Poet Interview #63: Indunil Madhusankha

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?

I live in Sri Lanka, aged 24, and am currently reading for the final year of my BSc, Mathematics (Special) degree in the Faculty of Science of the University of Colombo. I am academically involved with the subjects of Mathematics (Applied & Pure), Statistics and Information Technology, and am also interested in such areas of study as Education, Psychology, Management, and Language and Literary Studies. I have always been cherishing a passion for English language and literature since the earliest days of my school career. Whenever I have some free time, I love to read poems, stories and novels written in both English and Sinhala. I think that it is my ardent desire for reading that has often been the driving force behind me becoming a writer. So far, I have produced poems, essays, short stories, articles, interviews, translations and research papers, and I am delighted that those works have been published, both locally and internationally, in various blogs, journals, magazines, anthologies and newspapers. Even though English is not my first language, I started writing in English at the very young age of 11. I remember my first publication, an essay entitled, A Tsunami Speaks (2005) featured in the Expressions page of the Junior Observer which is a supplement of the weekly Sri Lankan English newspaper, Sunday Observer. I still have that paper with me and it is always an immense pleasure to revisit my first publication. During my school days, I was able to clinch a large number of awards from many creative writing competitions at zonal, district, provincial and national levels. It is at the age of about 14 that I started writing poetry, inspired by the engrossing and enlightening poems that I read in my English Literature class. Further, I compiled my first collection of poetry titled, Oasis when I was 16, and to quote from the Introduction to the book;

Oasis is a volume of poetry the function of which is to articulate the shallowness of manifold moral failures of the human race; to admire the beauties of some spectacular social dimensions scintillating with the density of their fragrance; to scrutinize them through what you may call ‘poetry’ with a clear perception of the ambivalence governing the matters concerned; and to provide the reader with an itinerary to go in quest of the ‘oasis’ instead of crawling into a morally sterile society.”

The pieces in this collection were well received internationally and have appeared in publications of countries like Sri Lanka, India, Nigeria, Africa, Canada, the US and the UK. At present, I am working on my second collection, Reflections of Life, and also on a book namely, A Rare Kind of Beauty, Yet Unexplored:  A Selection of Modern Sri Lankan Sinhala Poetry featuring a translation of a set of select Sinhala poems written by some famous Sri Lankan poets.

There is quite a long list of poets, both national and international, that I have enjoyed reading and drawn inspiration from. I highly adore the work of such great poets as William Shakespeare, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen, W.B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. I have further been inspired by the poetry of Sri Lankan English writers like Patrick Fernando, Lakdasa Wikkramasinha, Anne Ranasinghe, Yasmine Gooneratne and Jean Arasanayagam. Apart from that, I highly appreciate the writings of Sri Lankan Sinhala poets such as Gajaman Nona, Kumaratunga Munidasa, Monika Ruwanpathirana, Wimalaratne Kumaragama, Wimal Dissanayake and Parakrama Kodituwakku. I also like to read the works of such Indian English authors as Anita Desai and Nissim Ezekiel.

How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?

One important thing about my literary career is that I do not have any set schedules or time slots when it comes to writing something. I start writing whenever the thoughts knock at my door, no matter where I am and what I am doing at the moment, and in case I can’t find a pen, I would type the lines using some app on my phone. In my experience, writing has to be authentic and spontaneous. It needs to have a natural flow of emotions, and the moment you start forcing your imagination or the thought process, you tempt to get yourself detached from the originality of your expressions. Thus, the repercussion is a poem lacking in colour, vigour and life. That being said, I also have to tell that the muse is not always haunting around me. Sometimes, she appears abruptly and leaves in an instant so that I barely have the time even to write the title of my piece, and then I go on waiting for hours, may be days, for her to return. Penning poesy, in my perspective, is an experiment of some kind, and therein the writer has to indulge in a subtle exploration into the particular object, event or situation which provides the basis for the thematic preoccupation of the work.

Yes, my idea of what poetry is has constantly changed as time passes by with my enthusiastic involvement in writing and my continued exposure into the literary world. It has always remained a definition which looks somewhat imprecise and incomplete, yet evolving incessantly with experience. And, I am pretty sure that I will have a lot more to add to my definition of poetry as I thrive more in the world of literature in times to come.

Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

Actually, I use both Facebook and Twitter, though not very active with the latter. Also, I am eagerly keeping contacts with a worldwide network of writing professionals on Linkedin. It is striking that Facebook has often proved to be an ideal setting for keeping in touch with contemporary writers throughout the world. Thanks to my active membership in writers’ groups like Contemporary Poets, Their Works, Current Poetry Projects, News, Links administered by the renowned American poet, Michael Lee Johnson, I have been able to learn a lot of good tips for writing and also to discover numerous venues of publication (blogs, zines, mags, etc.). Further, I share some links to my publications among these groups and that has enabled me to widen my audience internationally. Moreover, I was recently added to the list of editors at the Facebook page of Poets International (The Peregrine Muse), and hence am looking forward to publish and share on that page too.

Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

Yes, I share my work among the aforesaid poetry groups and I regularly update my Linkedin profile with links to my published works. Also, I am currently working as an editor and blog administrator at Chrisolite Writerz which is a literary organization of young writers based in Nigeria.

I am presently reading Dubliners by James Joyce and Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze which is an anthology of contemporary poetry edited by Michael Lee Johnson.

What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

As a burgeoning poet and author, my advice for the amateur writers is to read as much as they can. To be clear enough, here, I would like to modify the cliché, “Reading maketh a full man” as “Reading maketh a successful writer”. The more you read, the richer your writing will be. Moreover, it is really important to have constant feedback from your colleagues and constructive reviews from well-established writers. For those who are just starting to submit work for possible publication, I would like to encourage them to first consider small presses. During the initial phase, you may try the blogs, e-zines and e-journals which are willing to publish emerging writers. And, the most important piece of advice would be not to get disheartened by rejections, because I personally know that even the giants in the contemporary literary society get declined at certain times. You may be refused, for instance, for twenty times, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be rebuffed by the next press in your list too. So, never give up. Try harder and harder until you get the wings.

Finally, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the team at W.I.S.H. Press for the great opportunity lavishly offered to me in order to share my ideas with the literary community.

Readers can find out more about me and my work by following the links given below.

 

Poet Interview #62: Chani Zwibel

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Who/what first inspired you to begin? Who are some your favorite writers and artists (past and/or contemporary)?

From the time I could talk, maybe as young as three, I remember putting my toys in little “scenes” and then telling a story. My parents and grandparents read to me often, and so even those earliest years were informed by story-telling. Even before I learned to write, I would get lost for hours imagining adventures. When asked as a child “what I wanted to be when I grew up”, the answer was always “a writer”.

I grew up in rural area, and I think that landscape of forest, creek and field, spending time alone in nature, coupled with fairy tales and Bible stories, impressed me with an inner map of mythology I was constantly exploring.

Favorite writers and artists are so hard for me to pin down, because every book or every painting or every song I’ve ever heard that moved me has influenced me, whether I stopped to add a name to the footnotes of my life or not…I’ll stick with writers for the sake of simplicity.

Grew up on Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, those earliest poets being read to me by parents, grandparents, and babysitters informed a large portion of fantasy, rhymes, nonsense poetry. L.M. Montgomery, I must have read the Anne series a hundred times over. I was totally obsessed and had to act out that scene where she’s floating down the creek in the boat. There was a creek by my house and I literally got in a little boat with flowers on my chest and floated down. My imagination and love of history was lit ablaze by reading Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those descriptions of food in The Little House series were visceral, and I could smell the wood smoke. I read the covers off Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman.

When I turned thirteen, my aunt gave me two books by authors who would become imbedded in my personal mythology. She gave me Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.

The Jane Eyre would lead to a lifelong obsession with the Brontes, Charlotte, Emily, Anne, not only their novels and poetry, but their lives. I was fascinated by how their childhood play informed their work, as my sister and I did that, too.  Rebecca left me feeling haunted, and always does. I think I’ve read that book more times than any other piece of writing I own. I read all the Daphne DuMaurier the local library had, but always came back to that masterpiece.

I was also really into Langston Hughes during that same time, which were roughly my middle to high school years.

In high school, and early college, I went through the punk phase, the “tough guy” phase and I got into Stephen King, Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski. The other side of that coin was fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Then in later college years, it was all about Gertrude Stein, Adrienne Rich, Joy Harjo, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker. I’m into Nikki Giovanni and Warshan Shire.

I’m always changing and my “tastes” are too. I like a new story, a fresh perspective, work that lifts me to transcendent heights, sometimes (often) by way of hard roads.

How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … flow?

Most of the time, poems drop out of the universe and into my thoughts. It may be an image or phrase and then INSTANTLY I’m there, pen in hand and it’s on the page. I get great ideas when I’m about to go to sleep, and often in dreams, so I keep a notebook in my bedside table at all times. Often, it’s when I’m doing something else, like working at my day job or washing dishes. It’s like a lightning bolt; it’s an act of nature. Every now and then I’ll sit down to talk to the Muse about something specific. I’ll focus, then un-focus. It’s meditative. It’s exploring the visions of the inner eye. If it just isn’t happening, I’ll flip through a dictionary, and words will start jumping out and dragging me along. I’d like to have a schedule, I might get more work done, but the truth is, it’s very much an ebb and flow. I don’t force it if it’s not happening, and I don’t dare dam the river in high flood.

What does poetry mean to you, and has your idea of what it represents changed over the course of time? Where do you see it going in the future?

I could probably write you a whole essay on what poetry means to me, because like anyone deeply in love with their craft or their field, it’s everything. Poetry isn’t separate from life, it is life. It’s in the housewife’s cupboards, in the salesman’s tie pin, in the cashier’s apron, in the interminable creep of traffic, in the mirror-world shining in the orb of a dew drop on a fiddlehead fern.

Poets are truth-tellers, and ours are truths you may have forgotten or overlooked. Does a culture become dead and stale when it trades its magicians for preachers? Who steps into that knowing-unknowing place? Poets.

Poetry for me means being the glowing embers on the cold hearth.

Poetry is the light in the darkness of ignorance.

That’s what I want to bring to the world, with room at the table for everyone.

What has being the poetry editor at The Blue Mountain Review taught you about the craft? What type of work are you looking for there, and what advice would you give to those who are submitting their words?

I love my poetry editor gig at The Blue Mountain Review! It’s truly a joy to wake up, have some coffee, and read poetry from people all over the world. I’m fascinated by the different voices coming to me from all kinds of cultures. It heals my soul to know people still care about poetry, still actively engage in creating it, and it’s not just old, dead white dudes. I’ve looked at work from poets from Iraq, India, Ireland, Africa, Mauritius, Canada, as well as England and the USA. I’m very open in what I’m looking for. I welcome all voices. I’d like to see even more diversity going forward. Much like writing, my editor’s style is intuitive. If it moves me, it’s in. If it leaves me cold, bored, or if it’s ugly hate speech, No. I’d say a guiding principle is: Don’t be a pretentious asshole. I want to see the dirt under your fingernails, not the sun-glints off the marble window sill of your ivory tower.

Are you on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. As of right now, these are my personal social media and reflect me as private citizen more than Writer or Poetry Editor. I guess at some point I’ll have to make a professional Facebook, so everyone won’t have to see how messy I am. (laughs) Everything informs my writing life. In many ways, Facebook is a form of journaling. I get to practice thoughts and phrases. And share memes. What a time to be alive!

Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

I belong to an artist collective called The Southern Collective Experience. They are my writing community and family. I also still go down to the Clarkston campus for GA State, which used to be Georgia Perimeter College, for Writer’s Forum meetings with the English teachers there who encouraged me in all endeavors poetic, back as a college freshman.

As 2017 begins rolling along, what are your expectations for the year ahead? Do you have any new projects in the works that you’re particularly excited about?

I’ve been published online every year since graduating college in 2011. My goal is to continue with that, and I’d really love to get a chapbook published this year. I’ll be continuing my work at The Blue Mountain Review, and I hope to elevate it to further heights as well. I’m also working with The Good Acting Studio and The Southern Collective Experience to bring a monthly open mic poetry night to Marietta. Make poetry readings more than just a bunch of stuffed shirts in a claustrophobic, humid library room.

What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

Do it because you love it, and don’t ever give up. Find publications that match your style, and continue to work with those that publish you. If you find a like-minded group of people to work with, stay. Treat them like gold. Share. Write. Love.

Deepening Light

Three poems
by Darren C. Demaree
 
THE CHILDREN AT THE WEDDING #22
 
The gold is between the ground
& the high-glass. I put Isabelle
on my shoulders. I put Thomas
 
on her shoulders. Thomas
said he could taste where the light
deepened. Isabelle didn’t understand
 
& neither did I. We had to chase
the next good dance track back
where the party was, but for one
 
moment one of us was able to swim
& the others were able to sacrifice.
There are times when we are fantastic
 
& they are always when I am able to hold
both of my children above my head,
they are times when I work hard
 
in the presence of a beauty I don’t see.
 
THE CHILDREN AT THE WEDDING #23
 
I am unspeakable,
as in there are events
when nobody
 
can speak about me
& they only see
when my hands
 
have reached
below my knees,
when my hands
 
are palm-open
& honeyed
& shepherding
 
these children
around the kingdom
of that night.
 
These are the best
nights of my life.
I am nobody
 
& yet, I am whole.
I am nothing
& yet, their world
 
couldn’t exist
without me. I say
only their names
 
& the echo
of their names
& I celebrate that.
 
THE CHILDREN AT THE WEDDING #24
 
Tie off. Vest off.
Shoes off. Sleeves
rolled up. Even
 
a three-year-old
boy knows how he
should look
 
by the time
the party goes mad.
He just kept
 
spinning. He
went dynamo
with the routine.
 
—————–
Darren C. Demaree’s poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including the South Dakota Review, Meridian, New Letters, Diagram, and the Colorado Review.
 
He is the author of five poetry collections, most recently “The Nineteen Steps Between Us” (2016, After the Pause). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry.
 
He is currently living and writing in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.

Poet Interview #61: Darren C. Demaree

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Who/what first inspired you to begin? Who are some your favorite writers and artists (past and/or contemporary)? 

I started writing poetry in high school.  When I was in college Kim Addonizio, Robert Creeley, and Charles Simic were my favorites.  Right now I am obsessed with Aase Berg’s work.

How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? 

I’m always taking notes when I’m reading.  I also like to map out large projects, and plan out how the poems can interplay with each other.  This allows me to work different arcs and patterns into my larger sequences.  In regards to writing every day, which I do, the planning and reading are great aids in being able to steadily produce new work.  My goal is not to be prolific, but to be constant in my practice.

What does poetry mean to you, and has your idea of what it represents changed over the course of time? Where do you see it going in the future?

My understanding of what poetry can do is always expanding.  That’s why I’m always trying to read new work by poets I’m unfamiliar with. I don’t know where poetry is going, but the more poetry the better.  I can appreciate the work that just lives on the page, but what folks are doing with digital/video poetry is incredible.  I think poetry is big enough to accommodate all of these avenues.

Are you on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

In terms of writing, I use Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about recent publications and spread the word when books are coming out.  Other than that I just use them for the social aspects of it.  AWP was last week, and one of the best parts of going to a conference like that is getting to meet so many of the poets you become friendly with online.

Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

There’s a great community of poets where I live in Columbus, Ohio.  I don’t really workshop with anyone anymore, but there are a half-dozen different reading series in town that I try to go to when I can.  I came back from AWP with a large load of books to work through.  Right now I am reading “Night Badly Written” by Victor Rodriguez Nunez.

As 2017 begins rolling along, what are your expectations for the year ahead? Do you have any new books/projects in the works that you’re particularly excited about?

I have a collection of prose poems entitled “Unfinished Murder Ballads” that will be coming out at the end of summer from Jellyfish Highway Press.  I’m really excited to see how that book takes shape.  I’m also under contract at 8th House Publishing for a collection of poems about the life and death of Sam Cooke called “Lady, You Shot Me”.  I imagine that book will be out some time in 2018.

What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

I think you should write every day.  I think you should submit your work all of the time.  Rejections come to all of us, but if you believe in your work then you won’t let someone else dictate how you go about it.  The best poets are lifers, and they explore and produce new works all of the time.  Life and rejection will always show up to get in the way of those explorations, but if you remain dedicated you can overcome.  Try to work all of the time.  Try to be a good member of your writing community.  Find joy in the process as often as you possibly can.  Celebrate whenever your work is accepted.

Poet Interview #60: Matt Borczon

Scott Thomas Outlar: First off, Matt, I want to thank you for taking some of your time to do this interview with me at W.I.S.H. I’ve been enjoying your work (and the unique voice you bring to poetry) for the past couple of years now, so it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to toss some questions your way. To get things rolling, can you talk a bit about when your interest in poetry and writing began? Have you always been drawn to the creative arts? Who were some of your early influences?

Matthew Borczon: Thanks for asking. I have been writing since before high school. Not even sure how it started. Most likely I read some of my early influences and decided to try it. I was a fan of the beats and of Richard Brautigan. At 15 or so I read Jim Carroll’s The Basketball Diaries and his poetry collection Living at the Movies. That is most likely when I realized you could write about your own life like it was interesting. I was also very influenced by what was happening in music, punk rock was all new and the idea that energy or anger was enough fuel for art was interesting to me. I have always been drawn to creative things. I play a number of instruments and I have a BFA in fine arts. I was a painter the first time I went to college. My parents were very encouraging in all the interests of their children artistically and physically so I was very involved in sports as well.

Outlar: Coming from an artistic and athletic background, and having successfully earned your BFA, what then led you to enter into the Navy in service of your country? Was it a path you had always been drawn toward, or did world events at the time play a role in your decision?

Borczon: My father was in the Marines and I had 2 uncles in the Navy so it was kind of always on my mind. I had moved on from it for a while though, after 9/11 the reserve started looking to build up their force and I was contacted by a recruiter about it. I thought I was too old for it at first. I was 36 at the time but the medical service was opening up a new unit so they were looking for people for it. I was an EMT at the time so they wanted me. I thought about it for a while and realized it had never left my mind totally so I decided to join, of course at the time I came in the Reserves were doing what they called back fill. This meant that if the active duty got called up we would go to the hospital they left and work there. So it seemed like a safe option and a small contribution to make. It was only later that they decided to send more reserve than active duty into the war zone. Oh well, you live and learn.

Outlar: Before getting into the next question, I want to thank you for your service and the sacrifices you made. Having never experienced the chaotic energy of actually being in a war zone, I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional, physical, and spiritual toll that such an event has on a human being. Most of us are never faced with anything that comes anywhere close to that type of situation. But your poems seem to serve as a charged revelation of sorts that provide a window into the raw intensity of war’s impact on the soul. How long were you stationed overseas? Did you write poetry during your time in the war, or was it only after returning home that the experiences began to pour out?

Borczon: The deployment to Afghanistan was 10 months from start to finish, that is from the time I left home. I was in Fort Jackson and then in Yorkshire England before in order to train with the British army, it was their hospital we were working in. I kept a journal while I was there but I had not written a poem in probably 10 years before I wrote the first one. I was home almost 4 years when it started. I was having nightmares and the medication had not worked like I had hoped so I was not taking it. I was not sure how to get it out of my head. I thought I would write just one, but after the first poem they just started to roll out of my head. I joined a closed Facebook group of writers just to see if the poems even made sense. My first publications came from people on the site. I did not even know they had journals. I was just trying to chase the ghosts away. I have only been writing these poems for about 1 1/2 years now. I think I have a lot more I need to say about the war, as well as other things. I am still writing from the personal experience. I have not even touched on how the war makes me feel politically yet.

Outlar: I’ll definitely be interested to read your political take on the war whenever those types of ideas start flowing. Please feel free to express anything in that vein here if you’d like. I readily admit that I’m a junkie when it comes to digesting commentary dealing with the state of affairs the world finds itself in presently.

Your chapbook A Clock of Human Bones was awarded the top prize in the 2015 contest hosted by Yellow Chair Press. What was that experience like, considering that you’d only been publishing your work for a short time before then? Your poetry has obviously struck a chord with readers. How does it feel knowing that these deeply personal, and oftentimes tragic, vignettes from your experiences are resonating with people so vividly?

Borczon: I love Sarah Frances Moran, she has been a huge supporter of my work from the beginning. I entered her contest because it was so affordable. I know that sounds strange but I had only been writing a short time so I had no expectations of winning. I just thought it would force me to look for a narrative to all of this work I was producing. When I had made the first cut I remember still thinking I had already gotten my money’s worth and would be encouraged to have just made it that far. I still did not think I would win. When they told me I had won I was really surprised, I did not honestly think the poems would have much meaning to anyone but me at the time. Since then I have learned that everyone has a family member or a friend or someone they know who has had a similar military experience so I guess they feel like they would like to understand it all better. I also learned that there is not a lot of writing out there by military people. More maybe now than ever before but still not a lot. I also know that Bill Shields, who wrote a lot about Viet Nam, was eventually outed as a guy who did not do all that he claimed to have done in the war. I think this drove a lot of writers away from the story, as it were. I do not write about heroism or all the bloody things I did, because that is not my reality. I was just a witness to all of that and only after the fact. Bloody wounded soldiers and marines were all only in the hospital setting for me. I never fired a weapon in Afghanistan so I am not the guy to tell those stories. I hope he is out there somewhere telling his truth though. I think people respond because my viewpoint is mostly about feeling like I failed people, did not do all I thought I would do. In my head I only saw myself as saving lives and as being effective and what happened is different. I saved more than I lost but the learning curve was that you cannot save everyone in a war. Sounds simple but I did not expect to be so affected by the people I could not help. I have a flag letter of commendation that sits in my office at work, and it says we treated 2,268 coalition and local nationals. It is a big number, but the children, the women, and the soldiers and marines who died are the ones that fill my nightmares. It is also all the people who lived but without arms and legs and other important body parts. I think everyone knows what it feels like to try their hardest and not have it work like they thought it would. I write to that part of myself in an attempt to make peace with the guilt and the pain of feeling like they might have made it if I had been better at my job. I think most people know this feeling on some level.

Outlar: I have no doubt that you and those alongside you did your damned bests at every turn, saving many lives in the process. You’re right that those sorts of regrets and worries are part of the basic human experience. I’ve surely felt them.

Have you found the writing to be helpful overall as a therapeutic tool? You mentioned earlier that you still have a lot left to say about what you dealt with. Can you tell a difference between your first collection and the new one you’ve recently published through Epic Rites? What can readers expect when they pick up Battle Lines?

Borczon: So far it has been very therapeutic. I got the idea from a therapist that I could tell my story over and over again until I was less afraid of it. So far it helps, though I still have nightmares pretty regularly and sleep is still hard to come by but that is all just a part of what the PTSD diagnosis is. I imagine I will have all of it with me going forward, but I am less moody, less angry, not all the time but some of it anyway.

I see a huge difference between my first and second book. A Clock of Human Bones is all about me. How I feel and felt during my time in Afghanistan. Battle Lines is the story of all the other veterans I have met over the years, and of me as well. I originally wrote it as kind of one long poem in parts, but they also stood alone as completed pieces so when we put it out the numbers went away and the first line of the poem became the title. I am telling more than just my own story with Battle Lines. I have stories from every war going back to WWII in it. I cannot help but see how we are all connected through our PTSD. I also have encountered a lot of people who have it from other things. Accidents or trauma of any kind can cause it so I keep finding more and more people who can relate to what I am writing in a real and tangible way. My next book Ghost Train is more like my first book though. I am still living through the war like swimming in deep water so I always revert back to looking at my own thing as a way to try and figure out how to go forward.

Outlar: Based on the benefits to your own health and well-being that writing poetry has brought about in your life, do you envision any other opportunities of expressing your experiences in the future that could possibly help others who suffer from PTSD? What is the “poetry scene” in your area like? Do you enjoy getting out and reading at events?

Borczon: I would like to do some work with veterans on writing at some point. Though being an art major and a nurse I am not always sure I am the guy to do this type of teaching. The poetry scene in Erie is a strong one. We have a weekly reading at a venue called poets hall that I regularly attend. They hold 2 poetry festivals a year. We have 4 universities around Erie so they often have readings and speakers and we are close to New York, Pittsburgh and Cleveland so there is a lot going on. I like to make myself read, not always sure I enjoy it as I have had my anxiety and PTSD pull me right off the stage sometimes. It can be hard depending on the day, still when it goes well I do enjoy it. I have a couple things coming up out of town I am looking forward to.

Outlar: What else is on your radar for 2017? Do you have a website or social media account where people can follow your work? Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview. Feel free to mention anything else on your mind that I might have been remiss in asking.

Borczon: I have a chapbook coming out from Weasel Press called Ghost Train in June 2017 and an as of yet unnamed chapbook coming out from Grey Borders press in July. I am also working with Grey Borders on my first full-length poetry book for release in 2018. I am also finishing a chapbook for Nixes Mate Press that has nothing to do with the war so I am pretty excited about that one; it should come out this year as well.

I have a website: https://www.weebly.com/editor/main.php. I am not great at updating it but I will work on that. Mostly I am busy trying to get my oldest daughter off to college in the fall and raising my other 3 kids and trying to get the therapy to work this time around for my PTSD; it all just keeps rolling on.