Interview with Simon Perchik

Library Journal called him the most widely published unknown poet. However, I’ve followed Simon Perchik’s poetry for decades. His newest book, THE ROSENBLUM POEMS (Cholla Needles), is 140 poems written in triplets.

This coffee is still learning, spills
sweetens night after night
the way fireflies flavor their legs

then wait for the rippling hum

that’s not a bat

And, one of my favorites:

You keep the limp, stoop
the way this cane
lets you pretend its wood

can heal

At almost a century old, Perchik’s work certainly deals with aging, but most deeply with perception. Those triplets give me, as a reader, a sense of motion, uncertainty, even possibility.

Miriam’s Well is very happy to have an interview from the poet that answers the blogs usual three questions:

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

1. Enjambment is an important concern for me.The line should have a feel so that it’s not just chopped-up prose with wide margins. Not only the reader’s breath must be considered but surprise and the tension so necessary to the text.
2. If there is a relationship I’m not aware of it. I do know that in the process of writing I often find myself agitated and often find my heart beating faster and louder. I just consider that a cost of doing business.
3. I’ve never considered myself a poet; just someone who writes poetry. In fact, except for a few close friends I never told people I wrote poetry. I think the title “poet” is something others call you, not something you call yourself by.

What beliefs did you have about yourself that have now changed?

What beliefs did you have about yourself that have now changed–maybe for the better? I used to believe–I’m not a dog person, I can’t learn to draw, I can’t grow vegetables in New Mexico. You?


Alicia Marie Rencountre-Da Silva I learned that aging isn’t a bad thing, it’s kind of cool actually having every age I’ve been at my fingertips.

I’ve learned that I love life more so, that it was never cool to care less. I’ve learned that some kindness, even in angry moments, is possible. And that judgement, no matter how “right” I am, causes separation and separateness is hell. I’ve learned that spaciousness is a place to hold all the stories and from there answers (or next steps-directions) can show themselves.

Holly Beck That I had to ask permission to be in the world. And that if I didn’t seek perfection (physical, career, etc) that I was not worthy of the love I deserved.
Clearly over all that now.

Mystie Brackett I tried to ‘save’ my family, now I save myself

Devon Miller-Duggan Just maybe beginning to learn that I don’t have to earn/buy love, that I am, and my life is, rich and sufficient. Also working on being able to act for the good of my body, which is a long battle (possibly been blaming/punishing it for decades in a kind of twisty revenge for its failure to protect me from my father, and really, WTF am I doing still punishing my body for the actions and opinions of someone who’s been dead for close to 20 years?????). Also learning to stop trying to save people I love from themselves. Tough one, that. I’m not at all sure what there is out there for me to learn and change, but I’m sure there’s plenty of it to keep me occupied and engaged for the next 30 years, which is exciting and something I have learned to be deeply grateful for.

Anne Pedersen life has a way of showing you to yourself that (if you are honest with yourself) will cure you of elitism. i used to think i was so special and i think that less now. much of that “specialness” was privilege and happy accidents of birth, nothing inherent. we’re all exceptional and we’re all flawed and human. when one looks at life that way, compassion for one’s self and others is the only reasonable response.

Arjuna Ranatunga that I wasn’t good enough (as I was)

Mary-Charlotte Domandi That women are more vulnerable than men. I guess I should have said, emotionally vulnerable. I think we are still a lot more physically vulnerable, in general–depending on the context.

3 Questions for Lauren Camp

Miriam Sagan — 3 Questions interview with Lauren Camp

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

I came to poetry from careers in magazine and technical writing and visual art, and from the hobbyist perspective of jazz. I fell in love with the poetic line, which is, in a way, a hint, a color, and a sound all mixed. I’m fascinated by its liquidity, how it can move through some, but not the entirety, of a thought. Its ability to be rich in meaning, and yet to shape-shift. That it urges (depending on the punctuation or lack of it) a journey to another part of the composition. The line is a length that can be manipulated: short, long, stressed, rushed, stretched, ended, pulled forward…Perhaps a fragment, and so then, a whimsy, even when dealing in hard views. The line: a truth. There are likely to be other sounds and truths below it, if the reader will just settle in. I delight in the fact that it doesn’t hold still. It’s a direction, a mapping—but maybe also a misdirection.

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

I’m an avid reviser. There’s a deep relaxation to that process for me, because it is all about letting go. Perhaps for a while there is no body as I reorder, cut, expand, or otherwise change course. When something good happens, something satisfying with the words and their sounds, I feel a tickle in my nerve endings. I read aloud as I revise, and the sound reverberates through me, sometimes with a friction I find pleasing, other times with tenderness —the sibilants running along, radiant stresses, the pummel of hard consonants.

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

I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the effort (and alignment of planets) that it takes to get a poem to the right audience. I’m talking about the full cycle, not strictly the submission and acceptance, but the follow-up effort to make sure (or hope) people notice it. Self-promotion is a beast compared to the luminosity of poetry writing. Yet, there is much that I love in actually being a poet: the allowance to focus wherever I choose, the realization that (because of my temperament) I can be entirely sensitive to an image, find a story in a shift of light, or claim and study a certain feeling. How else might I get such a chance to just plain feel?

Here, and Here

Been here
a while, and I haven’t yet

read all
different ways the beginning—

Life is part thus,
and part commonplace:

the rippling light
riding the edge of the porch

and so what
if the ditch ends

in rust and abrupt
obsidian? We see it all, and take

pictures of elevation,
unable to find another view. We love

the detachment, the broken

on the window.
To whom should we rejoice

about what
never happens?

(Poem from Turquoise Door, first published in Driftless Review)

Introducing Flip Flop: Haiku Collaboration with Miriam Sagan and Michael G. Smith

Available for $10 with shipping or $5 in person–write for details.


Flip Flop Interview

1. Why did you decide to not attribute each haiku to an individual author? What is it like to see that in the finished book?

Miriam – It’s rather magical to see it in the finished book. The process was one of deep collaboration, where the individual voices can merge as well as being distinct. It takes away some of the egocentric energy of writing to have the haiku unattributed. When I was a kid, I thought “anon” was the name of an actual writer—I didn’t realize it meant “anonymous” unit my mom explained that! Anon might be the greatest writer of all! Our work isn’t anonymous, but it doesn’t have a fixed author—which ask draws the reader in.

Michael – We wanted readers to focus on the haiku and their connectivity. Of course, our individual prefaces provide signposts pointing to who might have written a certain haiku. Further, readers might discern flavors and patterns among the haiku and have an inkling from whose pencil it flew from. Finally, having only haiku on the page reinforces Flip Flop is book of haiku that hopefully speaks to some of the commonalities of human experience. Attributions would be a distraction. I’m quite pleased with the result.

2. Did the process of collaboration change how you view and/or write haiku? In what ways?

Miriam – The process of collaborative haiku sequences is a bit like renga, or linked verse. One thing leads to—inspires—another. Michael and I actually wrote a renga, but it ended up being more of a part of our working together than something that stood on its own. I’ve always seen haiku as an offshoot of renga, so this continued that feeling.

Michael – Most definitely. I found it enlightening to see how my haiku elicited unexpected and fresh responses from Miriam, and how they changed the direction of subsequent haiku. Thus the creating and writing process was more akin to the randomness of life, one whose every erratic moments are still linked to an infinite number of things. I am now more attuned to the creative tension and triangle linking subject, writer and reader of haiku. The result is that I aspire to make my haiku ones that a reader can use as a launch pad for a haiku of theirs.

3. Did the collaborative process feel any different when you were on opposite sides of the Earth versus being “co-located” in Santa Fe? If so, how and what effects did this have on your haiku?

Miriam – I think it was actually more intense. The desire to communicate by “letter” (in this case email) was stronger and so the haiku have a kind of epistlatory feeling. Also, what Michael was seeing was unfamiliar, foreign, far-away…his imagery made me see more familiar surroundings freshly.

Michael – I was quite comfortable with our correspondence and the haiku we were writing. It was fun imagining the scenes and images Miriam conjured and how they related to the new, interesting and very different (relative to my western experiences) things I was seeing in Nepal and India. Conversely, there was a tremendous amount of overlap between cultures. Hence, I had a plethora of material to work from.

4. The best haiku generally is the result of a spontaneous event. Your book being composed of several themed sections, how did it feel to write haiku framed by a theme? Did this help or hinder spontaneity?

Miriam – Pascal said—inspiration favors the trained mind. I’ve followed that much of my writing life. I like a theme, a project, a prompt. It seems to help insertion, and in a way it creates MORE spontaneous event, just because I’m looking.

Michael – Being a scientist and a Zen Buddhist I take little as fixed in time and space. The themes supplied a focus to examine the freshness that spontaneity provides. For example, how did swimming look through the lenses of my physical disabilities, or if I wrote the Beatles “A Day In the Life” what might I have included? I’ll note that the latter theme helped me examine my daily routines a little closer, and that continues as a fun and rewarding experiment.

3 Questions for W. D. Ehrhart

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
Wow, when Miriam Sagan asked me if I’d be interested in being interviewed, I had expected something—I don’t know—more traditional?  When did you start writing?  What poets influenced you?  At least a few warm-up questions before we got to the more esoteric questions.  But what the heck; I opened the door, so now I can’t very well say, “Forget it, go away”

The only thing is: I don’t really know how to respond to questions 1 & 2.  Let’s take #1, which is the more difficult of the two, for me at least.  I suppose I must have some kind of relationship to the poetic line.  I write poetic lines all the time, or try to, so there must be some kind of relationship.  But I’ve never really thought much about it, certainly not in these terms.  I do think about line lengths, and as I’ve gotten older, I notice that my line lengths—generally speaking—tend to be longer than they were 40 years ago (I’ve been writing a long time: 52 years); I think more in syllabics now, and often end up writing in rough tetrameter or pentameter lines.  But I can’t explain why that transition occurred.  I have always tried to shape lines that work, that do what I want, that say what I want.  As you can probably tell, I don’t really know what I’m saying.  So much of what I do—I suspect this is true of many other poets, though I can’t speak for them—I do intuitively, by “feel,” by some kind of instinct.  One might call it dumb luck or guesswork, though I think there is something more deliberate about it.  But what that is I can’t explain, have never tried to explain that I can recall, and as you can gather from this rambling response, we’re all probably better off if I don’t try to explain.  What matters to me is: does my poem work for you?  Does it speak to you?  Is it any good?  The older I get, the less I care to talk about poetry.  What I do is in my poems.  What I think is in my poems.  It’s there for you to see, to read, to make sense of, to come to your own conclusions about what my personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line might be. 

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
Another question I don’t think I’ve ever given any thought to, and find myself wondering: of all the things one might ask me, why this?  The only part of my body that I have given any conscious thought to is that I have always composed poems by hand, hand-writing drafts until the poem is well along.  I can’t compose poetry on a keyboard.  There is something about connecting my brain to the paper by way of my arm and hand and pen that doesn’t translate to a keyboard, whether typewriter or computer.  Increasingly, as I’ve gotten older, when I’m writing prose, I tend to move back and forth between pen/paper and keyboard, more a function of laziness and hands that get tired quicker than they used to.  But poetry I still draft longhand until the poem is well along to completion, at least of a first draft.

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

Well, yeh, I don’t make any money writing poetry.  I wish more people would read poetry and actually buy poetry.  I wish I could fill Madison Square Garden with 20,000 paying fans screaming to hear my poetry.  I’m still working fulltime at the age of 68.  Being a poet has not put me in a position to buy a seaside home in Bermuda and enjoy the sunsets.
Other than that, though, I don’t really have any complaints.  I like being a poet.  I get a good feeling when I write a poem that I like.  I get an even better feeling when I write a poem somebody else likes.  One could do a whole lot worse in this world, and a lot of people do.
            The Amish Boys on Sunday
Amish country.  January
afternoon.  Crackling crisp and clear.
Families in their winter buggies:
boxes, black, on wheels, each buggy
with a single easygoing horse
unperturbed by cars, trucks, traffic
lights, the smell of gasoline exhaust.
A two-lane highway, buggies
on their way to worship, or,
service over, coming home,
in no particular hurry, the very
Amish attitude toward progress.
Around a bend and up ahead,
three Amish boys are walking
toward me on the shoulder.
Two maybe twelve, the other ten,
all dressed in Sunday best:
black pants and coats, white shirts
and broad-brimmed flat black hats.
I’m driving slow, and as I pass,
all three doff their hats in unison
and bow like gallant cavaliers,
grinning like they’ve got a secret
wouldn’t I like to know.

W. D. Ehrhart is author or editor of 21 books of prose and poetry, most recently The Bodies Beneath the Table (poetry) and Dead on a High Hill (essays). A Marine Corps veteran of the American War in Vietnam, he has received an Excellence in the Arts Award from Vietnam Veterans of America, the President’s Medal from Veterans for Peace, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications including American Poetry Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, and the Washington Post Magazine. Ehrhart holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wales at Swansea, UK, and currently teaches English and history at the Haverford School, where he also coaches Winter Track and sponsors the Poetry Club.

Interview with Miriam Sagan at The Unprecedented Review

Excellent new e-zine–The Unprecedented Review.

I’m the featured poet for August, with an interview. I’ve copied a few questions here–check out the mag for all of it and more!

Question: What was the biggest challenge for you when you began publishing?

Insecurity, I guess. I was published young and frequently by the small press world, which has remained my home. But then I’d hate what I wrote, and would suddenly see its flaws once it was in print. And then I’d get an attack of shame and fear over how exposed I was. I once told my father he couldn’t read a book I’d written—I think it was DIRTY LAUNDRY: 100 Days in a Zen Monastery (La Alameda Press, re-issue New World Library) which was a joint diary kept by me and my first husband Robert Winson. It was pretty raw stuff. I told my dad—“I need privacy” and he retorted “You have a kind of odd way of showing that!” which was funny and true. It remains a problem to this day.
Rejection is an obvious challenge. I didn’t like it when I was starting out—I still don’t. But I got used to it. The self-loathing is harder—it still remains. I’ve learned to sit with a book when it comes out and have some emotional space before it goes public and the promotion begins.

Question: What advice would you give other poets trying to break into publishing?

You just have to persevere. Send out, send out, send out. Don’t get sidetracked by rejection—it doesn’t have much meaning. There are so many great magazines out there—and very lively e-zines. Try new magazines, but do read so you get a sense of the editors’ taste.
Also, build your community. Create it if you have to—start an open mic, a magazine, a writing group, a reading series, a blog. Promote yourself but with your friends and fellows—it is much easier and more fun.
And write a better poem. I recently was serving as interim Poetry Editor for The Santa Fe Poetry Review. I read 3000 poems. The majority were generic. Poetry is not a neat tidy art. Aim high, fail beautifully.
A fine poem will always get published if you send it out enough.

Question: If you could only write one more poem in your life, what would you write it about?

A perfect haiku that awakens the reader to the nature of the world and the nature of the self. It’s a great question, but I have to tell myself—dream on! It may not be possible.

Three Questions for Robin Matthews

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

When I was first writing poetry (which was shortly after I started
reading poetry) my poems were very imitative. I used rhyming a lot, and
precise forms like sonnets. I’ve done a lot of moving around in my
life, and most of those early poems I lost long ago. But I still have
some of the later sonnets and rhymed poems, and I think they are quite
good. The effort of conforming to an imposed structure was very useful
in channeling creativity. Of course in the best such poems the reader
(or listener) does not even realize that there is a structure.

That said, I no longer write that way. I suppose I still could write a
sonnet, but I prefer to let the words find their own structure. Which
is not to say that I just sit down and write a bunch of words on paper
and say okay, there’s the poem. Sometimes I can work for days on a
poem, then get disgusted with the effort, put it aside, come upon it
days or weeks or years later and finish it. There is a short poem called
“Transfiguration” which I wrote in 1965. It involved an image that came
to me suddenly, as I was walking through the woods, and demanded to be
expressed. I wrote it down immediately, but it did not seem right. I
worked on it on and off, and then I arrived at a version that I thought
was the best I could do. And that was that, I thought. Almost forty
years later, in 2014, I revisited the poem, and in a couple of hours
rewrote it into what I now consider the really final version. And I
consider it among the better poems I have written.

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

I take a walk through the woods most mornings. Sometimes I just walk,
breathe the air, exercise my lungs and heart and assorted muscles, but
on really good days ideas come to me for poems. I usually write myself
a note, or make a journal entry, as soon as I get home. Later,
sometimes much later, I will come back and try to turn it into a poem.
Away from home I also find that solitary walking is most conducive to
poetry. I feel that the rhythm of my walking is reflected in the metre
of the poem.
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

Well, it would be nice if you could earn a living doing it. It would be
nice if people did not look at a loss for words when they hear you are
one. It would be nice if words followed words more easily on the page.
But it is what it is.
Brief Bio:

Life has been varied and good. It has included growing up in rural New
Jersey, becoming a printing pressman (always something to fall back on
for money), a blessedly brief stint in the Vietnam-era army,
establishing and co-editing a poetry magazine called Sanskaras in New
York during the late 1960s, a spell as a hippy in northern New Mexico
and Albuquerque, followed by creative writing at Goddard College, a try
at organic farming, a long, happy spell as a computer programmer in
Washington, DC, and nowadays a comfortable retirement in an old
farmhouse on 40 acres in Virginia. I have two daughters and two
grand-daughters, all deeply loved. Recently and most pleasingly, Amador
Publishers in Albuquerque has published a collection of my poetry,
“Another Spring” as part of their Worldwind Books Poetry Series.

Here is a very recent poem:


A very large oak sits
northwest of the house
on the hill above the driveway.
It was once the smallest of three
growing very close
and forming one crown together
until a freak summer storm
eighteen years ago
took down the other two
and left this one still leaning
away from the missing two.

The measured girth today is
slightly over eleven feet
and it leans now more than ever.
I can see where the earth
is lifted somewhat
on the side away from the lean.

The other two went down
directly across the drive
and blocked it for weeks
while being cleared away.
This one leans toward the house,
but if it fell it would reach
perhaps the edge of the lawn
and maybe take down the magnolia
without threatening the house.
It would leave a big hole
in the green canopy were it gone,
so I will not mess with it.
It may well outlive me,
still leaning.

When we bought this place
there were three huge pines
shading the front lawn.
I thought they would live forever,
but two are gone.
Drought and beetles, partly,
but I think mostly old age.
The huge hickory in the backyard
went down in a gust of wind,
luckily falling away from the house;
I counted ninety-seven rings.

Well, it is sometimes surprising,
the things, and the people, we outlive.

There are about thirty acres of woods
that I treasure or neglect,
depending on your point of view.
I mostly leave them undisturbed,
except to abolish kudzu and poison ivy,
and to maintain my paths.
They reward me by changing slowly.
Right now they are poised on the brink.
The maples are red-tipped,
the beeches still bear last year’s leaves
and stand about like a ghost forest.

Close to the house
spring is moving along.
The daffodils are already flowering
and the tulips are up, not quite budding,
the azaleas and rhododendrons are primed.
Both the birds and the frogs
have become very vocal
in the last few days.

There is apparently something
very major that Einstein predicted
about gravitational waves
that is now confirmed.
I take it on trust, it is beyond me.

A friend I met at Spence Springs —
this was two years ago —
believed that Gravity was God.
It perplexed me,
but now he tells me it is proven.

I no longer doubt it.
Robin Matthews
Charlotte County, Virginia
March 2016

3 Questions for Scott Wiggerman


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

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

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

1. As someone who frequently writes in traditional forms, the poetic line is less a problem for me than for a lot of other poets. If I’m writing a sonnet, I know that every ten syllables I’ll be moving onto the next line (although I often enjamb from one line to the next). If I’m writing a sestina, a villanelle, or a ghazal I know that the repeated words and/or rhyme will determine the line breaks (again, often with enjambment). With free verse poems, however, I find I tend to break lines at syntactical units—and that my lines are generally short enough to be read in one breath. So syntax and breath play an important role in how I determine line breaks. I suspect part of the reason for this is that when I draft a poem, I almost always compose in lines, as opposed to those who compose in paragraphs and later break up their words into lines.
2. I find a huge connection between writing and the human body. I know for a fact that one of the reasons I started writing so many sonnets is that on my daily walks I fell into a natural iambic rhythm—and my words started coming out that way! I would return each day with lines or parts of lines that were in strict iambic meter, which led to hundreds of sonnets, dozens of which ended up in my latest book, Leaf and Beak: Sonnets. I had not set out to write sonnets, but the body knows what the body knows, and who am I to argue?
3. The one thing I dislike about being a poet is the need to “sell” yourself and your words to be successful in the po-biz. I’d much rather spend my time creating new work than selling old work, but it’s a necessary evil, especially in today’s publishing climate. I had not expected that I would have to be a salesman when I entered the field of creative writing—and I’m still not very good at it—but I realize that it’s something I have to do.
BIO: Scott Wiggerman is the author of three books of poetry, Leaf and Beak: Sonnets, Presence, and Vegetables and Other Relationships; and the editor of several volumes, including Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku & Haiga, and Wingbeats II.  He is an editor for Dos Gatos Press in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His website is
Finally, here is a recent ghazal that is unpublished.
Miles to Go
            starting with a Dickinson line (#83)
Heart, not so heavy as mine wending late home.
A thorn through the sole, my tortured gait home.
A leaden shadow is tethered to the heart.
Drag, drag . . . am I the bait or is the bait home?
Fend off the ravens. Gather feathers for hope,
broken twigs for nests—how we venerate home.
If love is a house, I’ve never slept in its rooms.
A thirty mile trek, and we begin to hate home.
Gray winter solstice, frost on the bark and beard.
Darkness comes early as we slog the weight home.
Palms on my eyes, I stagger through the brambles.
It’s more and more difficult to locate home.
No porch light on. Beneath the doormat, no key.
No windows to break. Must we recreate home?

Kathleen Lee on Writing Her Novel

Kathleen Lee will be reading excerpts from her new book, “All Things Tending towards the Eternal” in Las Cruces, NM, as part of the Nelson/Boswell Reading Series.

When: 7:30pm, March 6th
Where: New Mexico State University, the Health & Social Services Auditorium, Room 101A.

If you’re in Las Cruces, make sure to drop by!


Q. You started off as a travel writer, essayist, and short story writer before tackling the novel. The novel has multiple points of view–it is essentially a web of interconnected stories that are heading for a shared denouement. What major differences do you find between novel and short story. Obviously one is long, ha ha, but how different are the conceptions, impulses, execution. And is the novel “based” in some way on shorter work?

A. No, the novel is not based on shorter work. And I’ve mostly failed in my attempts to extract some story-like excerpts from it. I don’t know how to describe the difference between a story and a novel. A story is a single cookie and a novel is a whole cake. Both are dessert but the cake is larger, with more layers and more complexity; with more opportunity for making a mess of things, too. I wanted to write a book that captured what it feels like to travel loosely, for long periods of time, and I thought a novel would be the best way to do that (in part because you can have all of those different points of view which seems a necessary feature of the portrayal I was after since I think that travel is about so much more than a single self, even a single self as a lens through which to see the world). It turned out that long, unstructured travel might be pretty much the opposite of what a novel requires: some kind of structure, and the necessity that the action and characters be fully engaged with each other. When you’re traveling, cause & effect exists in small, sometimes amusing, sometimes miraculous, sometimes irritating ways. But in terms of a driving force, cause & effect seems to relinquish its hold on your life, to be replaced by a kind of baffling, luxurious randomness. You buy a ticket somewhere for no reason you can imagine and later on you go someplace else and you do that over and over again and after half a year of this going here and there, the world has somehow become distinct to you, and your self within it. Which feels seamless and inevitable, but it’s not a novel.

International Interview: Nalini Priyadarshni interviews D. Russel Micnhimer

What prompted you to begin writing poetry?
Being in love. I was in the Marine Corps and she was 1500 miles away so we exchanged innumerable letters, long letters and I found myself expressing my feelings in more, let us say, flowery ways. I’m sure the poems then weren’t really any good but I was getting my feelings across and that was the idea. I think something similar prompts many people to start writing poems—and some of us don’t have the sense to stop.
You have traveled all over the world and continue to travel around US. How does it affect your writing?
That is a difficult question. There are still many places in the world I have never been to, of course. I think the thing that travel does is expand one’s ideas about what is the norm. I have lived in jungles with only a hammock for a bed and flown in jets to some of the most highly populated cities in the world. Each culture and the people in it are different. I guess that having experienced a broad range of differences in real life opens me up to a broader range of language use and meaning that presumably percolates down into my poetry sometimes.  Each language has it’s own rhythms and even if I don’t know the language, if I am immersed in a culture those patterns are automatically incorporated into my language producing engines and sooner or later appear, usually well incorporated into my poetry.
What does it mean to you to be a poet?
It is one of many labels that I might apply to myself if I were to try to define who it is I have been during my life. It would certainly be one of the more gratifying descriptions I might wish my memory to be associated with. But I am proud of the work that I have done in the field of archaeology, specifically rock art also.
As a poet it means that I have a degree of ability to communicate with language that is more advanced than most folks who are not called poets. Some would call poetry art and if one agrees with that then it means I am an artist.
I guess at the base it means that I enjoy playing with language much like others might enjoy a sport with a ball for instance. It is a pastime that pleasures me; and it pleasures me most when I have done it well. If I communicate what I intended to with my words then I have succeeded.
Do you have any parting words for budding writers or any words of wisdom to share?
Anyone can profess to be a poet or a writer. The thing that separates the real ones from the rest is that they write. Write, write, write and then write some more. That and study the craft. It is a craft and many have practiced it before, seek to learn from them. To not do so deprives the poet of a huge arsenal of useful tools that may be employed. Sure, there may be a select few who really do not need education in order to write decent poetry, but they are few and far between. At least that has been my experience. Reading and listening to other poets is something I include in that process of learning. Take note of what you like. Few find their own voice over night; some never do but if you don’t keep writing it is guaranteed you never will. Remember too that there is not an editor who is going to come around and ask if you have a box of poetry under the bed that you would like to share. So share it at every chance you get in as many ways as you can.  Have faith that simply by doing and doing and doing, your work will improve.  And with any luck, some day you will be writing poetry in a manner that matches the voice you hear in your head–your voice.  And then you can get busy and write some more poetry.
You have lived a very unique life, a life really individual and fearless.
True that. Though there are times I’ve been scared shitless!  I have always chosen my own path.  Like I have often said, there is the right way and the wrong way and then there is the Micnhimer way–that’s the one I can not help but follow.  By doing that one comes to accept the entire responsibility for the out come.  Accepting that responsibility gives me the freedom to be who I want to be and who I am.


D. Russel Micnhimer has been writing poetry for forty five years while working at a variety of jobs and traveling through much of the world pursuing his interests in the archaeology of ancient civilizations and rock art they have left behind. He is author of several books on rock art, fiction and poetry including his latest collection Notes to Be Left with the Gatekeeper published by Global Fraternity of Poets for which he was recently bestowed the honor of Poet Laureate by The Poetry Society of India. His collection of ghazals, Lotus Mirage and another collection of his early poems are due later this year. He holds a degree in English from the University of Oregon on the west coast of the United States. 

Nalini Priyadarshni is a poet, writer, editor and amateur photographer. Her work has appeared at Up the Staircase Weekly, eFiction India, Mad Swirl, Crescent Magazine, The Riveter Review, Writes & Lovers Café,The Gambler, Camel Saloon, Earl of Plaid,CUIB-NEST-NIDO, and The Open Road Review besides numerous anthologies including I Am Woman, Awakening of She, Art of Being Human etc. Her forthcoming publications include Maelstrom Journal, Undertow Tanka, 52 Loves and Phoenix Photo and Fiction. She lives in India with her husband and two feisty kids.