What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
This is a more interesting question than it seems because real-life on the face of it asks for facts -autobiographical or historical- for a writer but for a poet, me for instance, it can and should be much more than that. Real life for me means that what is said in a book is emotionally true, even when it’s terrible, and ideally should be served with a side of beauty. The truth of my last book, for instance (How Small, Confronting Morning from Jacar) is little us in a setting of water and trees and birds. My current one (Asylum from Pitt) presents truth the shape-shifter — each of the four speakers in the book seems like a different person from the others but she’s not— death, water, laughter, and the high moors– all these obsessions are aspects of one life- mine. And another of my books (Forty-Four Ambitions for the Piano- U Press of FL then Betony) is on the surface of it about music but that in turn takes in every aspect of a life, either literally or metaphorically. I’ll leave you with what I said at first, which is that to me as a poet, real life is the truth or not truth of what I write. And I can tell one from the other. When I write something that’s a lie, it doesn’t matter if it I sounds good: I throw it away.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Something that doesn’t fit.
How do you deal with creative block?
I keep talking without judgment, and when I’ve gone on for enough pages I look back and see if I’ve said anything. If I have, then I start with that and do the same until finally, I get to several things in a row, then I’m off.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
To be phony, to be in love with your own voice (ie self-indulgent) .
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Title should reflect the book but in a slant way. Cover should catch the eye.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Both initially depress me but you have to realize they go with the territory and besides, you’ve a right to be proud you’ve written or published anything TO be reviewed. Negative feedback can be really useful if it comes from someone you respect. If you don’t respect the person, write it off. As for reviews, picture the reviewer as a frog, then watch him or her explode. If the review says something useful, use it.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
If as a poet, you write to pander to fashion, you’re wasting your time. Write from the heart and realize that someone out there will get you and that it’s ok if everyone doesn’t. But there are limits to pleasing yourself– avoid letting yourself get super-obscure just to show off how smart you are.
What are your plans for future books?
I have a poetry ms about insects and a prose one about walking in the woods and marriage landscapes. I’m also translating one of my books into Spanish and collaborated with a friend on a book in Vietnamese and English (a conversation between our poems) that was published in Vietnam and I’d like to see published in the US. Otherwise, I’m accumulating work for yet another poetry book, concept to be determined when I’m deeper.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.
Years ago I sang jazz and folk in clubs in Mexico and the Caribbean. I was kidnapped in Egypt. I once played Mrs. Santa Claus at a mall which time I spent trying to talk kids out of wanting brand-name toys. I sing North Indian classical music and I sang with a local mariachi for ten years until they left town and stranded me.