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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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WELCOME TO GYROSCOPE REVIEW’S FALL ISSUE!

We are so pleased to release our fall 2016 issue of Gyroscope Review: The Honor Issue. In this issue, we’ve created a special section of 11 poems dedicated to the idea of honor. And we’ve nestled it in among 33 modern poems that explore a wide variety of topics that affect us all. We’ve included work from inside and outside the United States, including work from Canada, England, Scotland, and New Zealand.

As always, the Joomag edition will give you an on-screen magazine experience if you are reading from your desktop or laptop. That edition is available here:

Gyroscope Review Issue 16-4 front cover

For reading on your mobile device, please use the pdf file, available here: ISSUE 16-4

For sharing with friends, this page will offer you both reading options: http://www.gyroscopereview.com/home/issues/

Thank you to all the wonderful poets who sent us work for this issue. We are delighted to give your work a home.

 

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INTERVIEW WITH POET JAMES GRAHAM

James Graham
James Graham

Gyroscope Review editors decided that a good way to honor contributors to our journal is with an occasional interview. Today, we bring you contributing poet James Graham.

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

JG: I’ve lived all my life in Ayrshire, Scotland, not far from the vibrant city of Glasgow. I write in my head, and from there to any piece of paper that’s handy. I’ve been known to pull into a layby and whip out a notebook. Then off to my den to knock it into shape on the computer. Why poetry? Simply because years ago I found I could.

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

JG: I’m not aware of ever having imitated a poet I’ve read. There are poets I love and read over and over, and I’m sure something rubs off. The most congenial of all poets for me is Walt Whitman.

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

JG: A poem takes shape as it’s written. Probably the only time I decide on form before starting is when (occasionally) I decide to write a comic or nonsense poem, and always go for rhymed verses. So many poets, classic and contemporary, can use rhyme for serious, profound work –  but I can use it only for light humorous stuff!

GR: What is your writing process like?

JG: Beyond the scraps-of-paper stage, for most poems there’s a lot of revision. Often it means leaving a poem for weeks or even months, then reading it again. Sometimes I try to read it as if it were not my poem, as if I were someone who has come across it in the poetry section of a bookshop. Distance myself from it.  Surprisingly often, I hit on an idea that will avoid unnecessary obscurity.

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

JR: There used to be a local ‘Poems and Pints’ group, which was fun but there wasn’t much feedback. Unfortunately it folded. Now I’m online every day as a ‘site expert’ (hard hat and all!) with the writers’ community Write Words (www.writewords.org.uk). WW is very much part of the process: there are some very good poets there, who say they learn from me, but I have learned a good deal from them too.

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

JG: Technical excellence, exciting language, memorable lines – all those things; but also social conscience. No navel-gazing. A sense that the poet is reaching out to the world and offering insights into its problems and injustices. Whitman’s Civil War poems are profound examples of this. The WW1 poets, of course – not forgetting Rosenberg, one of the less celebrated but most compassionate. Two English poets of social conscience: Shelley and Clare. Finally, Bertolt Brecht – not every poem he ever wrote, but some of the best, in which he shows how to make a great poem that’s also a direct political statement.

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

JR: See above – to offer insights into the plight of people who are denied the chance to live fulfilled lives. Of course not all poets work along these lines, but we need some. All poets have a mission, if we can call it that, to keep up the high standards of this verbal art in an age when language seems so often abused and trivialized. I’m thinking of the more mediocre pop song lyrics, tabloid newspapers, and more besides.

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

JG: Many years ago I heard Auden read his own work to an audience. His reading was rather flat, but somehow the poems came across well and I was very moved by them. The most recent book I’ve read isn’t a poetry book but a book about life in remote prehistory, which gave me ideas for a couple of poems.

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

JG: I hope soon to bring out a new ‘slim volume’, a new collection. It’s still in the early stages, but should be out before too long.

GR: What other interests do you have beyond literature?

JG: I’m active in Amnesty International, especially campaigns against denial of free speech, and torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. I love growing things,especially trees; my garden isn’t a garden so much as a tiny bit of woodland.

GR: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We appreciate your time and your work, James.

Several of James Graham’s poems were published at the online poetry journal, Every Day Poets, during its run from 2008-2014 (www.everydaypoets.com).

James Graham’s poem, The Hurt Beech: September 2014, appears on page 13 of the Spring 2015 issue of Gyroscope Review. His poem, A Poem about Maria Teresa, also appears in that issue on page 27.

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