So, what are you wearing?
I like how you got saucy right at the beginning of this interview. I like your style. I like the cut of your jib. I’m not sure what a “jib” is…sure I could look it up…but I like the whole thing. I’m wearing blue plaid pajama buttons, Target slippers, and yesterday’s socks and shirt. I spend a lot of days like this…though, honestly, the slippers are more of a colder weather kind of thing.
Colder weather? It’s 65 Degrees outside? That’s colder weather?
You have to understand, I live in Los Angeles…when it gets to be sixty-five degrees, my winter cap comes straight out of the closet and on to my head. We’re not conditioned for this here. I understand what you mean though…I used to leave in Syracuse, New York where I had a newspaper route. (That’s how boys made a living back then. We’d deliver actual printed newspapers to people.) One morning it was twenty degrees below zero with snow above my waist. I threw the newspapers in the dumpster that day. This has basically been my work ethic for over thirty years. But the point is, that was a long time ago…today in Los Angeles, sixty-five degrees calls for winter clothes.
I think we’re getting off track.
I don’t think you established a track to begin with.
Fair point. So, you write poetry?
That was kind of a short answer.
Well it wasn’t much of a question. By the way, I looked it up…the “jib” is a triangular sail on a sailing ship. Each country had it’s own style of sails. So referring to the “cut” of a “jib” referred to that particular style of sail. It’s a “nautical” term, which I know is a sea-faring word, but I live in the San Fernando Valley where the word “nautical” kind of sounds like “radical” so it feels more part of my heritage as a Valley boy.
Did you grow up in the Valley?
No. It’s actually still debatable as to whether or not I grew up…but I moved to the Valley in 1998 to be closer to the radio station I worked at. KGIL in the Valley. I was an “engineer” though it’s more like an “operator”, as in I operated the radio station (like a train engineer operates the train.) No degree in engineering is required. I also worked for the FM music station (KGIL was a news-talk radio station). I drove a big pink van around the San Fernando Valley, parked it in different spots and did call-ins to the morning show to get people to come out and win prizes like zoo tickets. (The promotion department was limited in their ability.)
That’s interesting. Let’s get back to poetry.
I consider all of this to be poetry. Don’t you?
I’ll ask the questions here. By the way AutoCorrect just changed the words “I’ll ask” to Alaska. Have you ever been to Alaska?
No. But speaking of poetry, and other places (assuming whoever is reading this is not currently in Alaska) most of my books of poetry are location-specific, written while traveling for a couple of weeks. The most recent one of this kind is called The Gettysburg Undress (Rothco Press, 2014). It’s poetry I wrote two summers ago while traveling through Washington, DC, Richmond Virginia, and Baltimore Maryland. My very first book of poetry was also a travel book. It came out in 1996 and was called Paris: It’s the Cheese. The amount of poetry I write on these trips far exceeds what I write the rest of the year, so it was a no-brainer to start releasing the trip poetry as standalone collections.
Is that your most recent book, The Gettysburg Undress?
You ask as if you don’t already know the answer to that question. I’m losing faith in the integrity of the interviewer. But, no. My most recent book is called Making Love to the 50 Ft. Woman. (Rothco Press, 2015) It’s an actual collection of poetry written over time… Since 1997, in fact, when my last collection of non-travel themed poetry came out. That was I Am My Own Orange County (Ain’t Got No Press, 1997).
Why did you wait so long between collections?
Well, to be fair I did put out a book almost every year between the two. But, of course, those are mostly the travel-themed books. I’d say the real answer here is laziness. It’s a lot easier to put out a collection of poetry written over the course of two weeks on a trip, in the order that it was written, than to sift through all the rest of the poetry written over the course of a few years trying to put together a decent collection. See my earlier comment on my work ethic.
So it’s been almost a year since you ended your run as host of the weekly Cobalt Café poetry reading.
A few things: I think it’s weird that you keep referring to me as “you” because you’re actually me. There’s only one person here. Don’t you think that’s weird? Also your question isn’t a question it’s a statement. If you’re going to conduct an interview you should really ask questions and not make statements as the interviewer.
Sorry, I’ll try to do better. Also I’d like to remind you to refrain from asking questions in your answers. I will ask the questions. You will answer them. If I make a statement just react to it don’t be a dick.
Touché. Or as we say in Yiddish, Tushy.
You hosted a weekly poetry reading for almost twenty-one years at the Cobalt Cafe in Canoga Park, California. That ended almost a year ago when the venue closed. Do you miss it?
Yes. Mostly I miss the automatic regular involvement in the poetry community here in Southern California I had as a result of that responsibility. These days, I have to make a concerted effort to go to a poetry reading (as it should be) to maintain that connection. To me, now, when I go to a poetry reading it feels more like an event than it used to when I had the weekly gig. Which is kind of awesome really.
Do you not find that your regular responsibilities with the Poetry Super Highway website help maintain that connection?
Yes and no. It keeps me involved with poetry, every week. There’s a lot of work to do. I interact with poets online almost every day as a result of it. But it’s different from the kind of energy you experience in a live setting.
Tell me about the last poem you wrote. By the way I realize that’s a statement not a question, but I think it provided sufficient direction for you to respond to.
I see you’re catching on as to how this works. The last poem I wrote was called “Vayera.” It’s an interpretation of last week’s Torah portion. In Judaism, a different story in the Torah is read every week. This goes on all year until the Torah ends and the cycle starts over. I’m trying, this year, to write a poem every week inspired by that week’s Torah portion. It’s a challenge. Some of the stories are really easy to get your head around. For example, the second portion of the Torah is the story of Noah’s Ark. It’s a real tangible set of events that you can envision and write about. Later on in the Torah there are entire chapters with just lists of rules and things so we’ll see what happens when I get there.
That sounds pretty cool. Do I sense a collection of Torah portion poems in your future?
Now you’re just pandering to me. This is blatant self-promotion. But yes that’s the idea. Before that though, since you were nice enough to ask about my future books, I have three collections “in the can”. There are two travel collections forthcoming; one called Professor Clown on Parade (written 2 summers ago while in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut), and the second will be called Romancing the Blarney Stone (written this past summer while traveling in Ireland). Also I’m working on a full collection of Jewish themed poetry (separate from the Torah portion poems) which will be called Unrequited Potato, which, coincidentally, or perhaps just lazy-istically, is the title of a free e-book I released last year.
Wow! You sure do write a lot.
Don’t fake excitement. You know how much I write.
You’re pissing me off. This interview is over!
We should kiss and make up. This reminds me of the 30 Rock episode when Alec Baldwin’s character Jack Donaghy meets doubles of himself. The first thing one of them says to the other is “We’re going to have sex, right?”
You two should get a room.
Oh, there’s two of me now? By the way I am in room.
And the rest of what happened has been censored for the benefit of the children.
**Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher.