The first whackee is Stan Galloway, poet extraordinaire, professor of English, and non-answerer of questions. As the content manager of these interviews, I retain the right to respond when the whackee doesn't. This is an early warning for the next writers. If you don't answer, I will.
So, without further ado, let's see what Stan has to say about himself. And a disclaimer. I know Stan from book signings, writers symposia and the Virginia Writers Club.
BA: You have a very impressive resume. BA in English, MA in creative writing, PhD in English. Your doctoral dissertation was on a science fiction novel. So what the heck are you doing writing poetry?
SG: I have been writing for entertainment since elementary school. (Haven't we all?) When I went to college, becoming a writer was my goal. But back in the 70s there were far fewer programs for that and I was a passive learner back then. Happily, I moved into a college career, which allowed me to write as well as teach. As part of the academic rigors I wrote a substantial book of literary criticism, The Teenage Tarzan, which came out in 2010. It is a very good book, both as entertainment and as education, for those who have an interest in (Humble, isn't he?) But when I finished that book, I knew I needed to write something shorter. The draw of poetry was strong for its brevity, first, but more importantly for its multi-layered existence. As soon as I started writing it, I was quickly enamored with saying (or implying) multiple things through a single word or phrase.
BA. Other than yourself, who’s your favorite poet? Why?
SG: I give credit to Denise Levertov. In working on my doctorate, her poetry was what drew me into thinking poetically. I had little desire to write poetry at that point but studying her work taught me much about how a poem works conceptually because her work is stripped of traditional form. I had to deal with the work of the words themselves. (Wow! I would have guessed it was either Dante or Rod McKuen.)
BA. When you were a child, what was your favorite toy? Do you still have it? Hmm. Stan chose not to answer this question. My guess is his favorite toy was a Barbie doll and that he still has it. I'm sure he wishes he hadn't played with it so much and that he has the original box. Such is live.
BA. Teachers teach. You list your profession as “professor.” Tell us, what do you profess?
SG: I use the word because it is a label understood quickly to mean “college teacher”; but my passion has less to do with telling listeners what they should know or think and more to do with prodding my listeners to think for themselves. That is true whether a class on Shakespeare or a poem I’ve written. So, I profess the value of informed thinking, including logical arguments, over repetition of shared data. This sometimes gets confusing because, in the classroom, much of the time I’m filling up the “database” from which the thinking must come. (What a concept, filling up the mental database for cognitive thinking. Hmm, with more people knew how to think.) With a poem, I assume a certain amount of education on the part of the reader, or at least an intellectual curiosity that will allow the reader to explore the puzzling parts of a poem.
BA: Why did you decide to become a writer? Has it brought you fame and fortune? Satisfaction? Sore fingers from the keyboard?
SG: Being a writer has been second nature for me. I can’t point to a time when I made a decision. I don’t think I have much fame, outside a few poetry circles, and certainly no fortune, since I spend more money on poetry-related activities than I make back from sales. (Want to bet Stan's on an all-Ramen diet?) I have had many moments of satisfaction, from a warm comment given by a reader/listener to my own personal satisfaction that I have expressed something meaningful in a creative and accessible way. No sore fingers; I suppose I have sufficient exercise with the keyboard that I’ve not reached the point of fatigue.
BA: Many people write poetry. Do you have any recommendations on how they can get their work published?
SG: The first hurdle is submission. I did not submit my work because it seemed a daunting task fraught with vulnerability. The courage to be hurt by a rejection slip (or e-mail) was the first requirement I had to engage. After that, I had to find places to submit. I was fortunate because search engines found several sites that made finding potential publishers easier. The key to wise submitting is to read what kind of work is published at the place you want to submit. (My, my. Actually read what the pub publishes before sending off a poem? Why didn't I think of that?) If you don’t already read from that source, then read an issue, online, in the library, or a physical copy from a store. Send to the places that publish the kinds of things you write.
BA: What are the last three books you read and why did you choose them?
SG: I am always reading. (If you're always reading, that means you aren't always writing.) Because my life seems to be broken into increasingly smaller units, I read mostly poetry. I keep books everywhere – in the car, beside my desk, in the bathroom, on the nightstand – so when I have a few minutes, I read. With poetry there is less problem remembering where the storyline has gone. I also keep a log of books I’ve completed. (Oooh, aren't we the anal one?) The last three are: South Pole by Maria Teresa Ogliastri, Starship Tahiti by Brandon Lamson, and Arguments with the Lake by Tanis Rideout. They are a good representation of my global interest in poetry, in this case sequentially Venezuelan, American, Canadian.
Many thanks to Stan for being such a good sport.
Our next whacked out interview will be with Stephanie Sellers on August 30th.