When I have time, I get to chat with a lot of poets and writers in a variety of venues. I love the diversity of people I meet. mark Stratton (whom I knew from twitter) recently sent me a copy of his chapbook/book and I decided to interview him about the colleciton. Join our conversation below.
In a short introduction to your chapbook “Tender Mercies” you mention that these poems are part of a series. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to write a series? And/or how did you know it was a series?
Without sounding all mystic or anything, the poems told me. As I was writing these, many for online prompt groups, the poems seemed to be of a set, or place I was in the moment. They came fairly easily, or at least the drafts did. The poems that were not written for prompt groups came from that same mindset, or space I was writing from.
At the time, I did not quite believe that they were connected, but after not looking at them for close to six months, the poems as a group “told me” they belonged together.
After reading about the poems being a series in the introduction I found myself trying to connect the pieces together by theme etc. What are some of the connections the poems told you existed?
In the moment, I didn’t see it. However, I was trusting the poems as I was writing. Again, I know this sounds like something bordering on mysticism or something, but as time separated me from the making of the poems, and life transpired, I realized that the majority of the poems were about relationships and belonged together. They arrived together and needed to stay together.
Those relationships included my wife, my daughter, my past, my present, the world around me and my place in it, the world around us and our place in it, and the relationship of words to each other, how they sound, how they look, what they do to each other.
At the time these were made, I believe I was in a meditative state at some level which I only recognized due to the passage of time. However, that state was present enough to nudge me to at least acknowledge that something was going on, hence the overall feeling that these poems were part of a greater whole, related to one another. It seems clear to me now that I had a fairly focused range of ideas that were rattling around even if I wasn’t fully cognizant of it at that time.
I love this idea that“They arrived together and needed to stay together.” Is that part of why you decided to publish them together? I am always interested in how people choose to share their work whether it is online, in print, traditional publishing and/or self-publishing. Can you tell us a little about your journey and choices for sharing your work?
Without a doubt. I struggle to make poems. Sometimes, one every fortnight is solid. These gushed in a 6-7 week period, along with some random ideas that died on the page, but were part of the process. Keeping them together was the idea at the time they were written and later.
When these poems in this collection arrived, the title of the collection was already in place. It showed up in the second or third poem, in fact. It’s why the poems are numbered as opposed to titled. I finished or ran out of ideas or the poems stopped telling me they belonged somewhere around late July of 2010. In late August, my wife and I were involved in a serious motorcycle accident. Writing poems didn’t come easily for a while, writing prose did. National Novel Writing Month arrived, and I elected to pursue that for 30 days. I returned to the collection in late January, assembled the poems and printed them out. There’s something about printing a poem on paper that speaks to me of commitment. I edited some, tossed a couple because they didn’t fit or were not what I wanted, and added one that worked with the rest. It was written at the time, but didn’t “say” it was part of the series and it didn’t argue when I included it so I guess that means it is okay.
I had a few people read it, offer comments and then sat on it for a couple of months. I wanted to give the poems room to breathe, to rattle around in my head, and rest on the paper. They told me they were ready, I was ready and I made a book of them. In truth, it’s a few more poems than a chapbook and a lot less than a collection. Which is okay and isn’t okay. It’s fine with me because the poems are of a piece, yet marketing such a collection/chapbook is tougher without categories. But, the poems are happy and so am I.
mark Stratton is a poet, author and Blogcritics contributor living in Central Missouri with his wife and three cats. He has had work appear in “Four and Twenty,” “Mediavirus Magazine,” “The River Paper” and the first issue of “The American Zig-Zag” He blogs about all sorts of things at http://radio-nowhere.org/nb/ and you can follow his Twitter-ings at https://twitter.com/#!/aggaspletch He likes pie.