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 think I was eight years old the first time I actually wrote anything. I remember that the story was about some kids having a party and the class bully showed up to crash the event. The kids at the party carried him outside and locked the door, and that was my first step into the abyss of writing. Pretty deep subject matter, right? Now that I think about it, where the hell were the parents of the kid whose party it was?
So, no, poetry wasn’t my first writing endeavor. I always loved reading as a child, but other than silly little stories here and there I really didn’t get the writing bug until junior high. I had teachers who kept my love of reading and occasional writing alive in earlier grades, but it was in grade seven that I was introduced to the writing of Edgar Allan Poe. I had always loved horror movies and such, so when I was turned on to his work a switch flipped and I started writing short stories about dark and macabre things. My teacher was impressed and praised my writing, and for that I will forever be grateful.
In high school I didn’t focus much on short stories. I wrote one once in a while, but my main obsession was song writing. I had dabbled with poetry a little, but writing songs was where I developed a true love for poetry. I started writing a lot of poems after that. It was an on-again off-again relationship, but by my mid-twenties I realized it was something I would love for the rest of my life. It was also in my mid-twenties that I read Jack Kerouac for the first time, and another switch flipped. His observations of daily life and people hit home for me and I knew that I wanted to follow in that same vein: Picking at the things that seem mundane until enough layers have been peeled away that the true blood and bones of the human existence and condition are brought to light.
My favorite poets? I would have to say that the first poet who captivated me was Walt Whitman. Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Billy Collins are also favorites of mine.
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?
I have no specific routine for writing. Sometimes I hear someone say something, or see a story on the news, or take a look at what people are doing while on my way to buy cigarettes, and something is triggered in my mind. Other times I stare at a blank page on the computer or in a notebook and wait for my Muse to find me. Sometimes she doesn’t come. Other times she punches me in the ribs and I write it down. She and I have never had an appointed time to meet.
My idea of what poetry is and can be has greatly changed since I began taking it seriously. Keep in mind that I was a songwriter first, and song lyrics are poetry in motion…poetry that rhymes. So for the longest time all I wrote was poetry that rhymes, and man I tell ya’ it was like I was writing Hallmark cards. When I came upon Whitman I realized that form and rhyme don’t have to be adhered to. Some people can write within certain forms and rhyme-patterns well…I found I am not one of those people. I think form and structure limits the writer, so I long-ago threw all academic approaches to poetry out the window.
Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
I am on Facebook, and it has been beneficial to my writing because if I stumble across a line in this scattered brain of mine I toss it out there and see if my friends “bite” at it. If enough interest is shown in it I know that it is worthwhile to dive in and flesh the rest of the piece out. Of course I write for myself first, but seeing those likes and comments and big blue thumbs give me that extra push.
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 am lucky to be among such great company in the online community. The largest group I am a member of on Facebook goes by the name Notes From The Edge: Inspired By Hunter Thompson, Bukowski, & The Beats. It is fathered by a great dude who I am proud to call my friend, Patrick Jordan. He has given so many of us a haven to find ourselves as writers and his generosity and love to all of us in the group is amazing.
There are two more groups I’d like to mention. The first one goes by the name Just Write. The second one is Poets, Drunkards, and Writers…A Place To Spill Your Guts. Both are great groups in their infancy and show a lot of promise to grow into something beautiful.
What am I reading right now? Anything I can get my hands on.
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
Write for yourself first and foremost, and keep in mind that there is a 99.9% chance that you will never make a dime from writing poetry, let alone make a living from it. Do it because you love it and because you know there is something out there that you can bring to light. Be willing to turn over stones and scrape away moss, both in your mind and in the things you see around you. Never be afraid of stepping outside the boundaries you have been confined to.
When it comes to submitting, do your research. Make sure the piece(s) you want to submit fit the criteria of the sites or journals you are interested in. And grow a thick skin, because you will get rejected a lot. It isn’t a matter of putting down your work, it is just that some publishers aren’t looking for what you are submitting at the time. Keep it up and you will eventually see positive results.