Tag: poetry

An Interview With Writer Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

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Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is a former Poet Laureate of Kansas and the author of the novel, Miriam’s Well; here is a link to her website:

 

http://www.carynmirriamgoldberg.com/

 

 

Q: When did you know you were a poet?

A: As a child, I was hard-wired to make things, and I started out as a visual artist, drawing and painting all the time. When I was 14, and my parents were in the middle of a long-winded and horrendous divorce, I found I needed words, so I switched on a dime from art to poetry. Luckily, I soon found a great mentor in my high school English teacher, who took me under her wing and guided me to great poets. She also encouraged my poetry and my life as a poet. We recently reconnected, and I’m so grateful to her. Over the years, I expanded to writing fiction, memoir, non-fiction, songs, and much more.

Q: What is Miriam’s Well about?

A: Miriam’s Well is  a novel that traces a modern day Exodus of Miriam, somewhat from biblical fame (she was Moses’ sister), but set in America from 1965 onward as she searches for her people and place. She is very purpose-driven, knowing she’s alive to feed, help, reach out, and making joy with people, particularly people facing big challenges, so it’s no wonder that she keeps finding herself at the center of major events that shape our country, such as People’s Park in 1969, Wounded Knee in 1973, the AIDS crisis in San Francisco in the 1980s, the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, and so many other events. She also, through her wandering the desert of our times, finds bits and pieces of the promised land, sometimes in places at the edge of America, literally in the case of an island she lives on off the coast of Maine and earlier on, her days in Key West, but also in communities on the edge. She lives in an ecovillage in North Carolina, in the middle of a very rural area in extreme west Texas, and in a small town in Idaho along the way. Her calling is continually make meals, music, and miracles.

Q: What made you chose “Exodus” as the model for your story?

A: I was always drawn to the story of the Exodus, especially Miriam’s role. She saves her brother Moses’ life by putting him a basket and sending him down the Nile, and she’s credited with leading the women singing and dancing through the desert. There’s also a biblical story about Miriam’s well, a mythical well that springs up from something Miriam does with a stone whenever the wandering Jews land some place new. That well allows the people to feed themselves, so it’s no wonder that my Miriam is both a singer and a cook. Mostly, I wanted to explore how we are always searching for the promised land in ourselves and our communities, and in many ways, we are always wandering too.

Q:  You teach writing at Goddard College. What are some of the things you want your students to take away from the classes that you teach?

A: I teach in the Goddard Graduate Institute, and it’s a low-residency program in which students self-design their own studies. So there are no classes per se, and I work with students — after they attend an 8-day residency to plan our their semester’s studies — long-distance, reading their work, and helping them go deeper into their best ways of learning and applying their learning to the real world. I teach writing, but much more since we’re an interdisciplinary program in which students study what calls to them most. For example, I have one student now studying spiritual memoir, another writing a thesis about how good health is related to the gut, and another planning a school on mindful outdoor leadership. I love the variety. What I want for my students is what I want for everyone: that we find our callings and also coalesce strong communities around us to help us move toward what’s most meaningful in our lives.

Q: What are some pitfalls that writers should avoid?

A: I think there’s a fallacy that writers need to suffer, especially from writer’s block, which I don’t believe in. If you’re stuck as a writer on a particular project, it just means you need more time or new perspective or that there’s something else calling for you to write. If writers can reframe the torturous myths that they must grapple with writer’s block into a much more life-giving story that, to quote poet Theodore Roethke, “we learning by going where we have to go,” then writers can open their art and lives up to new possibilities and likely far more strong writing.

Q: What are your feelings about the latest trend of open mic story telling?

A: I think story slams and the rise of lots of story podcasts are wonderful! They get us looking for meaningful moments in our lives, then finding the language to convey the power of those moments. I listen to This American Life, The Moth, and other podcasts regularly, and I’ve been running with professional storytellers for many years, so I’m delighted to see this trend taking off. Then again, this may be a trend, but storytelling is at the very root of language and the oral tradition.

Q:  You were the Poet Laureate of Kansas. How were you selected for the honor?

A: I was both nominated and applied, and it ended up that while I was poet laureate, the governor eliminated the Kansas Arts Commission, which held the poet laureate program, so I was suddenly floating. Then again, the governor’s office didn’t ask me to step down, so I organized my own projects, did crowd-sourcing to raise funds for my travel, and had the privilege of working with writers around our state to hold readings and publish books. The whole experience allowed us all to speak out and up for the arts. In the end, I was able to find a new home for our poet laureate program with our humanities council, and the program has been going strong there every since.
Q: What are some of the key elements of a good poem?

A: Strong imagery and compelling rhythm are at the root of good poetry as well as strong fiction and memoir.

Q: Who are some of your writing influences and how is this evidenced in your writing?

A: I love a wide variety of writers — poets like Adrienne Rich and William Stafford, the novelist Toni Morrison, non-fiction writers like James McBride and Terry Tempest Williams. I’m not sure how my influences are reflected in my writing, but I believe writers need to read widely and deeply in many genres.

Q: How has your writing style evolved over the years?

A:  I started out as a very mediocre poet in my teens, and hopefully, I learned more since then. I have moved to speaking more directly, focusing more on my images rather than telling the reader what something means, and letting the writing lead me — and hopefully readers too — toward its own vitality that can speak to our lives.

 

Eliza’s interviews are done by email; all answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

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An Interview With Poet Allen Minor

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Allen Minor is the author of, The Borderline Between Life and Poetry; here is a link to his Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/A.-S.-Minor/e/B019EME8NY

Q: What inspired you to write “The Borderline Between Life and Poetry?”

 
A:  As someone who struggles with mental health issues, I know what a dark and lonely place it can be. My goal with all of my works (be it my novels, or my spoken word poems, or my written poems) has always been to show people that they are not alone. Ultimately, that was my inspiration for “The Borderline Between Life and Poetry,” not to say “It will get better,” but simply to show people that when they’re at their darkest, there’s someone there to walk beside them.

 

Q:  What is the overall theme of the book?

 

A: The overall theme of the book is emotional reactions. Some of the poems are more personalized, while others are generalized, but they all deal with those emotions. As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, I tend to feel emotions very keenly, but what I’ve discovered is that regardless of the fact that they are exaggerated feelings, they are rooted in emotional cores that we all feel.

 

Q: What are The Combat Hippies?

 

A:  They Combat Hippies is a group of 4 United States military veterans (2 Army and 2 Marines). We are a performance poetry group with a main show called “Conscience Under Fire,” and we travel around the state of Florida putting on that show at colleges, theaters, and other venues. We also engage the community in other places and ways, such as open mic nights and guest performances at VA’s In different areas. We hope to one day take our show national, in an effort to spread the message of what is called Post-Traumatic Growth.

Q: What kinds of themes do you like to write about?

 

A: I don’t know if I have any concrete themes that I enjoy writing about more than others, unless emotion can be considered such. I try to look at all situations and analyze the emotional reactions that it elicits. The topic can be interpersonal interactions, or memories, or a song, or anything, but in whatever I write about the core is always “How does that make me feel, and how can I put that in a relatable way.

 

Q: What makes a poem performance worthy?

 

A:  I think anything is poem worthy. Someone once asked me what I think is so special about poetry, and I think my response applies to this as well: I think poetry is unique amongst all forms of communication because it has always–throughout all of human history–been so ubiquitous. In the past, books have been banned, certain spoken words and topics have been made taboo and shunned, even physical interactions have been restricted or adjusted, but poetry has always been around and thrived. Sure, some have tried to place strictures on poems and poets in the past, but if you notice, it never worked. And I believe that’s because poetry is a part of what we are. What is an atom, or the universe, or matter, or anything? In truth, these words that we use for them are simply metaphors, because it’s not possible for us to truly fathom the enormity of what they truly are, so we must place poetic labels on them. I believe that’s why anything is poem worthy, because, at the end of the day, everything IS poetry.

 

Q: What kind of a day job do you have and how does it influence your work?

 

 

A:  I am actually a writer and poet by day. I know that doesn’t sound like a proper response, but I actually don’t have another day job at the moment. I was injured while in the military, and am a disabled veteran. I have been a college student since my release from the Army in 2008, but recently I took time away from my studies to focus on my writing. My goal is to be a career novelist, and I am fortunate enough to have the ability to take time away from working so I can focus on that.

 

Q:  Who are some of your favorite poets?

 

 

A: Some of my favorite poets are Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Emily Dickenson, and Edgar Allan Poe. As someone who struggles with mental health issues, I grew up feeling very alone in the world. Each time that I got diagnosed with something new, or was put on a new medication, it made me feel more and more alone and abnormal. These poets, amongst many others, served to show me that I wasn’t, despite the fact that they are no longer physically with us. I think Sylvia Plath And Emily Dickenson were some of my favorite, because through their poetry you can see a depth of emotion that reflects something that is beyond words. They’ve often been criticized for that fact; a lot of their poetry DOESN’T have happy endings. That’s what I love about them; they express an understanding.

 

Q: What have you done to promote your book?

 

 

A:  Self promotion has been an interesting and sometimes frustrating road. One of the most important things that I’ve done is accepting social media as a matter of course. I’ve set up author pages on all major social media platforms, including youtube, because I’ve been forced to accept that it’s not simply an aspect of life anymore, but rather it’s a way of life for a lot of people. I’ve also reached out to many blogs, because one of the biggest things that I’ve realized in my marketing research is that blogging runs the world now. It isn’t put like that publicly, but if you really look at it, it’s impossible to deny. From the movies we watch, to the books we read, to the types of clothing trends, blogs control the way the world views these things. So I’ve reached out to many blogs, not only to display myself and my books, but, more importantly, to REVIEW them.

 

Q: How long has your book been on the Amazon Bestsellers list and how did it get there?

 

 

A: My new book, “The Borderline Between Life and Poetry,” is currently the #1 Bestseller on the Hispanic-American Poetry List, and was on the Top 100 Bestsellers List for Poetry for about a week. Poetry is a niche market, so there’s very little gray area when it comes to lists like that; either it’s sold quite a bit, or literally not at all. I was fortunate that The Combat Hippies already has a bit of a following, so I attribute much of my rating in regards to this book to that.

 

Q: Of all the pre-beat American poets, who do you think would have been able to succeed in a competitive poetry reading and what poem should they read in the competition?

 

A:  I think, of all the great pre beat American poets, Edgar Allan Poe would have been the most successful competitive poet, hands-down. I don’t say that because I think he was THE BEST poet  (though his genius cannot be denied), but rather because his subject-matter, and the way that he expressed it, was very engaging. Perhaps not all of his poems, but I think “The Raven” and “Annabelle Lee” were so well-written and captivating that they would have captured the attention (and votes) of everyone in the room. Also, “The Pit and the Pendulum” would’ve kept the audience on the edge of their seats, especially with a good delivery, which I have no doubt he could’ve given.

 

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.

 

An Interview With Poet Maggie Stringham

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Maggie Stringham is a poet and blogger; here is a link to her website:

http://maggiemaeijustsaythis.com/

Q: What inspired you to start writing poetry?

A: I was young.  I had a very bad homelife and I was depressed.  I found Emily Dickinson and found that I could relate to what she was saying.  Later on, I found Nirvana.  Nirvana’s lyrics kind of made me realize that I didn’t have to write any particular way. I could write the way I wanted and still say something.  Ever since then, I haven’t stopped writing.

Q: What are some of the ideas and themes you like to write about?

A: I write about addiction, mental health problems, grieving.  I write about topics that people feel, but have trouble putting into words.  I write about experiences I have that I couldn’t express in another way.  Writing actually helps me clarify exactly what it is I am feeling.

Q: Who are some of your influences?

A: Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Frederick Seidel, Henrik Ibsen. I am inspired by so many writers whether it is poetry, plays, song lyrics, etc.

Q: Why do you think addiction is such a popular theme in poetry?

A: I think because explaining what an addiction does to you is hard to describe in simple terms.  Its so complex that we need a complex description.  To describe addiction, you need to describe what it feels like, not what it is.

Q: What kind of day job (or income source)  do you have and how does it influence your writing?

A: I work as an assistant operations analyst for a bullet mfg company.  I also write SEO content for some other  companies.

Q: What kind of educational background do you have?
A: I have some University credits but I have not yet received a degree.  I’m still working on that.

Q: What are some of the things you have done to promote your blog?

A: Not a lot.  I use Facebook and Twitter.  I network with other bloggers and on fb pages, stuff like that.  I like doing interviews or features for blogs and other sites.

Q: What is the ABC Award and how does one get nominated?

A: The ABC Award is the Awesome Blog Content Award.  A nominee nominates another blogger and so on and so forth.  The idea of the blog is for bloggers to help each other drive traffic and learn more about each other in the process.

Q: What is your weirdest Vegas story?

A:   Hahahaha….Oh my gosh I don’t think I should share this. Let’s just say that if I become a more popular writer one day, then I will share some of these secrets in a book.

Q: What trends in poetry annoy you?

A: OH my gosh I could go on and on…writing that mentions other poets (total cliché), writing talking about sitting on a window sill smoking a cigarette….we get it already….people can tell when writers are writing feelings or writing words….some writers just like the idea of being a “depressed poet”…..that’s not what poetry is.  Being a poet itself is a trend….it’s a trend that takes away the experience of actually writing poetry.  It saddens me more than annoys me.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)