Poet Interview #22 – John Bizarre

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’m a stand-up comedian, a filmmaker, a pastry chef, a rickshaw driver and probably an incurable malcontent. I started writing in ninth grade when Mrs. Burnhart determined I was reading at a seventh grade level and forced me to start reading two books a month and write out full book reports on them. Although I resented her at the time, she changed my life. God bless her. Pretty quickly I found Hunter S. Thompson, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, then fell into Maya Angelou, Henrik Ibsen and Oscar Wilde

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?

Usually I land at the keyboard out of anger. Then once that has been worked through, other inspirations take over. My mother used to write as a form of therapy and I believe that’s a great method of laying down the skeleton of a piece. Rewriting is what turns it into art. Finding the right word is everything.

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

The formats of Facebook and Twitter do not inspire the creation of art. They both encourage the devolution of language and a celebration of the unremarkable. To unplug from the electronic social media matrix and connect with others directly is to rediscover the beauty of the human bond.

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

A friend of mine and I have been writing letters to each other for over 20 years. I highly recommend it. There is something magical about opening an envelope and reading a letter that someone took the time to write, seal, stamp and send. It’s also fun to use a fountain pen with an ink well along with finely textured sheets of paper. Most recently I read Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, and Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins.

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

To that question I would say focus less on getting noticed and more on creating a body of work that you are proud of. Examine every sentence and make sure you have chosen the right words to convey exactly what you want to say. Remember Cyrano de Bergerac when he refuses money for one of his poems because the buyer wants to change a word or two – “When I have made a line that sings itself, so that I love the sound of it, I pay myself a hundred times.”

Blessings of a Blissful Exhaustion

Insomnia
by Yuan Changming
 
Nobody likes insomnia, but I do
Indeed, for a night or two, even several
In a run, when there is no wifely
Disturbance, I would love to count
Ants against all the stars in my
Mind, to practice meditation with
My entire inner being, to hypnotize
My conscious self by evoking a streamlet
Of blue water from heaven and letting it
Infuse every cell in my body from top to toe
Second by second, to wrack my brain hard
For the wording of a line like this one, or more
Enjoyably, to visualize going alone
To an African forest, where I constantly wish
To go and die like a white elephant, until I become
Too relaxed or too exhausted
To remain awake
 
 
—————–
Yuan Changming, 8-time Pushcart nominee and author of five chapbooks, grew up in rural China, began to learn English at 19, and published monographs on translation before moving to Canada. With a PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan in Vancouver, and has poetry appearing in Best Canadian Poetry (2009,12,14), BestNewPoemsOnline, Canadian Literature, Threepenny Review and 1109 others across 37 countries.

Picket Fence Paradise (Fallen)

Genesis/Exodus
by Jessica Lindsley 
 
the thing about the holidays is that everyone wants to talk about going home again
when you really never had a home to begin with
 
you have been searching for something impossible to find, a kind of mythical creature
that one constructs with building materials
 
the time spent pacing around outside the front door of the house where you grew up
gives you time to think about this place called home
 
when all we ever wanted all those years within these walls was a kind of escape 
that would grant us our freedom
 
but tragic that we spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture a sense of it
hours writing in workshops of the smells
 
of the bread that our mothers used to bake, the collection of smoky cologne bottles
that particular shade of yellow in the kitchen 
 
home then, that place we once fled and now eternally will try to reenter, our personal
Eden: our mother brandishing a cigarette
—————–
Jessica Lindsley grew up in North Dakota before the oil boom. Her work has been published in the Smoking Poet, Blackwood Press, Thirteen Myna Birds, DEAD SNAKES and other publications.

Poet Interview #21 – Jessica Lindsley

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?

The short story: Introvert. Powerlifter. Feminist. Poet. Artist. The longer version: I’ve been writing my entire life. In first grade, I got held in from recess for writing a story instead of my first math test. I did poorly in school and my dad prevented me from receiving help for my dyslexia and ADHD by showing up at the two-room school after a night of drinking, and no one teacher ever suggested I get help again. My father’s untreated schizophrenia and alcoholism kept our family isolated and in poverty in spite of my mother’s best efforts. He’d hire us four kids out as farm labor at below minimum wage, paid directly to him; summers were spent at primitive camping areas with no running water and eating bluegill and perch for every meal or boiled wheat left by Mormons moving out of the area; winters were spent training for endless weightlifting meets and standing at attention during home bible studies. My dad hated women and I grew up with conflicting messages. On one hand, I was physically strong, a powerhouse lifter dominating state and national championships but indoctrinated to believe that women caused all evil in the world and beaten relentlessly if “god” told him I had evil thoughts. I started keeping a journal as a suicide note and it became my lifeline. It was my way of expressing my story, the horrors of the world I lived in and proving that my experiences were real.

I wanted to be John Milton and wrote hundreds of epic poems in high school incorporating the mythology and Latin I knew to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel or Bowie songs. Which my dad believed to be Satan music and I had to hide my writing at my locker at school for fear of being punished. In college, I discovered T.S. Eliot, memorizing The Wasteland and holding dramatic enactments at the same coffee shops that kicked us out for not making enough purchases or laughing too loudly as we did our homework. I only started to read women in the last decade, finding that the ideas the men I was trying to be did not speak to or include me. Emily Dickinson, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath paved the way for Sharon Doubiago and Carolyn Forché.

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?

Everything starts out as a long-hand journal entry in a spiral notebook or notes taken on masking tape and hidden inside my shirt if I am at work. Nothing freaks my co-workers out like finding some of my poems on the production floor, so I hide them the best I can. I always thought a real writer writes novels, and spent many, many years trying to force myself into doing so. I am a non-linear thinker so an A to Z narrative is harder than self-performed root canals, and I have been working for years to overcome dissociate and PTSD/trauma issues that prevented me from a straightforward storytelling style. The Artist’s Way helped me to write what I have in me instead of trying to conform to anybody else’s style or genre.

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

All of it; most active on Pinterest lately. Facebook really helped validate my identity as a writer, living vicariously through the posts of friends about poetry readings, book signings and actual physical interactions with other people who write. I read everything they posted and started a self-guided reeducation based on what I realized that I didn’t know. It’s easy to get caught up with only reading off the phone but I love, love, love physical books.

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

In 2011, I joined a writer’s group, whose members write sci-fi, epic fantasy novels and erotic fan fiction. I learned that sometimes no feedback is preferable to uninformed feedback. My sister and I started a poetry reading series, basically trying to create the events we wished were in our area. I find myself following leads, asking people around me if they know anyone who writes poetry and pushing the limits of my introverted comfort zone. Seeing poets read their work has been phenomenal and it feels awesome to finally have a sense of community.

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

Persistence. Be brave. Be you. No one has the story you have.

Reverberating Narrative

The Drifter

by Michael Lee Johnson

 

The drifter in the room is a stranger,

he is crazy, is Bigfoot with deer moccasins on−

monster of condominium rooms and dreams.

The drifter in this room used to be my friend.

He spoke straight sentences, they did not sound like poetry-

reverberated like a narrative, special lines good, a few bad,

or stories being unwound by the tongue of a gentleman,

lip service, juggler of simple words to children.

The night is a dark believer in drifters,

they sound sober, affairs with the wind,

the 3 A.M. honking of the Metro trains.

Everything sleeps with a love, a nightmare at night.

The drifter.

—————–

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era:  now known as the Illinois poet, from Itasca, IL.  Today he is a poet, freelance writer, photographer who experiments with poetography (blending poetry with photography), and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois, who has been published in more than 875 small press magazines in 27 countries; he edits 10 poetry sites.  Michael is the author of The Lost American:  “From Exile to Freedom”, and several chapbooks of poetry, including “From Which Place the Morning Rises”, “Challenge of Night and Day”, and “Chicago Poems”.  He also has over 76 poetry videos on YouTube.

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