National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Mary Kay Rummel

Each day in April, in honor of National Poetry Month and our third anniversary issue (find out how to get a copy HERE), we are running an interview with a poet who has been published in Gyroscope Review. Read on.

National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Mary Kay Rummel

Poet Mary Kay Rummel

How will you celebrate National Poetry Month? I will read, I will listen to others read, and I will buy a book by someone whose poetry is new to me and of a style I don’t usually read. I will also post children’s poems in the businesses of my community.

 Pen, pencil or computer first? I am in transition between pen first and computer first. It used to be all pen first and now I find myself sometimes composing a first draft on the computer.

Who/what are your influences? Gerard Manley Hopkins, Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda, Adam Zagajewski, Eamon Grennan, Linda Gregg, Jane Hirschfield. What I love about poetry is the music of the language. I also read poetry in translation from other cultures, other music. Many European poets.

What topic is the hardest for you to write about and why? Members of my family of origin. I still don’t want to hurt them, even the ones who are not alive.

What was the worst writing idea you ever had? To write a poem sequence based upon the Catholic stations of the cross and make little shrines. To attend a workshop where everyone was a lot younger than I am. Including others’ stories in my poems without telling or asking them.

 What authors do you love right now? Alice McDermott—a fiction writer. I am studying her mastery of detail and the musical repetition in her amazing sentences. Lois Jones — her new poetry book Night Ladder is gorgeous in its iteration of the ways body and soul are one.

What is the most important role of poets in 2018? To write and get your writing out in public; to be honest to the moment; to speak your truth; to not be afraid; to say all the layers of what you see.

 Where do you go when you need to recharge? To the sea—a bench, a rock, a walk—the sound of the waves.

What is your favorite end-of-the-day drink? Wine—white California or red French.

Mary Kay Rummel lives in Ventura, California, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her most recent book is Cypher Garden published by Blue Light Press in 2017. Visit her website, marykayrummel.com.

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National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Ken Poyner

Each day in April, in honor of National Poetry Month and our third anniversary issue (find out how to get a copy HERE), we are running an interview with a poet who has been published in Gyroscope Review. Read on.

National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Ken Poyner

Poet Ken Poyner

How will you celebrate National Poetry Month? Hopefully, by writing better and more.  Perhaps with an overnight trip to Chincoteague and its wonderful bookstore Sundial Books.

Pen, pencil or computer first? Pen and notebook for poetry, computer for fiction.  Occasionally, a piece of fiction gets into the notebook before it is remanded to the computer, but those are accidents of enthusiasm.

Who/what are your influences? I began writing based on accidentally finding the poetry of Randall Jarrell, which I treasure to this day.  A lot of my content is flavored by reading Asimov, Clarke.  Clarke’s collection The Nine Billion Names of God drives me to this day.  I have a well-thumbed copy upstairs.  Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade was an early influence.  The works of Gogol and Kafka, as well as of Camus, have influenced me greatly.  And I love live theater – Waiting for Godot has always been humming in the back of my essence, as well as other Beckett works.  I’ve seen Waiting for Godot in four different iterations.  My wife does not understand how anyone can do that.

What topic is the hardest for you to write about and why? Emotional maturity.  I work a lot with irony and maladaptation.  A comfortably emotionally mature character is alien to me.

What was the worst writing idea you ever had? Doing a novel.  I lack the clarity of thought, the breadth of imagination, or the single-mindedness of purpose to stick with a novel.  I prefer the pithiness of poetry and flash fiction.  I am actually seeking revelation in my audience, not understanding.  I don’t want them to connect the dots – I want to hit them with the dot.

What authors do you love right now? James Tate, Charles Simic.  I’m reading a lot of non-fiction these days.  Recently finished a history of salt.  Fascinating.  Now I’m reading about bonds and the workings of the bond market.  The strength and weakness of any investment instrument lies in the complexity of the machinations professionals have created to wring value out of what starts off as a simple transaction.

What is the most important role of poets in 2018? To survive. Sales are being dominated by industrial production of cheap stories and novels. James Patterson, I’m told, does not even write his own books. Fifty Shades of Grey sold something like 23 million copies. It read like an eighth grader’s interpretation of what he was seeing with backlight through a sheet. Poets are caught between an academic bent that at times sees publication only as a way to tenure, and a public that simply does not like poetry. The average small press poetry book sells less than 100 copies, including the 30 to 50 copies the author buys. It is nearly as grim for literary fiction. It is too easy to leave the public behind and, as one author noted, allow poetry to become simply a cult. I do not have the key yet, but I think we have to search for a way to reconnect with an educated public. We are not going to get back the “50 Shades” people, but we have to figure out how to get the attention of those who still on occasion value style and complexity. When I do the numbers, it looks like there is an English reading population of around 2 billion people. If 0.01% of them buy a book, that is 200,000 books sold. One reason I started Barking Moose Press, LLC, was to have flexibility in marketing and approach with my recent books. I did two books in the small presses and they were abandoned after publication. The role of the poet in 2018, and beyond, is to force engagement. Do what you have to do to be, as a poet, an important and vibrant part of the community. If you do not make the public look at you, they will waltz past and follow the lame and unreal prose of the next Fifty Shades of Grey.

Where do you go when you need to recharge? We take an overnighter either to the North Carolina Outer Banks, about 80 miles south; or over to Chincoteague, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, about 75 miles northeast. Only in the off-season, though. They are pretty deserted, you can get into substantive conversations with the locals, actually see the landscapes. Sundial Books in Chincoteague carries all four of my recent books, and they actually sell well there. The owner tells me I am one of his best sellers. But he does put sweat equity into selling my books, and I sell myself with the local business owners.

What is your favorite end-of-the-day drink? Rum and coke.  Not just any rum – Admiral Nelson’s 101 proof rum.

Ken Poyner lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. His most recent publication is Avenging Cartography, 55 bizarre mini-fictions (Barking Moose Press 2017). Visit his website, www.kpoyner.com, or the Barking Moose Press website, www.barkingmoosepress.com. He is also on Facebook, and is a contributing blogger at https://ogfomk.blogspot.com/.

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National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet James Penha

Each day in April, in honor of National Poetry Month and our third anniversary issue (find out how to get a copy HERE), we are running an interview with a poet who has been published in Gyroscope Review. Read on.

National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet James Penha

Poet James Penha

How will you celebrate National Poetry Month? I shall post a poem each day at TheNewVerse.News and work on a poem of my own each day . . . as I do every month.

Pen, pencil or computer first? If I’m at home, I’m right onto the computer. But at the beach or in the jungle or on the road (if I’m not driving) it’s the notebook and pen in my pocket.

Who/what are your influences? Shakespeare’s Hamlet taught me to love literature; Whitman, Dickinson, Ginsberg, Eliot, Crane, and O’Hara taught me to love poetry; Sharon Olds, Louise Glück, and Eileen Myles teach me how to write; every new novel and book of poetry I read inspires and motivates me to write something new.

What topic is the hardest for you to write about and why? I just wrote, after seventy years on earth, the first poem about my own death. That was hard to write. It’s hard to read.

What was the worst writing idea you ever had? I thought I could capture a fourth dimension by using vast spaces (one or more blank pages) between lines to represent time passing.

What authors do you love right now? Joe Okonkwo, Andrew Sean Greer, Natashia Deón, Mohsin Hamid, Vivek Shanbhag, Phillip B. Williams

What is the most important role of poets in 2018? As the editor of TheNewVerse.News I believe that poets must speak, extrinsically or intrinsically, to and about the political, the economic, and the social realities we face in this nation and throughout the world. #Resist. 

Where do you go when you need to recharge? I live in a suburb of Jakarta, Indonesia. At sunset, almost every day, I go with husband and dog to a quiet lake in the middle of nowhere. When I really need to recharge, we drive (and ferry) to the Sumatran jungle to listen to the songs of the siamang gibbons. Poetry!

What is your favorite end-of-the-day drink? Ginger-turmeric-lemon.

James Penha lives in Tangerang Selatan, Indonesia. His recent poems online include “Lifetime Learning” at Linden Avenue, “Pre-Op” and “Rough Patch” on pages 47-48 of Geometry, “Selfie” at Postcard Poems & Prose, and “5 World Trade Center” from The Donut Book at the Eat This Poem website. Visit his website, jamespenha.com, or find him on Twitter @JamesPenha.

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National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Toti O’Brien

Each day in April, in honor of National Poetry Month and our third anniversary issue (find out how to get a copy HERE), we are running an interview with a poet who has been published in Gyroscope Review. Read on.

National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Toti O’Brien

Poet Toti O’Brien

How will you celebrate National Poetry Month? I pick a couple of readings in town (or out of town) where poets I love are delivering, and try to bring friends for the ride.

Pen, pencil or computer first? Pen or pencil, on scrap paper and without reading glasses.

Who/what are your influences? ‘Who’ is a zillion. First names coming to mind: J.L. Borges and Fernando Pessoa. ‘What’ is displacement. Switching languages many times in one lifetime. Loss of language creates a thirst for poetry.

What topic is the hardest for you to write about and why? Any topic becomes instantaneously hard if I “have to” or “decide to” write about it. Otherwise, any topic can tricks its way in. As long as they (the topics) can say they freely chose themselves.

What was the worst writing idea you ever had? It didn’t happen yet. I am trustfully waiting.

What authors do you love right now? Oh so many. I have recently liked the poetry of John Gallaher, the stories of Alice Munro, the novels of Herta Muller.

What is the most important role of poets in 2018? Keep writing as if nothing had happened.

Where do you go when you need to recharge? Home is a great recharger. Nature is a superpower. Dancing and playing music with other people, anywhere, is practically a re-birth.

What is your favorite end-of-the-day drink? A very small glass of Moscato. Moscato must be cheap and glass must have a handle, like a tea cup.

Toti O’Brien lives in Pasadena, California. Her most recent publication includes Mother Tongue in Panoply. Visit her website at http://totihan.net/index.html

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