National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Martin Willitts Jr.

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

National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Martin Willitts Jr.

Poet Martin Willitts Jr. outside the Dylan Thomas writer’s shed.

How will you celebrate National Poetry Month? Every year I offer workshops during National Poetry Month for my local “Poetry and Art in the Bus” program. I have a theme and the workshops are designed to write towards that theme, then the final winners are selected by volunteer judges. The poems are posted inside local buses that travel around my county and go to the New York State Fair. I publish 50 poems every year. I include all ages from third grade to senior, and I include adult ESL in dual languages. 

Pen, pencil or computer first? I use computer. I type really fast and I cannot write as fast as I can type. I tend to compose as I write, and within two lines I know the shape of the poem. 

Who/what are your influences? I have over seven bookcases of poetry. Finding just a few influences is difficult, because each poet had brought something to me and became a part of my writing that I do not remember who influenced what poem. Recently I like Jane Kenyon, Barbara Crooker, Louise Glück, and Jim Harrison. I also like William Stafford, Wendall Berry, Denise Levertov, Mary Oliver, Carol Frost. I can name more female poets than male poets.

What topic is the hardest for you to write about and why? I have written every type of formal and non-formal poem, and I have written deeply personal poems. I do not seem to have any restrictions.

What was the worst writing idea you ever had? I wrote an entire collection about gemstones and their psychic powers, and no one seemed interested in publishing them. I provide gemstone readings as a hobby.

What authors do you love right now? See question #3 above (Who/what are your influences).

What is the most important role of poets in 2018? Community involvement is important. If poets do not speak out, then who will?

Where do you go when you need to recharge? I am a Quaker and we practice “silent meditation” which focuses us on listening to “that of God”, and I can go into silence at any time. Listening within the silence has been the source of much of my writing.

What is your favorite end-of-the-day drink? I am non-alcoholic and a diabetic, so all I drink is water.

Martin Willitts Jr.’s photo with this interview shows him in Swansea, Wales, in front of the writer’s shed where Dylan Thomas wrote his last poems.  Martin’s poem, “Within Reach of Purpose”, appears in the Spring 2017 issue of Gyroscope Review.