Describe your journey towards becoming a poet.
As far as writing goes, I think my childhood was fairly typical: greeting card verse in grammar school, bad, overwrought poetry in high school. Even worse poetry followed in college. I tried to get some fiction published after grad school, but–especially since this was before you could submit work online–I couldn’t bear the waiting, so I gave up. In the spring of 2014, though, a friend and I were complaining about the state of contemporary writing, especially poetry. It occurred to me then that I didn’t have the right to whine from the sidelines, so I tried my hand at poetry, and here we are.
Tell us about a typical day in your life.
Up early (about 4am). Write if the mood strikes me, but usually not. An hour’s commute to work (often spent mulling over some poetry topic), and then work (English Professor turned administrator). An hour back home (more mulling), and then a few hours for family, and at least some time reading/writing. Most serious reading/writing takes place on weekend mornings, with their large, uninterrupted blocks of time…
Who inspires you and why?
I’m inspired by other poets, both famous and unknown. Or, more specifically, I’m inspired by their work. Usually without warning, the form or content of a poem will seem to force me to respond. The resulting poem will be my own version of theirs, or will be a type of rebuttal, or might even be hardly related to theirs at all, in the end. Once inspired, though, the poem will always happen. It’s a question of how, instead of if.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I still regret the decade-long writing hiatus I took, though I remind myself that the world wasn’t terribly anxious about this break. The advice would be not to underestimate how quickly time passes.
Tell us a story in five words.
In remission, his pettiness returned.
This strikes me as a great example of why I enjoy poetry. As a story, these five words are similar to Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find in which The Misfit murders the grandmother, saying she would have been a good woman if there had been someone to shoot her every minute of her life, i.e. that sometimes we need a life-altering crisis to become decent and virtuous. But whereas O’Connor’s narrative involves the journey of a whole family through this twisted landscape and a dramatic, violent conclusion, a wee poem can approach a similar topic in a quicker, less sensational, though perhaps a more nuanced way.
Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?
A pilgrimage suggests sacrifice, or at least the minor hassle of planning, and I’ve never done that, per se. However, back in college, I lived fairly close to the home and gravesite of Emily Dickinson, and I would visit these places regularly, placing pennies on her headstone, etc.
Why do you think poetry is important?
On a bad day, I’m not certain it is. On a good day, though, I think that poetry is the quintessential human art form, that creating and sharing meaning in this almost ritualistic, ancient way is such a part of our species, as well as being (potentially) so accessible to both writers and readers. Poets may not be “legislators of the world,” but anyone with a degree of proficiency in their language should be able to make and understand poetry.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Only to recommend the old dictum that you not let a day go by without at least writing a line. No poet of whom I’m aware makes their living solely through writing, so the discipline imposed by needing to earn a paycheck simply isn’t there. It’s usually important, therefore, that we force ourselves to write, to write better, and to try to get these poems out into the larger world.
What are you reading at the moment?
I make time to read any and all poetry I can get my hands on: collections from established writers, brand new web journals, etc. I’m also reading Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry by Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison.
What is next for you? What plans have you got?
I’ve got a new collection coming out this summer from Glass Lyre Press, and it looks like I’ve written enough poems to pull together another manuscript, so working on that will take me into the fall.