What are you working on?
I’m always either revising poems that were abandoned in the middle of failing or, of course, working on new poems. I’ve been at work on a poem now based on a photo I once saw of a young man on a Triumph motorcycle polishing the tank while just inside his family’s house his father sits in what appears to be a Barca Lounger reading the paper and (so I imagine) discussing his view of history. Generally, if I can get to a spot in a piece of work that starts to jar me some I know I’m on to something. In this case the young man, maybe sixteen or seventeen, is listening in on his father reflecting on memory and, glimpsing his mother’s nodding acknowledgement, then dismounts and continues listening. Another poem I’ve been working on concerns someone pretending to be a soldier, that is, dressing up like one with Army Navy store purchases and then getting found out by some actual soldiers. I’m also at work arranging a chapbook and book, not satisfying in the same way writing itself is but kind of intriguing despite the many not so intriguing aspects like finding someone to publish it.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Many of my poems tend to begin with small scenes in daily life that somehow unfold and suggest something more. These might involve an interaction taking place in a restaurant or witnessed at work or simply overheard or even watched on youtube or in a movie. At the moment, I’m doing volunteer work for the VA hospital every week as interviewer in the MyStory project. This is an ongoing effort to provide a more personal history of patients to VA healthcare providers and I’ve been astounded at the courage and insight and general good will on the part of the veterans who agree to be interviewed. Most of them were not involved in actual combat either. In fact, just because the armed forces are so enormous and involve so many people doing such a wide variety of operations the vast majority of the people I’ve spoken with have worked in construction or transportation or food preparation, for instance, really almost everything, anything you can think and have stories that are intriguing and unique but very rarely have they participated in the kind of war heroics we think of when we think of veterans in need of hospitalization. I guess I’d call theirs a kind of heroism on a smaller scale in that sense but really very moving all of them. This is what I like and often write about.
Why do you write what you do?
I think like most writers I want to say what’s unsayable. This is really the draw, and to write about some particular thing and have it say more than it seems to at first. I guess with these pictures of situations and people I speak of the stories can or should almost speak for themselves except for needing, I don’t know, a kind of care and management to turn them into something that translates into something somewhat differently accented maybe.
How does your writing process work?
I’m usually struck by one of the scenes I’ve described or sometimes I’m taken with a phrase in a conversation or something I’m reading and then I let whatever it is sort of marinate, and over the next few days I’ll begin to take notes and look through notebooks. Whatever the beginnings, though I have to feel a kind of subtly developing urgency about the subject and this fuels it, whereas without it, I mean, if I’m simply eager to write something because that’s how I prefer to spend my time, for instance, well, I can feel the poem kind of wandering and me growing a bit impatient and frustrated. I have many more stalled starts than successes. For the most part I like to write in the morning and have a much easier time of it if I’m completely alone without a chance I’ll be interrupted. I remember the poet Thomas Lux saying he had a hell of a time getting started with his writing day but once he’d begun it was all he could do to stop. That’s about the same for me, too: it’s that getting started that seems so inexplicably hard sometimes.