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Interview with Poet Lyndi Bell O’Laughlin

poet Lyndi Bell O'Laughlin
Poet Lyndi Bell O’Laughlin

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?

LBO: Thank you for including me in Gyroscope Review’s author interview series.

I grew up in California. Became a trick rider while still in high school, and spent several years touring the U.S. and Canada, performing at PRCA rodeos with Dick and Connie Griffith’s trick and Roman riding troupe. In 1976, I settled in Wyoming, had two sons, Sandy and Morgan Forbes, and earned a nursing degree. Now I live in Kaycee, Wyoming, a small prairie town at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains. My husband, John, and I retired here to be closer to our grandchildren.

My office is a room roughly the size of a boot box, but the door closes tight. It will do.

I create poetry because I am inspired by reading other people’s art. That, and the fact that I’m convinced my brain and my tongue have never been formally introduced, but I have things to say.

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

LBO: I studied with Boston poet Matthew Lippman (author of several books of poetry including American Chew, The Year of Yellow, and Salami Jew) for four years. I take one or two ten-week-sessions a year with him. Matthew has introduced me to an array of poetry I would never have known existed, from Max Jacob to Dorianne Laux. He taught me what to do with this itchy need to express and create.

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

LBO: I enjoy reading free verse poetry, so that’s what I write. If a poem feels as if it wants to stretch out across the page, I oblige. If it throws up resistance to everything but a blurt of short, declarative lines, we do that.

GR: What is your writing process like?

LBO: Always an early riser, I write in the morning. In the evening I read and catch up on political news.

Sometimes I start writing with a preordained topic. Usually I begin with whatever comes to mind, or take a phrase or word from the notebook to kick things into gear. I would love to churn out a presentable poem every time I turn the ignition. In reality, most of them are lemons. But when one takes off, it makes up for the time spent gunning the engine while the flagger is stuck in traffic.

Once a poem starts to talk, I tend to work it a long time. Sometimes I’ll tinker with a poem for days or weeks. Put it down. Pick it up. I used to quit them too soon. Most of the time, even if a new poem is thrilling me within an inch of my life, by the next day, maybe by lunchtime, it will look like that mass your bare foot stepped in this morning. The one the dog left on the rug by the door.

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

LBO: I belong to a writer’s group in Buffalo, Wyoming. Writer’s Ink. We meet twice a month in the library of the historic Occidental Hotel to critique each other’s work and offer encouragement. I am a member of Wyoming Writers, Inc., and I’m Vice-President of WyoPoets, an organization of people who write poetry for publication, or just for fun.

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

LBO: I enjoy a poem that includes elements of contemporary popular culture. And who doesn’t like honest poems? I appreciate poems that are courageous enough to take on the dark stuff, but still leave us with hope, at least with the sense that we are not alone in our anxieties and confusion.

Just the other day I read a holocaust poem called “Soap,” by Gerald Stern. How do we speak of unthinkable horror when there are no words? This is how.

I also like to read poetry that recognizes the paradoxes, contradictions, and mysteries of human consciousness. The work of Stephen Dunn, for instance.

Mainly I ask that a poem have something interesting to say, and if it can do this with a little humor, so much the better, and now I’m thinking about Michael Cirelli’s “Lobster With O’ Dirty Bastard.”

I just never know when a good poet is going to fall out of the sky. It pays to keep your eyes open. I hope none of you missed “But Nothing’s On Fire” and “Something the Current Kept” by Jeff Jeppesen, in the Summer, 2017 Gyroscope Review .

The list of poets whose work I read repeatedly includes Stephen Dunn, Tony Hoagland, Matthew Lippman, Lori Howe, Seamus Heaney, Lucia Perillo, Marie Howe, Jane Hirshfield, Adrienne Rich, Natalie Diaz, Rachel Zucker, John Surowiecki, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath. I enjoy Matthew Olzmann, and Carolyn Forché. Billy Collins, and B.H. Fairchild. Try Fairchild’s poem, “Brazil,” if you need a good laugh today.

Small poems that tell a big story are a draw for me. I recently stumbled upon John Murillo’s “Enter the Dragon.”

One more gem of a recent find, Kevin Prufer’s “The Translator,” in the Spring 201 issue of The Paris Review.

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

LBO: Poetry can help lessen the modern sense of isolation and loneliness, the illusion that we, personally, are separate from the rest of human life and nature. Poets who are conscious of themselves as part of a larger whole may, or may not, have the power to influence the human condition. I don’t know. But there is no reason to believe that anyone who is informed about what is going on in the world cannot use their art as a pebble lobbed into a pond.

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

LBO: Living in a rural area, I don’t have easy access to frequent readings, so I occasionally watch them on-line. Matthew Lippman’s Parking Lot Poem series is good, and I’ve seen Carolyn Forché read “The Colonel.”

A high point this year was a live podcast from Orlando, Florida, organized by Brain Pickings creator Maria Popova. Amanda Palmer read “The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman along with others who read poetry in defense of science and protest.

I recently enjoyed hearing a live reading by Art Elser from his recent book, A Death at Tollgate Creek: Songs of the Prairie, and David Mason, who shared poems from his new collection, Sea Salt.

As far as books go, I’m on a David Sedaris kick right now. Just finished reading When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Next up, Someday Me Talk Pretty.

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

LBO: There are no plans beyond continuing to write poetry, and sharing it when I can.

GR: What other interests do you have beyond literature?

LBO: I like acoustic music, and a priority is making sure our grandchildren grow up with lots of music and books in their life. One five-year old granddaughter is on her second year of violin instruction. She and I make a 130-mile round-trip once a week for her lessons, and meet almost every day for practice. This summer, we’ll hit a couple bluegrass festivals and the Wyoming Symphony Close Encounters Concert. Other than just plain loving them, exposing the kids to music and good children’s literature is the most important thing I do.

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:

LBO: They can contact me at lyndibell333@gmail.com.

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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 ALEXIS RHONE FANCHER

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?

ARF: A life-long Los Angeleno, I’ve lived all over L.A. county, including a childhood in the wilds of Topanga, and a decade on the beach in Venice. These days, my husband and I live and work in an 8th floor, 2,000 sq. foot loft/studio in downtown Los Angeles, where I write on my iMac computer. I write poetry because I am a minimalist at heart and take pleasure in telling stories that are reduced to their bare bones, stories that have room for the reader to step inside.

Alexis Rhone Fancher reflected in a Los Angeles window
Alexis Rhone Fancher reflected in a Los Angeles window

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

ARF: Influences include Dorianne Laux, Ellen Bass, Matthew Dickman, Karl Shapiro, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Anne Sexton, Thomas Tranströmer, Wislawa Szymborska, Edward Field, Louise Glück, and e.e. cummings. I studied for five years with the poet Jack Grapes, who taught me practically everything I know about writing.

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

ARF: That’s an interesting question. Sometimes I have the form in my head before I’ve written a word, sometimes the poem decides. But usually I play around with form, writing a poem in various ways until it feels “right.”

GR: What is your writing process like? 

ARF: I’m a creature of habit. Up and writing daily by 6 a.m., a huge mug of French Roast coffee within reach. I write a minimum of four hours a day. First drafts are often long, and include pages of notes and (sometimes) research. The poem begins to take shape around the third or fourth draft. Then it goes to my peer editor. After she edits the poem it goes to my paid editor, who may put the poem through up to a dozen drafts before we consider it finished.

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

ARF: No writers groups these days, just the editing process mentioned above. I’ve taken my share of classes and workshops, but find my time best spent working one on one.

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

ARF: I’m a great fan of narrative poetry, a fool for a well-told story. I look for the “zinger” at the end of a poem – that ‘aha moment’ when a chill runs through me, along with a tinge of jealousy, because I wish I’d written it. I want to read poems that move me, change me in some magical way. Favorite poets include: Dorianne Laux, Ellen Bass, Federico Garcia Lorca, Gerald Locklin, Sharon Olds, Louise Glück, Jeffrey McDaniel, Richard Jones, Frank O’Hara, Rita Dove, Francesca Bell, Mark Strand, Tony Gloeggler, Carolyn Forché, and Laura Kasischke, to name but a few.

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

ARF: Poets hold up a mirror to society. At our best, we reduce life to digestible morsels, bits of insight and reflection, served up as poems.

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

ARF: I’m a fool for live poetry! In December I was at the Orpheum Theatre for the launch of Patti Smith’s new book, M Train. She read. She sang. She was brilliant; she’s been a hero of mine for decades. Sharon Olds recently wowed me at the Hammer Museum, where Louise Glück had astonished me the year before. I’m a big fan of local poets who are also performers, especially Nicelle Nicelle, Rich Ferguson, Rick Lupert, Michael C. Ford, Brendan Constantine, Laurel Ann Bogen, Linda J. Albertano, and the always brilliant Suzanne Lummis, who sparkles on stage as no other. World Stage artist, Conney Williams, is another poet I try never to miss.

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

ARF: My latest book, a full-length collection of erotic poems, Enter Here, has just begun the poetry contest rounds. I’m working on two chapbooks, Gidget Goes To The Ghetto, and Junkie Wife. And a coffee table book of my photos of over 50 Southern California poets is in the works.

GR: What other interests do you have beyond literature?

ARF: I have a monthly photo column in Cultural Weekly, (http://www.culturalweekly.com), “The Poet’s Eye,” in which I explore the streets of Los Angeles with my lens. Photography is one of three passions in my life. The other two being poetry (of course) and my delicious husband, Fancher, who, after almost sixteen years together, still makes my heart sing.

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.

ARF: You can find out more about me at: alexisrhonefancher.com

Or find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alexis.fancher

Both my books, How I Lost My Virginity to Michael Cohen & other heart stab poems, and State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, are available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com

Editor’s note: Alexis’s poems,  “Daylight Savings Won’t Save Us”, “Never Forget Why Your Wrist Throbs”, and “When You Think You’re Ready to Pack Up Your Grief” appear in Gyroscope Review Issue 16-1, Winter 2016.

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