Good afternoon, my name is Brian Miller and I will be your host today for Pretzels & Bullfights. One of our poets, KB is with me and has graciously agreed to jump into the hot seat for the day and allow us to get to know him a bit better.
Welcome KB, let’s get started:
Gimme five adjectives to describe yourself and why.
Ritualistic (I used to think I was anal until a friend told me I was simply ‘ritualistic.’) I like to do things a set way and in a set order.
Obsessive: Writing for me is an obsession the same way working out is an obsession for some people. I just don’t get the advantage of a good workout physically.
Loner: I am uncomfortable around people because the added stimulation of being with other people is exhausting to me. Also I’m from NYC and we are teethed on sarcasm and dry wit which doesn’t always go over well in a crowd.
Perfectionist: I don’t allow myself any shortcuts or mediocrity in my work. If there is part or parts of it that are okay but could be better I will work on them over and over again until I think I’ve done the best treatment for it.
Empathetic: It allows me to be able to write about a character or an emotion in a poem because I can imagine what is needed. It is like method acting. I put myself in the poem and can feel the words I’m writing and believe the message the poem is attempting to portray, particularly with a persona.
How did you start writing poetry?
Like most of us, as an adolescent. Rod Mckuen was in his heyday and his writing about plain things really put a hook in me at the time.
Do you write anything other than poetry? novels? short stories?
No. I hate short stories. I don’t even read them., Twice I’ve tried to write prose but I get so hung up on how the first sentence should be that I barely get a paragraph done. It’s painful. I much prefer the intensity of language that is demanded from poetry and since my attention span can be rather short at times it is the perfect medium for me to work in.
Interesting the disdain for short story, why is that?
I dislike the short story because it doesn’t allow for an author to fully develop a character and plot line. I prefer things to be developed much more deeply and intricately. A short story is over by the time you begin it.
Who are you reading right now?
If you mean poetry nobody really. I have an extensive poetry library and I may read a poem here or there. I just got a copy of Lorca’s complete works I’m thumbing through, but I’ll jump from Marvel to Larkin to Eliot, Auden, Dickey, Pound, Stevens, Frost, Corso, Thomas but usually key poems just to get a feel for the writing. I try not to read too much poetry. First of all I’m always working second I don’t want to be overly influenced by anyone.
My style is very eclectic I think, I believe form should follow function, it’s just a tool . What I do read a lot of is Historical Novels, American History, and mystery-spy thriller novels. They help me relax at night to get o sleep. I read more poetry online than anything else to tell the truth I think I’m following over 300 writers on sites now, not all poets but the majority are, so I read a lot of that.
Nice. You know, last year, I co-taught in the history department, so I have a little fascination with history myself. Who do you like to read in books?
History–Joseph Ellis, H. S. Brands, Doris Kearns Goodwin, also anything about Lincoln. Historical Novels–Patrick O’ Brian, Steven Saylor,– Thrillers, Green, Le Carre’, and Eric Ambler and a few others. Also History in general, right now I’m reading a book called Patriots. It’s a series of interviews with combatants on both sides of the Vietnam War. Also Civil War, and Early establishment of the American Government.
That sounds like a really cool book, thanks for expanding my book list. Ha. I will check it out. What role does poetry play in your life?
It is my life. I’m a poet. Poetry is constantly on my mind no matter what I’m doing except when I’m watching films. Then I am totally focused on the film. I love them.
Very cool. Where did your fascination with films come from?
I slept on a pullout in the living room when I was 5 and then when we moved had a bedroom away from everyone else downstairs so I had access to the TV and couldn’t slept. I lived in NYC and we had WOR which showed all the classics and lots of foreign flicks.
My favorites are The Godfather, which I’ve seen over 50 times and Wings of Desire, the subtitle version. I will watch a film in color then watch it again in black and white. I have over 1,000 DVD’s in my collection. I think that is what made me so visually oriented. Oh I also think The Last Samurai is up there. I don’t like Cruise much, but he should have won the Oscar for that one.
Not a big Cruise fan either, but I did like The Last Samurai. Alright, let’s turn back to poetry a bit. How do you write?
Physically I do 95% of my composition on the computer, revisions as well. I’ll do an initial write then revise starting at the top of the page and deleting the original as I go. I have a note book that I write words and phrases and images that come to me and go to it if I am stumped for a continuing idea or need a shot in the arm to get a piece moving in the right direction. Other than that I have pads of graph paper in my bedroom , living room and at my desk that I use to either work on an opening or work out any snags I encounter.
Also I do something having to do with writing at le3ast 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m up by 4 AM to feed my dogs and cats and then at my desk by 6 at the latest, break some days to go shopping or run errands then back to work until 4 PM when I feed the critters again and then work until 7 PM when I spend the rest of the evening till 10 watching films with the dogs—it’s their time to get scratched and wrestled with.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. A good deal of it comes from time spent on Pinterest. I’m a very visually oriented person, love film and any kind of graphic, particularly abstracts and collages and assemblages. But really anything is fodder as far as I’m concerned. There are no ideas I don’t at least attempt to pursue no matter how far out they may seem. Then things might get woven into my life experiences. Or they may just go off on their own and let me tag along—though it’s not as easy a ride as it sounds.
I’m bi-polar and for about 80% of the time I’m in some form of manic state. I’ve gone three days straight just working on poems. Sometimes the ideas come faster than I can write them and will begin a poem then save what I have and start something new. I once had 7 poems all at different stages I was working on at the same time. Picasso said that there was such a thing as inspiration, but that it has to find you working. So I work.
What is the most significant moment of your life? how did it shape you?
Child abuse first and learning to get past that. But it shaped me in ways that made me more sensitive and empathetic. The other significant thing was writing my first “real” poem when I was 20. Up until then I wrote like a shotgun blast—the scattered and obtuse the better.
One day I had an assignment in a creative writing course at the university and we were assigned for a final project to take a series of myths of our own choosing and write a series of poems about it. I chose the Iroquois Indians and surprised myself. I realized that I could actually take an idea, form it fully and turn it into art. I stopped playing the poet and became a poet.
What was the last radical shift you made in writing? what brought it on?
That is a very hard question to answer Brian. I do write a lot and I can see shifts now and then but because I’m not married to one particular style to begin with it seems that each new poems has certain individual shifts of its own. There are those poems however when after writing them I stop and say, “Well that was different.”
I think I said once before that a poetic voice is one’s general outlook over time that your work signals to. Each poem presents new challenges. It’s As if every time I start a new piece I am beginning all over again and so each one is like unwrapping a Christmas gift. I never know what’s inside until I’ve put it all out on the page.
Are you a buy now person, or will you wait to see if it goes on sale?
I’m a more of a buy now person, but then I don’t buy much that isn’t on sale already. Most of the shopping IU do besides groceries is books and CDs and DVDs from Amazon. I tend to spur of the moment on those items and hold back on anything else to see if I really need it.
What was the last thing that made you laugh?
Watching Huston’s The Maltese Falcon with Bogart and a stunning cast last night.
Great movie. Thanks for spending time with us today KB and letting us take a peek into your life. I hope you will stick around a bit in case some of our readers have any other questions for you.
Have a great evening everyone and we look forward to seeing you tomorrow night at OpenLinkNight. ~Brian