Merriam Webster defines poetry as ‘the productions of a poet’. And as a ‘writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.’ But in your own words, how would you define poetry?
I think poetry is a form of expression/communication that uses sound, structure, rhythm, and poetic techniques, to enhance and add layers to semantics. Just because something has line breaks, doesn’t necessarily make it a poem, and just because something doesn’t have line breaks, doesn’t mean it isn’t a poem. When it gets down to it, poetry is in the eye of the beholder.
Poetry is a steam release valve and, like any art, can communicate volumes without saying something explicitly, so it may be understood in your gut before it gets to your brain. Poetry can be cathartic and revolutionary, it can be subtle and sensual. It uses the microcosm to describe the macrocosm, and vice versa.
Who is your favorite poet and why?
Tough question, as it sometimes varies, but mostly C.K. Williams. When I first found his poems many years ago, I was struck by the way they were nuanced, detailed photographs of the world around him. He gets to the underlying bone of things very simply.
Name one poet you wished more people knew about and why.
Roscoe Burnems. He’s known mostly for spoken-word poetry, but his book “Fighting Demons” came out last year, so he is also available in print. While a lot of his work smacks you and shakes you, he can also start slow and build to a crescendo and there is a marvelous artistry to it. Check him doing “Too Close” on Youtube and you’ll see what I mean.
Explain your poetry writing process.
It’s more haphazard than I would like to admit. Sometimes I start from a prompt or just something that’s caught my eye that seems bigger than the physicality of the object or action. Sometimes, it starts with an itch and the only way I can scratch is by writing about it. It might be a phrase that pops into my head and it rolls around for a while and becomes a seed. I always write out first drafts by hand in a notebook. It’s more organic and what I’ve done since I was a kid. The first edits are by hand. Then it gets typed up on the computer and I try to let it sit for a few days, then revise again. Depending on the poem, that may get repeated a few times, sometimes at longer intervals. Some things find their way to the critique queue on Scribophile. Those will usually sit without changes for a couple of weeks, then I go through all the critiques at once and do another revision. Eventually I feel like it’s cooked enough.