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.
is a poet and percussionist from Bend, Oregon, he is a graduate of Indiana University and Rhema Bible College. His work has appeared in Chiron Review, Misfit Magazine, Mojave Heart Review, and Constellate Magazine among others. John is the founder and coordinator of WordPlay Open Mic Night in Elkhart, Indiana where he lives with his wife, and their two cats, Henry and Lucy.
Main Website with links to other sites.
Current Bibliography with links:
Print & Ebook publications-works not available on line.
Fall 2018 issue – “The Pink Warrior”
Summer 2017 issue – “Regarding the Rhinoceros”
Indiana University Undergraduate Research Journal 2003
Mojave He[art] Review
Pulp Poet’s Press
Vamp Cat Magazine
- When and why did you begin to write poetry?
I didn’t start writing poetry until my 40’s when I returned to university to get a degree in Spanish. It was one of those things where there were a bunch of little things that led me to be interested in poetry; sitting in on a poetry slam at university, reading “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, poetry in Spanish literature classes and simply writing again on a regular basis made me remember the joy of writing, and start considering poetry as something I could be interested in.
- Who introduced you to poetry?
I didn’t start writing poetry until I was in my 40’s. So I had been introduced to it before, but just didn’t think it was really that interesting as an adult. What piqued my interest in poetry later in life was the Beat Poets and other “underground” poets like Charles Bukowski. When I saw that poetry did not have to be totally opaque to real life concerns and it could be written without following rigid forms, that’s what got me interested in it.
- How aware were and are you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I have tried to expose myself to a lot of different poets. As I mentioned previously, Charles Bukowski is a large influence in my writing, but William Carlos Williams is another big influence. Those two and poets such as James Kavanaugh, Walt Whitman, Charles Simic, Billy Collins and others are all part of what I write. When I am writing I do find myself going between Bukowski and Williams as I write; seeking uninhibited free writing but trying to cut all of the extraneous down to the beautiful sparseness I remember reading in Paterson. So I’m aware of all the poets, essayists and writers I have read before; they are always there giving me advice how to write…sometimes I even listen.
- What is your daily writing routine?
Honestly, I’m not good at routines, I’m not an overly disciplined person. That may be why I’m not making a living at poetry yet. I have had good luck with writing a poem a day during the National Poetry Month here in the US during every April. I’ve also done well writing poetry during NANOWRIMO instead of a novel.
- What motivates you to write?
There’s a lot of different things that motivate me to write; poetry, essays and fiction comes from that everyday grist, problems, struggles and triumphs. Just like everyone else, writing is a great form of therapy to make the world make more sense. What’s been surprising is I’ve actually found a lot of things to write about from my experiences in Corporate America, which hardly seems poetic, but it is.
- What is your work ethic?
I work in spurts. Like I said, I’m not particularly disciplined. I’ll write a bunch, then slack off for a while. I’ll submit to ten journals in a week and then let it go and play video games. I’m clear on the fact I am not a poetic role model for the youth of America, but I also subscribe to Whitman’s advice to “…loaf and invite the soul…” Every time I get rejected, I will look at the pieces again to see if there’s something I can hone in the text for the next submission. I don’t believe that some poems are ever completely finished and am always willing to cut and trim them again and again.
- How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
When I was young I read a lot of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and any kind of Science Fiction I could lay my hands on, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and the like. In my 20’s I discovered the All Creatures Great and Small books by James Herriot and I read all of them repeatedly until they were dog eared. In my late 30’s, I remember discovering George Orwell’s book 1984, and then devouring most of his essays, novels and pieces like Homage to Catalonia and Coming Up For Air. I also discovered Somerset Maugham’s lovely works The Razor’s Edge and Of Human Bondage. The things I’ve read lead me to want to write of simple beauty that pleases people to read it, whether it’s landscape, people or even food, and to never despise a concise treatment of truth in favour of obscure pretension for its own sake.
- Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Billy Collins is one of my favorite of today’s writers. I admire that his work has accessibility and humour and is still so popular. It gives me hope that there is still a place for that kind of work in the world and I don’t have to write something depressing and confusing to be a good poet.
- Why do you write?
George Orwell said the number one motivation for writing is Egoism. I’m not going to deny that as a major reason. I feel like I’ve got things to say, and want to leave some proof that I was here. The other reason I write is because writing makes a crazy world make sense. Blaise Pascal said “the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing”. I’ve found writing poetry makes those vague feelings and impressions more concrete, finding a home on paper, (or Google docs). But beyond that one of my favorite reasons to write is that it is the closest thing to actual magic that exists on the earth, you can create images of complete beauty and bliss just by putting words together, and other people can see the same thing. How could you not want to do something as awesome as that if you had the ability to pull it off?
- What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I would tell them to start reading as much as they can; to take note of what they like and why they like it. I would encourage them to start writing, entering contests, reading at open mics and submitting anywhere possible. I would tell them if you can’t find somewhere to publish your work, publish it yourself with a computer, printer and a stapler and start selling it or even giving it away. People forget that Leaves of Grass, one of the greatest pieces of American poetry was originally self-published. Blogging is a great way to start, but be careful what you publish on a blog because many publications won’t take pieces that have been on-line in any form.
As far as my own experience, I’ve been rejected by some established publications and just kept looking for other places to send my work until I found publications with editors that liked my work. One dream journal I wanted to be published in rejected twenty-five pieces in a row of my work. So I submitted those pieces to other journals and nineteen of the twenty-five rejected pieces were picked up by other publications. We forget that editors are regular human beings like anyone else; they like certain kinds of writing. Sometimes they just aren’t that into you and you need to be ready to look elsewhere. Above all you need to be able to believe in your work and that you have a unique voice with something to say.
- Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I’m trying to get my chapbook project “Office Poems” published professionally and I want to put my collection of short poems on Amazon. My goal this year is to start getting my work accepted by paying markets. I’m also recording more and more of poems and placing them on Soundcloud to help publicize my work. .