Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series: Mackenzie Dwyer

This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.

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Mackenzie Dwyer’s Prose Poem “Paragraph as Martyr as Killer”

I cannot look away from his slim body. His left shoulder blown off, his right one inked. A spear wedged beneath him. I let the focus slip from my eyes, and edges turn to curves. A rifle emerges: pointed, blurred.

/

Interview

Can you tell us a little about how you became a poet?  Did you always know that you wanted to be one?

Far from it! Previously I’d looked ahead to prose pursuits, and I only opened to that long, rich tradition of teens writing poems the September of my eighth grade year. It was then that a current love interest showed me pieces of his own, my reaction to which exceeded expectations. Passive consumption proved not to suffice, and poetry writing overtook boy and fiction as yours truly’s latest passion.

Who are your favorite poets? What is it about their writing that you admire most?

First, I’ll go ahead and preemptively expand my stated echelon of favorites to include my contemporaries. In direct challenge to poets’ stereotyped obsession with posterity, I find that they continue to confront themselves, one another, and our sociopolitical scene in real time. They ensure, moment to moment, that the poem as art/statement/whatever-the-hell-it-wants retains its forward force. It’s a thrill to appear alongside the necessary work my contemporaries are doing.

Next: I estimate that for a good long time I’ll find myself returning to Anna Świrszczyńska, popularly referenced as Anna Swir, and Ocean Vuong, my contemporary-of-sorts whose luminary ways border on the solar. Ocean—it seems right to use his first name, not that I know the guy—not only anticipates, inhabits, and helps to lay down the ultra-contemporary style. He’s internalized and steered the vagaries of the English language as one clenches, then busts out a hard-won breath. I say this not to imply a sense of undue effort from him but to convey his work’s gorgeous strength, its muscled vulnerability. (Yes: with “muscled” I lift from the New Yorker’s praise here: http://www.oceanvuong.com/.)
With Swir I take a different turn. I find myself hoping I won’t explain. Maybe my evasiveness lets her better speak for who she is: a poet, a playwright, a feminist and mother, a resistance fighter in war-torn Poland. In that vein, I introduce her here as I was introduced to her.

“Thank You, My Fate”

Great humility fills me,

great purity fills me,

I make love with my dear

as if I made love dying

as if I made love praying,

tears pour over my arms and his arms.

I don’t know whether this is joy

or sadness, I don’t understand

what I feel, I’m crying,

I’m crying, it’s humility

as if I were dead,

gratitude, I thank you, my fate,

I’m unworthy, how beautiful

my life.

Translated from the Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan

Your prose poem “Paragraph as Martyr as Killer” is the shortest work in the anthology, and in fact, it might be the shortest prose poem I’ve ever read! How did the idea behind this work evolve–was it something already bouncing around in your head, or was it inspired by the anthology call?

The idea for “Paragraph as Martyr as Killer” sprang from a salient dream that, for years, percolated until something one surreal afternoon made me set it down. Subsequently—and doing greater justice to the original narrative—the poem turned into a flash fiction work which has yet to find publication. (Editors, I’m looking at you.)

You have an impressive publishing record for–don’t kill me for saying this–one so young! If you could tell beginning writers one thing about the publishing process, what would it be?

Screw humility. In homage to Swir, do it literally, even. Hold fast to your idealism and self-belief. It’ll step up the attachment to your darlings and the burn of rejection, yes—but retaining any momentum or conviction in the publishing process equals an aim to explode your work in others’ faces. Even if cleaning up takes years for the arbiters of literary tastiness, you will have laid them out quite the digestive prospect.

Do you find that you often return to the same themes in your work? And if so, what are they?

I have obviously yet to run the gamut of amorous experiences and impressions, my attunement to which most of my forthcoming work is going to reflect. To a sadly lesser extent, you can also expect the meaty confessionals, the science-fantasy musings, the self-deprecation/empowerment, the personal/political indictments, etc., etc. It’s safe to say I’m among the most mystical of atheists—you’ll find me trying to excavate the power and poeticism in everything down to mundanity itself.

Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?

In this respect, at least, I absolutely conform to stereotypes about youthful writers. For, even still, I do my work in the rawest sense. Routine and I are like two ships passing in the night. (One retains the tasteful cliché and lets the insight from ye older writers come rolling in.)

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?

Perhaps my sufficiently answering this question counts as a future project! In the short term I’ll stick to school, jobs, and chipping away at positive pieces/pieces of change.

About Mackenzie Dwyer

Mackenzie is seventeen, neuroatypical, and (wants to be) intense AF. When she became literate, she vowed to ensconce herself among writers and words. This transpired intuitively and with few questions asked. A high school dropout + early college entrant, Mackenzie quit her first job teaching children how to punch each other, so the only small bodies she’s helped impact this past year include some 11 presses and anthologies. (Yet neither does she shy from larger bodies: the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards keeps emailing her about Gold Keys, and hello, she’s even received a personalized rejection note from THRUSH.)

Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series: Katie Manning

This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.

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Katie Manning’s Poem “I Took Your House Slippers Too”

When the last of your belongings were strewn across your bed and dresser, I took all of your lotion. The large bottle from the bathroom counter. The small bottle from your purse. Now even these are gone, and every time my dry skin bleeds, I think of you. When I can’t file away the deep cracks on my heels, I see your feet. I wonder what they look like after two years underground. When we gathered around the open hole to throw in flowers and see your coffin one last time, I dropped my flower on your right side, just above my well-worn house slippers that I had tucked beside your hip at your viewing before I brushed back your bangs and kissed your cold forehead goodbye.

Interview

You are the founding editor of a poetry journal and a writing professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Which means that you are very busy! How do you find time to work on your own things?

I get asked this question a lot. I’m also a mother of two, the Area Chair of Poetry Studies & Creative Poetry for the PCA/ACA, an active member of my church….

I often write in the mornings or late at night. I sometimes steal moments to scribble down ideas that I’ll return to another time. I’ve been creating poems since before I could write, so it’s a compulsion for me that happens even when I’m busy with other things. Fortunately, the other work that I do synergizes well with my writing; in fact, the professor gig requires that I continue to write and publish, and I get some good support from my university.

Can you tell us a little about how you became a poet?  Did you always know that you wanted to be one? Do you ever write short stories?

As I already mentioned, I started composing poems before I could write. I always wrote poems throughout my youth, but I never thought of myself as “a poet.” It really wasn’t until I took a college course in poetry that it clicked for me: I could work at poetry and be a poet. It didn’t have to be something that I just did when inspiration struck once in a while.

I did win a prize for a short story about a rabbit flying a kite when I was in first grade. 😉 I do still write short stories, but they tend to exist in that blurry space between prose poetry and flash fiction.

Who are your favorite poets? What is it about their writing that you admire most?

I have so many, of course, but some of my favorites include Edna St. Vincent Millay, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Sylvia Plath, Audre Lorde, Carolyn Forche, Rita Dove, Natasha Trethewey….

One of the things that I admire with all of these poets is that their poems transport me into situations and places that I wouldn’t otherwise get to experience in my own life.

Your “Three Poems” are bittersweet prose poems addressed to your grandmother, who left you much too soon. Was your grandmother a writer, too? In what ways did she inspire you? For that matter, do you find yourself frequently inspired by family?

My Granny wasn’t a writer, but she is the one who helped me write down the first poem I made up when I was four; my book Tasty Other is dedicated to her. She did read poetry to me, as did my mom, who also wrote poems for me sometimes. I always knew my mom’s favorite poem was Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” My family certainly encouraged my love of reading and writing, and I do find myself writing about my family often.

You are an award-winning poet who has published a number of chapbooks. If you could tell beginning writers one thing about the publishing process, what would it be? And as founding editor of a poetry journal, could you share your thoughts on submissions? 

I think the most important thing for beginning writers is to be persistent. It took me over 40 submissions to literary journals before I got my first poem accepted for publication. There’s a lot of rejection in publishing, so you have to celebrate the rejections, too, because that means that you’re putting your work out there.

As an editor, I’d say that the most important thing for submissions (after actually revising the work so it’s the best it can be) is simply following each journal’s guidelines. Here is a post I wrote for Editing Addict that has a few more tips for submitting poetry: “How to Submit Poems for Publication.”

Do you find that you often return to the same themes in your work? And if so, what are they?

I feel like my work is always shifting, but despite the variety of content and styles, I can see that I am turning over some of the same themes across projects: faith, grief, memory, women, family.

Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?

I try to spend time on writing every day. I used to write every night after my shower; the shower seemed to clear my head and let me generate ideas, so that was a useful ritual. Now that life is a little more chaotic with two kids and my time is less predictable, I don’t have much ritual left. I write when I can!

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?

Always! I’m currently working on a full-length poetry manuscript that uses the Bible as a word-bank in protest of using language from the Bible out of context as a weapon against certain groups of people. A chapbook selection of these poems was published last year by Agape Editions as A Door with a Voice. I’m also working on a series of poems that use board games as a starting place to explore love, memory, and grief, and I’m working on this sequence of prose poems about/to my Granny as well. I’ve never had so many projects in process at once, but it feels good to have the variety and to move between these very different styles of creating.

 

About Katie Manning

Katie Manning is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Whale Road Review and an Associate Professor of Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of four poetry chapbooks, and her first full-length poetry collection, Tasty Other, is the 2016 winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Find her online at www.katiemanningpoet.com.

Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series: David Perlmutter

This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.

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Excerpt from David Perlmutter’s Story “A Murder in Time”

“So, Professor Fey,” the tall female reporter said to the all-too-human creature standing next to her. “How does it feel to be the first human scientist to travel forward in time?”

“It’s…not what I expected,” was the response. The Professor was trying to use diplomatic language, which was difficult for her since she’d long been accustomed to us dogs being her non-verbal subordinates, helpmates and what have you. Actually talking to them as equals was something she seemed not to have taken into account when she made her fancy calculations and came forward to our time. Nevertheless, she was giving it the old college try, far as I was concerned.

“We, honestly, were never expecting to encounter a real human being, either,” the reporter continued the conversation. “I mean, with them being gone from the Earth for three centuries and all…”

Interview

Can you tell us a little about how you became a writer?  Did you always know that you wanted to be one? And what about your background in animation?

I knew I wanted to tell stories from the beginning, as my family can testify to me doing them fairly early, although I didn’t know I was doing it then. Once I discovered that it was possible to get positive attention from doing it, as well as to possibly make money from it, it was something that I came to aspire to doing.

A lot of my stories involve my interest in animation. I have experimented with fan fiction, although, to get it published professionally, I have had to employ roman à clef pseudonyms for the characters. (That said, those familiar with the series will know exactly who is what if and when they read it.) My novel “Orthicon” and my story cycle about the para-military group known as the Cartoon Republican Army have been the biggest outgrowth of this. They allow me to have characters I admire experience situations that are morally thornier and more ethically complex than the producers of their series might want or like, and make them more “literary” in nature. However, I have discovered that many fiction editors look down on overusing italics and ALL CAPS to convey emotion in dialogue, and, since most cartoon characters would communicate that way in that fashion if their dialogue was written down, I have struggled to find the right way to convey emotion for them in the “right” way ever since.

The other side is that many of my original ongoing characters could easily be stars of animated programs if given the chance, given how many of them are anthropomorphic animals, superheroes, or supernatural adventurers of one kind or another. Animation is the only visual medium that offers those kinds of things true justice, in my opinion.

My research into the history of animation has made me greatly aware of how it has enacted and mirrored many of the great labor/management conflicts of the 20th century, particularly the rise and stagnation of unions in the entertainment industry. I also understand that many cartoon characters, if they existed in “our” world, would undeniably be victims of racial prejudice, particularly in the current heated environment for such issues in the United States. So these issues have become ones I have explored often in writing about cartoon characters.

“A Murder in Time” is a science fiction mystery with some unique characters–unusually dogged police officials. 😉 Was this an idea that came to you before writing the story, or did it transpire organically as you wrote?

It was a merger between the central idea of a story by Robert Bloch, about the murder of an extraterrestrial visitor from the moon with the personalities of a pair of characters from a television animation series from the past in the heroic roles. I do this kind of thing all the time. I see or read something I like, and I think about how it could be improved, or done from another angle. I used to be ashamed of this, thinking I was stealing, but I have since discovered that this is part and parcel of being a working writer, and so I don’t feel guilty about that anymore.

Who are your favorite authors? What is it about their writing that you admire most?

-Robert Bloch. (He was mainly known for writing the novel Psycho, but he was a prolific author of very good fantasy, horror, science fiction and mystery stories over the course of a long career. He showed me how not only to remain versatile, whatever it was you wrote, but how to maintain a high standard while doing it.)

-Jack London (The first author I really admired, and the first one I openly emulated. The themes and genres he addressed in his work remain big parts of mine.)

-G.K. Chesterton (He seemed to write a book or article about anything he thought about, and he always sounded like he knew everything about it.)

-Mark Twain (He made writing funny things and holding difficult opinions about the world in spite of opposition much easier than they really are.)

-Frederik Pohl (The Mark Twain of science fiction, whose work is delightful and inspirational.)

-H.L. Mencken (A difficult man who easily chronicled a difficult country in difficult times.)

-I.F. Stone (A doggedly accurate journalist able to do anything and everything in pursuit of the truth. We need his kind of person more than ever now.)

Do you find that you often return to the same themes in your work? And if so, what are they?

Friendship, loyalty, honesty and justified vengeance. People with Asperger’s Syndrome, which I have, probably hold these values in higher regard than other people, and are more easily disturbed by them being violated in public than other people. So I’m not surprised that my work often tends to come back to these ideas.

Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?

I wish I did. I try to work to a set routine when I’m at home, but I can’t always get exactly the amount of time I want or need. Since I recently got a job as a library assistant at an elementary school, time has gotten harder to find. But I can always find or make time if necessary to contribute to a project if I am truly committed to the idea or theme.

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?

I am in the process of working on an encyclopedia of television animation programs produced in North America between 1948 and 2016, which will be published by Rowman and Littlefield, hopefully later this year, or early in the next one. This is a companion to my narrative history of television animation in North America, America ‘Toons In, which was published by McFarland and Company in 2014. I am also making final revisions on my novel Orthicon for its upcoming publication later this year by Linkville Press, and awaiting publication of my novella Honey and Salt by Scarlet Leaf Publishing, which will mark the first of my books to be published in my native country, Canada, as opposed to an American or British publisher.

 

About David Perlmutter

David Perlmutter is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He holds an MA degree from the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, and as a lifelong animation fan, has published short fiction in a variety of genres for various magazines and anthologies, as well as essays on his favorite topics for similar publishers, including SFF World.com. He is the author of America Toons In: A History of Television Animation (McFarland and Co.),The Singular Adventures Of Jefferson Ball (Chupa Cabra House), The Pups (Booklocker.com), Certain Private Conversations and Other Stories (Aurora Publishing), and Orthicon; or, the History of a Bad Idea ( Linkville Press, forthcoming). He can be reached on Facebook at David Perlmutter-Writer, Twitter at @DKPLJW1, and Tumblr at The Musings of David Perlmutter (yesdavidperlmutterfan).

Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series: D.J. Tyrer

This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.

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Excerpt from D.J. Tyrer’s Short Story “The Lying Dagger”

Gog recoiled in horror: the bloodied body of a man lay on the floor of the library. Perhaps most shocking: books lay scattered about him, blood splashed across their wooden covers. Gog let out a strangled cry and retreated out of sight of the scene.

He should, he knew, call out to the gods for protection, but his voice was silenced.

The Mistress of the Library came running. “What is it?”

He couldn’t speak, just pointed.

Interview

Hi DJ!

Can you tell us a little about how you became a writer?  Did you always know that you wanted to be one?

I’ve always loved books and stories and have written stories for as long as I could remember and would be doing so even if I wasn’t being published. I just can’t help myself.

Who are your favorite authors? What is it about their writing that you admire most?

Tolkien, because he had the same love for mythology and language that has driven a lot of my work. Lovecraft, for his breadth of vision. RW Chambers, for the enigmatic brilliance of The King In Yellow. Emily Bronte, for the dark beauty of her writing. Jasper Fforde, for his wit and wordplay. I could keep going – there are a lot of excellent writers!

“The Lying Dagger” begins with a murder in a library that could lead to war between two kingdoms if the protagonist, Gog, doesn’t act fast. Although this story is a fantasy, was it inspired by any actual event? If not, where did you get your idea?

Although it isn’t inspired by a specific event, history is littered with these sorts of situations, both ill-timed events and deliberate attempts at inciting conflict, and there are doubtless many more we never hear about. I find the behind-the-scenes machinations of nations fascinating.

You are a publisher as well as a writer and editor. If you could tell beginning writers one thing about the publishing process, what would it be?

Transforming a project into a finished product is just as difficult as turning an idea into a finished story. A good publisher makes it look easy, but there is a lot of effort going on behind the scenes. Understanding that can help the process of publication go more smoothly.

Do you find that you often return to the same themes in your work? And if so, what are they?

Identity, alienation and fear of the other are frequent themes in my work, being ones that resonate deeply with me, and these appear in “The Lying Dagger”: we have the mistrust between the nations of Kirim and Thrax, and Gog offering Braxis acceptance. Given that a lot of my work is dark, these themes tend to be dealt with negatively, but I do occasionally approach them with more positivity; “The Lying Dagger” lies somewhere in between with Gog, a little naively, attempting to bring about a happy ending.

Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?

I try to write every day, usually at night when it’s quiet and there aren’t distractions, and normally do so longhand. Otherwise, I don’t necessarily do anything the same thing each time. Some stories require a lot of planning or research, others flow freely from my imagination.

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?

There are several booklets on my editing agenda for 2017. With regards to my own writing, I’m currently working on another ‘fictional non-fiction’ booklet for my Buxton University Press imprint, and a long-delayed fiction collection, The Nomads of the Time Streams. I have several novel and novella ideas on my ‘to do’ list, it’s only a question of locating some time in which to write them.

 

About D.J. Tyrer

D.J. Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such asDisturbance (Laurel Highlands), Tales of the Black Arts (Hazardous Press), History and Mystery, Oh My! (Mystery & Horror LLC), Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), State of Horror: Illinois (Charon Coin Press), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), and Sorcery & Sanctity: A Homage to Arthur Machen (Hieroglyphics Press), and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).

Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series: Gregory Luce

This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.

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Excerpt Greg Luce’s Poem “Report”

I inverted the crescent moon

for you so it would point

thumbs up to heaven.

You pulled down the shade.

Interview

You recently retired from the National Geographic Society. What did you do there? Did your work there ever provide inspiration for your creative writing? If so, how?

I was a Production Specialist in Pre-press, which involved many different duties: customer service to the magazine and book units, project tracking, and preparation of National Geographic Magazine features for printing. Among many other things, I extracted each story from the InDesign publishing system, converted it into individual page PDFs, and sent them to the printer. I would get occasional inspiration from an NGM story, but the real value of that job for me was that it kept me firmly grounded in the world and allowed me to meet and interact with many different kinds of people doing many different kinds of things. I believe my work reflects this.

Can you tell us a little about how you became a poet?  Did you always know that you wanted to be one? Do you ever write short stories?

I didn’t always know, but I became interested and began to write when I was a child. I’ve told this story in a different context, but it’s relevant here as well: The first poetry I was exposed to other than Mother Goose and the usual nursery rhymes, was A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. My grandmother read the poems to me when I was very small. Even before I could read, the world he described seemed very real to me while at the same time, the prosody and language were highly appealing. As soon as I could read I devoured it many times. “The Land of Counterpane” especially spoke to me; though I was not a sickly child as Stevenson was, when I did fall ill, I would lie in bed and play with my toy soldiers. Somehow the fact that this other boy, who grew up, lived, and died long before I was born, engaged in the same sort of play that I did made a powerful impression. I think it must have planted the idea that poetry endures across time and continues to speak over many generations—not that I could have articulated that back then!

I can’t remember when I actually wrote my first poem, but I dabbled in poetry throughout childhood. By the time I got to high school, I considered myself a poet and wrote regularly, terrible poems of course, but in doing so I developed the habit of writing. Further, by then I was reading a lot of poetry, sometimes trying to imitate or write in the styles of the poets I particularly liked. My Senior English teacher introduced me to, among others, T.S. Eliot, the first Modernist I had encountered. When I got to college I prowled the poetry section of the library and read the literary magazines and eventually majored in English with the encouragement of a couple of my professors. I took a Creative Writing class as an undergrad and specialized in writing in grad school. My MA thesis was a collection of poems—still bad, but getting better. I kept writing and workshopping and eventually found my voice, as they say.

I have not written short stories since trying a couple in grad school, but now that I’m retired and have more time, I have several in the works. I’ve been reading a lot of Henry James’ shorter works and it seems to have lit a fire in me.

Who are your favorite poets? What is it about their writing that you admire most?

Walt Whitman. He demonstrates how one can include the entire living world in poetry and he created the first truly American poetry. Also his poetry has a profoundly spiritual—even at times mystical—quality that reaches beyond the literary into a nearly religious dimension. He is the grandfather of all of us American poets.

Rainer Maria Rilke. My remarks about Whitman’s spirituality also apply to Rilke. His poetry is profoundly moving and inspiring. He has not been a direct influence on how I write, but reading him reminds me of how high a calling writing poetry is.

Emily Dickinson. Her intensity and concision have had a profound influence on my writing and her powerful descriptions of her emotional and spiritual struggles give me strength and the courage to write about my own. She is as important to me as Whitman and has had a more direct impact on my poetic style,

W.C. Williams and Robert Creeley. Again, concision and intensity, plus a great command of modern American language. I found my own voice through my reading of Creeley, though I have moved beyond the tiny minimalist poems I first wrote under his influence.

“Report” is a lovely poem, but it is also a mystery. Is this the first time that you’ve combined these two things, or is this something that you’ve done before?

Thank you! I have never written anything quite like “Report” before. I was intrigued by the idea of crossing mystery with other genres, but didn’t really think I had anything to offer. But Kelly told me she really wanted more poems in the book, and she has this way of twisting your arm so that you feel like you’ve had a massage, so I decided to see if I could come up with something. Somehow, the idea of creating a mystery in which one never learns who the perpetrator, victim, or the actual crime are came to me. Once I had that in mind, I felt strangely free to indulge in the semi-surreal language the first speaker uses and to relate odd events and leave out any solution. I like to say it’s the first poem I’ve ever written on commission.

You are an award-winning poet who has published a number of chapbooks. If you could tell beginning writers one thing about the publishing process, what would it be?

First, be very patient and remember that the writing is the important thing. I was 55 when I published my first book, though I had been publishing intermittently in journals for many years. After the first, the others came in relatively quick succession. But it’s absolutely essential not to get fixated on publishing a book. Keep trying but the poems and stories are the real goal. If you are good and persistent, you’ll find an audience.

Do you find that you often return to the same themes in your work? And if so, what are they?

Love, weather, light, birds, the small overlooked phenomena of everyday life. The painter Paul Klee explains one of the functions of art brilliantly: “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” I’ve tried to make visible things that are overlooked as people rush about their daily existence. The very first poem in my first book is as close to an ars poetica as I’ve written:

 

Just Look

Sunlight falls indifferently

among grass and leaves

and broken glass and gravel

but the radiance is there

anywhere you care to look,

sparks and dazzles

fly out and upward,

daytime fireflies glancing

off the sidewalk and

the puddles and the windshields

and, yes, your own eyes

when you catch glimpses

of yourself in the shop windows.

 

Recently I’ve had a flood of memories from my Texas childhood and I’ve been trying to get some of them into poems.

 

Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?

I don’t have rituals, but I do carry several notebooks so I can jot down images or phrases (or sometimes just a title). I also do a great deal of writing on buses and Metro trains. I don’t have a car so I use Metro frequently. Somehow the rhythm and maybe the ambient sounds on those conveyances often enhances my poems. I also like to write in cafes (as I’m doing right now!).

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?

Aside from the stories I mentioned above, I am attempting a series of short poems in the voice/persona of a character in one of the stories. He’s an older poet, sharing some characteristics with me, though the story is not at all autobiographical. One of his poems is briefly discussed in the piece so I thought I’d better write it. After that, a couple more came; they are different enough from my usual work to be both baffling and inspiring. I think I have a sense of his voice and sensibility, so it’s an interesting challenge to write as him.

About Gregory Luce

Gregory Luce is the author of Signs of Small Grace (Pudding House Publications), Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press), Memory and Desire (Sweatshoppe Publications), and Tile (Finishing Line). His poems have appeared in numerous print and online journalsand in the anthologies Living in Storms (Eastern Washington University Press), Bigger Than They Appear (Accents Publishing), and Unrequited and Candlesticks and Daggers (ed. Kelly Ann Jacobson). In 2014 he was awarded the Larry Neal Award for adult poetry by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Recently retired from the National Geographic Society, he lives in Arlington, VA.