Our dear friend,  Joe Hesch

Our dear friend, Joe Hesch

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.

Last Snow
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.

Photo from FB- giving credit to the brilliant and mysterious@Anuwildantz, and of course to M. Renoir

Photo from FB- giving credit to the brilliant and mysterious@Anuwildantz, and of course to M. Renoir

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.

Serendipitous Song
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.