Many of you may know Joe Milford from his Joe Milford Poetry Show (and if you don’t – you should!), but who is the man behind the mic? He took the time to be interviewed by me instead of having to doing the interviewing.
I first heard about you when someone forwarded me one of your internet radio interviews with a fellow poet. How did you get started doing those?
I guess my radio “career,” such as it is, started when Jane Crown, a great radio host in her own right, found my poems on my old Myspace page–we became friends there, and she decided to host me for a reading/interview. After that, she started using me, under her wing, as a guest host for the Jane Crown Show, which has hosted many wonderful and amazing poets over the years. I hosted several shows there and then decided to branch out on my own with the Joe Milford Poetry Show, and the rest has been history. I was able to get started due to a lot of my connections from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, so I could book fairly well-known or widely published poets to launch the show and get it some attention and then also book other poets of my choice in between to promote their work as well.
Who were some of the early people you remember interviewing and when?
The show began in 2008, and I interviewed poets, such as Dean Young, Tony Hoagland, Russel Edson, Charles Bernstein, Christian Bok, C.A. Conrad, Gregory Orr, and many more. The interviews are always scheduled for 90 minutes, and even early on the poets were very generous with their time.
In what ways (if any) have the interviews informed/inspired your own writing?
I often say, on the show, that the interviews/readings I do are my second MFA. I can’t begin to explain how these shows, these experiences, with the poets have changed the way I look at writing and at life in general. There’s a lot more going on than just a discussion of craft on these broadcasts–the generosity I am sometimes given by guests is overwhelming and incredibly encouraging. There are certain concerns I have regarding the development of my own voice, and often I put these ideas into questions for the poets–they become teachers and mentors to me in this way, and then I can become a vessel of this exchange by providing the venue for them to teach us all. I am aware that I am not a radio personality or a skilled interviewer or mass communicator; however, something happens to me as a person, a thinker, and a writer when i do these shows–there’s an immense tenderness towards the craft of writing that is being archived here–that alone is inspirational to me, and many poems have been scribbled during and after the shows.
That is just wonderful! To finish off our interview I wonder if you’d like to share some of your work and-or a tip for writers.
Sure! i am currently working on a long epic piece..i’ll excerpt it…
excerpts from TATTERED SCROLLS AND POSTULATES (formatting may not be perfect on this – fault of the interviewer and/or wordpress and not Joe!)
Banning Mill in Carrollton Georgia is where I met many ghosts and minotaurs with Sarah.
I have been making ears in my shed. they look like pig parts. they hear every knife in radius.
the earth screams all day at me and I spill my guts to it and end up being fields of wings. amen.
I will ride tortoise’s towards old black men at huddle houses and they will tell me of bleedings.
Cain wears the best cologne as he tills cubicles of those wall street gardens with his blood mascara.
sleeping inside pianos is ok. fungus grew under my watchband. I loved that watch. mushrooms.
flying fish crashing into a windmill. rain-splattered windshield. my hand is in the effervescence.
I swill all down with a bitter pill of poem. tears of gasoline. stripping flesh from the weaklings.
I got the trident and the net and the begot beget. I am debonair apercu with mammoth tentacles.
boken icarus brother friend who I killed with shovel and laid in shallow grave I must commend.
it was like Motown a music you can’t ignore. the taladega worlds crash into obsidian forests.
I joined the snake church. I learned diamondback. I heart-rattle. I reach my arms to you forked.
I put on myth special scar overhauls. love sprouting tiger lilies, snapdragons. red tape auspice.
another barb, bend, wall, turn. avians picking carcass. intermesh bracelet of corporal and oracle.
crumbling mortar pockmarkedwall. battlementimplements. chainlinkchakra. meat & metal pulse.
I wonder how long I will wait to murder everyone I love in a sheer great guitar solo with gods.
I want to be a lake free of messiahs. I am not one who hopes for miracles. they bring conquerors.
one night I was beaten into submission by a MAGLIGHT. light implement. I bled from temples.
I swear by rifle over your banjo. writhe through the trifle. angry Anubis soul. swagger braggart.
it rains on my heart for eternity and it is fucking awesome. you are jealous and you should be.
guitar headstock rests neck on window-pain. my knuckles are made of metal and wood. kisses.
umpfucteen bad things. shooting pool. lying to myself. morning is landing like a UFO. Crime.
mailbox and lunchbox. keats and his handkerchiefs. I saw a gaunt coyote run towards the abyss.
only starfruit grew in eden. eve had no vagina. she had salvation between her legs. adam ran.
oracles throw bones and we break them pulling plows. our women die in childbirth. so damn holy.
I tried to strangle autumn. demons came and pissed golden-red blood everywhere. I freckled.
snapping green beans into the copper bowls while squash men waited to become casseroles.
cut the grass. slur. laugh. dogwood heaves under a hailstorm. recovers. mocks you. need oil.
quarry dive on drunken memorial day. tattered tags of tongues. sunscreen salt and good fucking.
cookies. credit cards. cookies. credit cards. the dark ages. cookies. credit cards. the dark ages.
I have the glacier cellphone ap. I will deploy upon you. my three-year-old just threw up. I’ll call.
parchment is what I was wrapped in and it was also my burial shroud so libraries resurrect me.
your storm in me beginning creating dark seasons to come. damn you Donald Trump Star Trek.
wingspan in my chest cavity. that’s a coma stroke embolism aperture. wingspan in my chest cave.
blogs guns and gaga. I will never chop down my tree but my roots are in your fucking mouth.
I am cannibal at flesh carnival. puff pastry roadkill. powdered sugar on my lips. turkey-legs.
the idiot comes in like a tycoon. he finds the penny on heads, and he’s happy. smokes his shit.
then he unleashes his tie. relaxes. he always sleeps with his eyes open. he orders beer for all.
and he can’t pay. and it’s Christmas. he has to walk at least twenty miles. it’s love; understand?
the maw spit vampiral exodus. I was in awe at the gore. destroyed the universe. nebulae. thermals.
And that final note for other writers
Knowing what is my pleasure and what someone can market is a big deal. At times I am almost sure I have composed something different and brilliant–that my voice actually broke through a wall. those moments are very wonderful–being a writer, I have learned that I will always write whether I publish or not–there are so many levels…I don’t write towards any certain market, but I know I write from a tradition. Wordsworth, Blake, Baudelaire, Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Frank Stanford, Clayton Eshleman, etc. this is my audience. There are hundreds more I could name. I guess that I would always encourage writers to write towards their heroes, published or not. have fun, for instance! remember to play. Also, though, remember you are playing with the fabric of the epic–a long tradition. on some level, I do believe, that when a writer is true to him or herself, he or she is published in the Great Book of the Beloved, a concept Gregory Orr taught me. so, as long as you are being authentic to the craft, you really can’t lose. however, if you find a way to make a living at it, I am jealous, and I salute you!
Bio: Joseph Victor Milford is a Professor of English south of Atlanta, Georgia. He is the host of the Joe Milford Poetry Show and his first book, Cracked Altimeter, was published by BlazeVox books in 2010.