couplets, interviews

Interview with John Amen

My guest today for Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour is John Amen, who offers some insights into his work.

You’ve released three books of poetry. How do you see your work as having evolved over the course of writing those books and into your current work?

I hope that I’ve become more adept at exploring a wider range of themes, drawing from a broader and deeper set of content or references. I hope that my craft is evolving, too, that I’m continuing to expand and become more versatile stylistically. In terms of living my own life, I do feel that my experience is more multifaceted than it was even 3 or 4 years ago; it’s my hope that this more varied experience in turn impacts or in some way informs my poems. In many ways, I’ve always been trying to give voice to the paradoxes of life. Ultimately, paradox and the integration of opposites are alchemical principles, but I think they’re very relevant to the artistic or aesthetic process, too.

What role does time play in your poetry, both as subject matter and as a part of your process of orienting yourself chronologically?

What I perhaps appreciate most about art is that it can present the ephemeral things of life (blooms, thunder, tragedy, success) while also pointing to a more constant and unchanging reality, something more fundamental. In that sense, art is both sensual (i.e., evocative) and metaphysical (i.e., pointing towards an endless continuum of which everything is part and from which everything emerges). The Greeks talked of “chronological” time and “kyrological” time; i.e., time as it is measured by a clock and time as it occurs experientially. In this latter sense, a lifetime can be a moment or a moment a lifetime. It’s said in some mystical sources that God experiences everything (past, present, and future, from the beginning to the end) as one singular and indivisible moment.

In addition to being a writer yourself, you also edit The Pedestal Magazine. How does the role of editor influence your writing life, and vice versa?

There’s something gratifying about having your thumb on the current literary pulse. I think that’s a perk of editing a journal. You also meet a great number of writers, either personally or through correspondence, and get to immerse yourself in various literary developments and evolutions. These are things I certainly enjoy. There is, however, also the matter of having to juggle matters related to the journal and matters related to your own life and writing. This is to say, editing a journal can be quite time-consuming. Sometimes I feel that my commitment to my own writing (or other interests) gets compromised from time to time. But I think it all works out. I do enjoy sustaining a venue for other writers and being immersed in contemporary literary concerns. All said and done, I don’t think that editing has taken away from my own writing that much. In fact, maybe it has fueled it in some ways. When I look at the big picture, things seem to be pretty balanced, for the most part.

Check out the other posts this month from Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour!

couplets, interviews

Interview with Steve Vernon

As part of Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour, here’s a poem of mine and an interview I did over on Steve Vernon’s blog.

I asked Steve a few questions, too.

What’s your writing process like?

I write every morning. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. For me, the important thing is regularity. My muse smells a little like bran and prune dip. I want to see a project move forward. Currently, I am working on a young adult novel. I’ve also got several Canadian history projects underway.

I still write poetry—but less frequently than I used to. The last half dozen poems were written at the request of several editors who were each putting together a themed collection. I seem to work best, with poetry, if I have a target to aim at.

I am most proud of my now out-of-print poem “Barren—A Chronicle in Futility”—a five page poem detailing the events of an 1812 Expedition to hunt the Jersey Devil. The events are lifted from history, although the details are a little more free-style. The poem placed first in the 2009 Chi-Zine Rannu Competition. The prize was $500.00—which to this date remains the most that I have ever earned from a single poem.

If all of my poems were that profitable I’d likely write a lot more poetry.

What role does horror play in your poems that include it?

I write poetry mostly because it pleasures me. I write horror poetry—primarily because it is what I am asked for.  I have worked a fair bit in the horror genre and occasionally I am contacted by editors who are looking for a poem written to a specific theme.

Other than that—horror is just another possible subject for my poetry. I have also written poems that are love stories, poems about railroads, poems about darn near anything you care to imagine. In fact, the only thing that I have not written poetry about is politicians.

Politics and poetry just do not mix.

What writers or other influences inspire you?

In poetry I’d have to say I’m inspired by the works of Al Purdy, Irving Layton, Charles Bukowski and Milton Acorn.

Slow Bites
by Steve Vernon

Married at twenty
A first child at twenty-three
Two more before thirty

Life gnawed at me
The litany of jobs, wife, children
Pieces of my well-being stolen away

Rats in the walls
Nibble at my life with small insistent nips
An inexorable extermination of existence

Life nails our coffin with knocks on the door
Weaving our gray-tainted obituary
One grocery receipt at a time

Missed promotions
Divorce, depression
Death, devotion, done

I haven’t said it was painful
The anesthetic of having just enough
Barely numbs the decay

And now
As my wife and children
Feed greedily upon my open limbs

I pray that as they
Work their way
To the slow gray jelly of memory

That they might taste one savored tang
Of the tired joy and tedium
That wore away my days.

(originally published in Vicious Verses and Reanimated Rhymes – edited by A.P. Fuchs, Coscom Entertainment, Winnipeg 2009)

Check out the other posts this month from Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour!