Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Toad Chat Show: Paul & Marian

Marian: I’m really looking forward to talking with you, Paul. It’s cool that two poets who are new to one another are paired up to chat! So here is my burning first question for you: What is the relationship of music and the written word, for you? How does rhythm show up in your poems, assuming it does?

Paul: My instincts when thinking on this point go to the concept or idea of flow. Rhythm is such a natural thing to me. I don't have to think about it and being in it brings me very much into the present moment. It's the same with writing. Once I open the door it just comes and I find myself in a very similar mental state as when I'm playing music. Words just appear and I think because I am open to all the possibilities I tend to catch them in a rhythmical way. I hope that makes some kind of sense.

That’s interesting because I can really feel that flow in your writing, for sure. And I can imagine your writing coursing through an open door like a rhythm might. 

Thanks for that. So I’d like to know what does performing poetry bring to your writing practice and vice-versa?

I try to find and create lots of opportunities for poetry readings because it’s so energizing! Like sharing on our blogs, sharing by reading in front of an audience and being in community with other poets feels so good. Reading elicits an immediate response that I’d imagine would feel like performing in a concert. It makes me feel really high on my writing. And it keeps me going and attending to my regular practice. It’s hard for me to find time for readings or attending poetry meetings and events, but it is always, always a good thing.

I’ve never read to an audience but I imagine it’s exactly the same buzz as playing on stage. I’m completely with you on the time thing too. I’m slowly removing the things I don’t need or want from my life, to free me up to just do what I love. Music, meditation and writing.

Tell me about your writing practice. Do you have plans or goals? What motivates you to blog your poetry? 

My current practice really revolves around blogging and online communities like Toads and dVerse. Having regular prompts to write to helps to stretch me sideways and opens me up to other forms and that provides sufficient motivation. I don’t have a regular practice yet, in the sense that I do with music or say meditation. My writing schedule is fluid at the present and more so because I have recently moved off grid into a cabin in the woods. I would love to get into the habit of writing every morning, as I did throughout NaPoWriMo but it’ll come when it comes. I’m not going to force the issue. It’ll come. When did you begin writing and how has your journey unfolded?

Cabin in the woods, off the grid? That is so idyllic. Years ago I had a cabin in the woods but didn’t manage to get completely off the grid. How are you accessing the internet?

I’ve always been a voracious reader and wrote poetry at a young age. I was first turned on to poetry by the antics of Archy and Mehitabel, by Don Marquis. I wrote poetry in college and as a young adult, and then mostly retreated into private journals for a number of years. When my kids were very small I started a short-lived mom-ish blog that quickly re-kinded my poetry jones and the blog turned into the mostly-poetry creative writing endeavor that is the runaway sentence. Workshopping poems between the Toads community and my local poetry group and sharing online has really helped me grow. In terms of practice, it’s always changing and evolving, right? Lately I’ve been much less focused and have found it difficult to write anything at all. It’s partially because of the darkness here in the USA and around the world, which I struggle to hold, let alone address. And it’s also because I work so much (full time plus) and my kids are growing up… they are now 12 and 14 I want to be with them while they still want to hang out with me.

Also lately, I’ve started playing guitar again after many years. Like, 30+ years. And I’m fooling around with the idea of writing songs, but I have no idea what I’m doing. Maybe that is a good thing, we’ll see. I would love to know more about your music. Do you write songs in addition to drumming? Who and what are your music and writing inspirations? 

Thanks for that Marian. Such an interesting story. I agree it is an evolution and I totally get the ‘global dissatisfaction’ thing. It’s a big part of my choice to move off grid. I get internet via my phone but can’t/won’t write on it. Too fiddly. I tried tethering to my laptop but to no avail, so for now I access internet randomly via cafes and the like. My writing output has consequently slowed. I might need to experiment with pen and paper. I’m hoping a Tablet/different provider might solve the problem long term. The cabin is for the summer initially and then I move to Glasgow for 6 months to house sit for a pal. I’ll use the cabin at weekends and then Spring 2019 will be decision time regarding the cabin purchase. All part of a conscious transition to a simpler life.

I’m an OK guitarist and like a warble now and then round the fire with friends. I’ve only ever written a couple of songs and not sung them in public. Yet. I did wonder if any of my poetry might work with music and that might be a direction for me to explore. I recently recorded a poem with a fellow musician playing a Kalimba. Yet to blog but it sounds wonderful.

Musical and writing influences!! Oh my God. We’ll be here forever!! I’ll try pick some key ones. As a young fledgling drum kit player I was in awe of Stuart Copeland and Vinny Colaiuta. My drumming influences then moved into hand-drum players like Mamady Keita and Famadou Konate (West Africa) and Giovanni Hidalgo (Latin America). I have really eclectic music tastes and am happy listening to traditional Scottish/Irish music, Jazz (Coltrane/Davies),West African Kora, Highlife, Soul and Funk, Heavy Rock (not Metal), singer songwriters….I could go on for a loooong time.

I am trying to broaden my reading list but at the moment my main writing influences include ee cummings, Walt Whitman, W.B.Yeats, Mary Oliver, William Stafford, Pablo Neruda.

Yes, yes to all those. I note that Donald Hall passed away this weekend, speaking of influences. And I just came across this quote that resonates from Mary Oliver: “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” This is from her book of essays called Upstream.

It has been so lovely to chat and to get to know you some more. Final question falls to me so here goes. If you wrote a book about your life so far, what would you call it and why?

Paul, I’ve been sitting with this question for a week! It’s a hard one. So, my initial response seems lame but it’s true--I have three books of poetry, the titles of which I labored on and which do describe parts of my life or things about me. They are called Responsive Pleading, SUPERPOWERS or: More Poems About Flying, and Heart Container. Each of those titles, and the sections therein, carry meaning for me and slices of my psyche and heart. I guess if I were to endeavor to actually write a book about my life so far, it might be titled something like Serendipity as a Plan for Living, or maybe She Strives to Continue Learning, or She’s Doing Her Best. Or Please Don’t Talk About Your Diet. Or simply Yay!


Jae Rose said...

thanks kerry

Outlawyer said...

Lovely interview for you both. Sounds so great to be off the grid! Congrats and thanks. K.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Whoosh! I am all smiles and want to give away hugs.. what has come over me?

I am so thrilled with out first paired interview/chat between toads. This is all I imagined and more. What really stands out for me is the sincere communication between two people (divided by the Atlantic ocean) which conveys a genuine repartee.
Marian, thank you for the Mary Oliver quote and everything in your Heart Container. Paul, thank you for the reminder that all poetry is a heart-song. Your cabin on the woods reminds me of: "I shall arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.."

Jim said...

Paul, it's nice to know better the who you are. And give us an insight as to yor writing.
Best wishes on woods living. Do you have am ample amount of bear repellant? Our grandaughter in Alaska has plenty.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

I feel the same way, Kerry!💞 What a fantastic paired interview! It's so great to learn more about the Poets who share their wonderful writing here with us.

@Marian; I had no idea you play the guitar! Would love to hear you sometime yayy!💞

@Paul; How is it like living in a cabin in the woods? I like Neruda and Cummings too!💞

I had been waiting endlessly to read your interview and now that I have .. I can't stop smiling! 😊

Marion said...

"The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there." ~Robert M. Pirsig

Interesting chat! xo

tonispencer said...

Great chat between the two of you. Lovely to learn more about Marian. Paul I already knew about from dVerse and FB. This is so cool.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Oh yes, what a delightful and fascinating chat! Thank you both. I'm particularly thrilled by the mention of beloved archy and mehitabel, whom I also met in childhood and have cherished ever since.

I will look for that book of essays by Mary Oliver.

And Paul, I think the tablet is a good idea. I compose solely on my iPad nowadays. (I put the Pages app on it especially.)

Going about my day now, refreshed by your concersation. (Big smile.)

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...


Margaret said...

"Please Don't Talk About Your Diet" is hands down awesome as is the quote "who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” Enjoyed reading and getting to know more about you two. Thank you

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh what a rich and wonderful conversation. I enjoyed it so much. My faves are the Mary Oliver quote and Marian's possible book titles. The cabin in the woods sounds amazing. Paul, when i am away from my computer, my tablet fills in wonderfully. A good option.

annell4 said...

I loved learning more about each of you!! Oh, a cabin in the woods sounds so wonderful!!! And such a busy life Marian, finding time for yourself must be difficult!!

Marian said...

Hi, Friends :)
This chat was super-fun to do. Honestly I had a lot more things I wanted to ask Paul, and really enjoyed the back-and-forth conversation. Which I guess doesn't have to end! Here we are in the pond together!
Hope everyone is well and happy... xo M.

brudberg said...

What an interesting conversation, I love the details in this, what inspires you, how music is such an important part of what you write, and that cabin that simply begs for a reading of Thoreau, Paul. Marian, I so much like your taste in music, and have always thought that it would be great going to a concert with you, or maybe just share some playlists...

Marian said...

The Poet Playlist! Now there's an idea!

Susie Clevenger said...

It's fantastic to read a conversation between two poets, to learn, to understand a bit more about who they are and the why of their writing journey. Thanks so much for this!

Fireblossom said...

Nice to get to know you both better.

Anonymous said...

I meant to comment way back when this was posted, but got sidetracked!

Anyhow - what a lovely way to get to know the fellow Toads! This is such a wonderful chat session, as interesting and fun for the both of you, Marian and Paulas it is for us to read. What great questions and certainly, this adds some amazing depth to letting us read into your lives a bit more, as well as your words (poems etc.)!
Thanks for sharing as much as you did - offers me a wonderful smile to read this piece (and reread it) and enjoy it as much as I have.

And a cheers to Kerry for making the suggestion in the first place!