Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Z.M. Wise

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.


Z.M. Wise

is a proud Illinois native from Chicago, poet, essayist, occasional playwright, seldom screenwriter, co-editor and arts activist, writing since his first steps as a child. He was selected to be a performer in the Word Around Town Tour in 2013, a Houston citywide tour. He is co-owner and co-editor of Transcendent Zero Press, an independent publishing house for poetry that produces an international quarterly journal known as Harbinger Asylum. The journal was nominated Best Poetry Journal in 2013 at the National Poetry Awards. He has published five full length books of poetry, including:Take Me Back, Kingswood Clock! (MavLit Press, 2013),The Wandering Poet (Transcendent Zero Press, 2014), Wolf: An Epic & Other Poems (Weasel Press, 2015), Cuentos de Amor (Red Ferret Press, 2015), and Kosmish and the Horned Ones (Weasel Press, 2018). Other than these five books, his poems, essays, and book reviews have been published in various journals, magazines, and anthologies. The motto that keeps him going: POETRY LIVES! Mr. Wise will make sure to spread that message and the love of poetry, making sure it remains vibrant for the rest of his days and beyond. Besides poetry and other forms of writing, his other passions/interests include professional voice acting, singing/lyricism/songwriting, playing a few instruments, fitness, and reading. 

Link to website (links to other websites are included on the ‘Related Links’ page): http://zmwise.wixsite.com/zmwisethepoet

The Interview

1. When and why did you begin to write poetry?

At the tender age of six, my juvenilia announced its unexpected presence with both an explosion and a series of sweet nothings whispered in my ear. I began to write a few observational stories that I turned into poems. From that day forward, my mind and pen simultaneously felt tickled at this newfound sensation. Until I was eighteen, I explored many avenues of literary creation, including short fiction (particularly in the speculative genre), teenage erotica, and song parodies. In addition to those, I wrote and drew comic books based on my own stories and stories inspired by video games and comic strips, as well as individual drawings I produced. In between the wide array of forms that writing donned, I wrote poetry. It came most natural to me, though I would not know that until I reached the final stage of adolescence. In my junior year of high school, I wrote half a book of love poems that I dedicated to my girlfriend at the time, with the exception of a few universal love poems and a love poem celebrating the marriage between a U.S. History teacher and her new husband. Unfortunately, some silly crayon (my euphemism for imbecile) decided to steal the notebook. Why anyone would steal a half finished book of amateur love poetry written by someone with dysgraphia (a handwriting disability) is beyond my level of comprehension, but if that individual could decipher my atrocious penmanship, then I highly commend them. Luckily, I was able to recover four of those pieces that I happened to type and revise. Why did I begin to write poetry? I believe it sought me out, to be perfectly honest. I suppose I literally and metaphorically read between the lines and found it staring back at me, begging me to dedicate my life to it. Since then, I have found solace in poetry, poems-turned-songs (which I record and sing), essays, the occasional flash fiction piece, short verse dramas, a play in one act, a screenplay, occasional articles, book reviews, musings, quips, vanity quotes, and almost any form of writing I can get my hands on.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

In regards to reading poetry, I believe it was my immediate family and grandparents. Writing poetry, on the other hand, I inherited from my grandfather on my father’s side. Concerning the love of poetry, writing, and language, I owe it all to him. We would have numerous ‘writing sessions’ where he would lecture me on the forms, styles, and rules of language, grammar, spelling, and literature. It was an illuminating experience for me. Both he and my father heavily dabbled in formal poetry, akin to writing a greeting card. The pieces were mainly sentimental with a rhythmic flow. I learned about rhyme schemes quite early in life, as well as the tone of individual poems. To this day, my father still writes what I call ‘personal song parodies’ for his friends’ special occasions, i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, and retirements. He will meticulously listen to a song and then write down certain lyrics to match the melody and then sing the parody itself to said person. It is a remarkable feat.

3. How aware were and are you of the dominating presence of older poets?

While my contemporaries have always inspired me and continue to inspire me by means of oral speech and written work, I constantly find myself looking to the elders for answers. It is not so much because of traditional value or ancient ethics, per se, but more of a belonging. It was a different time for poetry. Before rhyme scheme ever existed, the most primeval pieces were written with the gusto that I could not even begin to describe. Pieces like The Epic of Gilgamesh, poems written by Sappho, and poems written by Enheduanna still bewilder me to this day and age, almost as much as a totally unrelated piece of literature, The Voynich Manuscript. Hypocritically speaking, many of my contemporaries have seemed to channel the elders in their work, just as I do with a great many pieces of my own. We can only be so original with our work, for we borrow a fragment of nearly every idea …even if it is subconscious and we do not sense it. It is no crime as long as we eventually find our individual voice and carry it with us for the remainder of our days.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire…I wish I had one. I believe I will in the years to come. However, I attempt to write every day when I have a spare gap. Instead of eating lunch on my break at work, I write instead, for I cannot keep away from my craft for too long. Some commit to a certain number of words a day. Some commit to a number of poems per day. I, on the other hand, must write as naturally as possible. I applaud people who are able to crank out said number of words or poems a day and have the result turn out to be incredamazing…after much editing and revision, of course. As long as I have some finished work by the end of each day, my mission is accomplished. However, I try to write a few poems a day, unless I am working on another project that is not poetry.

5. What motivates you to create?

It is a requirement of my nature. It is a craving, a lustful desire, and a primal focus of my life. While I work full time to provide financial stability and security, you will never hear me mention my occupation. I only speak of my writing, occasional singing, and somewhat abstract pen sketches. Concerning visual art, I am still somewhat of a neophyte, but I dabble nonetheless. As a certain quote reads, “I don’t live to work; I work to live.” It has embedded itself in my skull for all eternity. There is no singular goal as far as motivation itself is concerned. I believe it is just one more milestone in my progression and personal evolution as a creator.

6. What is your work ethic?

A.) Wake up with the infinite drive to create and manifest something worthwhile, whether it is during my break at work, when I return home, or before bed. In my writing process, the rough draft is about the significant release for me, so even if the draft is absolute drivel, it is on parchment. That is what the editing and revision stage is for, of course.

B.) I also believe in giving credit where it is due. While many ideas and philosophies have been borrowed from one source or another…even subconsciously, we owe it to the creators before us, for we would not be where we are today without their transcendence on paper. To the contemporary minds of completely original style, I salute you.

C.) Protect your creations would be another major tip that is vital to one’s archive. There are one too many digital thieves lurking online, waiting for their latest opportunity. Copyright your work if you are choosing to post it online. Email drafts to yourself so that you have actual proof at the ready.

D.) Expect rejection when submitting. It will not sting as much if I my work is rejected. On the upside, if my work is accepted, it is that much more of a celebration and that much more of a genuine thrill.


7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I was always diverse about what I read and which authors I read, but in the middle of high school, I cut fiction out of the literary spectrum. It became too tedious for me and my level of appreciation for it greatly reduced over time. I have been rediscovering my love for short stories, though. Dave Barry influences the sarcastic and humorous side of me. Edith Hamilton brings me back to the question of mythological morals. Maya Angelou speaks words of refreshing lightning and lets loose tremors of reality. Enheduanna, Sappho, and other ancient women write stanzas of revolution that occasionally echo in my written ear. Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and other speculative authors remind me to explore the realms of the unusual and unexplained, only to be washed ashore by the book-laden surf. Though my taste in music is nothing short of eclectic, I owe it to David Bowie and Al Stewart, constantly encouraging me to rewrite the rulebook of the arts and take eight steps further beyond the infinite line of creation. Langston Hughes murmurs the blues before opening one’s eyes to humanity’s numerous aspects, giving me the frisson that I require to carry on in this life. I owe it to William Blake and Arthur Rimbaud for paving the way for other prophetic humans before their time. Jim Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Marc Bolan, Ian Curtis, Patti Smith, Serj Tankian, Phil Ochs, Donovan, Ani DiFranco, and countless other musical poets nudge me and reassure me that it is quite all right to sing one’s pieces as well as read them aloud. Thank goodness for the unseen faces behind poems-turned-songs such as Peter Sinfield, Robert Hunter, and Pete Brown, taking our ears for a lyrical voyage across oceans of verse. Rumi, Basho, Tagore, and certain poets from the T’ang Dynasty put my spirit at ease during turbulent times. There are many more I could name, but these are decent enough to start with.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Instead of giving each person a description as I did with the previous question, I shall just provide a brief list of those I do admire. They include: Weasel, Mallory Smart, Arielle Tipa, M.D. Friedman, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Brian Kehinde, Maya Garcia, Julie Anderson, Leo Goya, John Gorman, Khalypso, Usha Akella, Ken Jones, Kevin Young, BGK, Kaveh Akbar, Faleeha Hassan, Kristin Garth, H. Melt, Dustin Pickering, Rupi Kaur, Dimitris Lyacos, Sharon Olson, Saul Williams, Lyn Lifshin, Naomi Shihab Nye, Chen Chen, and many more.

9. Why do you create?

I create for the same reason that I breathe: to survive…to release and unleash the many beasts that never meant to be tame in the first place. I create so that my (overrated) sanity may remain in meditative phases and in a luxurious bedroom of organized chaos. I create to make a semblance of a difference in this blue-green sphere we inhabit, even if it involves affecting one individual’s mindset. Creations of mine are sometimes but not always the byproducts of my mental health and my muse and goddess working in harmony with minimal rancor.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Without sounding too pompous, I would ask them what their intention was. What kind of writer are they interested in becoming? Is it for technical purposes? Are they interested in entering the field of academic writing? Are they interested in multiple disciplines of writing? Concerning the field of creative writing, I would tell them to read a great deal of literature. They should surround themselves with volumes of work. They should experience life in its many guises as well. I would tell them to let nothing stop them from creating the written word. They should save every piece they have ever written for the purpose of watching their progress and upward evolution as a writer. I would be more than happy to play the role of a mentor and push them in the right direction, telling them to be as diverse as possible with how they write and what they write, never identifying themselves with the word ‘limit’. However, certain writers stick with one particular concept and it works wonders for them. It will just depend on each individual writer.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

While I tend to focus on one project at a time, I have been rather creatively promiscuous within the past few months. First of all, I am near completion on the rough draft of a play in one act. Secondly, I finished notes for a screenplay that is completely separate from the former. I am also transferring poems and poems-turned-songs written on the back of receipts to a notebook. The poems were mainly written last year in between and during books and other projects. Last but not least, I am also working on a book of ‘lost poems and writings’ from 2010 to the present date. In between all of those projects, I am writing new individual pieces. As I mentioned before, I must create.
Poetry lives! Long live the arts!



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