3 Questions for John Nizalowski

INTERVIEW – John Nizalowski

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

I have found that my poetic lines have been tightening over the years. Say twenty years ago, my poetic lines were flowing, sprawling creatures, varying in length and sometimes surging towards the right margin like great-grandchildren of Leaves of Grass. But in the past decade, my lines have become shorter, leaner, more proscribed. Sometimes I try to let them run more freely, but they fight the impulse and insist on snapping off and establishing a series of short lines. I suspect this change has come about because my life has shifted from the Dionysian joys of youth to the more controlled, Apollonian forms of middle age. Also, there may be an influence from my Zen practice. It is probably no coincidence that I started actively participating in Zen meditation about a decade ago.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

I am only consciously aware of a connection when I read my work to an audience. Then, my body accompanies the words with jabs, gestures, footwork, changes in tone and volume. However, unconsciously, I am sure there is all sorts of interplay between my writing and my body – muscle tensions evoked by a particularly emotional passage, secret heart rate elevations, an unnoticed tapping of feet or hands.

Of course, there is also the rather prosaic (and negative) affect on my body caused by the significant amounts of caffeine (and at one time nicotine as well) that I consume when I write.

Finally, one always hopes that one’s strongest work has a physical, sympathetic affect on one’s readers (besides nausea, that is!).

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

Not really. Oh, I suppose we all wish there were a bigger audience for poetry. But what a wondrous feeling when the lines hit the page and you know it’s running fine, like an alto sax player laying down an architecturally perfect solo in a bebop quintet.

God’s Fire
(for Isadora Nizalowski)

My daughter reads
a book on alchemy,
tells me of the
valley where
the stars fade.
“Wonderful image,”
I say. “I’ll steal that
for my next poem.”
“Can’t,” she replies.
“T.S. Elliot already used it.”

Smart-ass 17 year old.

Those modernists
took everything,
leaving us with
nothing to say.

That’s how post-
modernism was born.

after my daughter
tells me this story,
I dream
of the valley
where the stars fade.
I am standing
with a former lover
who forgives my
climbs into
her white Cadillac,
and becomes an angel.

As I awaken,
I remember
when that angel
poet, John Knoll,
came to me just
before we were
to do a reading
and handed me
a pint of ginger
brandy distilled
in the fire of an
alchemist’s retort.
We downed it
in six short jabs,
like boxers sparing
before a bout.

Man, I read
as if God’s fire
possessed my soul
that night.
John Nizalowski – Biography

Born and raised in upstate New York, John Nizalowski received degrees in English from Binghamton University and the University of Delaware. He has taught at Virginia Tech and for the College of Santa Fe program at the Penitentiary of New Mexico, as well as writing for various journalistic publications, including The Santa Fe New Mexican and Telluride Magazine. His literary and scholarly works have appeared widely, most notably in Puerto del Sol, Blue Mesa Review, Weber Studies, Blueline, Slab, Chiron Review, New Mexico Poetry Review, ISLE, and Under the Sun. He is also the author of two books – Hooking the Sun (Farolito Press, 2003) and The Last Matinée (Turkey Buzzard Press, 2011). Currently he teaches writing and mythology at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado and is working on a biography of Southwestern author Frank Waters.

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