Certainty is the cage that keeps us safe from curiosity. I've been released from the cage. I am the songbird and I am flying for the window. I know it's closed but I plan on breaking through. – Charlie Coté, Jr. (1987-2005)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thom Ward Interview, Part VI

In this last part of my interview with Thom, he talks about the poet and madness, his work as an editor, why it’s so hard to finish a poem, and two tricks to keep a poem going. He finishes up by reading a poem in tribute to the late Al Poulin.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thom Ward Interview, Part V

Thom reads another poem from his collection and discusses the meaning of etcetera, among other things:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thom Ward Interview, Part IV

Thom discusses his loopy and lucid method with Etcetera's Mistress, shares a review written by Kurt Brown, and reads more poetry from the collection.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thom Ward Interview, Part III

Thom talks about the "How, What, Why, Where, When Bone" section of his collection and reads the poem "Anticipation."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thom Ward Interview, Part II

Thom reads "Rumpus, Cohesion, Mess" and discusses his lyric associative mode of writing, what he calls Loose Sonnets in his latest collection of poems, Etcetera's Mistress.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thom Ward Interview, Part I

This is the first part of an hour long interview with poet and editor Thom Ward. We talked about his newest collection of poetry, Etcetera's Mistress (Accents Publishing, 2012), as well as poetry in general.

From his publisher: Thom Ward is sole proprietor of Thom Ward's Poetry Editing and Proofreading Services (thombward@gmail.com). Ward's poetry collections include Small Boat with Oars of Different Size (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2000) and Various Orbits (Carnegie Mellon, 2004). Ward's poetry chapbook, Tumblekid, winner of the 1998 Devil's Millhopper poetry contest, was published by the University of South Carolina-Aiken in 2000. His collection of prose poems, The Matter of the Casket, was published by CustomWords in 2007. Ward teaches creative writing workshops at high schools and colleges around the country, tutors individual poetry students, and edits poetry manuscripts. He is a faculty and advisory board member at Wilkes University's Graduate Creative Writing program in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Thom Ward lives in western New York with his girlfriend Jennifer and their cat Phantom.

Here's what Thomas Lux has to say about Thom's latest book: "Reading Thom Ward is to enter a brilliant and restless imagination – sometimes poignant, sometimes crazy-with-a-purpose, but always with a deep lucidity in the logic of its illogic. His poems remind me how much we need language and how much the language needs us."

Thom has been my poetry teacher/editor and friend since 1996, when I took his class at Writers & Books.

In Part I, Thom talks about his process for writing a poem:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Whitman on Acid: An Interview with Poet John Roche

John Roche
Here's my recent interview with poet and RIT professor John Roche, about his latest collection Road Ghosts (theenk Books, 2010).

Author's Bio:

John Roche is an Associate Professor of English at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he advises the campus literary magazine, Signatures, and teaches a variety of literature and creative writing classes. He earned a BA from the University of Connecticut, Storrs, studying with George Butterick, Charles Boer, and Glauco Cambon, an MA from University College Dublin, and a PhD from SUNY Buffalo, studying with Robert Creeley and John C. Clarke. He has been granted four National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships and an SOS grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts. His full-length poetry collections, Topicalities (2008) and On Conesus (2005) are available from Foothills Publishing (Kanona, NY). His poems have appeared in magazines like Yellow Medicine Review, Flurb, House Organ, Big Bridge, Jack Magazine, Interim, Intent, Coe Review,The Woodstock Journal, Buff, The Burning World, and in several anthologies. He also edited the collection UNCENSORED SONGS: FOR SAM ABRAMS (Spuyten Duyvil, 2008), featuring poems by Amiri Baraka, Ed Sanders, Bob Holman, Anne Waldman, Andrei Codrescu, and other friends of the emeritus RIT professor. Dr. Roche sits on the Board of BOA Editions, one of the nation's leading non-profit poetry presses. He co-edited, with Patricia Roth Schwartz, an anthology of poetry by inmates at Auburn Prison called Doing Time to Cleanse My Mind (FootHills Publishing, 2009). His most recent collection is ROAD GHOSTS (2010), from theenk Books.

Your book seems to keep company with the likes of Kerouac’s On the Road, as well as other well-known travel books, two of my favorite being Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways. What did you discover about yourself in the writing of this collection?

Ah, you mention three of my favorite “road books,” Charlie! Then there’s Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie and The Grapes of Wrath and Henry Miller’s The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. Do Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn qualify as “road books?" One could go on, but to get to your question, and of course, unlike these examples, my book is poetry, to the extent that matters. I guess I discovered something about my ability to overcome fear, not just the dangers I confronted as a teenage runaway, but the fears of putting this material out there. I’ve been gratified by the responses I’ve gotten from readers. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my memory of that period was still so vibrant. If only last week or last month were equally clear! I also discovered something about my ability to tell a story, to create a narrative. My previous books were not so linear. That changes in the last, “Bardic Road” section, which I included fairly late in the revision process. It’s about the present, and about the “mythic present” that is the world of poetry. Some poets I admire believe that section brought the book to a necessary completion. I was just trying to find a thread from who I was at 17 to who I am today. That section also begins to take the book from “I” to “we,” as I create collective poet personae in poems like “Here’s for All” and “Joe the Poet.” The latter persona, appearing in various guises and in various places and centuries, will be the protagonist of my next book, “The Continuing Saga of Joe the Poet.”

Assuming these poems are autobiographical, I just have to ask, as the father of a teenager, What were you thinking? Or were you out of your mind? I suppose today’s adventuring teen buys a Eurail pass and slums from hostel to hostel with mom and dad’s credit card, or maybe the more socially-minded work on an organic farm. As a college professor, how would you compare today’s youth to the free spirit we read about in Road Ghosts?

Well as for me, the short answer is, yes, I was most certainly out of my mind, even without the hallucinogens. Eleven years of Catholic school can do that. But in a larger sense, the good ol’ US of A was going through a kind of total meltdown. Two Kennedys and Martin Luther King shot, killings of students at Kent State and Jackson State, riots in most of the urban centers, a senseless war that went on and on, the election of Nixon and Agnew. If you weren’t, as a young person, a bit crazy at that point there had to be something wrong with you!

Hard to generalize about today’s youth, of course, as there are as many variants as there are individuals. The road certainly seems to be a more dangerous place today. One doesn’t see many hitchhikers. Back then, there were dangers, obviously, but also, in the several years following Woodstock, a whole army of young people on the road, and thousands who sympathized and so felt protective of them (and of each other). I’m not sure that would be the case today, but in my more optimistic moods I’d like to think so. I run into some really committed environmental/anarchist/counter cultural youths from time to time, at poetry events at the Flying Squirrel Community Center, for instance, and some of them already have enough stories to fill several books, everything from working with the poor in Haiti or helping out in New Orleans after Katrina, to braving police violence at demonstrations, to surviving incarceration. And some of them are quite well read.

By the way, did you ever share any of these stories with your parents, and if so, what was their reaction?

My brothers and friends, yes. Very few with my parents (who are both dead now). They were daily mass Catholics, and quite conservative in most respects. Wonderfully loving people, however, just very different in their experience. Instead of “Easy Rider,” think “Going My Way.”

What do your students think about your Road Ghosts experience?

Well, only a couple of them have read Road Ghosts, to my knowledge, though four or five of them were at my launch party at the Bug Jar. They seemed to get something out of it. Of course, most of the feedback has come from people my age or a bit older, most of whom, even those outwardly conservative, RIT administrators and businessmen, had some story to relate from their own “misspent” youth. By the way, I’ll be reading with one of my students, Nicolas Eckerson, an incredibly talented poet, at Writers & Books on Tuesday September 13, 7:30 pm, as part of the Genesee series.

I love the mugging in the "City of Brotherly and the Quaker State." It wasn’t all about peace and love. In fact, that’s one of the book’s surprises. Talk about the disillusionment that took place, not only for you personally, but for the beats and hippies. I think you chronicle that quite well. In other words, what is the ancient division between stayers and strayers?

Yes, I wanted to show the era in all its complexity. We tend to have bifurcated, and equally misleading, characterizations of the Sixties/early Seventies. Either the David Horowitz/Newt Gingrich approach, which is to demonize the Counterculture and antiwar movement and blame all our current troubles on that legacy, or the opposite, viewing that era through Day-glo colored glasses. I was glad the Psychedelia and Op-Art show at the Memorial Art Gallery last fall avoided that kind of simplification. But there are so many examples. For instance, I noticed an ad seeking volunteer adult mentors in a local newspaper that said, “Do you remember Woodstock? If so, share it with a child.” Well, of course, that might land you in jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The division between “stayers” and “strayers” is not limited to any demographic. I suppose America, the land of mobility, has always tended towards the wanderer, as most of us are immigrants. Our collective heroes have been cowboys, astronauts, Plains Indians. I remember Gary Snyder had an essay several decades ago attacking this tendency, and arguing for staying power, rooting down on your homestead, which, of course, has also been a counter-tendency in America. Wendell Berry, too. Even Charles Olson had a line where he criticized the American tendency to run off to the moon when things got too complicated here.

What was your process in writing these memoir poems? Did you consult old journals? Was it all recollection? And how did this project come about now, after all these years? By the way, I think there’s a certain power when there’s been so much distance between the event and the actual writing. Talk about that too.

I did consult newspaper and Internet sources about the 1971 Mayday protests and Albuquerque uprising. I didn’t have much written material left from that period—I’ve moved so many times! One piece of serendipity was that my best friend from high school, Tony (now deceased and to whom the book is dedicated) had a couple of years ago found an old cassette he’d made interviewing me about a 1975 cross-country hitchhiking trip, and made a CD of it for me. That proved quite valuable in the “On the Road Again” chapter, and also helped me with the voice of the poems. I was also fortunate to find some old written journals, though not as many as I wish I’d saved. One prose poem, “Cowboy Days,” was actually culled from a longer prose piece I’d written in 1975 or 76. I sent the original to Michael Rothenberg at Big Bridge magazine (which was about to publish the online version of the book), and asked him if this extraordinary historical document might be printed verbatim. Michael was prudent to say, well, maybe you could edit it first.

As to your larger point, I agree that having the distance helped. I’d tried writing about these events many times when I was younger, but it was too soon. I also like to think my craft has improved, of course. I tend towards understatement these days, which is necessary when dealing with such “hot” material. I was pleased that legendary SF Beat poet David Meltzer noted my “detached camera eye” in his book blurb for Road Ghosts.

There’s an aside in “Lifesavers” that intrigues me –– “always the gab gets me out of or into trouble.” Still true for you, and if so how? I’m particularly interested in this as an aesthetic for writing, when we say too little or too much, when the eloquence is just right. How do you teach that, or how to you know it when you read it?

Ah, great question! I’m not sure one can teach that, except by example. It’s a sensibility that comes from years of reading and writing, though, like everything else, some pick up on it sooner and some later. I think it took me about thirty years to get in the “groove” and I’m still learning, so I guess that makes me a particularly slow learner. “Gab” is a great word. Like any poet, I’m attracted to the vernacular, especially when it has good “mouth feel.” Sets me thinking of Whitman’s “blab of the pave,” which is something I always try to listen for, and also about Seamus Heaney’s great poem, “Digging,” where he says, “The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap / Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge / Through living roots awaken in my head. / But I've no spade to follow men like them.” But follow we must, in our own plodding way and in our own sweet time.

"Southern Hospitality" made me think of Gregory Orr’s memoir, The Blessing, about his incarceration during his stint as a teen civil rights volunteer. The fact of the matter is that he could easily have been murdered. Talk about this part of your experience.

That’s one I should read. “Southern Hospitality” is a little poem near the beginning, where I get lost hitchhiking in rural Virginia after DC protests, and the gas station owner, a stereotypical cracker, tells me he hopes I never get home. That hit home to me the precariousness of my situation, you can be sure. There are references to a few similar hitchhiking situations in the book—people swerving at me and throwing bottles out the window in the Kentucky hills or getting picked up by a Klansman in East Texas (who fortunately tried to convert me rather than assault me). Few younger than forty would grasp just how polarized a country the US was in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Part of the reason for the camaraderie and “share the love” Woodstock spirit was, conversely, because longhairs were considered “white niggers” and needed to stick together, especially in rural areas. There’s that amusing song by one of the country rock bands from the early Seventies, where the narrator is in a redneck bar and his hat falls off, exposing his long hair, causing him to make a run for it. That was only slight exaggeration. Ironically, what changed it were the returning Vietnam Vets, many of whom had long hair and smoked dope. So the divisions got blurred. And in many places today, a long-haired, dope smoker might very well belong to the Tea Party.

I love the myth-making that takes place in “Song of Wandering Owsley,” your collaboration with Susan Deer Cloud, and all of that from the color orange. By the way, I happen to love oranges and scurvy will never be a problem for me. Talk about this collaboration and the process of myth-making in poetry. Talk about “Hitchhiking” too as I think it’s relevant to this discussion, especially your mention of Joseph Campbell’s Masks of God.

The orange in the poem refers, of course, to orange sunshine, mentioned more explicitly in the poem “Sunshine Night,” but also to Frank O’Hara’s poem “Why I Am Not a Painter,” which contains the lines, “There should be / so much more, not of orange, of / words, of how terrible orange is / and life.” This collaboration was something Susan and I came up with over email. Just a lark, really, but I’ve had a chance to read alternating stanzas of it with her on a couple occasions (including the Bug Jar book launch), and each time it was a gas. She tended to be responsible for the more upbeat, fairy tale lines, and mine tended to be the darker ones, but together, I think we hit a nice balance, depicting both the Sixties dream and the hard crash. Both are part of the package. “Hitchhiking” is a list poem, almost a ghazal, I suppose, a place to fit in so many memories into short vignettes. The book as a whole fits into Campbell’s mono myth of the hero’s journey, I suppose, even if it’s a confused and largely ineffectual hero. But so was Sal Paradise in On the Road, and so was Carlos Castaneda’s persona, so there’s probably good narrative reason to have the story told from the p.o.v. of the bumbler or sidekick rather than the strong hero (Watson rather than Holmes).

The tension between men and women during the sexual revolution is a well-known irony, one you bring to light especially well in “For What It’s Worth.” What was your take on it then versus now? How has this changed over the decades, especially from your perspective as a college professor?

Well, that poem is an attempt to give an accurate account of incidents that may have helped contribute to the start of the Albuquerque riot or uprising of 1971. I did consult some newspaper accounts of the time to refresh my memory about dates and so forth. The “punchline” of the poem comments on the new consciousness of “La Raza” that the largely Chicano uprisings in LA (1970) and Albuquerque echoed. So the poem is more about ethnicity than about gender, though there is the line referring to the County jail: “girls sexually assaulted by guards / guys left alone to boredom of stir.” That antithesis sums up nicely the greater risk women on the road or street were taking. At the time, I did consider myself a feminist (as now), but I hadn’t really read much about gender issues and shared a lot of the chauvinistic attitudes I’d grown up with, or absorbed from the bikers I hung out with. There were some really strong women, like the woman who called herself Scorpio who is the subject of another poem. But she found herself victimized over and over by a male-dominated culture that despised strong women. And, sad to say, there wasn’t much difference between Counter cultural males and cops and rednecks. I think it was Stokely Carmichael who said the only place for women in the Movement was prone.

So glad you worked Dylan into the collection, and his "Simple Twist of Fate." Tell me the story of the green jacket. So much what if implications here for you.

Thanks. Hope I don’t get sued! This prose poem reflects on the single fact of losing my denim jacket, which I’d checked at the visitor’s center at the Grand Canyon before hiking down to the Colorado River in 90+ heat. When I got back up, the center was locked, and my ride was leaving, so I had to forfeit the jacket, which had a series of implications that I dramatize in a cause-effect chain. The point being, as the “Butterfly Effect” and similar mathematical models have it, that if one changes one small variable tremendous differences may result down the line. I reflect on whether, given the freedom to withstand cold nights represented by the jacket, I might have decided to extend my journey more than three months, perhaps heading to the great Northwest, and perhaps an entirely different life if I’d eschewed college.

What was that homecoming like for you, and how might it compare and contrast with the soldiers coming home from the war?

Well, for me, it was much better than for most of the soldiers coming back. Far from the stereotype of hippies “spitting” at the vets, they were my heroes, the first people I smoked dope with, the VVAW activists on the front line of any demo, the folks you would meet in any homeless camp or shelter. So I knew something of their anguish, at second-hand, certainly, through their stories. Country Joe McDonald, by the way, was one of the few performers who really told those stories and worked for veteran’s rights. But all people remember him for was the “Fish” cheer at Woodstock.

My homecoming was emotional, lots of tears on both my part and on the part of my parents. But back in high school, I’d achieved a kind of mythic stature, as no one else had, in the history of this Catholic school, done anything equivalent. So it was easy, maybe a bit too easy. It wasn’t until college that I had to start confronting the darker side, the fool-heartiness of many of my decisions, the people I’d hurt, etc. Not that I was ever “repentant” in the conventional sense. I then and now still believe my actions were a necessary response to the conditions of my life at that point, and to the nation’s. I’ll always have some empathy for young people driven to extreme actions, whether it’s in Egypt or Syria or Britain. That’s why my prologue poem is called “Suicide Bomber.”

I love the image of the startled cat in “Reading Edgar Billowitz’s American Indians Fascicle...” Talk about your own unhurried amplitude at this stage of life? How is it finding its way into your work, both as a writer and teacher?

Another great question! In the poem I compare my old cat’s reaction at having accidentally tumbled 15 feet off a deck railing (surprised but unscathed) to a retired colleague’s observation that the aging have “unhurried amplitude.” That’s a luxury I envy at this stage of my life, where I’m constantly rushing off to department meetings, planning committee meetings, board meetings, business coffees, etc., as well as attending more than my share of poetry readings. It’s odd, but as an undergrad I always perceived professors as unhurried. Partly the misperception of youth, I’m sure, though that was a different era, no doubt, when faculty did not have to keep up with email and the many bombardments of the wired present, and probably had more autonomy. I do find that writing poems, like working in the garden or doing Tai Chi or Qi Gong exercises, is an opportunity to “slow time down,” or at least slow my own pulse down. It’s an exercise in concentrating attention. So it’s maybe an hour a day when I can achieve something like “unhurried amplitude.”

Tell me about Janine from “Janine’s Smile.”

Ah, Janine Pommy Vega was an amazing woman who died this past December. She used to come up to this area a couple times a year to teach poetry in the migrant camps around Mt. Morris, as well as to teach in various prisons. We’d often get together for dinner when she was in town, and I also visited her prison class at Eastern Correctional, near Kingston. Janine tells her story in Brenda Knight’s Women of the Beat Generation and also in a memoir called Tracking the Serpent. Talk about a life they should make a movie of! More intrepid than “Out of Africa.” Janine was a teenager in the Greenwich Village scene, shared a house with Ginsberg and Orlovsky, married a Spanish painter who died tragically, then she started her world travels, living as a hermit on an island in Peru, hiking the Himalayas and Andes and Amazon, traveling through India on pilgrimage, etc. Then came decades of working with prisoners and migrants. A blithe spirit! Enormously focused on the work of poetry and social justice. Many of her books are still available from Black Sparrow or City Lights.

Talk about the challenges of writing a political poem because it’s hard not to end up ranting, and by doing so, lose credibility with the unbelieving reader. There has to be the speaker’s own culpability. I think “To the Red Fox” is sly as a fox and pulls it off.

Thanks. That’s one of my favorites. It actually started as a writing exercise when Susan Deer Cloud came to visit my poetry class, a day or two after the lunch at Wheeler Hill described in the poem. Amazingly little revision was necessary. It quite wrote itself. That’s not something that happens very often, of course, but a nice surprise when it does! The poem begins as a kind of occasional poem, a planxty, I suppose, the old Irish genre in which a poet or musician thanks his hosts. O’Carolan did many of those. Then it just free associates on the word fox, and Fox news appears and so forth. Even though the poem didn’t start as political, the timing, a few days before Obama’s election, made it inevitable, I suppose, that the anxiety of that contest would rise to the surface. A poem of that sort, like any chaotic dynamic system, is “sensitive to initial conditions.” Sleepers arise. I did do quite a few overtly political poems in my previous book, Topicalities (FootHills 2008), but even there, I preferred to work by indirection or by black humor or some other device, rather than by pontificating. Probably the most popular poem from that collection (with several versions on YouTube), is “Baghdad Boogaloo,” a poem that utilizes spoken word and chant. Another is “Rick’s Cafe,” which does sort of pontificate, but only through the mouth of an Iraqi persona based loosely on Claude Rains’ character in Casablanca:

Rick's Café Américain in the Green Zone

Of all the bars
And all the stripes
And all the gin joints
And all the jingo
Why did you have to come into THIS desert land?

Why come into this land
With yr preening and yr strutting
Yr contractors and yr whores
Yr fast food courts and yr candy bars
Yr dogs and yr female guards
Yr Blackwater Black&Tans
Yr Humvees and yr hubris,
Why come into OUR desert land?

Why don’t you just go
And save us the trouble of having to kill you?
We’re the government here
We’re the cops
It’s your tax dollars at work
And we thank you very much for your generosity.

And after another IED takes out another GI (or three or four)
We’ll be happy to round up the usual suspects.
But don’t think this is the beginning of any beautiful friendship
It’s just business—something you understand, no?

Play it again, Uncle Sam,
Play it one more time,
Play it once for me,
O say, can’t you see?

I just saw an article in the NY Times saying the actual Rick’s Café in Iraq is being closed by the US military. The article says it entertained all kinds of bigwigs, and that Robin Williams slept there!

I’d like to say that these poems read like a chanted journal, or better yet, like Whitman on acid. I enjoyed the trip very much.

Thanks, Charlie.That’s a high compliment! I did my dissertation on Walt Whitman and still teach a Whitman class from time to time at RIT, as Sam Abrams had before me. Walt has a poem called “Chanting the Square Deific” that just came to mind. I think the incantatory aspect of poetry is essential. It’s earliest manifestation, probably, in Paleolithic nights. The “Bardic Road” section at the end of the book is where I let the music take over from the journalism and memoir. The longer poems like “Here’s For All,” “Joe the Poet,” “Reading Edgar Billewitz,” “Driving the Rainbow Bridge” are the ones I tend to read when backed up by musicians.

Great questions—really made me think.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hmmmmm, Meditation is Better than MMMMMMorhphine

"Researchers at Wake Forest University have found that meditating for 80 minutes is enough to reduce pain intensity by almost twice as much as morphine or other pain-relieving drugs." I came across this startling fact while reading The Week online, though it doesn't really surprise me. When my son received treatment at the National Cancer Institute, the intervention that helped him most was a meditation he was taught by his palliative care physician. I often recommend Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabot Zinn as well as his guided meditations along with Thich Nhat Hanh's Be Still and Know: Reflections from Living Buddha, Living Christ. Try it some time. It really works.

Here's an excellent video of a talk by Jon Kabat-Zinn on meditation:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Honking my own Horn

My poem, "It is This," won a contest that was run locally by Just Poets. 500 postcards have been printed for distribution in celebration of National Poetry Month.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Five Star Riot - Better (Music Video)

Today would have been my son's 24th birthday, so in celebration of his beautiful life, here's "Better" by Fivestar Riot. He made this video his senior year of high school.

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

One Bad-Ass Poet: An Interview with Tom Holmes

Tom Holmes

 Tom Holmes is the editor of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics. He is also author of After Malagueña (FootHills Publishing, 2005), Negative Time (Pudding House, 2007), Pre-Dew Poems (FootHills Publishing, 2008), Henri, Sophie, & the Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex (BlazeVOX Books, 2009),  The Oldest Stone in the World (Amsterdam Press, 1-1-11), and Poetry Assignments: The Book (Sage Hill Press, forthcoming 2011). He has thrice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared on Verse Daily and has also appeared in Blue Earth Review, Chiron Review, Crab Creek Review, The Delmarva Review, The G. W. Review, Mississippi Review, Mid-American Review, New Delta Review, New Zoo Poetry Review, Orange Coast Review, Rockhurst Review, San Pedro River Review, Santa Clara Review, South Carolina Review, Sugar House Review, Swarthmore Review, and many other journals that don’t have “Review” in their name. His current prose writing efforts about wine, poetry book reviews, and poetry can be found at his blog, The Line Break.

CC: So, just how did you get to be such as a bad-ass poet? In other words, what got you interested in poetry and how have you developed your craft?

TH: What got me interested in poetry? There are like 50 events that got me interested in poetry. When I was very young, in third grade, I wrote a poem about life after a nuclear holocaust. The final image was of a lone dog barking. Then I secretly started writing in high school. I don’t know what drew me to it. I went to college in 1986 as physics major. One day I heard the voice of Bob Dylan on his album Infidels. It was the summer 1987, between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I was with my friend Jeff Stremick and Dan Goettel in Jeff’s Chevy Cavalier in a mall in West Irondequoit, and Dan popped in the cassette. Oh, it was love. I wanted everyone to be quiet so I could listen to this, what Allen Ginsberg called, “angelic voice.” And it was angelic! I didn’t know it at the time, but I was drawn to his moans and long vowels. It changed everything.

CC: Physics seems a way off from what you’re doing now. What’s the story there?

TH: Well, I drank myself out of my physics program at Clarkson University. (I also played too much hockey.) Then I went to a community college in 1988, and threw myself into literature and poetry. After that, I attended SUNY Oneonta in 1989 to get a BS in English and, fuck, everything was plunged into poetry. Everything. And I had the best poetry teachers in Graham Duncan and Patrick Meanor. Duncan knew everything about Modern American poetry and Meanor pointed me to the Black Mountain Poets and taught me poetry on levels I didn’t know existed. Duncan didn’t teach me about music, but he opened my ears.

But it’s college. So what did I want to do in college? Drink and get laid. If drinking didn’t get me laid, then surely a poem would. “What woman doesn’t want a poet,” I thought. So half my intentions were to write poems to impress women. The other half was to improve my skills.

CC: Yes, a familiar story for the male poet, and I’m sure it’s still true, regardless of the skill set. So how did you develop those skills?

TH: Richard Frost, a professor at SUNY Oneonta, once told a story in poetry class about a man who talked in sonnets. I thought, “Damn, I want to do that.” So to train, I started talking in iambic pentameter, which took a while to learn to do. I actually had to write a lot to learn to speak it. Then I added some rhymes to my iambic scats. But after a month or so, when I was getting real good at it, I stopped because people didn’t much care for the rhyming. (I didn’t rhyme in front of all my friends, like the people I played high-stakes poker with three times a day.)

CC: You spoke in rhymes but not at cards with friends? See, I can speak in iambic pentameter too. Sounds like this got you thinking about the formal elements in poetry.

TH: Yes. The next few (10-15) years, I studied and wrote as many meters and forms as I could find in any language. I particularly enjoyed Sapphics, which is a form with a meter where the syllables are based on the length of the syllable, as many languages do. Then I discovered Swinburne, who pretty much taught me everything about meter. (He also made an accentual version of Sapphics, as did Ezra Pound (who combined stress and length) and James Wright (who Americanized Sapphics). Eventually, I tried to write poems where I could create tensions between the length of the syllable and its stress, and then used those to create tensions against whatever meter or form I was using.



CC: Well, Swinburne was a bad-ass too, or at least tried to be. Who else influenced you?

TH: I learned about harmonies, mainly from Gerard Manley Hopkins, who along with Wallace Stevens taught me how to work etymologies into a poem. I eventually wrote some really good musical poems. But as happened with older Swinburne, my poems became abstract and with long words and were hard to follow. Then add in some Black Mountain aesthetics and this interest in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, and the poems became even more difficult.

Gerard Manley Hopkins
Wallace Stevens


CC: It would seem to me that any serious student of poetry would fall in love with etymologies. I often draw from that well when I need ideas for poems because it suggests so many other possibilities, resonances, and imaginative leaps. How did you end up in Brockport, which of course was one of the literary hotbeds in this state, if not the country?

TH: Eventually, in 1992, I studied with William Heyen and Tony Piccione at SUNY Brockport to get an MA in English. I was the only one at the school who preached Black Mountain aesthetics. I stood firm with those Black Mountain poets in this Deep Image school. (The Robert Bly deep image. Not the Robert Kelly deep image from Trobar issue 2 with Jerome Rothenberg.)  The funny thing is Bill and Tony didn’t have much effect on me. Not for a very long time, anyway. Not until maybe 2005. I was a bit stubborn and closed minded.

William Heyen

Tony Piccione

Robert Kelly

Robert Bly

CC: You say that in the past tense. Do you mean to say you’re not so stubborn anymore?

TH: I’m still stubborn, though not as much. It just takes a while for new things to settle into me. Hmm. How to explain? … Between 1995 and 2005, I wrote and wrote. My writing seemed good at the time, but it was wasn’t. There came a point in the late 90s when I was getting too cocky. I thought I was great, but I wasn’t improving my writing. I was just strutting around as a writer. My ego was huge. I was resting on my laurels, or the laurels I thought I had. So one day, I took my two boxes of everything I had ever written, went to a Fourth of July party with a bonfire, and burned each poem one by one. Sometimes I read the poem aloud to the sky and gods before I placed the poem in the fire and watched its ashes rise to the audience I just read to.

I purged myself.

CC: That’s a great image. Did it help?

Yes, I could start over.

And I did a bit. And then more so a few years later, in 2002, at Eastern Washington University (EWU) with Jonathan Johnson, Christopher Howell, and Nance Van Winckel. There I earned an MFA. Again, like SUNY Brockport, I didn’t learn until a few years after graduating when it all sunk in.

Jonathan Johnson

Christopher Howell

Nance Van Winckel

SUNY Brockport ten or fifteen years later taught me about the image, and EWU about two years later (it really was two years later, I saw it happen before me) taught me about tone and humanity. And I taught myself clarity, which I’m still pursuing.

CC: It seems to me that clarity is the highest achievement in writing. When it’s done well, it seems so simple, and yet it’s so hard to attain.

TH: True. Though, I still have not written a musical masterpiece that is clear on an imagistic level or written a perfectly clear poem that is musically awesome.

Oh, I have so much more to say, but I reckon this is enough for now. There are so many people to mention, like Rob Carney, who have influenced me so much.

Rob Carney

But there is my answer to your initial question.

Oh, and I’m bad-ass cuz I drink and swear and have slept with women.

CC: Well, I’d say you’re bad-ass for other reasons, too, namely your writing, and, of course, the work of others you present in Redactions: Poetry & Poetics. “Redactions,” of course, means the process of editing or revising a piece of writing. Can you share some of your philosophy about revision, something that I don’t think most poets do enough, though I’m probably over-generalizing.

TH: Revising. I think that's a familiar condition of American poet today. Poets revise so much. The mood about revision is almost Puritanical, it seems. That is, if you work a lot on a poem, it will be good or successful. But are they successful? That's the question. I see poems in journals which are okay, but they still need work. I'd love to take those poems and fix them up.


When I revise, and I'll get more into this down below, I first start by writing all my poems by hand. I used to only use a pencil, but I'm now able to use a pen. Anyway, in the handwritten versions, I write, scratch, erase, and write the poems over and over and over again. Then, when I think it's done or done for this phase or when I just need to see it more clean and laid out, then I type it up on the computer. This is where I think many of poems stop – the OK ones I just mentioned seeing in journals.

But there's more to do, like shaping the poem. Honestly, a poem has to look good on the page, too. (Eight four-line stanzas are easier to look at and read than one 32-line stanza. But each poem has its own shape, and occasionally the 32-line stanza poem is required.) Plus, when I type the poem and print it, I can start marking up the poem. I can scan the poem or track certain sounds. I can make marks to see what I hear. I can follow harmonies, melodies, rhythms, and tones much better with a visual representation. I do less of this now, as I’ll explain below, but it's still a step in the revision process, especially when I'm stuck.

Man, if you get stuck in poem, then it's time to start using syllabics or a meter. If I'm stuck, and I see a meter or rhythm pattern here and there, then I'll chase them down. I'll try to make the rest of the poem follow it until I free myself from where I was stuck. You know, just because during the writing process I wrote a villanelle or a Sapphics doesn't mean I have to keep the villanelle or Sapphics. Sometimes you just need them to see the poem differently for a while, and meter and form can do that for you.

CC: What gets your attention as an editor, both in writing that you’d consider publishing, and writing that stops you from reading further?

TH: Paying attention to language gets my attention. You can tell pretty quick when a poem is paying attention to language. When it's not, it becomes boring. When it becomes boring I stop reading. And a poem can get boring quick. Oh, and the poem has to keep moving forward. So basically, you get a few lines for free, but if the poem stops moving forward or stops paying attention to language, then I stop reading. (I have to do this out of necessity, too, because I get so many submissions.) So the poem has to keep moving line after line. Of course, this is all ideal talk and there are always exceptions. Basically, the poem has to sustain my attention.

CC: I loved Henri, Sophie, & the Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex, especially as it imagines with much historical accuracy, the relationship between sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and poet Ezra Pound. I’ve always been fascinated by Rodin’s influence on Rilke. What was this collection all about and what did you discover about yourself in the process?

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Ezra Pound

TH: First thank you for the plug and the compliment.

Now to the question. Historical accuracy?! I don't know if I'd say that. I mean, for instance, Nina Hamnett did visit Sophie Breszka at a cottage during World War I, but, everything else I write in that poem is metaphorical or an imagining. I think in the end, the book is trying to get behind the swirling creative energies that existed during Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s time and because of Henri. Henri had a long and powerful influence on Ezra Pound and Sophie, and what I accidentally discovered, and it was a fun accident as the poem made the discovery while it was been written and I just happened to be the first witness, was that Ezra and Sophie both ended up in a mental hospital because of Henri's death. I loved watching that discovery. I wished I had thought of it myself. (The way I wrote the poem explains it better than I can here, because here I just want to say the only reason Ez was in a hospital is so he didn't go to jail and get executed for anti-American propaganda from his radio shows out of Italy during World War II. "Free speech without free radio speech is as zero," I think he says.)


Discovery. That's the second part of the question. What did I discover about myself in the process was the process. Prior to these poems, I used to revise so much. (I even have a poem I worked on for 17 years.) I'd revise a poem on a phonic-level to make sure all or most the sounds in a poem harmonized. So if I had a "k" sound in line five, for instance, I made sure it chimed within two lines before or after. I never could do it as well as Linda Bierds or Gerard Manley Hopkins, though. And I'd revise to make sure the language was tight and interesting. Harmony and fresh language consumed a lot of my revisions, and when it was all done, I'd have a tight poem. But you know what? During all that revision and craftiness, the poem would lose its original energies. Hell, it would lose energy in general. It would be a well-wrought poem that seemed smart. I also unintentionally revised out tonalities. So now I have this flat poem that's technically clever.

In the composition of the Henri book, I learned to "revise lightly," as Allen Ginsberg said. What I did in this book and what I'm doing now is to trust my ear. I spent years of concentrated detailed work to tune my ear and hear harmonies and rhythms, During the Henri book and since, I thought it was time to trust my ears and let them work on their own. I didn't need to interfere. So I instead concentrated on clarity and tone.

I think the problem with my earlier poems was that people couldn't get into them. The poems were obtuse, obfuscating, and sharp. They'd cut you if you got too close. In other words, the poems didn't have a surface layer. So in the Henri book, I just made sure all the poems were clear and made sense on the surface so that anyone could get into them, and if they wanted to go deeper into them, they could. Isn't that a mark of all good poems? They have a surface level, ya know, like a story, but the more you stare at it the deeper it gets. Isn't that a beauty of a Frost or Merwin poem? They invite you in, and if you want to visit all the rooms and basements and attics and secret panels in the poem’s house, you can.

So what I learned was to trust my ear, revise lightly, be clear, and ensure the tones are working well. I'm just starting to get good at all this now, especially in trusting my ear. Oh, and I won't even get into harmonic tonalities.

Oh, I just remembered this. Sean Thomas Dougherty introduced this term about my poetry, and it works for every book I have and most of my poems: Investigative Poetry. Edward Sanders coined this term (and I just received his book with the same name), but it’s been around longer. You can read about investigative poetry here: http://thelinebreak.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/investigative-poetics/ and better yet here: http://bit.ly/gSfdLV. Read the latter essay, and you’ll get my poetry, even my newest collection, The Oldest Stone in the World (Amsterdam Press), which is more like Imaginative Investigative Poetry, a topic for another time.

Sean Thomas Dougherty

CC: What exactly is Vorticism, and by the way, The Ez Head looks a lot like you. Coincidence? Clearly, Ezra Pound has had a big influence on you. Talk a bit about that.

The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound

TH: I don’t think I can define Vorticism. It's too slippery a term. Each Vorticist did their own thing. However, I can say that each Vorticist piece is a high-energy construct. I can say there was Cubism then Futurism then Vorticism. Vorticism was sharper than Futurism and celebrated less the machine and technology.

I would say I look like The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound, but I'm less phallic than it. I look like it because I tried to be like Ez for a while. Pound's influence is incalculable. His major influence on my writing came from his prose pieces about poetry, specifically The Literary Essays of Ezra Pound and even more specifically these two essays: “A Retrospect” and “How to Read.” I don’t even know if I can explain. But if you want demi-glace reduction of poetics to pour over your poetry, read these essays. They changed my life.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Air Kissing On Mars: An Interview with Kim Dower

Air Kissing on Mars (Red Hen Press, 2010)

 From Kim Dower's Website:
Kim (Freilich) Dower grew up in New York on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and received a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston.

Upon graduating, Kim stayed at Emerson where she taught Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry for two years before moving to Los Angeles where she pursued other writing projects and began her own literary publicity company.

A few years ago, “like magic, like a dream,” poetry re-entered her life and the poems have been rushing out as if a 25 year dam had broken, and she’s been writing three or more poems a week. Kim Dower's collection of 71 poems is a sensual and rhapsodic journey through emotional landscapes sweeping everyday life. Playful, intelligent, funny, edgy, engaging—sometimes biting, ironic and dark, sometimes dreamy and surreal, full of poignancy and arresting metaphors, the daily, simple occurrences in Air Kissing On Mars startle and provoke, while stirring up the fairy dust and turbulent weight of memory; evoking the possibilities and gorgeous chaos of life. Open and inviting, these poems draw the reader into a world seen upside down, inside out, a sideways bird reporting on a universe filled with mystery and passion. Joan Didion meets Tinkerbell, Kim Dower’s poems are as whimsical and light as they are rich and intense. Simultaneously humorous and profound these passionate and personal poems, relatable to all, are drenched with vivid imagery, and sparkle with surprise.

Lost languages, disappearing mailboxes, locomotives pummeling through dreams, taxi drivers thrown by the earth’s rotation, shadows in closets, vanishing carrots, men who exfoliate—all manner of haunting evocations come together in this opus of shining and startling wisdom.
Kim was gracious enough to grant an e-mail interview about her first book of poems. I first met her in Thomas Lux's workshop at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival several years ago.
CC: Twenty-five years is a long gestation period for the birth of these “jazzy, sassy, sexy poems,” to quote Stephen Dobyns about your book. How did you find your way back to writing poetry and how might you explain such prolific output?

KD: My way back was easy because I never really got lost. Just sidetracked and distracted. I may have stopped "formally" writing poetry, but I never stopped thinking about it.  I only stopped putting it down on the page.  I've always seen poems everywhere -- ideas for poems, lines, moments, and have kept notebooks all along.  Not journals -- I'm not a journal writer -- I'm a line writer, titles, moments, ideas, images, dialogue I overhear.  I have notebooks in every drawer, every corner of my house.  My profession as literary publicist has also kept me working with writers, and a lot of my work is, in fact, writing. I've written screenplays, stories, half-finished abandoned poems, a million press releases, pitch letters. I've ghost written books.  So words have always been around me and I've been writing on deadline forever.  The poems were stacking up in my head and in my heart - just waiting for an opening.  When my son left for college and the opening presented itself, the poems started spilling out -- in the middle of the night,  the early morning, late in the evenings. The poems were just waiting for me to have time for them.

CC: In the acknowledgements for Air Kissing on Mars, you thank Thomas Lux for introducing you to poetry at Emerson College. How did he influence your writing then, and how is he still an influence?

KD: When I was a freshman at Emerson College I took an elective in my spring semester called "Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry."  Thomas Lux was the instructor.

I'd been writing poems since I was a child and loved reading poetry, so I thought I'd take the class and see what poetry in college was all about.  That first class changed my life.

Thomas Lux

Tom announced we were all poets. He gave us this massive identity. He read us a poem by Bill Knott.  He made poetry real, relevant, important, exciting.  I left the classroom feeling like I knew why I was alive. I was a poet.  I had a job. That was that.

Years later, when I'd been away from poetry for a long time and began writing again, I contacted him.  He said "the warranty has expired," which was hilarious, and then invited me to send a dozen poems and give him a few weeks to read them.  I did.  He said it was as if I'd never stopped writing, but encouraged me to find a writing workshop and get back into the craft.  He encouraged me to stick with it.  He reminded me that I was a poet, always had been and always would be.  That was that.

Once again, I felt charged with meaning, inspiration and dedication to what I had loved to many years before and what I continued to love: writing poetry.

CC: Lux calls it nightingale fever tempered by wisdom and caring. I call it emphatic, zany, at times obsessive, and most often engaging. How would you describe the voice that speaks these poems?

KD: My truest voice.  My most alive voice.  The voice that tries to be most observant and most honest. The voice I hope will never leave me again.

CC: After reading “They took the mailbox away,” the first poem in the book, I wondered how many “ruined lives” will be redeemed by the reading of these love letters? What if anything gets reclaimed for you in the making of these poems?

KD: Myself.  I have reclaimed myself in doing what I love the most.

CC: I admire the strength of your associative leaps, the unexpected inevitabilities you might say. For example, in “She Is Awakened by a Hair,” we get “a train way of track / thundering through her bedroom, / the moon on its back” to describe what the hair is not, and yet that hair, “stuck to the roof of her mouth,” makes her think of that train, and that moon. How are you able to make these associations?

KD: I have no idea. Truly.  I close my eyes and imagine the next line, the next picture, and I write down what comes to me.  Sometimes that'll be changed 100 times.  Sometimes I get it right away.

CC: And of course, I want to know what that promise might be at the end of the poem, but can only imagine. I don’t suppose you’ll tell me.

KD: What are the promises we make to ourselves?  That we'll be good?  That we'll never love someone or always love someone? A promise we struggle to forget - haven't we all promised something to someone we wish we could take back?  Or is that just me?

CC: I promised myself to stop making promises. It's not working.

These poems have certain obsessions, like the beach, the moon, tonsils, death, sex, gelato, screeching (that word shows up a number of times), and especially a longing for that which is not present. Can you talk about the creative power of obsession, how it turns to passion and finds some containment in the poem?

KD: A poet once said (and I wish I could remember who said this) that our obsessions don't change, just the way we write about them.  That really resonates with me.

Certains obsessions have always been a force in my life. Obsessing itself has always driven me: desire, feelings, images, over and over, thinking about something (someone) until I have it (them).  Obsession drives me.  Being an obsessive person has caused its share of problems except when it comes to the creative power of obsession.  Then I'm grateful for my obsessions.  Proud of them. I adore them and nurture them. I love how my obsessions inform my work - how they drive it.  I would have nothing without them.

You see how obsessive I am?

CC: Well, yes, I see, and in your book, the speaker blurts out, “I love a man who exfoliates,” in the poem by the same name. These poems are exuberant that way and might even be a kind of aesthetic stance. I know your life can be quite hectic with your publicist gig so I imagine there’s some therapeutic value in writing these poems. In fact, the poem that follows has this line, “you name it, I’m tired from doing it...” What gets exfoliated when you enter the making of a poem?

KD: You name it, it gets exfoliated when I write a poem.

CC: So that's why you're so radiant?

There’s a remarkable description of birth in the poem by the same name. The poem envisions so much that will be missed. I can’t help but think the speaker is also describing her own birth. As you’ve dedicated the book to your son Max, talk about how his life inspired this collection.

KD: His life has inspired my life - he has inspired me - and therefore his life has inspired this collection.  Just feeling a life grow inside me and knowing him before he was born
was a poem.  Every day he was inside me was a poem.  I would write them but can't find where I put them. The physical act of giving birth (though cesarian) was beyond my comprehension.  I am grateful to my son for the way I see the world.  For how he changed the way I see it because I see it through his eyes, too, and as he was growing up my perceptions changed watching him.  Sometime I'll read him a poem (when he'll let me) to see if it might connect with him.  He'll tell me to change a word and I'll change it.

CC: I'd be afraid to give my son's that same liberty, but who knows, I haven't tried it. First I'd have to get them to read one first. Usually they just roll their eyes.

“Geography Matters” is emblematic of the way you take an absurd situation (i.e., the Yugoslavian driver saying, “let me make you an example”) and pushing to its even more absurd implications of language. Talk about the making of this poem, which enacts the making of an example.

KD: The poem is based on a real incident -- an absurd incident - my favorite kind:  a driver taking me from Delray Beach to Miami to catch a plane back to L.A. who wouldn't stop talking about geography and the way the world works.  He didn't stop talking for an hour. At first I wanted to jump out the window but then I started writing down things he was saying.  I became fascinated and charmed.  I was amazed by how much he had to say to this stranger in the back seat.  He wanted to teach me things about geography, about his life, about driving a cab. I knew after a few minutes there was a poem here. I wanted to tell his story in my poem.

CC: I've had cab rides like that. I'm thinking of writing down the things I hear in the men's locker room at my gym. Maybe I'll call it Overheard in the Sweat Locker.

Your professional life is all about promoting writers who will be read by the kind of folks you describe in “The Couple Next Door.” How do you think about readers when you promote writers.

KD: That's an interesting question that I'm not sure I understand. I never really know what readers will like.  I know they want to connect the characters with their own lives. They want to relate.  They want to say, hey - she's talking about me!  They also want to laugh and cry and feel alive when they read.

Our job as poets is to show situations in a way they've never been seen.  To show simple, everyday things in ways they've never been shown, but without making a puzzle out of it.  I feel like I'm making a puzzle with this answer.  How do I think about readers when you promote writers?  I think the same thing for myself that I tell my clients -- write from the heart, be authentic, tell the truth for
as long as you can and be amazing!  Readers will be amazed.

CC: Another strategy in your poems involves list-making, which of course makes me think of Walt Whitman. Are you a compulsive list maker? What do you think makes for a compelling list poem?

KD: I write lists all the time, but they're dull lists about things I really have to do.  If it's on the list I will do it.  I do all the things on my lists.  My list poems have nothing to do with my real life lists.  A compelling list poem is surprising, just like any other compelling poem.

CC: The death of your father is a recurring theme in the book. What impact did this have  on you and the way you see the world, and yourself?

KD: I'm still learning about the impact of my father's death (and his life) through writing my poems.  I didn't really know the impact of his death until I started writing these poems and I don't know if I'll ever have the answer to this question.

CC: Your poems are very sensuous and pay close attention to the connotation of things. For example, gelato in “His Flavors are Tender.” That poem represents a longing that I see throughout the book. Can you talk about how this kind of hunger speaks to the human experience?

KD: All my poems are about longing which is what all of life is about, isn't it? I suppose life for me is about hunger.  It's about what I long for. When is enough enough. Are we ever satisfied?  I don't think so.

CC: The door triptych intrigues me and seem to represent otherness, distance, and separation. Can you talk about what those three doors mean to you?

KD: Other, distant and separate -- perfect!  This is the way I often feel. This isn't a sad thing, this is just the way it is.  However many friends I have, family, loved ones,  work, no time in the day to think  . . .  at the end of that day I will feel other, apart, separate, and have since I was a little girl. Perhaps that's why I write poetry.  To pull myself out of those feelings.  To try to make connections where I've never felt them.

CC: Talk about the section of the book called People Give Me Titles. My favorite is “Coffin Bone.”

KD: When I got back into writing poetry, I asked some friends to give me titles.  It was a way I could jump start myself - force myself to write a poem - one every day. It was a fascinating and successful pursuit because I got some fabulous titles (including "The Door" which you asked me about in the previous question),  and I had an excuse to send these friends the poems so they'd be forced to read and comment on them!  Poets love other people to read their poems and make comments!

The "Coffin Bone" is from my friend Karen Karbo who's a wonderful writer and someone I've known for a long time who encouraged me to start writing again. I loved that title though I had no idea what it meant.  I wrote the poem not knowing what it meant and then I looked it up.  It was a thrilling and surprising definition. I'm grateful to her and to everyone who gave me titles.

Karen Karbo
CC: What are you reading now, and who would you cite as influences in your own work.

KD: I'm rereading Frank O'Hara because I love his poetry to death.  I'm rereading everyone who influenced me: O'Hara, William Carlos Williams, Emily Dickinson, Erica Jong, James Tate, Thomas Lux,  Wallace Stevens, Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman - there are so many! I'm reading Words in Air the letters between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. I'm reading Jane Hirshfield's book, After which is amazing.  I love Billy Collins, Kim Addonizio and Charles Haper Webb.  There's so much poetry to love and learn from the list could go on forever.

CC: What are you working on now?

KD: Poems!  More and more and more poems for a second collection which will be called, Snacking on Venice, Before Dawn.  Do you like that title?

CC: Can't wait to read those poems!