Poet Interview #1: Elaine Walton

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?

My name is Elaine Walton. I started writing poetry when I was in elementary school thanks my teacher, Mrs. Gleason, who introduced our class to Shel Silverstein’s book, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” His work, along with those of Dr. Seuss, ee cummings, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Emily Dickinson instilled in me a life-long appreciation of poetry and reading in general. I’ve been in love with story-telling in all of its forms—be it written, spoken, visual—ever since.

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?

Inspiration for a poem comes from a germ of an idea, event, concept, or experience I encounter, which then percolates in my brain. When I have it completely worked out then I just sit down and write it out. I test every poem by reading it aloud then tweak it according to how it sounds to my ear, then days or weeks later I’ll go back and read it “fresh” to make sure I’m happy with it.

Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?

My concept of poetry has remained the same over time. I still think of poetry as a means of expression using words arranged in a way that’s unusual. The only thing that’s changed over time is me and my expanding repertoire of life experiences. I write to express an emotion, observation, and/or idea from a unique perspective based on my personal experiences so from that perspective my work has universal appeal, while the poetic form changes based on the subject matter/concept of the poem.

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

The Internet and social media has certainly changed the way I work and present ideas. I have several Facebook pages, one Twitter account, and I’m on LinkedIn, but I’m not ‘on’ every day. I view these things as tools to be used to share, promote, and market myself as a brand—and not as a way of living or a lifestyle.

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

Since moving from Alabama to New Jersey over 2 years ago, I’ve enjoyed being part of both on-line and in-person writer’s groups. I subscribe to a bunch of newsletters, journals and feeds, but I especially like 92Y, Writer’s Digest, and Poetry Society of America. I attend the Somerset Poetry Group at the library in Bridgewater, NJ and other local events as often as possible. While the Internet and social media gives everyone a voice and provides an audience willing to listen, I still believe the best way to establish and nurture a relationship is through physical and social interaction. Yes, I can enjoy the experience of hearing an author read their work on-line, but I can’t look them in the eye and shake their hand afterward as I say, “thank you.”

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m reading 3 books: “Techno Matter: The Materials Behind the Marvels” by Fred Bortz; “Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade” by Joan Tapper; and “Safe Haven” by Nicholas Sparks.

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

Advice I’d give to any aspiring poet/writer: Educate yourself; Read the classics to learn style, technique, and craft; Write about what you know and are passionate about; and be fearless and persistent in pursuit of your goals.

These Deigning Burns

Leave off the Slave’s Soft Cruelty
by dGabe Evau

Leave off the slave’s soft cruelty
The worms that eat your mind
Beware of friendly sympathy
To feelings not your kind

Ours a wretched lot, to bear
the joys of Spring, + bury them
Some would deign to take our
rotting corpses + marry them

Truth is splashing in the stream
Follow footsteps into dreams
Winding paths, terrible wrath
Nothing’s what it seems

Fire burns to carbon dust
Sturdy stones in which we trust
Precious metals, clothed in rust
fail to shine, yet beckon us

                    on into the Nightmare,
                    Midnight’s vanity
                    Dawn discovers right where
                    we left our sanity

*****

dGabe Evau is the last bohemian and poet-magistrate of Cambridge, MA.

The Layers In Between

Vacancy
by Catherine Zickgraf

You love me here
where we meet at our graves.
Jesus saves, if you let Him.
And I know the Bible
is just an arm’s length away
in the drawer under the ashtray. . .

the cheap painting above the bed,
like a headstone in the gold dust of afternoon,
I’m dressing fast, leaving the room—
the kids’ bus is almost on its way.

Since the beginning of our days,
they’ve stacked dead folks who can’t pay
in pauper graves, digging a massive hole,
laying nailed-shut boxes in layers and rows
like motel rooms where we secretly fuck
and decay.

My spirit is a slave to my blood flow.
I practice my idolatry on you.
And in the in between days without you,
I wake up thinking about you.

But when I scarf my arms around you,
I coil your limbs, swim your currents
of rain, flow my blood through your veins—
I harbor you,
hold you home inside me/kneel beside
your streams through my yard. . .
you pulse like stars
throwing sharpened swords.
You force the heat through my heart.

Here we are in our skin again,
here we are in this trance.
You make me shake when you pull away. . .
The days go by,
I know the earth will break apart.
But you spin the world in my direction—
it rotates around my heart.

*****

Catherine Zickgraf has shared her poetry in Spain, Puerto Rico, and throughout the continental US. See her perform at youtube.com/czickgraf. She hosts Augusta, Georgia’s MAD Open Mic every Thursday, yet homeschooling her boys inspires her the most at the moment.

Signs Among The Spanish Moss

INTIMACIES IN BORROWED LIGHT
by Darius Stewart

I’ve chosen a quiet place in this great old house,
wandered the rooms,
gazed out the windows: Spanish moss
tangled like silly string in the cypress,
great mounds of it floating in the pool

where a couple may have taken a midnight
swim, brushed the strands from their arms, maybe
mistook them for exposed veins—fibrous, infected,
relentlessly inescapable. This is where my imagination turns
whimsical to glum, I know, though I can’t help but wonder

if this empty house signals the end of their love,
if the signs were in the sky pockmarked with stars,
as though the cosmos had unleashed its grief
upon the world: Spanish moss & stars: the signs?
No . . . forgive me. It may be the silence is too ingratiating.

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to curl one’s body into the curl of another
& wait out the night in cathedral silence,
just a kiss or two at the nape of the neck
for assurances, because, after all, this moment
is one of the great palaces of the world: intimacies

in borrowed light of the moon or lamp-like glow
of a hundred fireflies just outside your window, you listening
to wave after wave of latticed sounds filling each room
with possibilities of surviving the night, & waking
the next day eager for the hours to peel away

until you reach the hour when everything repeats.

*****

Darius Stewart was born in Knoxville, TN, in 1979. He holds degrees from The University of Tennessee and the Michener Center for Writers (a B.A. and an M.F.A., respectively). He has been previously anthologized in two volumes of The Southern Poetry Anthology series, The Best Gay Poetry 2008. He’s been published elsewhere in Callaloo, The Seattle Review, Meridian, and dozens of other journals. He has authored three chapbooks: The Terribly Beautiful (2006), Sotto Voce (2008) and The Ghost the Night Becomes (2014). He bartends for a living because it makes more money than teaching, and lives with two dogs: Fry (his) and Waffles (his housemate’s, who doesn’t think he’s an artist, but he is).