- Your poetry contains a miraculous amount of detail. How do achieve that and balance it with poetic sentiment?
I tend to think visually, so the challenge is to describe in words the images I see in my head. I do a lot of research to make sure I describe the exact species of bird or the precise colors of a sunset. I don’t think of my poetry as sentimental; I strive for honesty in everything I write, whether exploring an emotion or finding just the right word to get my point across.
- Some poems have a balance of mind and body. Phrases like “calculating sensuality” in ‘Bitter Tea’ invoke both a sense of reluctance and hesitation. What are you trying to accomplish in this poem?
“Bitter Tea” is about an affair; a wife who watches her husband flirting with another woman and hides the pain of his betrayal behind a stiff upper lip and simple everyday courtesy.
- Your poems frequently use environment to reflect human emotional situations. What aspect of yourself perceives things in this way? How does situation enter into your poetry?
I think of my poems as stories written in stanzas, and plot, or situation, is key to any story. You can’t separate environment, emotion and plot; the places we live in and the things which happen to us affect how we feel and the way we see the world.
- I notice a cosmopolitan sense in your work. Have you traveled overseas at all? In what ways have your travels influenced your perception of the world? How has that perception entered your poetry?
I have yet to travel overseas, although there are plenty of places I plan to visit someday. I love watching documentaries about unusual locations, wildlife, and historical sites. My perception of the world is definitely colored by the places where I have lived–Long Island, New York; Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and most recently the South Carolina Lowcountry.
- In your poem ‘Tigers’ you use the phrase “xylophone of vertebrae”. Do you know how you made that association? Odd associations seem to be the pivot of your work.
As a poet, I think in metaphor, and these associations come naturally; they seem obvious to me. In this case, writing about poachers, I thought of the tiger being stripped of its pelt and the bone structure underneath.
- The poem following “Tigers’, ‘Foraging’, says, “Elephants move through the darkness like smoke…” Is your use of “smoke” parallel to the central meaning of the book?
Light and color are central to the book, so I suppose smoke is its thematic opposite–creating a picture by obscuring the view. More literally, elephants are grey, like smoke.
- In the poem ‘Another Storm’ you describe a state which sounds like an anxiety attack. Is this related to your disability? Also, in this poem the animal symbolism seems to come to a climax. How did you order your poems to suit this? Were you careful and deliberate in choosing what poem went where in the collection?
- Yes, I struggle with anxiety disorder, and anxiety attacks aggravate the spasms caused by my cerebral palsy.
- I arranged the poems in sequential sets, and each set is thematically linked. For instance, “Discoveries” and “The Edge of the World” are both set in Antarctica.
- How much does the theory of evolution inspire your thinking in Phoenix: Transformation Poems? Are you interested in quantum physics as well? How does that level of thinking enter your work?
While I find their ideas fascinating, I didn’t set out to write the poetic equivalent of On the Origin of Species or A Brief History of Time. I think these subjects influence me subconsciously–I write about things going on around me, and the processes that govern the universe are eternally in motion.
- Your poems reflect a holistic view. How did you attain this view? Do you believe it was by inspiration or careful study?
I do my best to authentically capture a specific scene by observing the natural world. Inspiration plays a part in my work, as it does for every artist, but I strive to constantly improve my writing by reading every day, experimenting with different poetic forms, and seeking out sources of stimulation, including paintings, films, photography, and biographies of interesting people.
- What plans do you have for future works?
I hope to have a long and successful career publishing my poetry for decades to come. I also plan to write a play, a novel, and a children’s book eventually. Maybe more than one!
- How do you select publishers to submit work to? What do you look for in a publisher?
I have been lucky enough to work with two wonderful publishers, Christopher Dow of Phosphene Publishing for Defense Mechanisms and Kevin Walzer of CW Books for Phoenix. They were patient, thorough, and supportive throughout the entire process, from revisions to layout to cover design. The truth is, they chose me, not the other way around. I had submitted both manuscripts to dozens of writing contests and publishing companies before Chris and Kevin expressed interest in my work.
- What was your experience like with Christopher Dow and Phosphene?
My debut poetry collection Defense Mechanisms: Poems on Life, Love, and Loss was released by Phosphene Publishing in 2016. I live in the same town as Jan Henson Dow, an accomplished playwright and the mother of Phosphene’s founder, Christopher Dow. I met Jan when she was staging a piece she had written for our community theater. I ended up performing in several of her plays, and during a rehearsal she mentioned that Phosphene had just released a collection of her work. I had submitted Defense Mechanisms to forty publishers by then, and been rejected by all of them. Jan not only put in a good word for me, she acted as a beta reader for the manuscript, and reviewed Defense Mechanisms when it came out. Basically, the Dows launched my career, and I owe them a lot.
- Lastly, do you have advice for other writers on how to attain a vision for their poetry?
I don’t have a particular vision for my poetry as a whole, beyond making each piece as well-written as I possibly can. Once I find the story within the pages, it is ready to become a book. Then the cycle of submissions and rejections begins again, with many revisions and alterations in between. Success is about perseverance; stubborn bulldog persistence despite thousands of let-downs, rejections, and wounds to your pride. If you are truly meant to be a writer, or any kind of artist, that is the first thing you must learn. It is never easy, but it is worth it!