Thick With Conviction - A Poetry Journal
thick with conviction a poetry journal
 10 Questions with...Paul Hostovsky


Paul Hostovsky's poems have won a Pushcart Prize, the Muriel Craft Bailey Award from the Comstock Review, and chapbook contests from Grayson Books, Riverstone Press, and the Frank Cat Press. His first full-length collection, Bending the Notes, is available from Main Street Rag. Visit his website at:


1. What or who gives you inspiration or perspiration?

The world gives me inspiration. Trying to get the world into the poem gives me perspiration. Trying to get the poem back out into the world also gives me perspiration.

2. Have you always wanted to write, or did you have a secret desire for something else, like spelunking?

Iíve always loved the words the most, the names of things. Iíve always thought they were the most interesting things in the Universe, which is the one Verse, the one great Poem--hence the name. Take spelunking, for example. I would rather say spelunking than go spelunking, any day.

3. Do awards and accolades make you swoon? Have there been any that youíre particularly swoon-y about that youíve gotten?

One of my poems was recently selected for inclusion in The Pushcart Prize XXXIII. That blew me away. And it seems to blow others away. But itís all so subjective. I think the highest place a poem can aspire to is the refrigerator. If someone likes your poem well enough to put it up on their refrigerator, well, thatís the ultimate publication, in my book.

4. When youíre not leaving your poetic footprint, what else in the world makes you warm and fuzzy?

I make my living as a sign language interpreter. I started learning ASL more than 25 years ago, and I still think itís the most beautiful incredible airborne linguistic phenomenon Iíve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. When I happen to spy two deaf people signing in publicóon the train, say, or in a restaurantóI still get that little catch in my throat, that sweet little gasp that you sometimes feel in the presence of gorgeous music, famous people, and angels.

5. Give me names. Who are the best new poets, in your opinion?

I donít know nothing from best. I only know what I like, and what I donít like, and what I like best, and I love certain poems by Tony Hoagland, Mark Halliday, Stephen Dunn, Marie Howe, Thomas Lux, Jeffrey Harrison, Jane Hirshfield, Billy Collins, Dean Young, David Wagoner, Mark Doty, and one or two hundred others.

6. Best of the Net or Pushcart? Which matters more and why?

They both donít matter. They are both beside the point, the way that beauty is beside the point, even though we canít stop looking.

7. Then and now. What poem made you start writing and what poem do you absolutely love right this very moment?

ďHow to Eat a PoemĒ by Eve Merriam is the poem that made me start writing poems. Mrs. Cunningham put it up in big letters on the bulletin board in 5th grade. Before that, I didnít know you could eat a poem. Once I discovered you could, I never stopped, and I never looked back. The poem I love at this moment is Cummingsí sonnet ďI like my body when it is with your/body.Ē I am in the process of memorizing it so that I can recite it to my lover while kissing this and that of her.

8. Are online poetry Ďzines a crushing blow to traditional print Ďzines, or are they the meat and potatoes of the poetry world now? Also, which do you prefer?

I think we who love poetry are like those who love the rain. Weíre in the minority. I mean most people hate rain. And sometimes it isnít raining exactly, but kind of spitting, or misting, or sleeting, or the smell of the rain before the rain, which isnít the rain itself, exactly. So I donít think we should concern ourselves about poetryís thin audience, online and in print. I mean itís not about the meat and potatoes. Itís about the rain. If more people loved the rain, those who love the rain wouldnít love it any more, would they? Itís kind of like that with poetry. Not exactly. But kind of.

9. Where do you see yourself and your poems in 5 years?

Together. Living together, not married, but still full of passion and movement and invention, rolling around together outside in the grass, underneath the big trees, not far from our discarded shoes.

10. What are the ingredients for a tasty poem?

There are a lot of very smart people out there writing a lot of very smart poems that donít taste good. A tasty poem, by definition, tastes good. Like Eve Merriam says, ďDonít be polite, bite in.Ē Everyoneís tastes are different, of course. For me, I like humor, though I like a good tear-jerker too, and if you can do both in the same poem, I will love you forever. I like access, accessible poemsóI donít like having to eat the bread with the bag still on. I smoked a lot of pot and played a lot of Frisbee during my formative years, you see, so I like poems that are intoxicatingly interesting and have lift.







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