Joe Hesch, who blogs at A Thing for Words, is our guest today. This is what Joe said when I asked him to start out with some background information:
“My background takes about three sentences. Worn out reporter/public affairs writer comes back from health scare to begin writing for himself. Friend suggests I try poetry. Find Claudia on Twitter. She suggests I start blog and post to One Stop. Comedy ensues. The End.”
But there is much more to the story than that! Let’s start with a poem.
by Joe Hesch
When the last snow came,
it caught all of us off-guard,
especially the mourning doves.
The dappled grey couples
sat side by side, wing to wing,
perched silently, sullenly,
in the maple out back,
its red buds aborting blast-off
for another day.
The whisper of falling flakes
was the only voice heard.
Out against the white background
of soon-to-disappear spring snow,
now stood a paragraph without words,
only quotation marks.
So beautiful, Joe. Who makes up your family?
My wife, Pat, and grown daughters, Aimee and Lauren. Aimee and her husband, Justin, soon to be a first-time parents. Which makes me a soon-to-be first-time Grandad!!!
Frightening prospect, that.
Yet beautiful at the same time! Speaking of frightening… Are you willing to share about your health scare?
It’s a condition called pericarditis–in essence a thickening and/or stiffening of the pericardium, the thin sac-like membrane that surrounds your heart. Since it lost flexibility, the heart could squeeze blood out okay, but was restricted from fully refilling with blood. Not a good thing.
I was thisclose (week or two) from getting my chest cracked open and my heart peeled like an orange when a pre-op test showed my heart’s internal pressures had drastically improved. A miracle? Maybe. But that brush with mortality is what convinced me I had wasted what some folks had said was a gift I had when I was a student and not a pro (as a reporter or any of my other rambling keyboard jobs).
So I became a writer on my own terms, for me.
Oh, and the condition was the framework, one afternoon, for my poem, Ideopathic.
How else has that diagnosis changed your life?
That diagnosis and recovery six or so years ago reminded me (or maybe informed me, with great emphasis) that each day’s a gift. Made me more sensitive to my and others’ feelings.
Those are easily forgotten revelations, too often. When I forget, I don’t write so much or as well.
The recent shoulder surgery (Nov. 5) was to remove a huge calcium deposit in part of my rotator cuff. Recovery has been a long slog, but I’m doing well now. Better all the time.
It was right after the surgery that I lost she who was in no small way what I might call my Muse…if I believed in Muses…my dog Mollie. Roughest two weeks I can remember. And I don’t believe I’ve been right since. Certainly the writing doesn’t feel it.
I’m so sorry about the loss of your dear dog, Mollie! (Brief moment of silence)What is your favorite kind of poetry?
Well, I might be the least-read poet you know. I only read poetry because it was assigned to me in school. And I had never written a poem until five or so years ago. Not a verse, not a line, not a word. Therefore, my tastes in poetry reading are as raw and seemingly uncultured as my own poetry writing.
In my writing, I am attempting to open up my senses and express there on the page what I am experiencing, even in imagination. That’s what I want from a poem I am reading. I express emotion as best I can (kinda new to that, too) and I wish to feel that in a poet’s work. And, finally, I wish to feel like I have experienced something when I finish the reading. Was it a storyline or was it something else that got me from intital letter to final punctuation? Sorry, I don’t have a title or definition for whatever THAT kind of poetry is, but it is what I like.
Tell me about your grass roots poetry group. How was it formed? Also, how has the online poetry community influenced your writing?
The Grass Roots Gang formed in the playful chatter one morning among a super-imaginative group of Twitter friends from the UK, Germany, South Africa, Australia and New York. I was not one of them. As my friend Craig Morris says in his Introduction to GRPG’s anthology, Petrichor Rising: “As far as I can recall, it all started with a freshly-baked lemon drizzle cake.”
Here are the members, many of whom you’ll recognize:
Marsha Berry (@Marousia) in Melbourne; Quirina Roode-Gutzmer(@denfemte) who lives in Saxony, Germany; Abigail Baker (@The_Linnet), from Bristol, Somerset, UK; Shân Ellis (@awdures), from Norwich, Norfolk, UK; John Anstie, who carefully and lovingly ramrodded the collection, from Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK; also hailing from Yorkshire, is Peter Wilkin (@Peterwilkin1), while, in the USA, Jacqueline Dick (@fumanchucat) is from NYC; Craig Morris (@grasscraig)and, from Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; artist, Anu Wildantz (@anuwildantz) of South Africa; and, finally, my dear friend Louise Hastings (@LouiseJHastings) from Taunton, Somerset, UK.
I was invited into the group by Louise and made to feel welcome by all from the get-go. They have in so many ways kept me going at this poetry thing and make me feel like I a member of a worldwide ring of creative people I probably wouldn’t otherwise.
The online poetry community keeps me writing, Laurie, plain and simple. Each Tuesday I MUST have something new to share with you and the other supportive folks through dVerse. And, in between Tuesdays, I seem to carry some momentum into other bits of poetry and fiction. Remember, I have a whole lifetime of missed writing opportunities to catch up on. I could peter out at any moment without you. 😉
So, what’s next, Joe?
Next on the agenda? Oh, how it wish I knew! However, I’m currently pulling together a collection of my poems under the title Penumbra or The Space Between, which I hope captures the unique impressions of life from a man reborn in middle age, neither the bright lights of youth nor the shadows of old age.
A lot of folks think I have a novel in me…maybe someday. But I will always write stories. That’s who I figure I am–a storyteller. Heck, seems like so many of my poems are stories anyway. I have a collection of short stories about characters who, for any number of reasons, just can’t get close to others. Working title: But Don’t Touch.
by Joe Hesch
Red-faced from effort and failure,
the six-year-old stood atop
the tree stump and blew
through the tight circle
of pinched and cinched frown,
spitting wet Bronx cheers into Nature.
Good and angry, desperate and defeated,
he jumped high off the stump and,
on his way down,
a sweet tweet of exhalation
escaped his loosened lips.
And thus, through airborne error,
my whistle was born in mid-air.
Life is often like that,
one horrible failure after another,
crushing the spirit until
that last breath it squeezes out,
and you take that leap.
If you’re lucky, the unexpected eureka
comes from it. You may call that
serendipity or Kismet,
five-dollar (or drachma) words
for five cents of dumb luck.
Like when I cast my sinking soul
into the dark void and
an angel untied its bindings,
teaching it to fly.
Now soul believes it’s a songbird.
Where can we find you, Joe?
In addition to the blog, A Thing for Words, I can be found on Twitter at @JAHesch, and I have a Facebook page, Joseph Hesch, Poet and Writer. All visitors welcome!
Thanks for stopping by, Joe. If anyone has a question, please leave it in the comment section.
haha…that renoir make over is cool…recognized you and shan immediately… and cool on the grass roots gang as well… i too love how we can connect to so many different people around the world through poetry… glad you’re doing ok again healthwise joe and cool that the health scare brought you back to writing… woot! happy monday everyone
The Course of Our Seasons said:
So great to learn more about you, Joe – and thanks, Laurie for this wonderful interview. I have enjoyed reading Joe’s poetry and stories and look forward to his book – K
Joseph Hesch said:
Thanks to Laurie and dVerse for the Q&A. Yep. That’s pretty much me up there. 😉
And thank you, Kathleen. 🙂
Laurie Kolp said:
I really enjoyed it, Joe.
Victoria C. Slotto said:
I wish this post was divided so that I could comment on each and every question/answer. What a great interview of a great person/poet. I so understand how the loss of Mollie must be for you. And how a health crisis can turn your life upside down and be such an unlikely blessing. Thanks, Joe and Laurie.
Laurie Kolp said:
That’s an interesting concept… but not sure if possible on WP.
Nothing wrong with believing one is a songbird! I love your chirping and this is a testament to never be afraid of change (or to MAKE change happen). Thank you Laurie for an interesting interview and Joe Hesch for sharing himself with us. I share your thoughts on the type of poetry I like to read!
Very interesting interview, Laurie. Certainly nice to learn more about you, Joe. I do think a health crisis CAN be a wake-up call & cause a person to think about what they really want to do. So glad you began to write poetry!
Really enjoyed this interview, thanks Laurie and Joe. Sorry about the loss of Mollie, Joe…you’re still in early grief mode…not easy. And I think you’ll love being a Granddad. I got my first grandchild 16 months ago and you’re heart opens further than you ever thought it could…enjoy!
brian miller said:
hey nice to ‘meet’ you joe….much of your story i have gathered in reading you…some was new to me…ugh on the loss of the pups…that hurts…one thing we relate on is that prior to 5 years ago i had read 2 poetry books…in high school…ha…so i am still playing catch up as well….congrats on becoming a grand as well…that is awesome…..
Sara v said:
It was a wonderful interview, and so happy that you had that experience so you now share your beautiful words with us. Your poems really reach out and touch me. Serendipitous Song really struck a chord with me–whistling was hard to learn 😉 Great interview Laurie! Nice to know you a little better, Joe. So sorry about Mollie. We have had several wonderful dogs in our lives–blessed to have them, so sad to lose them, and still laughing about their antics, and sighing over the love they brought to us.
Linda E.H. said:
I enjoyed this interview a lot. Sorry to hear about Mollie. Dogs are like family and their loss is heart-breaking.
Nice to meet you, Joe. Your story parallels mine in many ways. Technical writer, health scare, only writing a couple of years. Inspirational.
PS- and also about to be a first-time grandpa! Congratulations!
thank you, Laurie, for bringing us this interview. It is good to learn more about the folk whose names are so familiar from the pub and elsewhere. I am very much in tune with Joe’s attitude to creativity and poetry.
Laurie Kolp said:
Your welcome, Viv.
Lisa A.Williams said:
A wonderful interview Laurie. I look forward to reading more of this wonderful poet’s work.
Lindy Lee said:
Have read with great interest & pleasure both interviewer & interviewee. Highly recommend their writings here on WordPress…
Laurie Kolp said:
Thank you, Lindy!
Joe, I knew you were a good egg before. Reading this has convinced me I was right in my initial assessment. Your words, and your commitment to them, inspire me far more often than I ever let on…
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
Great interview – I always enjoy reading your poetry Joe,… And background creates such an understanding,
Hello Joe and thank you Laurie for this insightful interview on Joe’s life. Losing Mollie ~ my heart goes out to you, I am so sorry. Your poetry is beautiful and gentle, I wish you much happiness with the new grandchild on the way! I did not start writing poetry seriously till last year when I started my blog. As most will agree from DVerse I have much to learn, but I persist as I love it so. Thank you for sharing ~ remain in good health and happy writing in the future.
Maggie Grace said:
So nice to learn more about you, Joe. Am so sorry about losing your dog, Molly. I’ve not yet lost a person in my life I loved as much as pets in my past. My consolation was I know they were loved and well cared for. Thank you for your support of my occasional writing. I look forward to reading more of your words as I try to get to know more of dVerse.
Anthony Desmond said:
congrats on becoming a grandpa! and I love how going through tough experiences health wise made you become a writer for YOU… that’s what is all about man: you’re glad if people enjoy what you write, but how you feel is most important. I already know Joe is a cool guy, nonetheless great interview Laurie!!
Thanks so much for the lovely interview Laurie ~ A pleasure to read Joe’s poems ~ I wish you well on your recovery and congrats on becoming a grandpa ~
Abhra Pal said:
Joe, it is very inspiring to know about you and your wonderful poetry – will look forward to read more of your work.
Laurie, thanks for the nice interview.
Joe, it was so nice to read your little story of how you came to poetry. You have been one of my most favourite writers to read, consistently. Wishing you, as always, all the best.
I love the interview, thanks so much. I am richer through the words I’ve read from Joe! So many great tidbits shared in this little peek into the man behind the words, and name! Thanks! And wow, soon to be Grandpa…now that should allow for some new writing perspective and inspiration!
Sherry Blue Sky said:
Oh my goodness! What a wonderful interview – and choice of interviewee – Laurie! I adored reading it. Joe, your poetry blows me away. I am so sorry for your loss of Molly. My muse was a big black wolf-dog who died three years ago and – like you – I havent been right since. I have never missed a being so much. Wonderful to have met you through this venue. Like you, it is the online community that keeps me writing. You have a wonderful gift and I am happy you are now writing for yourself – and we all benefit!
Glenn Buttkus said:
Joe, your honesty, candor, & humility are definitely enhanced by your writing talent. Your poetry and short stories never cease to rock the various prompts, and shake me out of whatever complacency I may be experiencing. You & Bjorn just blow me away. I have been writing poetry for 50 years; one would think I would be better at it by now. It is just such a joy to know that you have tapped into poetry mid-life, and that you have those 1000 poems percolating beneath the surface. Actually, up until 5 years ago, I had only written like 200 poems; doubled that since dVerse & other groups came into my sphere. Losing your pooch is heavy duty. At the time I shared with you my continuing grief over losing our Taffy like 6 years ago.
Laurie does incredible work on these interviews. She even made me seem to be more interesting. It was great to get a personal peek at the rest of the Hesch story.
Laurie Kolp said:
Everyone is interesting to me.
A great interview Laurie. You have a gift for it!
Joe – thanks for being so open with Laurie. And I’m sorry about the loss of your pup. It is hard when we lose the furry muses in our lives. I enjoy your poetry, and I’m glad you are here.
Good to know you Joe…sorry about Mollie and hope you live healthy to have more and more of your works published!
Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) said:
Loved reading this, Laurie and Joe. Joe is one of the dVerse poets whose work I most admire – which is saying a lot when you think of the brilliant poets to be found here. Great to learn more about the person behind the poems, and surprising to learn that you are relatively new to poetry, both reading and writing. Of the wonderful poems shared above, I particularly love Ideopathic.
What a great interview, Laurie!… So nice to hear more about you journey to this poetry place, Joe!
I look forward to reading your words every week. Love the little slice of life you present so well.
I hope you are feeling better, I think I saw you say you might have flu… Take good care of yourself.
And mollie, she’s out there somewhere, still watching over you.
Looking forward to more of your work!