Rhyme schemes are not used in a lot of your poems; how do you think this affects the way a poem is read or understood?

I'm not comfortable with end rhymes. I have a bias (fair or unfair) away from rhyming structures, unless they are French/imperfect rhyme schemes. When I see formal poems where the end rhymes are not pure, I tend to like them better. Most rhymes (in written poetry, as opposed to spoken word or poems meant for recitation) seem forced to me. There is an artifice to purposeful rhyming in written poetry that bothers me.

Interestingly, the rhymes in rap music and performance poetry don't bother me at all--I like their cleverness. It's an aspect of their showmanship that I don't think about as a poet on the page. That is, I write to be read before I write to be heard. I do readings, and I read well, but I'll never be a performance poet. I like things in black and white on a page. That's just my style. That doesn't mean there shouldn't be music, but for me, the music is in the metre and the word choices, not in end rhyme.

That being said, I do like to employ internal rhymes, depending upon the poem. I prefer sensory writing and natural rhythms to rhyme, except for the internal rhymes. I'm not much for symmetry or neatness, in that sense. My back yard is a woods--a crazy melange of trees and plants and underbrush. I like that chaos, I trust it. It's the same with my poems. I don't want to write words that are forced and unnatural.

 

How much of your poems are fact and how much fiction?

Good question. A lot of my poems are what I call "other people's stories." I write to capture what other people are unable to convey for themselves. I guess that's the journalist in me (I studied journalism at Columbia/Chicago in the late 80s). How does that relate to fiction? When you write about someone else's "stuff," you are bringing your own "stuff" to that interpretation. Inevitably, what results is a fiction, a hybrid of experience, part of it real, part of it imagined or relayed second-hand.

Now, the details in my poetry are mostly arrived at through first-hand experiences. I don't make them up. So you could say that my poems interweave both fact and fiction. Fiction accounts for the storytelling aspect, the factuality resides in the details.

 

What inspires you to write about the things you do?


I like the little things in life, the moments that most people are too "busy" to appreciate. Fine, let me do the appreciating, I'll get a poem out of it and then someone else can also enjoy the same moment, if vicariously, through my words. Me, I like field experience, I want to live my own life firsthand. It's a lost art form.

 

A lot of imagery is used in your poems; why did you choose these images, and how did you develop them?


I have to chuckle. My first drafts are always overwritten, the images pile onto one another like they are part of a giant compost pile. I let time, incubation and the pitchfork of revision turn them enough times, and the ones that persist after everything else has rotted away are the ones that last. So really, for me, the question is, how do you un-choose your images? I do that by letting attrition take its course. All the other images, they can appear again, elsewhere, so all is not lost.

 

The appearances of some of the poems look like poems, but when read they sound like a story. How did you choose the forms you used, and why did you choose them?

I was a fiction writer first (starting at age 4) and a journalist second (starting at age 12 or so?), there is little chance that I will ever write a poem that doesn't have its own narrative. Interestingly, people who read my fiction have said that it reads like poetry!

Of relation to this subject: Last weekend I was a featured reader at a local series, and I chose to read a mixture of poems and very short prose (under 300 words, but not prose poems). To me, and to the others, they sounded very different, back to back. Naturally, they look different, but to hear myself reading them out loud, there *were* distinctions.

As for choosing forms, I don't do this very well. I write first and choose form later, after the words are on the page. If I was forced to make a decision as important as form before I ever wrote something, I would never write anything. I find that notion restricting to creativity. I prefer to let the form emerge organically, then work it into shape and see where it goes.