for a suitable cover image for my collection, The Casting Boat. The title poem is one about a search for faith and I found some of his Christian paintings online and was particularly taken with them. I approached him for permission to use one them and a correspondence began. He liked my work and, despite knowing that I was an atheist, suggested a collaboration in which I would write poems in response to 50 of his paintings. It was a fascinating enterprise for me. From time to time I give designated performances of some of the poems and talk of the collaboration against a projected backdrop of Daniel’s paintings. These readings have usually been in churches and, a couple of years ago, I was booked to give the reading at a national preachers’ conference. It was hugely enjoyable. The show’s title, Crossing the Divide, signifies Daniel’s and my distinct worlds – American/English, Painter/Poet , Believer/Atheist – meeting. Another happy outcome was that one of the poems, Annunciation, that I wrote during this project won the International Religious Poetry Competition, the result meaning that they found themselves with a fully-paid up, card carrying atheist as Manchester Cathedral Poet of the Year! I’ve included the poem in my forthcoming collection, Love & Crossbones.

What are you reading at the moment?

Adventures of a Ballad Hunter by John A. Lomax. It was originally published in 1947 and has recently been republished. It’s an account of the extensive folk song collecting and field recordings that the author undertook in the first half of the 20th century. He amassed hundreds of ballads, blues, spirituals, cowboy songs and more that would otherwise have been lost forever. This kind of thing fascinates me.

I’m currently reading too Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955 – 1982 by Philip Larkin. Larkin remains one of my favourite poets despite myself holding polar opposite views to those he held on so many things.

Apart from your book launch of the excellent Love and Crossbones this year, what’s next for you? What plans have you got?

My plans, alongside my regular workshops and open mic events I run, are for the Reel to Real performance in September I mentioned, a collaborative show as part of Goosfest 2018 in which I’m working with a duo performing Bob Dylan songs, a few day’s WWI project work in a Crewe primary school in November, a weekend’s workshop course in Southport for OU students and some other bits and pieces. Other things get fitted in as they come along. I’m not always sure what’s coming next which, as I do this for a living, can be both exciting and a little worrying at times! I presume it’s the same situation for many others who, like me, work freelance.

I’m to be one of the contributors to a project John Gorman in Liverpool has set up, the Quality of Mersey, in which I will attempt to write a poem about the River Mersey’s source in Stockport – my birthplace. I’m also to write a poem for Mark Sheeky’s exhibition at Stockport Art Gallery based on one of his paintings. You know and work with Mark, of course, Deborah. I hope to be busy too when Love & Crossbones is published and launched in putting together and delivering a series of readings from the book.

John Lindley’s Website

Inky Interview Exclusive: Mark Sheeky on his new book release: 21st Century Surrealism: A Guide For Artists and Creative People

Congratulations on your new book release, 21st Century Surrealism: A Guide For Artists and Creative People. Can you give us a brief synopsis?

Thank you dear Editor, and hello and welcome to your readers. It is this tone that begins 21st Century Surrealism, because it’s a friendly book that takes the reader by the hand, and along a journey that explores art and creativity, and what art is all about. I began with a look at Surrealism as an art movement, and a look at why it worked so powerfully when it did, and why it died out as a powerful force in contemporary art. 21st Century Surrealism isn’t a history book, it’s more of a book about creativity itself, thoughts on what makes some art good, and some not, and makes the case for the art of the imagination; why it worked a century ago, and why it can work today.

I should point out that I was careful to include all art forms. Surrealism was originally a poetic movement, not a visual art movement, so the book isn’t specifically about painting or writing or music, but about general creative principles that can be applied to any sort of creative thinking.

The structure of 21st Century Surrealism has three main chapters: A Study Of Scarlet, The Tomb, and The Gardens of Elysium. Why did you choose this structure? How is the first chapter related to Sherlock?

This was my first non-fiction book, and so I had an infinity of structures of choose from. I wanted a tone that was fun and friendly, that felt, while you read it, that your mind was exploring an exciting new world. One reviewer commented that it was like an academic book written by a poet, which is a great compliment. The book argues that art should be exciting, emotive, and have a structure that is engaging, so it should itself embody its own principles. Any book about aesthetics should at least embody its own conclusions!

The Study Of Scarlet is a play on words. The first chapter is a study, an analysis, and perhaps the scarlet matter is the mind and the heart, but also I found a few quotes by Sherlock Holmes (well, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) that sum up some important and useful principles. One quote concerns the mind needing to store only the right components. We can only invent something using the palette of our experiences, the words and images in our heads, so the things we put there (Dali called this ‘eye food’) are very important for a creator.

In A Study Of Scarlet, you discuss several aspects to conscious thought. How would you describe conscious thought, and how do you apply it to art?

One important part of the book is a look at how the mind works because this is really important for imaginative people. Surrealism was based on a theory of the unconscious, so anything that analyses surrealism must analyse consciousness too. Consciousness is simply being aware of our thoughts, that is all. There might be a thing called the unconscious, a realm of thoughts that we are not aware of, but we must become aware of it at some point otherwise it might as well not exist. Ultimately, I make the case that dreams and strange imagery are no more or less ‘conscious’ or genuine than any other thought. Surrealism as a principle is a fraud. Imaginative thoughts are not more or less conscious than any other, and not better or worse for it either.

How important do you think emotion is in creating art?

This is a difficult question. In some ways emotion is vital because all good art moves us, so art needs to be emotional, but the emotions in an artwork are made by the dialogue between the artist and the audience. An unfeeling artist can still move a sensitive audience. We can feel sad at a broken cup, for example. I make the case that the good artist needs to feel and understand what he or she is trying to convey though, and not leave things to chance, so, for the perfect artist, sensitivity is vital. Emotional sensitivity is as vital to an artist as eyesight is to a painter.

Do you think art needs a political/social/philosophical message, or is it enough to just feel emotion from it?

Art with a political/social/philosophical message is often emotional… and it will help the audience understand it. Perhaps art that lacks those things must only be personal, but even then we must understand the experiences of the artist and the message. Is it possible to have art without a message that is still emotional? I imagine a Rothko painting, with flat coloured bands. People can be filled with emotions by those paintings, and perhaps they are picking up what the artist felt when he painted it (this is the aim of abstract expressionism). Isn’t that a personal message? Even in that most simple and most abstracted form of art?

Can you share with us an illustration from the book?

The book cover is from your own painting entitled God Being Killed By Thesists And Athiests. Can you walk us through the idea behind it, and why you chose it as a book cover?

The painting was about a battle between theism and atheism, with religion on the left, and atheism on the right. The interesting thing about the painting for me is that it has two different emotions and viewpoints, religious and areligious, at the same time, and appears as one or the other depending on your viewpoint. The crucifix on the horizon is either Christ representing rebirth, or a gravestone representing death. In visual terms the painting is also a battle between blue and red, light and dark, and many other contrasts. It is a dramatic and challenging painting that looks like what people think of as a ‘surrealist’ work, and so it made for a perfect cover.

The back cover is another one of your paintings, The Paranoid Schizophrenia of Richard Dadd, which is one of your best selling prints. Why do you think people are fascinated by this image? How do you apply your concepts in 21st Century Surrealism: A Guide For Artists and Creative People to this image?

The Paranoid Schizophrenia of Richard Dadd is fascinating partly because there is a lot in it, there are always things to discover. It is based on, and is an homage to, ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke’ by Dadd, and that painting is crammed chock-full of things: faces, plants, fairy creatures. People love images that are loaded with things for them to see and discover. Another influence on the work was Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’. One of the principles in 21st Century Surrealism is that more information makes work better, and the Dadd painting, and Bosch too, really sums that up.

When and where is the launch for 21st Century Surrealism: A Guide For Artists and Creative People?

I’m lucky enough to have a solo exhibition of my artwork in Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery this September, so the opening of that that will mark the official launch for this book. The exhibition itself will be called 21st Century Surrealism, and I’ll exhibit 21 paintings, including the original ‘God Being Killed By Theists And Atheists’. Some fabulous poets will be taking part in the exhibition too. Former Cheshire Poet Laureate John Lindley, Nantwich poet Helen Kay, and many poets from the extensive Write Out Loud group will be writing new poems to accompany the paintings. The exhibition will open with a launch event on Saturday September 15th at 2pm. A special poetry reading event will take place at 2pm on September 22nd, which will be filmed. The whole exhibition will be open to the public daily from September 15th until October 2nd.

What is next for you? I’ve heard on the grapevine that there is another book coming soon…

So much is coming. I have a new book for the autumn called Deep Dark Light, which is an odd combination of poetry, philosophical ideas (each on one page, like poems) and a surrealistic story. It is structured like a musical symphony in text, so is an unusual, experimental work, that is perhaps similar in structure and feeling to one of William Blake’s visionary books.

I have two music albums coming out this year too: The Modern Game is a pop album with a theme of how technology is affecting the world, and as the musical half of Fall in Green, Testing the Delicates is a ground-breaking recording which combines poetry and classical piano to convey a narrative about mental health, and what it means to care. My video show for YouTube, ArtSwarm, will continue every fortnight too, and, if I have time, I will find time to paint something.

Get your copy of 21st Century Surrealism: A Guide For Artists and Creative People by Mark Sheeky

Mark Sheeky’s Website

Inky Interview Special: Author Joseph S. Pete

Your literary or photographic work has appeared in over 100 journals. Can you tell us about your journey towards being a writer? What subjects do you photograph? Do you combine words and pictures?

As a bookish person, I’ve aspired to be a writer since childhood. I read constantly. I keep paperbacks in my jacket pockets and my pants pockets so I can read at any time I am not otherwise occupied. I even pocketed paperbacks at my wedding, just in case. Understanding at an early age that few are fortunate enough to write literary fiction full-time, I sought out a career in the media so I could write for my day job, to develop the muscle memory. I first started photographing as a necessity for publications with limited resources, where I needed to both photograph and write up assignments. I’ve since evolved into a prolific shutterbug, and am most interested in architecture, urban landscapes, urban decay, graffiti, and natural landscapes. My iPhone photo albums are largely devoid of people–for whatever reason, I’m more drawn to art, architecture and the like. I seldom combine words and pictures, but my writing and photography sometimes draw inspiration from the same subjects.

You are an Iraq War veteran. How much has this experience fed into your work?

Iraq was rough. I often strive to tell war stories, and experiment by trying to tell them through different forms. It’s something I feel I have to do justice to as a storyteller.

You are also an award winning journalist. How did you get into journalism? Have you advice for any of our followers who want to enter this field?

In high school, I wrote an earth-shattering investigative exposé on how high school athletes used the dietary supplement creatine and how it was potentially harmful. Earlier in May, I received a prestigious Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club at the ritzy Union League Club in the Loop after watching a video presentation about the acclaimed Chicago Tribune journalist Anne Keegan, whose first high school story had been about birds nesting at the school, which somehow stirred up controversy with notoriously open-minded administrators. Anyone interested in entering the field should just amass clips, and use them to persuade editors of their writing chops. It’s largely all about what you can do. That being said, the transition from dead trees to online has taken more than a pound of flesh, and the carnage continues until they settle on a new, more viable business model. I’ve been sickened to see so many of my talented colleagues laid off, or just given up on a career that seems to be circling the drain and certainly has endured a great deal of political scorn over the last few years.

You were named poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest. Interesting! Can you tell us about this? What is the literary scene like where you live?

I get nervous reading my work at half-empty coffeeshops but somehow wasn’t daunted to read a dumb joke poem in front of thousands of people at the UIC Pavilion, including comedian Hannibal Buress and Chicago Bears players. I was also a runner-up in the PBR Art Contest for poetry, earning me a three-month supply of that hipster swill. For some reason I imagined a worker would dolly a few cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon to my door; instead, they sent a paltry check.

Northwest Indiana is the New Jersey of Chicago–it has a surprisingly vibrant literary scene that includes afew journals, the Zine and Small Press Festival in Michigan City, many lovingly crafted zines at cafes and boutiques, writers groups, the Indiana Writers Consortium Steel Pen Conference, open mics and more. Neighboring Chicago definitely has one of the best literary scenes in the country, with at least a few live lit events every week. Plenty of big-name authors pass through. I’m going to see National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward at the Chicago Humanities Fest in Hyde Park.

What is it you love about the short story form? What about poetry? Any preference?

Short stories are one of the most digestible and accessible forms of literature, a narrative contained in a convenient package. I love the soaring heights of language poetry can ascend to. No preference. They’re both great expressions of creativity.

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

I write a lot about industrial decline, abandonment, alienation, war, despondency, injustice and other themes. While my work may be thematically dark, it’s typically leavened by a lot of humour.

Describe a typical day in your life.

It’s a grind. I write, write, write for my newspaper…at a bar, a fellow reporter recently introduced me as the “journalist who wrote the entire Times of Northwest Indiana and produced 12 stories a day.” That’s a comedic exaggeration, but not by much. I write journalism by day and write literature by later at night, often working on short stories or poems into the wee hours of the morning. I read as much as possible, try to walk as much as possible, and frequent plays, museums and other cultural events on the weekends.

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

There’s so much that’s so profoundly wrong with the world, from poverty to inequality to sexism to racism, to senseless gun violence. If you put a gun to my head, I would probably call for more appreciation for media, literature and the arts. I say that partly out of self-interest but truly believe, however Pollyannaish it may sound, that most of the world’s problems could be solved if people read a book a week, kept up with the news, developed empathy for other people, and maybe spent a few hours volunteering. So many intractable issues seem to be at least partly the result of ignorance.

Who inspires you and why?

This is perhaps the toughest question. Any author I’m reading, any painter whose work I’m looking at. It takes bravery to create art in a cruel, indifferent world.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I was miserable for most of my youth but haven’t since attained any wisdom of note. Mostly, I would encourage my younger self to not be such a perfectionist with literature and just write. My biggest regrets are failing to submit to literary journals like Canvas at Indiana University because I held them in such high esteem and held myself in such low esteem that I didn’t think I was worthy. Now they’re gone and I missed the chance to develop as a literary writer, whether they accepted my work or passed on it with stale, dashed-off form letters that are almost always more error-ridden than the cast-aside submissions.

Tell us a story in five words.

Fiction: Baby shoes, never worn

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I’ve frequently sought out literary sites, such as the Thurber House in Columbus, the James Whitcomb Riley mansion in Indianapolis and Jean Shepherd’s childhood home in Hammond, Indiana. I’ve frequented places like the American Writers Museum in Chicago and The Things They Carried exhibit at the National Veterans Art Museum. The closest I probably ever came to a pilgrimage proper was my cross-country road trip to Fort Lewis by Seattle, which I fancied was a modern-day version of On The Road even though it was far less exciting.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

As someone who suffers from Imposter Syndrome, no matter how widely I’ve been published, I probably shouldn’t be proffering advise on this subject. But read, write and read a lot. That’s the ticket. Read widely, and keep trying to incrementally improve. Reading’s the key thing.

What are you reading at the moment?

Katey Schultz’s Flashes of War, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lost short story collection I’d Die for You, Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse, Michael DeForge’s Very Casual, Sam Graham-Felsen’s Green, Nathaniel Rich’s King Zeno, Tatjana Soli’s The Lotus Eaters, Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. I’m also a professional book reviewer for a national magazine and read tons of books for work.

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

Novels, plays, maybe even screenplays. I’m been slowly but surely working my way up to longer works, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m trying. Everybody’s trying.

Pantry Prose: The Young Man and the Sand (a contemporary homage to Ernest Hemingway) by Joseph S. Pete

Inky Interview Special: Poet Karen Wolf from Bowling Green, Ohio

Describe your journey towards becoming a poet.

I wrote my first poem during recess, in first grade, with several classmates of mine. It was entitled “Poor Little Grass Seed” and mourned the fact that grass dies in the winter. I continue to write poetry to celebrate the good things, contemplate what confuses me, and emotionally respond to what moves me.

Tell us about your chapbook, That’s Just The Way It Is, which was published by Finishing Line Press in 2018.

In February of 2016 I sought out an on-line poetry coach for the purpose of getting my poems published. In a matter of months I had 15 poems published and my coach said that’s half of a chapbook, you are ready to get one together and get it published. I entered the Finishing Line Press Chapbook Contest and was lucky enough to have my work chosen by them to be published. The poems in my book concern social justice issues and what we can learn from nature about how everything fits together.

You live in Bowling Green, Ohio. What is the literary scene like?

The literary scene in the Bowling Green/Toledo area is thriving. Every week poets have the opportunity to share their work in open mic formats in four or five different venues.

You have been widely published in literary journals and magazines, including the Smokey Blue Literary and Art Magazine and The Drunken Llama (great names!) Have you any advice for writers about submitting their work?

Before being submitted, a work needs to be edited by another pair of eyes, someone who is knowledgeable about poetry and who can critique the ideas, format, and grammar/punctuation, etc. Also, look at back issues of the magazine you are submitting to in order to be sure that your work is a good fit. And follow all of the Submission Guidelines to the letter.

Describe a typical day in your life.

Every day begins with a morning run. Then I may have a pet sit to do. I am semi-retired from my own pet sitting company. Most days I do some volunteering for Nature’s Nursery, a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Yesterday, I went out and captured an injured Red-Tailed Hawk and brought him to the centre. I also work in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at the centre, where I feed orphaned and injured baby bunnies, squirrels, opossums, groundhogs, minks, birds, etc. For the real young ones, we have to stick a tube down their throats into their tummies and give them warmed formula. Most of them fight the tubing procedure, then totally relax and almost smile when the warm formula begins to fill their tummies. So very rewarding. And I spend time with my partner Chris, also a writer, and our 4 cats, and I visit my grandson at least once a week. Oh, and I write. Ideas come during my run and when I am driving sometimes, causing me to stop in a parking lot somewhere and write it down before it vanishes.

Who inspires you and why?

Right now I am inspired by the poetry of Billy Collins and Lynn Emanuel. They both have a way of taking the mundane and linking it with the profound in a breath-taking manner.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to follow your passion for animals in choosing a career. And share your poetry, don’t leave it hidden away for 60 years.

Tell us a story in five words.

Rock thrown, lesson—violent living.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I’m not quite sure what you are referring to here. Every time I walk along the Maumee River, which is a mile from my home, I become inspired to write.

Why do you think poetry is important?

Poetry is important because it makes everything matter, from the tiny spider mom carrying her white cotton egg sack, to denuclearizing atomic weapons. And poetry links all things together.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you write what is in your heart, you cannot go wrong.

What are you reading at the moment?

At the moment I am reading THE NATURE PRINCIPLE by Richard Louv. He presents the idea that being in nature strengthens one’s mind, soul, and social relations. The book is filled with examples and scientific proof of his thesis, truly a must read.

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

At some point I would like to get a full-length book of poetry published, that would be nice.

Poetry Drawer: Claustrophobia by Karen Wolf

Poetry Drawer: Who She is Not by Karen Wolf

Inky Interview Special: John Grey, Australian Poet, USA resident

Tell us about your journey towards becoming a poet.

Sometimes in my early teens, I had made up my mind that I was going to be a writer. I tried just about every variation on the written word over the ensuing years from short stories to plays and (especially) songs but finally poetry emerged as the one genre that fitted what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

What is it you love about poetry?

The immediacy. The compactness. How so much can be said with so few apt and original words.

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

I write so much poetry that it’s impossible for me to get stuck on one particular theme. But, I expect, if I did a census, relationships would come out on top.

Describe a typical day in your life.

During the week, I typically work from 7 until 7. That includes writing and all the secretarial work that goes along with it. That includes coffee, lunch and exercise breaks. On weekends, I’m more flexible as I have to work around family requirements etc.

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

Am I allowed to say the current president?

Who inspires you and why?

Reading originally inspired me to write. These days, I can’t think of any particular author who stands out above the others.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t take rejection hard. Just let it make you more determined. And perhaps take up a more lucrative branch of the arts.

Tell us a story in five words.

The phone rings. Telemarketers. Slam!

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

Not really. though I have visited various writer tourist spots such as Poe’s grave and Mark Twain’s house in Hartford.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Find your voice. Have faith in yourself. Keep at it.

What are you reading at the moment?

I always find myself reading something that probably nobody else in a radius of 5,000 miles is reading at this very moment. Right now it’s The Education Of Uncle Paul by Algernon Blackwood.

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

My next is usually a vacation I’m looking forward to. My plans are to keep on writing.

Poetry Drawer: An Awkward Meeting in a Coffee House by John Grey

Inky Interview Special: Poet (& Noise Maker) Robert Beveridge, from Akron, Ohio

Describe your journey towards becoming a poet.

It continues. There have been points along the way when I have said “okay, I made it, I’m a poet now” – a lot of them clustered around the late eighties/early nineties (my early twenties, give or take). But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the continual process of looking back at one’s old stuff–whether it be published or not–it’s that like anything else, a person’s art is mutable, and that doing this is a constant process of trying to make the next poem (or the revisions to the older poem) just a little bit better than whatever it was you did yesterday.

Which, I guess, with the context above, is an answer–writing as often as possible, and trying to ensure that what I write today is better than what I wrote yesterday.

[with the eternal caveat that “better” is in the eye of the beholder.]

You live in Akron, Ohio. What is the literary scene like?

Part of the reason I moved down here in March 2018 is that I discovered Akron’s literary scene, especially when it comes to poetry, has the same vibrancy as Cleveland’s did when I first moved to northeast Ohio in the mid-nineties. It’s wonderful to have a regular reading series to attend again, and there are a few others in the process of getting off the ground over the course of this year that look like they’re going to be regular. I’m over the moon with it.

You also, as you put it, ‘make noise’! Tell us about your noise.

How does one describe noise to folks who aren’t used to the idea of non-music as entertainment? [this is a much easier question to answer in the age of YouTube and Bandcamp, but bear with me.] I’ve always described noise as “imagine you’re in the middle of a firefight in a fully-operational steel mill”. While that only covers one aspect of the rather vast field of noise, it’s arguably the most representational, given that it’s a decent description of the most famous period of the world’s most famous noise artist, Merzbow. Given that I (like pretty much everyone else who does this) was profoundly influenced by Merzbow, it’s a good jumping-off point for describing my own work, but I try to run the widest gamut possible when recording–I’ve done CD-length pieces of minimal deep ambient, two-minute-long cassettes with ten discrete tracks in ten different subgenres, harsh powerelectronics… if it’s a recognized subgenre, I’ve at least attempted to play with it. Here’s a link to my bandcamp page.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I’m a programmer with a job a non-trivial distance from my apartment, so a good portion of a typical day involves either sitting in front of a computer or driving to/from sitting in front of a computer. When I’m not at work, there’s much less one can describe as “typical”; a given night can involve driving up to the Cleveland suburbs to spend time with my six-year-old, sitting on the couch reading for hours at a time, sinking deep into one of the games I play (there are a couple dozen I rotate between, but the current obsessions are The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and Tales of Maj’Eyal), watching movies ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, cooking, any number of other options. The one thing that doesn’t usually happen is boredom.

Who inspires you and why?

Inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. Someone will say something in a particular way, I’ll catch a headline, a song will pop up I haven’t heard in a while… I just transcribed the last batch of poems from my phone to my computer, and among the inspirations were Robert Smith (lead singer for The Cure), Donald Trump, Yumi Hotta (author), Yanni (musician), Andrzej Sapkowski (author), Ricardo Islas (filmmaker), Charles Whitman (the University of Texas sniper from 1966), and my girlfriend, along with some “what’s mixed in with the “who’s (one poem was inspired by ADHD, for example). So… everyone, really, under the correct circumstances.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

That “first publication” where they told you they’d publish you if you subscribed to the magazine? Yeah, that’s a scam just as much as the National Library of Poetry is. Hold out for another six months, you’ll get your real first publication soon.

(I’m ineffably happy I grew up when vanity publishing was a far more difficult and costly process than it is today. I’ve read a lot of POD-published volumes from people who likely felt the same way I did in my early twenties–that I’d made it, that I’d hit peak talent–and I have little doubt that some of them are already looking back on volumes published in 2003-2008 and saying “what in the world was I thinking?”.)

Tell us a story in five words.

You walked away. I stayed.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

Not as a writer, but regularly as a reader. When I still lived at home, my mother and I would go on book-buying trips during the summers to various places within driving distance of wherever we were living at the time; we’d spend a week in Philadelphia, or Maine, or Kentucky, or what have you, combing through used bookstores. I miss it; I don’t have the money to do a good deal of travelling now that I’m older, and I certainly don’t have the same kind of vacation time I did when I was in school–but used bookstores are much fewer and farther between than they were in the eighties, as well.

Why do you think poetry is important?

I can never remember who it was who defined poetry as “elevated language” (Eliot? Williams? Maybe even Whitman?), but the idea that language can be elevated is a powerful thing, almost to the point of being sui generis. And I hate to make proclamations like this, because we all have to know we’re still in the frying pan, right?, and there’s always another cliff we can fall off–but “now more than ever” strikes me as appropriate when it comes to elevated language in an age of fake news, alternative facts, homeopathy and flat-earth coming back into vogue, etc. Part of elevating language, to me, is honesty, and that’s something we seem to be rapidly losing sight of in America as we continue down our current path.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The same I wish I could follow myself. That internal editor who sits in your head and tells you everything you write needs to be as polished a turd as possible before you stick it on a page? Find a way to shut that idiot down, at least as long as it takes you to get something on a page. You can worry about whether there needs to be a comma between those two words later. Just write.

What are you reading at the moment?

About a third of the way through John Ashbery’s A Wave, which somehow seems to have escaped me until now (I swear I read it in the nineties, but enough of it is unfamiliar that I’m questioning my memory).

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

I spent a great deal of time not writing and not submitting, as in “measured in years”; I was semi-retired from writing for twenty years (1994-2014, with a couple of relapses in there) and from submitting for even longer (1994-2016). So to an extent, I’m in the “what’s next” stage right now; I’m still not nearly as prolific as I was in the early nineties, but I’m at the point of writing every day again, and I’m two years into submitting probably even more than I did back in the days of envelopes and stamps. (It’s wonderful not to be budgeting for stamps every month. Thank you, Internet.) What’s next from here? To continue. And, as I said back at the beginning… to keep trying to get a little bit better every day.

Poetry Drawer: The Drowned City by Robert Beveridge

Inky Interview: Poet & Theatre Director Gary Beck, from New York

Describe your journey towards becoming a poet.

I had a difficult childhood and led an isolated life. I read fiction and drama early, but didn’t really delve into poetry until my early teens. I wrote terrible imitations of the English Romantics, Byron, Keats, Shelley, discarded them and started the search for my own voice.

Can you tell us about your poetry collection Rude Awakenings?

Rude Awakenings, unlike much of my recent work, which is often issue oriented, has diverse explorations of intimate themes, as well as broader areas of expression.

Tell us about your time as a theatre director.

It would take a long, long, long time to describe my work as a theatre director. I translated and directed the classics, as well as issue plays. I ran my own theatre from 1976 to 1996 until it was devastated by AIDS. It was the only job I ever loved. I’m currently directing one of my own one act plays and really enjoying it.

What kind of art did you deal in?

I worked for a number of galleries, then became a private dealer specializing in art of the sixties.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I write. I send out material to be published, with which I’ve had growing success. I play speed chess several times a week, and I’m working on multiple projects at the same time, novels, poetry collections, essays, plays.

Who inspires you and why?

Intelligent people trying to understand our disturbed society, for they’re the only hope for the future.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I try to never second guess myself.

Tell us a story in five words.

I build hope for tomorrow.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I once went to Baudelaire’s tomb, more of a visit than a pilgrimage.

Why do you think poetry is important?

Poetry can touch the mind and spirit more directly than any other creative form and hopefully lead to illumination.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If it’s important enough, persevere.

What are you reading at the moment?

Herodatus and T.S. Eliot.

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

More novels, essays, poetry, plays, hopefully more directing.

Gary’s website


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.

Get your paperback copy of Two-Headed-Dog