INTERVIEW WITH POET TIM TOMLINSON

Tim Tomlinson

Tim Tomlinson

GR: Thanks for agreeing to let us interview you for Gyroscope Review. We’re pleased that you are one of our contributing poets. Will you please begin by telling us where you’re from, where you write, and why poetry?

TT: I was born in Brooklyn, New York, in the section that’s recently gone hipster: Bushwick. When I was one, my family moved to suburban/development Long Island. I escaped from that asylum when I was sixteen.

I returned to Brooklyn two years ago. I live (and write) in the hipster-free zone of Bay Ridge, in a little cubbyhole office in the apartment I share with my wife. The office has two large windows that look out over green backyards, white garages, and, in the distance, red brick apartment buildings that in late afternoon sunlight look like Edward Hopper paintings.

Why poetry? The music and devices of poetry sink their hooks in you very early, don’t they? Blake, Poe, “Tyger tyger, burning bright,” “napping/tapping/ rapping/rapping…” I had those rhythms in my head when I was eight, nine, ten. Then, the music of my adolescence—Beatles, Dylan, Joni Mitchell—highlighted dexterity with language. Irony, paradox, interiority. “I think a no, I mean a yes,” “noon/spoon/ balloon/moon/soon,” “greens/jeans/roses/scenes/discloses…” You start to repeat, you start to imitate. You can’t help it, it just happens in your head. Then it starts to become your own. Sometimes I wonder why everyone isn’t writing poetry—maybe they are. They must be hearing it, thinking it.

GR: Who, or what, are your poetical influences?

TT: I found Jason Shinder’s posthumously published book, Stupid Hope, influential. The frankness, the simplicity, both of which generate depth. And the shapes of the poems—often single lines mingled with couplets in irregular patterns. Charles Wright, too. The space on the page, the drop lines. His poems feel as if they’re happening the way clouds drift across the sky.

GR: How do you decide what ‘form’ a poem should take?

TT: Sometimes the form appears straight out, draft one. But I always test it – I try it this way, that way, any way, print it out, look at the hard copy, before I decide. If I’m lost, if I’m not really seeing it on the page, I count syllables. “Mescaline” and “Broken Things” happened (forgive me if that sounds pretentious) on the same morning, out of the same mood, and their final form is very close to their first drafts. I knew it as soon as I saw them. Others—the “Chris Lunn” poem, for instance, in Gyroscope—literally required many years, numerous attempts, and multiple drafts before it resolved.

GR: What is your writing process like? 

TT: When we’re home, generally very disciplined, but not in a martinet kind of way. I have a sense of what I want to work on on a given day. I look at e-mail, scan a few headlines, make breakfast. These days, I have the laptop with me while I eat and have coffee, but I don’t get to the poems or fiction until I’m back in the office. When we travel, I try to recreate the home practice, but with necessarily irregular success. And when classes are in session (I teach in NYU’s Global Liberal Studies program), I struggle, especially around times when student work comes due.

GR: Do you belong to any writer’s groups – face-to-face or online? If so, are they part of your process?

TT: Here’s a variation on one of my favorite Raymond Carver answers: no, and yes. No, in that I rarely show any one any work in process, ever. Most often, I arrive at a point where I’m OK with the work, and I send it out. Feedback comes in the form of rejections, and the occasional acceptance. But … if I’m working on something new and different, if I need a shake-up, or just a shot of validation, I’m happy to participate in some kind of group work, get some feedback, fresh eyes and ideas, and maybe generate some new stuff. So in that sense, yes, in that over last six or seven years, I’ve taken Master Classes at Poet’s House with Dorianne Laux, Carol Muske-Dukes, and Alison Hawthorne Deming. And I did private sessions with Kim Addonizio. These are all great poets, they put together rosters of great participants, and I got so much from each of the sessions.

GR: What do you look for in the poetry you like to read? Any favorite poets?

TT: I love the work of the poets I just mentioned. The writers I value the most are the ones who make me want to write, and in that sense, I find Kim Addonizio invaluable, particularly her short stories. I read an Addonizio story, I write two of my own, that kind of thing. The great Filipino poet Merlie Alunan said, “Poetry isn’t about the words. Poetry is about the silence after the explosion that the words cause.” I look for poetry that explodes, then leaves me in that silence. Joseph Legaspi, Marjorie Evasco, J. Neil Garcia, Krip Yuson (Filipino poets, all), they do that for me. Larry Levis, Franz Wright, Joy Harjo, Mary Oliver … Leonard Cohen, the Kenneth Rexroth translations of Chinese and Japanese poets. I could go on.

GR: What is the most important role for poets today?

TT: To bear witness. And these days, in order to do that meaningfully, I think it’s necessary to travel, to complicate your perspective by living in someone else’s. And then to tell the truth, but tell it slant. It occurs to me that Emily Dickinson did not hop around the globe, and she was able to bear witness… In workshops I tell my students that everything I say is right, but it’s also wrong. This might be one of those cases.

GR: Which poets have you had the opportunity to hear read? Alternatively, what is the most recent book you’ve read?

TT: Ricky de Ungria is a great reader, animated and implicated. Chris Abani. Kwame Dawes. Michael Dickman shows you the power of silence. Jacqueline Bishop is an excellent reader. Donna Masini.

Novels: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, and Omar Musa’s Here Come the Dogs—these really grabbed me. Poems: Breakable Things by Loren Kleinman got me tapping the keyboard.

GR: Any future plans for your work that you’d like to talk about?

TT: In October 2015, my chapbook Yolanda: An Oral History in Verse (Finishing Line Press) appears. It’s unlike anything I’ve done before, kind of a hybrid of immersion journalism, oral history, and found poem. It chronicles, in their own words, the experiences of survivors of Super-tyhpoon Yolanda, which devastated the islands of Leyte and Samar, Philippines. In Fall 2016 Winter Goose Publishing will bring out my first poetry collection, Requiem for the Tree Fort I Set on Fire. Currently, I’m nearing the finish line of a novel-in-stories.

GR: What other interests do you have beyond literature?

TT: I’m an avid scuba diver. I do most of my diving these days in the Philippines, where my wife is from. I maintain a regular yoga practice, which keeps my head on straight, if upside down. I’m a slave to music: Tammy Wynette, Duke Ellington, Pet Sounds, Brahms’ Symphony No. 3. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the not-for-profit organization I helped co-found and currently direct: New York Writers Workshop. We’re a collective of New York-based writers who teach here, there, and anywhere. We’ve been in Australia, Europe, all over Asia, and quite a few places here in the US. Our slogan: coming soon to a continent near you.

GR: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Please let our readers know where they can find more information about you or your work.

TT: Here’s a link to an interview concerning Yolanda, on Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/loren-kleinman/tim-tomlinson-talks-about_b_7771346.html

Some recent poems in Lunch Ticket’s Amuse-Bouche, all of which draw from the Philippines. http://lunchticket.org/the-koreans-terminal-3-farewell-in-the-eel-grass/

A piece of fiction from my novel-in-progress: “Gun.” http://thecoachellareview.com/fiction/gun_timtomlinson.html

New York Writers Workshop: http://www.newyorkwritersworkshop.com/

You can also find Tim Tomlinson’s poems, “The Goldfish,” and, “For Chris Lunn, Who Became a Paraplegic at the Age of Twenty, in an Automobile Accident Near Setauket, October 1974,” on pages 10-11 of Issue 15-2 of Gyroscope Review.

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Welcome to September!

Here at Gyroscope Review, we are busy reading poems for our fall issue, which we expect to publish on October 1. You still have a few days to send us something (we’ll read at least until September 15). Please have a look at our guidelines first.

We are excited to be working on our third issue. It’s hard to believe that just one year ago, we were merely in the planning stages for this poetry journal. But here we are, enjoying a variety of submissions from some wonderful poets.

Did you know you can subscribe to Gyroscope Review? If you never want to miss an issue, simply visit this link and sign up. It’s free. And you can revisit our past issues while you’re there.

Pass it on!

 

 

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INTERVIEW WITH POET DARYL MURANAKA

Daryl Muranaka

Daryl Muranaka

Today we interview Poet Daryl Muranaka, who had work in both the Inaugural Edition (Spring 2015) as well as the Summer 2015 Issue of Gyroscope Review.

GR: Thanks for agreeing to let us interview you for Gyroscope Review. We’re pleased that your work is included in our first issue. Can you please begin by telling us where you’re from, where you write, and why poetry?

DM: I live in the Boston area. I’m originally from California and Hawaii, but I’ve been in Massachusetts for about 15 years, which is longer than any other place at this point. These days, I write on my commute, which is a pretty interesting experience. I got into poetry in college. I wanted to write songs, but was pretty bad at it. Poetry fell into place from there.

GR: Who, or what are your poetical influences?

DM: My original and probably still most important influence is Naomi Shihab Nye. She was the first poet I met and really got me started. She’s always been very supportive of my work. After that, I’ve really enjoyed reading Li-Young Lee, Cathy Song, and Jim Harrison.

GR: How do you decide what ‘form’ a poem should take?

DM: I like little lines, and many of my poems start (and usually stay) with shorter lines. It could be because my writing journal is small. The journal is pocket sized so I can carry it everywhere. Maybe that creates a natural limitation. In the revision stage, the poem tends to tell me what they want to look like.

GR: What is your writing process like?

DM: I like when an idea come back to me two or three times, meaning I let myself forget the poem and see if it comes back. The poem at that point is telling me that it wants to be written. After that, I write at least the first few lines in my head. Those lines live in my “mind attic” for a while. I sit on them for a few days, sometimes a few weeks. If they give me trouble I’ll set them aside for a month or longer. After that initial cooling period, I’ll draft the full poem.

GR: Do you belong to any writer’s groups – face to face or online? If so, are they part of your process?

DM: I don’t belong to any group locally. I really should, though. At the same time, I’m on several groups on Facebook which I love reading. The group I really got the most out of was my Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge group last year. That was a very supportive and talented group. I don’t usually share my drafts though. I like to sometimes field ideas out there I’m having trouble with.

GR: What do you look for in the poetry you like to read? Any favorite poets?

DM: I like poems where I stop and say, “I wish I wrote that” and know that I can’t. I like poets that are outside my range. I don’t mean that they’re necessarily better than me, but they do work that I don’t or I’m not particularly good at. One of my classmates, Tom C. Hunley, is a good example. He’s ways been more experimental than me and that’s something I admire and enjoy reading. But I know that’s not where my strengths are. It’s a different range from me and that’s a good thing.

GR: What is the most important role for poets today?

DM: I think the most important role for a poet is the same as every artist—to present life in the fullest way possible, to confront the serious problems we face as a keen observer, a deep thinker, and a dynamic empathizer. In this way, I think of many of the best poets I know as people not only of deep feeling but of serious and rational minds. Poets and artists don’t present pretty pictures; they present full slice of life and point the way to human solutions.

GR: Which poets have you had the opportunity to hear read? Alternatively, what is the most recent book you’ve read?

DM: The most recent book of poetry I’ve read was Jim Harrison’s Songs of Unreason. Just before that I read Cathy Park Hong’s Engine Empire. Both are fine books I read last month. I tend to do two a month.

GR: Any future plans for your work that you’d like to talk about?

DM: I’ve got three projects right now: 1) Ohana, which is my second collection of poems; 2) Bubun, a Japanese American-aikido memoir; and 3) a blog book on the martial arts. Ohana is the farthest along, with a complete manuscript that’s being revised. Bubun is in rough draft form and is “resting.” I just started the blog book a couple of weeks ago.

GR: What other interests do you have beyond literature?

DM: I’d like to be more active in Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan. I spent a lot of years practicing hard and I really enjoyed it. It’s the only exercise I really do enjoy. There is an artistic slant to these martial arts which is fun and challenging and I find has a nice flow with writing—they don’t compete but compliment as activities.

GR: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Please let our readers know where they can find more information about you or your work:

DM: http://www.darylmuranaka.com/

https://darylmuranaka.wordpress.com/

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Gyroscope Review Editors Interviewed at “Six Questions For…”

Check it out: Gyroscope Review editors Constance Brewer and Kathleen Cassen Mickelson are interviewed by Jim Harrington at his blog, Six Questions For….

We had fun answering Jim’s questions. Hope you have fun reading our responses. Happy Friday!

 

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