Thursday, December 13, 2012

Resplendent in My Adequacy--An Interview with W.K. Kortas

By W.K. Kortas
In fact, they will, at certain times in certain locales, toil or spin,
For sometimes the exigencies of the gray and workaday world
Are immune to the notion that there exist rare entities
Which should be simply allowed to be beautiful,
No more and no less—still, how remarkable it is that,
Whether they be grown in fertile, well-tended soil
Or in a fecal dump chock-a-block with used condoms
And the unfortunate by-products of unhappy liaisons,
They bloom nonetheless; indeed, once they are cut
And arranged just so, the man who tends the vase
Would be wise to remain somewhat circumspect
As to their origin and pedigree.

By his own admission he is about one more crumbling plaster-and-lath wall from saying the hell with it and moving to a cave in the Catskills.  Fortunately for me, he had not moved yet and was willing to subject himself to a litany of my questions.  He is W.K. Kortas of Mediocre Means Better Than Some.  Though his tag line is "Why, yes, I am resplendent in my adequacy", his poems are undeniably potent, driven by the commonplace but always bringing his readers much farther (anyone wanting to say different can fight me Little Orphan Annie style in the alleyway).   I proudly present my most recent conversation with Kortas, and I have carefully omitted my own fan girl screams and LOLZERs in the interest of Real Toads community.

Izy:  First round is on me.....what are you drinking?

Kortas:  I'm going to stick with a tonic and lime; it's not that I'm averse to something stronger, but my "off" switch tends to get stuck, and before you know it it's 3:00 A.M., and I'm doing an impromptu Chris Isaak medley on the back porch.  And the neighbors tend to look unkindly on that.

Izy:  I am not very familiar with Mr. Isaak, but it strikes me as hilarious that you'd serenade your neighbors with a sampling of his catalog.  I gotta ask, is Chris Isaak a favorite of yours or just a drunken stand by? 

Kortas:  I'd categorize him as a port in an inebriation-driven storm.  He's certainly not a favorite of my neighbors, at least not anymore.

Izy:  I gotcha.   For some reason, when I have had a martini too many, I always end up singing Neil Diamond’s Cracklin Rose.  It's been a while since our last discussion ...what's new?

Kortas:  I've been in the process of moving from rural fixer-upper to another for some months now.  That is all the new I need, thank you very much.  From now on, I don't move, I just burn.

Izy: I'd like to address your blog profile which reads: The Golgafrincham Times-Picayune once referred to the writing of W.k. kortas as “much like Vogon poetry, but without the same level of technical expertise and musicality.” Which references Douglas Adams and your classic sense of humility. If given the option of living in a universe solely created by Douglas Adams or just our regular universe with it's regular irony which would you choose ?

Kortas:  That's a tough call; I think there is enough irony in each one for any person (or writer, for that matter) to chew on.  Adams' universe has the Triple-Breasted Whore of Eroticon Six; that may or may not give him a leg up.

Izy:  I have noticed that you continue to write poems despite the world coming to close on the 21st. What's the point?

Kortas:  Well, since there's no reason to Christmans shop, I have all this extra time....

 Izy:  I've had a bit of a poem crush on your poem Drinking with the Iranians, December 1979. Can you walk me through how that poem started in your brain? Also, would you be willing to lend me your poem brain for the weekend?

Kortas:  I had a cousin who was in college at the time, and there was a sizable Iranian contingent in his dorm.  Now, think about where these kids were at the time--these weren't the kids of the Ayutollah's followers, but try telling the yahoos in the ROTC program that, and God only knows what awaited them once they got home.  The poor bastards were screwed seven ways to Sunday.  That's a pretty fair piece of meat to work with.

You can borrow the brain any time.  I'll even waive the nickel deposit.

Izy:  Assuming you had to formulate your poems into a brash corporate slogan: what would your poetry mission statement be?

Kortas:  Oh, I'd just modify the blog title a little--"KortasPoems, LLC, Because Mediocre Means Better Than Some!!!"

Izy:  What was the last book you read that you really hated?

Kortas:  I don't think I've ever hated a book--that's an awful strong emotion to bring to a piece of writing.  I've been disappointed by books--not long ago I finished William Kennedy's Chango Beads and Two-Toned Shoes.  Now, Kennedy is a fine, fine writer, and the prior novel--Roscoe--is one of the four or five finest novels I've ever read.  Kennedy is in his eighties now, though, and I don't know if he's just lost the fastball or if he knows that this is the last novel he'll ever finish, because there is a lot of Things You Must Understand in the novel.  I think what often happens to a writer is he stops trusting his readers, and doesn't want to risk them not discovering things for themselves.  The characters in this novel don't have conversations, they make pronouncements, and that's a very disheartening thing to see from a great writer.

Izy:  Candy canes or gingerbread?

Kortas:  It's tough to put Kool-Whip on a candy cane.

Izy: Rough drafts in pen or pencil?

Kortas:  Technology has ruined me.  I do everything on the keyboard now.

Izy:  Scenario: there has been an unlabeled tin can in your cupboards for years, do you open it?

Kortas:  Naaah.  Let Nature take its course.  It'll explode eventually.

Izy: What is the first book you ever read twice?

Kortas:  I try never to read a book just once...the earliest book I have a recollection of reading is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time, so I guess that would be first.

Izy:  Least favorite day of the week and why?

Kortas:  Difficult call.  I have to do to certain tasks at work every Thursday, so I guess that makes Thursdays a bit predictable for my tastes...but it's payday as well, so I'm torn.

Izy:  Boy Named Sue or Folsom Prison Blues?

Kortas:  Folsom Prison Blues, without question.

Izy:  There is a jukebox at an all night diner at the end of the universe, what is the most commonly played song on that jukebox? 

Kortas:  Wow, now there's a poem waiting to happen.  I think it would be a 45 with the last four minutes of Genesis' "Supper's Ready" on it, as everyone knows that is the song that plays when God or whoever comes for you.

Izy:  What is one book on your bookshelf that I should read before I die?

Kortas:  That's a tough question.  I'm tempted to say Spoon River Anthology, because if you read Masters you'll see a lot of him in my style.  That said, the final answer would be John Gardner's Nickel Mountain.  I will never write a novel, because that is the novel I'd want to write, and it's been done now.

Izy:  Favorite curse word?

Kortas:  I have a fondness for the phrase "Shit O Goodness"--I have no idea where I first heard it, but it's stuck in my head now, to which I say...well, you know. 

Izy:  Favorite way to spend a friday night?

Kortas:  I guess it depends where and when we are.  I used to like to sit outside on a July night and listen to Bob Prince broadcast a Pirates game on KDKA, but no one has games on fifty-thousand watt blowtorches anymore, so now I'm just game for anything relatively quiet and relaxing.

Izy:  One thing that makes a poem terrible?

Kortas:  I think you have to realize that there just isn't anything new under the sun.  No one is the first person to experience unrequited love, or an alcoholic father, or the suspicion that maybe the world isn't always a friendly place.  If you think you are experiencing some unique emotion, and you write from that perspective as a starting point, you are dead in the water.

Izy:  Worst piece of writing advice you ever received?

Kortas:  Well, one of my teachers thought I should write right-handed.  Other than that, I can't remember much advice good, bad, or indifferent.

Izy:  One question you'd like to ask the toads ( and they will leave your answers in the comments)

Kortas:  Doesn't the world have enough poets?  Shouldn't we be doing something else with our time?


Kerry O'Connor said...

This was a blast. Thanks to both Izy and wkk for allowing us to eavesdrop on your conversation. I have long been an admiring fan of Kortas' prosaic style of poetry. It is not easy to achieve a balance between the two, but he does it with authentic voice, and ironic wit which goes a long way in my book.

The world has more than enough bad poets, which is why I hope you don't turn your attention to something else.

Susan said...

I enjoyed reading this interview partly because of Izy's questions--Thank you Izy! And I have never met Kortas before except maybe once or twice in passing. I like the poem, and will seek out more.

Marian said...

One For The Thumb!

as a W.K. Kortas fan club member, i appreciate the interesting questions and candid responses. of course now i feel fully teased and want to know more. i love reading your poems, Kortas, and not only because they are intimidatingly epic, comparatively anyway.

too many poets, but not nearly enough. i'm glad to have the opportunity to read what you write.

signed, Western PA In My Blood Too

Grace said...

Thank you for the lively interview, Izy and WKK ~ I must say your writing style is unique, blending of prose and poetry ~

It was great to learn more about you and peek at your bookshelf ~

As for your question, I write for my pleasure and as a balance to my work which is a world away from poetry ~

Unknown said...

Most fun I've had as an observer of the party! And I think Mr. Kortas and I would get along just fine, since our taste in music seems to run the same line. SO glad I read this one!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Fantastically witty interview, kids. I so enjoyed it, smiled all the way through. And no, there can NEVER be too much poetry, thank Goddess there is a blogosphere, so we have someplace to put it!

Maude Lynn said...

Fantastic interview!

As for poets . . . well, I'm just killing time until I can make the cut on American Idol.

Kerry O'Connor said...

LOL @ MZ's comment!

Kay L. Davies said...

I think the world used to have enough poets. Now, I think Real Toads, etc., are helping re-right the balance between poets and the illiterati.
Loved the interview, Izy and W.K.
Too bad teachers used to try to make everyone write right-handed. I know how impossible it is for me to write with my left hand, and can imagine the suffering such teachers caused.

Fireblossom said...

There are more than enough poets; just not enough good ones. (Kortas is a good one, no matter what he says in his corporate mission statement).

When I was young, I could take a radio to bed with me and pick up the Reds, the Indians and even the Rochester Red Wings, in addition to my hometown Tigers who were on WJR, the 50,000 watt "great voice of the great lakes." Now they are on some station so tiny that I can hardly tune it in. Is that any way to treat a girl who has been loyal for so long? For years, I had dreams about the defunct Tiger Stadium, that it was open again and the sun was out and the game was on and I was there. When I was little, my mother took me to church, and my daddy took me to the ballpark. *Of course* I became a poet. I see ya, Kortas, as Tigers color man Rod Allen would say.

W.K.Kortas can really write, and he also leaves marvelous comments. I'm a fan. Izy is a very cool interviewer, as well. I enjoyed this!

Hannah said...

Excellent interview!! I'm a lefty also and I love your answer on what makes a terrible true.

Great job Izy and thank you for sharing with us Kortas!!

Margaret said...

I believe Izy has met her match! Excellent questions vollied back with witty answers. A fun read. Thank you both. I attempt poetry because my singing voice is much worse and in a family if artists I have to attempt something :P

Susie Clevenger said...

Love the interview. Thanks so much for letting us know something about the humor. No, there is never too many poets. Besides it helps me to write out all those thoughts that badger me at night.