… a high school English teacher turned me to poetry, and I took off. And those were also the days of Simon and Garfunkel, and Leonard Cohen, and others, writing real poetry set to music, and that really helped me take off.”
How did you discover that you were a writer?
I’ve always known I was a writer. I started with the obligatory third-grade haiku, started writing little adventure stories in junior high, and then in high school, had an ongoing epic, “Joe Cowboy,” which depictedthe daily silliness, adventures and imaginary activities like smoking blueberry cigars and drinking Genesee Cream Ale in frosted mugs which the bartender slid down the bar to us. (Actually, the soda fountain clerk, a relative of mine, used to slide down “buckeyes,” which were root beer floats; it was almost as good.) But then, a high school English teacher turned me to poetry, and I took off. And those were also the days of Simon and Garfunkel, and Leonard Cohen, and others, writing real poetry set to music, and that really helped me take off. My high school English classes were the last English and literature classes I ever had, but I never quit writing. I just read a lot and wrote a lot, and now, here I am.
Describe your writing process.
My writing process is kind of quirky. I keep a notebook, in which I enter lines or words or images that occur to me. Then, twice a week or so, I go to the Limestone Coffee and Tea here in Batavia, early in the morning, look at my notebook, and start drafting. I don’t always know where I’m going or what I’m writing; I just write until I finally know, “oh, this is what I’m talking about!” And then the revision starts. I don’t know about other writers, but for me the revision, the shaping is the most fun, finding the music of the poem. The hardest thing is that as I revise, I get a better, sharper sense of what I’m doing, and then I sometimes have to take lines, or chunks out that I really like. But they just don’t belong in that poem. That’s where the notebook comes in, and the various drafts: I always still have the stuff I had to take out for one poem still available for another poem some other time. Finally, I do some writing every day, and I write with pen and paper, not the computer, until the poem is done. Then I enter it into my computer, making a few last-minute adjustments as I see how it looks in print. I’m sort of a neo-Luddite.
What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?
The pieces I’ll be reading at the Waterline are a mix of serious and humorous poems. They’ve some–a few–of the many poems I’ve written in the last six months, since a visit to my small home town in northern New York for an Italian family reunion, and a March working vacation in Tennessee, where I stayed with some friends. It was ideal: Jim went to work, Hannah went to work, I stayed at home, and wrote about the area, and stuff that had nothing to do with where I was; it was a chance to get to some work done that I hadn’t had time to do. These are some poems that I have a serious fondness for.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I’m putting together a book of poems called “Night Travels.” It’s pretty dark, but I like it, and it does have its lighter moments. I’m still playing with what gets included and in what order. There are a lot of kinds of dark; this book explores some. I’ve also started reading at more open mics around the Fox Valley area. I’ve also started exploring short fiction (I’ve published all three of the short stories I’ve written so far, one of which won an Editor’s Choice 2016 in the journal, “Inscape”), and mixed genre. I’m curious to see where that all goes. God knows I’m never bored! Thank you for choosing my work. In these days, especially, shalom.