Contributor Interviews: Vol. 1 Issue 1 (part 2)

With the recent release of our Vol. 2 Issue 1 prompt, we wanted to again put the spotlight on our past contributors, namely the writers who made our inaugural issue  pairing of Robert Frost and Sarah Orne Jewett so great. Get to know their background, writing influences, and even suggestions for a future issue of I&A. This is the second of two posts featuring interviews with a couple of those writers. The first post can be found here.

Today, we share Casey FitzSimons’ and Daniel Barbare’s interviews. We recommend re-reading their contributions before you read their responses.

Casey FitzSimons wrote “Crisp, the morning in April.

1) How would you describe your writing education/background?

I  have taken courses at Stanford, in community colleges on the San Francisco peninsula, and at The Writing Salon, which has locations in San Francisco and Berkeley. My real education began with my father, though, who was a Milton buff, and who had a lot of poetry on his bookshelves.

2) What author/poet (s) would you say have most influenced your writing?

Housman, Yeats, Keats, Frost, Auden, Longfellow, Kipling, Shakespeare … those were on my father’s shelves. I only read bits of Milton. Later, I discovered Dickinson.

3) How do you think your work relates to this issue’s poet/writer combination?

Well, I think it has some of the content and form attributes of Frost’s “Out, Out—,” the story of the boy sawing wood, who is called to dinner, and does an injury to his hand that proves fatal. In that poem, Frost draws cinematic contrasts between the beauty of the day, the mountains, the smell of the wood, against the arduousness of work, its danger, and the stoic acceptance of the boy’s death. My piece, “Crisp, the morning in April,” also deals with a grisly accident on a lovely day, but it involves a much younger child, and I leave the causes and consequences completely out of the poem since I think those are the obvious aspects of this event. I wanted to concentrate on the course of events leading to the harm, emphasizing their beauty and the child’s lack of awareness of sudden injury and death. It has a 5-stress line, if not exactly iambic pentameter, and is continuous without stanzas, like Frost’s poem, told with suppressed emotion, a story.

4) If you could meet any poet (author), current or past, who would it be? (And why?)

I’d rather read their work than meet them. What poets have to offer they have left behind (or will). If we’re bringing people back to life for this purpose, I certainly wish there were more of John Keats, Edward Thompson, Wilfred Owen, or Sylvia Plath, to name a few.

5) What does your writing process look like? Initial/edits/revisions?

It  varies. Sometimes a poem almost writes itself, and I just tweak a few things. “Crisp, the morning in April” is one of those. Others go through numerous changes. Some idea just occurs to me, and the form of the poem in sound and shape on the page often arrives at the same time. Sometimes I swap chunks around, other times I cut out many lines, or decide to reveal a relationship or circumstance whose mystery made early drafts incomprehensible. If my theme wanders, I divide it into more than one poem (and sometimes the weaker one just dies). Always I listen to the words, study the line breaks, until I have a good balance of meaning, sonority, suspense, and flow.

6) What, if any, types of writing exercises do you like to use?

I don’t do well writing from prompts or keeping a journal. Once in a while, if I’ve been inspired by another poet’s reading, I’ll buy his or her chapbook. At each poem I ask myself, what event or circumstance in my own life has evoked these feelings. Often, that meditation begets a poem, but it will be nothing like the instigating poem in form or content, and often “lands” in a completely different emotional space. It’s a sort of loose ekphrasis, I guess. Important experiences in my life, often that I’ve already written about, are good sources of poems, too. I have poems about the same circumstance written with different factual emphasis, different points of view with different degrees of omniscience or ambivalence.

7) Are you working on any new projects? If so, could you elaborate on them?

Every year I assemble a collection of work from the past several months, so I have a number of self-published books and the list keeps growing. I think about creating theme-based selections, but it doesn’t hold my interest because I always feel there will be more to say on the topic and my primary job is simply to keep writing poems.

8) If you were to choose the next I&A poet/writer pairing, who would you choose?

I think Emily Dickinson would be a great choice. Her style and content are both distinctive.

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Daniel Barbare wrote “An Old Woodstove.

1) How would you describe your writing education/background?

I have attended many workshops over the years. I have worked with such poet laureates as Bennie Lee Sinclair and Fred Chappel. I have been writing poetry for approximately 33 years.

2) What author/poet (s) would you say have most influenced your writing?

Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Emily Dickinson, and Mary Oliver have influenced me as poet, just to name a few.

3) How do you think your work relates to this issue’s poet/writer combination?

It is mostly the subject matter, but also the same rhythm and form of writing.

4) If you could meet any poet (author), current or past, who would it be? (And why?)

Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, or Emily Dickinson just because I think it would be interesting and the style of my writing.

5) What does your writing process look like? Initial/edits/revisions? What, if any, types of writing exercises do you like to use?

I mostly recite my poetry. And when I feel ok with that I begin to put it down on paper. Not as though I have always composed a poem this way, it is just the way I have done it lately.

6) Are you working on any new projects? If so, could you elaborate on them?

Right now, I’m just continuing to publish as much as I can and write as often as possible. And read poetry along the way. I’m busy believe me. I spend about 3 to 4 hours a day writing, reading, and publishing.

7) If you were to choose the next I&A poet/writer pairing, who would you choose?

Emily Dickinson would probably be my choice. I’m just interested in her way of writing. Also because my poetry is short and to the point.

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