1. What or who gives you inspiration and
I get so much out of reading other poets’ works. Never
really found a poem I didn’t like, or at least something
about it - a word, a mood, a vague suggestion, something
that sets me off writing a poem of my own. My wife, a breast
cancer survival of ten years now, inspires me, too. Such
grit, such strength, such determination in the face of the
beast that affects too many women (and men, too - a male
friend died of it). Perspiration? I start sweating when I
have the nightmare where I unretire again, go back to work.
2. Have you always wanted to write, or did you have a secret
desire for something else, like spelunking?
I’m descended from the renowned biographer James Boswell, so
all I heard growing up was how great he was. Turned me off
like crazy, so I resisted writing seriously until my first
retirement (of a dozen or so) in 1995, when I knew I’d have
to do something to keep the mind racing and fresh. Thought I
could write at least as well as those poets who appear
consistently in The New Yorker Magazine, and have been
trying to prove my point ever since. If I could turn my
clock back, certainly I’d have shunned becoming a nuclear
weapons consultant (rather a dreary field, however
fascinating) and would rather have striven to be either a
ballet dancer, opera singer or dog trainer. At these latter
three endeavors I have absolutely zero talent. ‘Twould have
been a challenge.
3. Do awards and accolades
make you swoon? Have there been any that you're particularly
swoon-y about that you've gotten?
No, I don’t pursue awards or enter contests since I was
named the MVP of the 105-pound football team for Police Boys
Club No. 10 (as quarterback and bruising middle linebacker)
in Washington, D.C. in 1948. A goodly number of Washington
Redskins came to fete my achievement, dwarfing me so badly I
realized I’d never become a pro footballer like them. My
greatest thrill, honestly, comes whenever one of my poems is
chosen to be published, and I get that electric jolt fifty,
sixty, seventy times a year. My humble poetic skills have
trouble keeping up with my marketing talent. I love to meet
new magazines, such as Thick With Conviction, and have
turned my attention to online publication to a far larger
extent than hard-print - faster turnaround, bigger audience,
more lively sector.
4. When you're not leaving your poetic footprint, what else
in the world makes you warm and fuzzy?
My first and only wife of fifty years keeps me honest and
out of trouble, so she’s my best friend and companion. Then
there are our two unruly mutts, Rosie and Marco, who resist
discipline, much as I’d have preferred myself. Irene and I
travel fairly often, enjoy driving in Europe, and love
France, the French people (who really do adore us,
especially for saving their butts in World War Two), and
French food and wines. In the Denver area, we’ve found the
near-perfect balance of cultural activities to pursue -
plays, ballet, dance, opera, symphony - at least one or two
a week. And dining out. We came to Denver and Boulder in
1963 from New York City and found it to be a gustatorial
wasteland. Now, we can’t keep up with all of the great
restaurants, ethnic and American. Irene, by the way, is the
best cook in all the land. Lucky me.
me names. Who are the best new poets, in your opinion?
So many great women poets who inspire me, and some have
become friends. Ellaraine Lockie and Pat Wellingham-Jones in
California make me struggle for breath with every poetic
creation. Cathy Porter is a newcomer to watch - very gutsy.
The men. Robert Cooperman in Denver is a clever chap. I
always find Charles Reis, Alan Church, Alan Catlin and
Kendall Bell with something exciting to say in print. So
many good ones, so little time.
6. Best of the Net or Pushcart? Which matters more and why?
Maybe because many of the poets I’ve befriended string along
that trailer, “Pushcart Nominee” so often, I would say
Pushcart overrides Best of the Net at present. But do I
really care? Naw. Best of anything is sort of a
phony-baloney title. When you read a poem you like, maybe
knocks you off your seat, then that’s the best feeling
you’ll get on that particular occasion. Enjoy the moment.
7. Then and now. What poem made you start writing and what
poem do you absolutely love right this very moment?
Edgar Allan Poe made my pulse race from first reading of
“The Raven.” Still today, his “Annabel Lee” and “The Bells”
are unquestioned masterpieces. But would Poe be published
widely today? Doubtful. Sad but true commentary. Two poems
by two of my favorite women always come back to me as
best-in-show - Ellaraine Lockie’s angry “Sizing Down in the
Driveway,” from her chapbook, “Finishing Lines,” and Pat
Wellingham-Jones’ anguished “First Christmas Again,” from
her chapbook, “Voices On the Land.” Read them and you’ll be
forever moved. Though I prefer to write humor and nostalgia,
I‘m a helpless romantic and love to ride the emotions these
ladies evoke with their works.
8. Are online
poetry 'zines a crushing blow to traditional print 'zines,
or are they the meat and potatoes of the poetry world now?
Also, which do you prefer?
Well, I’d say that the electronic media is slowly strangling
hard-print publications. There’s no better feeling than
holding a book in my hands or reading the three newspapers I
get daily, but The New York Times can consume half a day. I
like to think “young,” even at my age - hey, if you keep
going around on the merry-go-round to nowhere, you’ll miss
the express jet to where it’s happening. Good to look back,
but keep moving forward. Is online a threat? Yes, but that’s
just a fact of life, ma’am.
9. Where do you see yourself and your poems in five years?
I’ve written and published enough poems to make twenty books
and hundreds of chapbooks but I still prefer one poem at a
time. So, in five years I don’t see much change, but I could
just as easily become infatuated with painting, take up oils
and an easel, and never look back. I surely look forward to
another five years, come what may.
10. What are the ingredients for a tasty poem?
Any piece of writing - poem, short story, book or careless
chicken scratch - has to say something, have a message, tell
a story, even if it’s a wee vignette. A fellow poet just
wrote to me about a poem of mine she’d read (“Lost Highway”)
about my kid sister who likes to get lost while driving,
saying she thought it was moving, as if the person were
going nowhere in life. That’s good, honest feedback which I
truly enjoy receiving. But give me a laugher of a poem, any
time. I couldn’t live without humor. Why take life so
seriously, I always ask myself. I usually answer, too, which
causes passersby to think I’m odd. Let ‘em think whatever,
as long as they’re thinking. Too many folks have abdicated
their gray-matter resources to their pastor, boss and/or
political leader. Tsk, tsk. Challenge authority. Remember