Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Bruce Alford

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.

bruce alford

Bruce Alford

According to Mud Season Review 

“is a columnist, reviewer and creative writer. He has published fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry in journals such as the African American Review, Comstock Review, Imagination & Place Press. His first collection, About the Manuscript Alford’s Devotional and Guide to Poetry combines writing instruction, autobiography, devotional, and philosophy (based on the writings of Nietzsche and specifically on his philosophy of anti-pity). This book was his way of working through his mother’s death from cancer and his father’s death from West Nile virus two years earlier.”

https://bruce-alford.com/

The Interview

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

I wrote my first poem when I was about eleven years old, but I didn’t know that it was poetry. I was simply playing with words. I’ve always been attracted to language and sound. I didn’t purposely pursue writing poetry until graduate school, and even then, I seemed to have fallen into it. I was awarded a fiction fellowship to the University of Alabama. My thesis was, in fact, a novel. After taking Introduction to Poetry (We called it baby poetry.), I continued to write verse and to attend poetry readings where I would listen to others and where I read my own poetry. I specifically am attracted to the genre because of my nature. I am detail oriented. In a way, poetry is similar to physics. You have to really think about the particles of language – little things such as periods, a syllable, a sound; you attend to and break language into fundamental parts. That appeals to me.

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

That’s a tricky question. It’s taking me a while to think about it, but you know, my introduction to poetry came about without my realizing that I was reading and hearing it. Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church was the focal point of my early life. We read a lot of the Bible. About 75% of the Bible is poetry. The Psalms and Proverbs or primarily poetry. There’s the Song of Solomon or the Song of Songs and of course, the long poem, Job. I was also influenced by a series of Baptist preachers who were skilled at using language. Those sermons were indeed poetic.

Reading the Bible, memorizing it’s language and hearing it chanted and sung – all of that combined to create my love for poetry.

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

I learned to have a conversation with previous generations through my training in graduate school and through teaching others. Education introduced me to various schools of poetry and to poetic theory. That gave me a way to recognize progression and to place certain aspects of poetry in certain periods. Speaking of “dominating presence”: will symbolism and surrealism ever go away? The primary characteristics of these poetries: juxtaposition, disruption of narrative and vagueness, seem to be the definition of contemporary poetry.

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

Honestly, I don’t presently have a daily routine. I am not working in academia now; although, I am looking for another university position. My current job doesn’t allow much time, and right now, I’m trying to negotiate my way through each day. I’m not doing any long forms. Before bedtime, or sometimes during the day, I will juxtapose words or practice meter. That’s all I have time for.

  1. What motivates you to write?

I want to speak to others. But if you submit works for publication then you know that, more often than not, what you write often isn’t heard or seen by others. So the motivation to write is deeply held.

Writing puts one into the present while ironically, simultaneously, removing one from that present. As when praying, you spend time with yourself. Writing allows me to discover what’s happening in myself. Also, there’s something about the simple pleasure of sound. (I am attracted to lyric.)

  1. What is your work ethic?

My work ethic comes out of my Protestant upbringing. Also, I may be hardwired to feel that work is important, that is, that work is virtuous and that it builds character. This is a difficult question for me. Is it wise to link self-worth to work? What is work, what is art work? Sometimes, we interchange work and play.

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

When I was seeking representation for my novel, A Toy in Blood, some literary agents asked this question in one way or another. It made me take a step back and consider why I had written the story I had and why my poetry often assumes a particular tone and often a certain form. My poetic influences include Shakespeare and the Bible. Pop culture influences include Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, Thor and Pippi Longstocking.

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

The only contemporary writer that I consistently read is the novelist Anne Tyler. Her characters are authentic. I also suspect that she is not making them up. She seems to be writing about her own family. Different characters in different books suspiciously talk, act, and look alike. (Tyler may be both lazy and brilliant.)

  1. Why do you write?

I write because I like play. In addition, writing is a way to self-discovery, a way of making friends with yourself; a way to stop yourself from hiding or covering wounds; it’s a way of moving forward.

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

Well. I went to graduate school, but that’s not necessary. You can learn by taking classes or you can read books on writing or subscribe to trade magazines such as Poets & Writers or Writer’s Digest. Writer’s conferences are great places for getting inspired and for learning. A writer can also learn by submitting to journals: when a rejection comes back, I tend to see that piece in an entirely different light. I’ve also belonged to some excellent writing groups in which I received helpful feedback. In short, a writer does writerly things.

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

I have completed two new poem cycles: Both draw on biblical literature and language. Alford’s Devotional combines autobiography, devotional, and philosophy (based on the writings of Nietzsche and specifically on his philosophy of anti-pity).

Alford’s Guide to Poetry was my way of working through my mother’s death from cancer and my father’s death from West Nile virus two years earlier. I countered sentimentalism by creating a handbook based on my area of expertise as a creative-writing instructor.

Fiction (Currently seeking an agent or publisher)

Chosen by Heidi W. Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky as winner of the Rings True Contest, my novel, A Toy in Blood, is a revisioning of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This novel was also a finalist in the 2018 William Faulkner Contest sponsored by The Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society.

One thought on “Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Bruce Alford

  1. Pingback: Bruce Alford Interview – WJ Clark

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