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Interview with Poet Ace Boggess

Ace Boggess
Ace Boggess

CONTRIBUTOR INTERVIEW

  1. 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?

I’m from West Virginia—Charleston, currently, but I’ve lived in many parts of the state. I write wherever I happen to be. I’ve been writing in bed a lot lately for some reason. As for why poetry, well, that’s complicated. Until a few years ago, I never thought of myself as a poet. I considered myself a novelist and just wrote poetry along the way. Then, while my novels were out there floundering under the weight of rejection letters, my poems were popping up in journals and e-zines all over the place. It got so bad that everyone I knew referred to me as a poet. It took me a while to accept that. Now, I write mostly poetry and call myself a poet, so of course I have a novel out. Funny how that works.

  1. Who, or what, are your poetical influences?

Early on, I loved reading Neruda and Ferlinghetti. An odd mix, I know. From there, I started reading whatever I could get my hands on. Probably the two books that have had the biggest influence on me though are David Lehman’s The Evening Sun and Without End by Adam Zagajewski. The way I like to describe is that when I’m reading those two books, I can feel the tone of my own writing shift—more kinetic and chaotic in terms of Lehman’s book, and more serious and subtle, almost soulful, with Zagajewski’s.

  1. How do you decide what ‘form’ a poem should take?

I rarely do until the poem is on paper. When I’m typing and revising, I play around with the lines and stanzas until they feel right. I rarely write in traditional forms, and when I do it’s a conscious choice in advance. With my new book, Ultra Deep Field (forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press), I forced myself into a form just to see if I could do it. What I decided on was a series of poems in unpunctuated couplets. I tried to see how much could go in a line or a stanza without the missing punctuation causing a problem for the reader (I quickly learned that the one bit of punctuation you can’t live without is the question mark). I wrote almost exclusively in that form for three years, carving out about 400 poems, of which half didn’t work at all. The other half mostly found homes in journals, and the better of those are included in the book.

  1. What is your writing process like? 

I read for a while to get in the writing mood—usually half an hour to 45 minutes. That’s a habit I picked up years ago when I was a drug addict. I’d take my drugs and read until they kicked in, then write. The drugs are gone now, but the habit remains, and I find it an effective way to focus. When I’m ready, I write longhand in a little notebook, make a few corrections, then do all the revising and form-seeking as I type. After a poem has been typed, I revise it once and send it out. If it’s rejected, I revise again and submit again. I almost never send the same piece out twice without having tweaked it a bit. I repeat that process until the poem is either right and published or hopelessly broken and ready for assisted suicide.

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

I used to. Not anymore.

  1. What do you look for in the poetry you like to read? Any favorite poets?

I look for a sense of connection to the strange. I want to feel what the poets feel and experiences their lives as if my own. If they’re exhausted or fascinated or turned on, that’s what I expect to come away with. If they’re meditative, that’s the state I want to find myself in. If they’re looking at deer or rabbits or ax-wielding clowns, I want to see them too as if they’re standing in my front yard right now … which they very well might be.

  1. What is the most important role for poets today?

I think the best thing poets can do is to help strangers understand each other.

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

I’ve attending too many readings to remember them all. Some of the earlier ones were Ferlinghetti, David Rigsbee, Erin Belieu, Kirk Judd, and Mark Halliday. As for books, the one I’m reading at the moment is Ada Limon’s Bright Dead Things.

  1. Any future plans for your work that you’d like to talk about?

Right now, I’m excited about the publication of Ultra Deep Field, which will be my third full-length collection. In the meantime, I have three other full-length collections for which I’m trying to find homes.

  1. What other interests do you have beyond literature?

Music and movies, mostly. I used to be a news junkie, but I’m trying to break myself of that habit. It’s not good for my ulcer.

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

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1988292050/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482608778&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Prisoners-Ace-Boggess/dp/0983530475/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407071309&sr=1-1&keywords=ace+boggess

http://brickroadpoetrypress.com/

On Twitter: @AceBoggess

 

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INTERVIEW WITH POET KARI GUNTER-SEYMOUR

Kari Gunter-Seymour
Kari Gunter-Seymour

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?

KGS: I live near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in a small town in southeastern Ohio. I have lived “here abouts” all my knowing life, never far from my grandparents’ farm, where I spent as much time as I could as a child and young adult. I’ve come to understand that most of what I know that’s worth knowing, I learned from them. I write outside in the spring and fall, now and then at a coffee shop if I’m stuck in town, mostly at the dining room table. There is a big bay window. In winter, we stock the bird feeder just outside. We often get a lot of snow. I write poetry because that’s the way the words come, in poetic form. Otherwise, I might have been a storyteller, which is considered a much more respectable craft for an Appalachian.

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

KGS: I write about what I know – what I’ve seen, felt, touched, smelled. I have not been formally trained, so I’ll blame it on this rich Ohio soil, wildly eclectic family and neighbors, my upbringing and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

GR: Some of the poetry you’ve had published in Gyroscope Review addresses military members who return home with PTSD. Could you talk a little bit about how you decided to use this topic in your work and what you hope these poems achieve?

My work as a whole is based on Appalachian culture. Unshakable patriotism and a willingness to fight for God and country have been a point of honor and pride for Appalachians for generations. Poverty is also a factor for “joining up.” With limited access to higher education, and never enough jobs to go around, many Appalachians have found very few alternatives to military service. To a teen, the probability of being killed in war seems less gruesome than being killed in a coal mine, or worse yet being stuck forever in a dead end town. If you live in Appalachia, chances are you know a soldier and his/her family.

I know a soldier. I write about him and his mother. It guts me.

WHERE WE COME FROM CAN BREAK US

Po-dunk Appalachia,
single mom singing you to sleep.
Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe,
aspirations from a hand me down Magnavox,
After the destruction of the Twelve Colonies of Mankind,
a fugitive fleet searches for the legendary planet Earth …
Easy for a growing boy to believe
he might be the one, lift himself and his mama up
out of poverty, into the stars.

But for that same boy, grown,
kind and underserved (looser!),
high school doesn’t hold sugar,
boredom etches rivers in rust.
Metallica, Call of Duty, Blackhawk Down,
the tug like a calling.
All that he can be he wants to be,
like the recruiter says,
Champion the meek,
see the world on Uncle Sam’s dime.

Boot camp proves sweet salvation.
Born again, his body strong,
structure, purpose, proud to serve,
at last he’s found his people.
He gets good, real good, don’t think
the captain didn’t notice.
Private to Sergeant in one year,
been done before, but rarely.
Get ready boys, here we go!

Fallujah 2004.
Heat, sand, no way to dig
a foxhole in that shit.
What in God’s name are they thinking?
KIA, one or more a week,
body parts, zippered bags,
and the children, Holy Christ, the children.
He whispers James Hetfield like a mantra,
Mama, they try and break me,
Still they try and break me.

One year later all that’s left
is the smell of cordite
and the smirk on their faces.

First print: Kudzu 2016

If you haven’t experienced it yourself or seen it up close, you truly cannot imagine what PTSD and/or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) does to a combat vet and his family. Even worse, how inefficiently the military and the VA have responded to the critical need for focused mental healthcare. I often wonder if the government was expecting more deaths, but due to technology in warfare they are getting massive casualties – mental as well as physical – instead. PTSD and TBI can be hard to spot right away. Until recently, the military did not want to recognize it, so soldiers carried that burden on their own, thinking they were just bat shit crazy. Many combat vets experience overwhelming survival guilt, nightmares (flashbacks) extreme agoraphobia, paranoia and a sense of not belonging in the world. Soldiers turn to alcohol trying to self-medicate. Oh, and the military loves to hand out pain meds. Lots and lots of pain meds, telling vets “it’s all in your head, son.” It really and truly can take six months or longer to get an appointment at the VA. Meanwhile, families are left trying to diagnose and care for their soldiers using tools like WebMD. Twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide.

BASEMENT

They wait for you there,
down the narrow stairs,
inside the long shadow where lichen grow
grey in wall cracks and silverfish dance
like free men around empty Jack bottles
and the sagging couch:
shadow brothers, commiserating.

You pray out loud
that self-mutilation and starvation
will somehow bring an end to the torment
of your Jesus Christ make it stop ritual.

Play: Your body hurling
toward the Bradley’s dash, then
snapping back as if rubber bands
were strapped to your backside.
A jackdaw scratches at the cracked
window pane, black as night,
screaming Move! Move! Move!
while blind muzzles fix on your skull
and German Death Metal bands
pang-pang what’s left of your hearing.

Rewind: You don’t remember
the body bags, only the zippers.
And feathers–a shitload of feathers,
and the taste of fresh blood, 
copper, tin, salt.

First print Red Earth Review 2016

My hope? That people who read my work will experience a perspective most don’t. To think twice about the importance of whether their latte is perfectly prepared. To maybe consider how they personally might be able to help with the veteran health crisis. It’s a lofty goal. The time to protest war is not over simply because we are not “actively” at war!

GR: What is your writing process like? 

KGS: Like many poets, my words often come at inconvenient times. I scratch things on notecards, in my iPhone notes, on gum rappers and napkins. When I have a quite moment, I assemble the scraps. There is usually a poem, waiting to be excavated.

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

KGS: I am a member of the Pudding House Poetry Salon, Columbus, Ohio. It is my great privilege to have been invited to a seat at that table. We laugh, we cry, we celebrate. We’ve been known to spend half an hour discussing placement of a single comma. We are kinfolk.

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

KGS: I don’t set out looking for anything in poetry. I just try to read a lot of it. I know what I like when I find it. I admire James Wright, Naomi Shihab Nye, Alison Luterman, Jack Ridl, Roy Bentley, Rosemerry Trommer.

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

KGS: We are artists and so, honor bound recorders of history – explorers of the id.

GR: Which poets have you had the opportunity to hear read?

KGS: I have attended readings by Naomi Shihab Nye, Jack Ridl, Allison Joseph, Colman Barks, Seema Reza, George Bilgere, Lisa Starr, Rosemerry Trommer, Roy Bentley and Tom Lynch to name a few favorites.

Also, I am the founder/curator of the Women of Appalachia Project, an arts organization (fine art and spoken word) I created to address discrimination directed at women living in Appalachia (www.womenofappalachia.com). I arrange for five to seven spoken word events each year, hosted throughout Ohio and West Virginia, which means I get to hear a sassy mix of established and emerging voices out of Appalachia all year long.

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

KGS: My chapbook, Serving, was recently chosen runner up in the 2016 Yellow Chair Review Chapbook Contest and is forthcoming spring 2017. The juror, Logen Cure, had this to say: “Kari Gunter-Seymour’s Serving is a heartbreaking and honest portrayal of the life of a war veteran’s mother. Gunter-Seymour juxtaposes the horrors of combat with perfectly rendered images of childhood, domesticity, and home, allowing the reader to experience a perspective we don’t often hear about. This collection is eye-opening, unapologetic, unforgettable, and absolutely necessary.”

GR: Are there other art forms in which you work or would like to work?

KGS: I have an MFA in graphic design and an MA in photography. I do a lot of that stuff, too, you know, in between …

GR: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We appreciate the time you put into your answers and the perspective you offer. The subjects in your work are indeed important and deserving of their place in front of readers everywhere. Please let our readers know where they can find more information about you or your work:

KGS: You can check out my website at www.karigunterseymourpoet.com to read more of my work or go to my Facebook page KariGunterSeymourPoet.

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INTERVIEW WITH POET ISABELLA DAVID MCCAFFREY

Isabella David McCaffrey
Isabella David McCaffrey

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?

IDM: Thank you for asking me to participate. Where I’m from is oddly enough the most complicated question you can ask me but connects nicely with why I write poetry. My French father and New Yorker mother met on a Sufi commune in San Francisco, which subsequently relocated to Miran Forest outside Charlottesville, Virginia, where I was born. We then moved back and forth between Virginia, New York, and even overseas a few times, and I continued that trend into my adulthood. I mostly went to school in Virginia, though, and rounded that off by attending UVA where I got my undergrad degree, but I’ve never felt a strong connection to Virginia. My family is in France and New York, but, more to the point, my family life was so different from my classmates. At least, I assume it’s safe to say most of my classmates in the Bible Belt did not have parents who put on long dresses, men and women both, and danced around campfires in the woods on the weekend. I’ve always felt more at home in New York with the other oddball, displaced persons, but it’s become increasingly difficult to raise a family there. Once we had our second child, my husband and I decided to move to Philadelphia, which feels like a more family-friendly city and has the added bonus of a growing poetry scene, which I’m eager to explore. 

Coming from such a jumbled background, I think that’s half of why I write poetry. Writing is frequently described as a process of self-discovery but for me it also encompasses a search for a grounded self, a self that makes sense of my mixed-up background the same way New York seems to create a space where so many people from so many places feel at home. While working as an actor I literally had to learn to speak English with a standard American accent and French with a standard Parisian one. Before that, I sounded unplaceable in both. When I write poetry, I feel like I’m tapping into my most powerful emotions, transforming the chaos of my life and background into possibilities for imagining and expressing so many experiences. 

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

IDM: I was lucky to stumble upon just the right books as I was growing up. I found Tam Lin at 12 or 13; it introduced me to the poetry of Keats and Eliot and to a troupe of literally immortal Shakespearean actors, living at a liberal arts college who unselfconsciously quoted all classical and modern poets at length. I assumed that was college life and set to memorizing long passages of poetry just in case.

But the very first poet I fell in love with was Neruda. I was visiting this uppercrust British family’s house just outside Manhattan—the father worked at the UN and his son had been my first boyfriend in nursery school. They had all these beautiful, leather-bound books in their library—it was like being in Professor Kirke’s home in The Chronicles of Narnia. You were always stumbling upon rooms that hadn’t been there before. Only instead of a wardrobe, I randomly opened a gorgeous edition to Neruda’s “Body of a Woman”. It was as much as if I’d stepped into another world, only instead of ice, I found fire. I had never read anything so sensual or strange. I was fourteen, and I wanted to be an actor or a poet and to learn Spanish—I’m still working on the latter.

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

IDM: The feeling and the form decide themselves together, so it depends on my mood. I write haibun, and I tend to write those when I’m almost in the mood to write a story but not quite. If I want to write something less conversational and more intense but still with more of a narrative than a typical poem, I’ll work on haibun. My favorite part about haibun is that I can only write haiku when I’m writing haibun but can never compose haiku on their own. That to me symbolizes the magic of form. I’ve learned never to wait for inspiration, but I find my moods do dictate what form my writing takes.

GR: What is your writing process like?

IDM: Before I worked as an actor, I wrote but I never had much self-discipline. Working as an actor, I had to perform whether I had the flu or was in a bad mood. When I began staying home with my children, I focused on writing, and I could see that many of those practices I’d picked up from the theater world applied across the board. You have to treat writing like any other job; you can’t just not show up and then expect to have your job waiting for you whenever you feel like doing a little work. That said, I think it does help to create a conducive atmosphere for inspiration: reading work that sets off fire rockets in your head is always very nice or watching great, old movies, listening to music, or going to hear other poets read. My husband, who’s a professional trumpet-player, has gotten me into jazz. We’re both obsessed with Madeleine Peyroux, who’s like this French reincarnation of Billie Holiday. I used to have more set guidelines like always writing at the same time every day, but again as a mother of young children I’ve had to become more flexible, snatching minutes and hours when I can.

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

IDM: I’ve been really lucky to meet some wonderful writers and editors online. I met one of my best friends that way, the novelist, poet, and editor Camille Griep. I asked to record one of her stories for Every Day Fiction’s podcast, and when she started Easy Street Magazine with Stephen Parrish and Wendy Russ from The Lascaux Review she asked me to join the staff, which has been an incredible learning opportunity.

When I lived in New York, I went to the Brooklyn Writers’ Guild meetings—a fantastic mix of bestselling writers and total beginners— but I’ve never been comfortable sharing my writing face to face. I’m oddly shy for having been an actor. I did enjoy talking about books and writing, though, so I still found the experience invaluable. As soon as we get settled in this new city, I’m going to check out the Philadelphia Writer’s Group, which I discovered through Meetup, the same way I did the Brooklyn Writer’s Guild. I find it helpful and inspiring to surround myself with people who are interested in what I’m interested in.

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

IDM: I think I already mentioned a few: Neruda, Eliot, Keats. I also love Lorca and Vallejo. As for French poets, I love Verlaine and Éluard. They both write like they’re dipping quills directly into their own hearts. In English, since I’m also an actor, or was, I’m naturally obsessed with all things Shakespeare. Then, there’s a British poet who if he’d lived longer I think would have been more well-known or at least written a lot more. His name was Sidney Keyes, and he died fighting at Tangiers in World War II before his 21st birthday, but he left behind some beautifully odd work. I found a fragment of it when I read Watership Down also around fourteen, but then it took me years to find his book.

I didn’t start to read contemporary poets until more recently. That’s when I found Audre Lorde and very recently Mary Szybist, who plays with form in a way that’s very freeing and different from the Elizabethan and Victorian formalism I’d grown up reading. I also love E.E. Cummings’ erotic poetry, all of Edna St. Vincent Millay, some of Celan—a lot of it is too abstract for me— and all of Yehuda Amichai.

I really admire powerful emotions rendered with clarity and simplicity. I think that’s why I’ve become so attracted to Japanese poetic forms like haibun and haiku. When I was younger, I loved sprawling, romantic old-fashioned ballads like Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shallot,” Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” or Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwaymen.” My grandfather loved Robert Service, so those were actually the first poems I memorized. “Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows. Why he left his home to roam in the cold, God only knows.” Those are still fun to recite, but I’m drawn to simplicity as I get older.

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

IDM: It’s pretty exciting how popular poetry is becoming again these days. Or maybe it always was, and we poetry-lovers just weren’t as aware of each other as social media has helped us to be. There are poets with tens of thousands of followers on Instagram, and while confessional poetry isn’t really my own favorite genre, it’s exciting that people young and old are excited about poetry and that #poetryisnotdead is a trending hashtag with over 200,000 examples.

Audre Lorde said that our dreams are made realizable through our poems, and that our dreams point our way to freedom. Alienation isn’t a new concept, but I think the current speed of information and changing technologies are creating new existential challenges as much as they can bring distant strangers together. There’s so much coming at us every day, so many pictures, news items, and emails. It used to be this big thing when you’d get a letter, and now if I go a day without getting at least two written messages from friends or colleagues, I feel bereft! I think, whether you’re reading or writing poetry, it opens up a quiet place that can refresh you and connect you back to something a little more powerful and centered.

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

IDM: I wish I’d realized I wasn’t going to live in New York forever the way I was planning to! I would have gone to see every poet and play under the sun. Recently, I went into to the city to hear my friend Safia Jama read at KGB Bar, and I met the poet, Cynthia Manick, there as well. I heard Rita Dove at UVA; she read a poem about chocolate that made both her and her audience hungry. Safia’s funny poem she read about socks reminded me of that a little bit. I went to see Robert Bly, because he had translated so much of Neruda but whose own poetry I didn’t know much about. Recently, I heard Rowan Ricardo Phillips read, and he was really funny, learned, and elegant. I also loved his last book, The Ground, which is the perfect love affair with New York in poetic form, so I won’t try to write that.

I once read that Yevgeny Yevtushenko used to fill stadiums with people eager to hear a poet, and I feel like the zeitgeist is pointing to a similar occurrence happening now, which is very cool. There was an article in the New York Times recently about the web poets and how one of the more popular ones attracted a huge audience at a Manhattan bookstore. I used to go to open mics at the Bowery Poetry Club, and there’d be almost no one there or people mostly there to do standup. Now, it seems like poetry is interesting a wide variety of people, and that’s fantastic. [Here’s a link to the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/business/media/web-poets-society-new-breed-succeeds-in-taking-verse-viral.html?_r=0]

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

IDM: I expanded my chapbook [The Voices of Women, information shown below – eds.], forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, into a full-length book, but I might just try to place those poems individually. Now that I’ve had another baby, I almost feel like a new person with different interests from the person who wrote that book.

I’ve been thinking about a new project that has to do with my time living on a kibbutz in Israel when I was eighteen. I recently had a long chat with a Palestinian cabbie, and it reawakened my interest in the Middle East. I find the knottiness of the problems over there tragic and rich, and in the same way I love New York, I love the confluence of cultures and languages. Anyway, he said this thing that stuck with me: he didn’t think there could be peace for another five generations at least. You don’t hear Americans talking about the past or future as if they’re connected to it like that, that sense of the immense scale of time over there—past and future, as well as a heavy sense of God almost palpable in the air, affecting every day life in a way it doesn’t anywhere else.

GR: What other interests do you have beyond literature?

IDM: I love languages. I almost went to grad school for classics or linguistics, but I really wanted to give acting a shot. I didn’t want to have any regrets, so I’m glad I did that. Now that I’m writing and staying home with my kids, I’m trying to study some of the languages I half-learned like Spanish.

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: 

IDM: My website is www.IsabellaDavid.com.

You can follow me on Twitter @IsabellaMDavid.

My chapbook, The Voices of Women, will be available on Amazon and from Finishing Line Press’s online bookstore in mid-January, 2016.

Isabella David McCaffrey’s poems, “After Happily Ever After” and “The Book Club Devotee”, appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Gyroscope Review.

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Interview with Poet Steve Klepetar

Steve Klepetar
Steve Klepetar

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?

SK: Thanks for inviting me to participate. I grew up in New York City, but I was actually born in Shanghai, China. My parents were Holocaust survivors (my mother is still alive at 98) and were part of a group of refugees who ended up in China. I came to the U.S. as an infant. I went to college in Binghamton, NY, and graduate school at the University of Chicago. I spent my teaching career in the Midwest, first at a small college in Wisconsin, then at The College of Saint Catherine (now St. Catherine University) in Saint Paul, MN, and finally, for thirty-one years at Saint Cloud State University. I live and write in Saint Cloud. I was drawn to lyric poetry early because of the compression, the challenge of saying much (or trying to) in a short space, and because of the music inherent in language.

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

SK: William Blake has been an influence, though my world view is not religious and I don’t write either in fixed forms or in long epics. What appeals to me about Blake is his openness to the strangeness of the world. I find that in Emily Dickinson as well. Paul Celan and Rilke have also influenced me toward poems that often follow a non-linear “logic” or cohesion.

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

SK: The poem decides most of the time. I have done some Tanka in the last couple of years and I’ve written a few parodies and villanelles, but mostly I write free verse. I never (almost never) decide on a form ahead of time, and the poem tends to shape itself as it spools out across the page.

GR: What is your writing process like?

SK: I mostly write in the mornings after a four mile walk and a shower. To prime the pump, I usually read some poetry – on my desk now are Neruda’s late and posthumous poems, Agha Shahid Ali’s A Nostalgist’s Map of America, and the Summer/Fall issue of the I-70 Review. I like to read online journals and Best of the Net as well. Then I just sit at my computer and wait as an opening line occurs to me, and follow it where it leads. Sometimes it goes somewhere I like and I find a voice and a form that works for me. I must say that I enjoy this process immensely; I think I get a similar effect that some enjoy through meditation.

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

SK: I am a proud member of the Verse-Virtual online poetry community and a contributing writer to that journal. Through the V-V Facebook page, I communicate with other writers, and I get to share their work and successes. The editor, Firestone Feinstein, is a fine gentleman, and has created something special with this community.

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

SK: I like a great many poets – my academic field was the Romantics, so I love them, but also the whole range of British and American poetry, and increasingly all poetry written in English. I love the work of my good friend Joseph Lisowski, and my Facebook friend Laura Kaminsky. I feel the power of Audre Lord’s work, and the elegance of Rita Dove’s. I love Yeats and Frost, shorter Stevens, not to mention Shakespeare….

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

SK: I think that poetry, like many other human activities, appeals to certain people. Anyone who pays attention to poetry – like your readers, I’m sure – knows that many people around the world are writing verse. The plethora of little magazines, print and online, receive many submissions, and it is plain to see that there is a lively interest in the ancient art. In a large world population, even a small minority constitutes a great many individuals. Poets may not be the legislators of the world, as Shelley would have it, but they express not only many individual states of mind and being, but, taken as a whole, the joys and fears of humankind. What poetry does best is to examine small moments of experience, memory, emotion which resonate outward in wave after wave to create meaning.

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

SK: I have been lucky enough to have heard Anne Sexton, Robert Bly, Alan Ginsberg, Robert Creely (he was very drunk), Doris Lessing, Lucile Clifton, and others.

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

SK: I’ve been working on two sets of poems. One deals with women (or a woman who represents them all) who, despite her own considerable talents, has devoted herself to a man she considers to be a genius – think of Dorothy Wordsworth or Caroline Herschel, say. The poems try to get at the acid blend of worship and resentment at the heart of such a relationship. The other is a group of poems using the central figure of Li Bo, the great Tang dynasty Chinese poet. I have a lot of uncollected work from 2014 and 2015 that would be enough for several books if I ever get around to organizing them. I am really looking forward to pulling some of that work together. I’m thinking of a collection focused on the physical. The working title is Body Language.

GR: What other interests do you have beyond literature?

SK: I have an amateur interest in science. I attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, and got a good grounding in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. I don’t have the math to understand it, but I find the weirdness of Quantum Mechanics fascinating, and I love reading about Astrophysics. I’m very interested in the period around the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, so I read about that as well. I try to keep up with politics, and I love classical music (and some folk as well). I’ve recently developed an interest in Australia, as I plan to spend a semester there in 2017. I have a soft spot for old time baseball, and revel in the statistics of players who were active before I was born or when I was a kid.

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

SK: Your readers can find more of my work in Verse-Virtual (http://www.verse-virtual.com/) from April 2015 to the present. My chapbook, Return of the Bride of Frankenstein, is available free of charge here: http://barometricpressures.blogspot.com/2014/05/return-of-bride-of-frankenstein-steve.html

You can find two of Steve Klepetar’s poems, The Starving Wind (p. 7) and July: Saint Cloud (p. 32) in the fall 2015 issue of Gyroscope Review. His work also appeared in the spring 2015 inaugural issue.

 

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