Today at Poeticmeditations, we have as our guest, the poet, StarvingPoet.
PM: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
SP: I’m not really starving, but my day job barely covers the rent and utilities and I’ve sold a grand total of three poems ( one I had to send twice because the first one got lost in the mail ), so to be more precise, I’m more like a low-income poet.
PM: Tell us how you got started writing poetry, sort of a “Portrait of a Young Poet as a Young Man” kind of thing.
SP: I had a feeling you were somehow going to get in the James Joyce reference thing, but anyway . . . let’s see . . . from a young age I’ve always been into words. First, it was the lyrics of children’s songs, then theme songs of favorite TV shows, and then as I got a little older, lyrics of pop songs. As a child, one of the earliest rhymes I remember coming up with was “You can tell by the smell it’s Mattel.” Nothing against Mattel – they made and still make some really wonderful toys – it’s just that the plastic they used, especially the soft plastic, had a very distinctive smell that I now forever associate with their company.
PM: So when did you realize you were destined to become a poet?
SP: Back in high school, after reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast about his life as a young man struggling to become a writer in Paris, I thought I wanted to be a novelist. All through college and grad school, I always wrote on the side and read tons of literature ( more so than most lit majors I daresay ). After starting and never finishing several novels, it slowly dawned on me I simply didn’t have the talent nor the temperament to be a novelist. Being one of those highly sensitive persons ( even bought the book, The Highly Sensitive Person ), I’m deeply affected by words and by people’s conversations – what they say, how they say it and the implied nuances and meanings. A few years ago, I had one of those epiphanous moments where I actually went, “Aha, I have the soul and the temperament of a poet!” So I started getting up an hour earlier every morning and going up to my desk in an attic room with a cup of coffee to write poems and haven’t stopped since.
PM: Favorite poets?
SP: Keats ( my idea of the ideal poet ), Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Dylan Thomas ( my romanticized idea of a poet ) – two of my all-time favorite poems are his “Fern Hill” and “Poem in October” which I recite from memory every year on my birthday even though it’s not in the month of October. Then there’s Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Shakespeare.
PM: Can you give us an idea of the creative process when writing a poem.
SP: A poem can come from anything: an image, a single word, a phrase, an idea, something observed, or something overheard — I think the best ones just sort of pop into your head almost completely finished. I’ll jot down the word or idea or phrase down on paper and start playing with the line — rearrange the word order or change a word here and there, and then start adding other lines that come to mind with the first line determining the meter. Next, I take these lines and begin to shape them into some kind of coherent form including traditional ones like a sonnet. Then I rewrite the entire poem out over and over again by hand until I feel satisfied with the final draft.
PM: Any pet poetry peeves?
SP: The use of profanity or racial slurs in a poem – ugly words are not poetic in any shape, form or fashion. Also, T.S. Eliot because I don’t like the direction he took modern poetry, and prose that is merely broken up into lines to look like a poem which seems like what a lot of people are passing off as poetry. Read some modern poetry and see for yourself.
PM: Any advice to aspiring poets who may be reading this?
SP: Poets are indeed born since you must have the right temperament to be a poet, but you also have to read a lot of poetry because you love it and you have to write poems regardless of the lack of any worldly accolade or money because writing poems is something you find you simply must do. Also, invest in a good dictionary and a thesaurus along with a copy of Judson Jerome’s The Poet’s Handbook — an invaluable guide to the nuts and bolts of poetry.
PM: Do you have a poem for us?
SP: Just happen to have one right here in my back pocket. It’s fairly long, so I’ll just give you the first stanza. It’s from a poem I wrote, “State of the Union”.
STATE OF THE UNION
We, the People, have lost our minds with fear: fear of flying,
Fear of dying, the Charlie Brown Syndrome (the fear of everything).
Cowering behind our triple – locked doors in our homes and on our farms,
All the windows boarded up, clutching our weapons of choice because the only constitutional right we’re willing to fight for is the right to bear arms.
While the rest of the Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights, has been crossed off the list.
But people are in such an uproar over health care reform screaming, “It’s socialist!”
All because some politicians in the back pocket of the AMA have labelled it a socialist scheme.
Shouldn’t affordable health care for every citizen be part of the American dream?