I am very happy to have some class and artistic cred to this website and blog as google and ‘the people’ have made “Top 5 Songs About Strip Clubs and Dancers Strip Songs” the most read and searched article on this blog.
To balance the pole ridding philistine presence I have been graced by a terrific poet Sandee Gertz Umbach of “Pattern Makers Daughter: Poems” to talk about poetry and I’m sorry dear readers there will not be any mention of stripping, strippers, best songs to strip too, dropping it like it is hot, poles, Motley Crue, T-Pain, and/or Tyga.
We will just be discussing poetry but google will pick up those SEO lines and bring more people here.
So here are Getz’s 10 Questions With Christoph
1) When did you know you had the writing bug and needed to do what Norman Mailer labeled ‘The Spooky Art’?
Haha well, I suppose writing is spooky! For me, I always remember writing, even as a little girl. I wrote in my room constantly (mostly all poetry) with the door closed, and my parents wondered what I was doing in there all the time! One of my clearest memories of writing is in 3rd grade where my best friend and I wrote a retirement poem for a beloved teacher. We stood up on stage at an assembly and struck a (now hilarious as I recall it) pose to read it in front of the school. Our teacher cried, and so did some of the kids. I remember feeling how powerful words could be from that experience.
2) My favorite poem in the collection is ‘Service Center Repair.’ What is your favorite poem of your book?
Hmmm…that’s an interesting favorite! It’s one of the older poems in the book. Thank you! (Poems in the book span a long time of writing – with revision of course — and some are very new (written during my MFA program) and some old with a new “re-visioning.” I have several that I like a lot (“Steeltown Girls,” “Flood Free City,” “Fissile Flickerings,”) but I’d have to say that perhaps “Part of This Earth” about my relationship to the underground geology and the geography of my hometown is my favorite.
3) A lot of your poems have a story feel to them; do you enjoy any other poets who tell stories through their poems?
Yes! I especially like Jim Daniels’ poems of blue-collar narratives, and Sharon Olds domestic narratives. And many others! I do particularly enjoy poets who blend narrative and lyric poems in a collection.
4) You are working on a memoir right now; I enjoy the premise, please share more about it & how far along are you with the book?
Ah, the memoir! The title is “Some Girls Have Auras of Bright Colors,” which is also the title of a poem in The Pattern Maker’s Daughter. So, if you’ve read that poem, you can imagine that the book deals with my childhood and adolescent battle with a seizure disorder. But I promise it’s not a “pouty” illness memoir! Growing up, for quite a while I didn’t realize what was going on with my body and mind (early in childhood, it was mainly auras, strange visions, etc. before it grew into full-blown epilepsy…) and so that poem is about the fascinating parts of the illness. I chose to focus on that – the curiosity and wonder of the disorder.
Not that it was fun battling the condition. It wasn’t at all, and the challenges and trauma of it is all there. But in the memoir, I attempt to make a relationship between the inner mind and its ‘misfirings’, with my journey into adulthood and becoming a woman. I finished the manuscript during my MFA program with Dr. J. Michael Lennon, mentor. However, to get it to an agent and published, I am revising and adding to the last chapters of the book right now. (I just went through a process with an editor/writing coach, Jonathan Starke, and received excellent feedback and rejuvenation for finishing!) But I knew it needed a better and more satisfying ending. I’m hoping (cross everything) to go mainstream with it. (And because everyone asks this, I’ll mention that I grew out of the disorder at age 21.)
5) I just have to say real quick Dr. Lennon is the man, for those who don’t know. Back to you, what is your revision process like for poetry? Is it any different when dealing with prose?
Sometimes some of my most successful poems stick with me and are carried around with revisions made immediately and furiously – a never-letting-it-go until it’s right kind of thing. Other poems, I have ended up revising years later. (One time I revised just the last line of a poem I had written seven years prior, and it got published after the revision!) When I revise poetry, I mainly revise for freshness, to edit out extraneous words/lines, and to be sure there is an urgency to the poem, a transcendence, a metaphor.
I also am very attuned to “the line” and have learned from mentors over the years about the importance of the line itself – how it contributes to the next, and I try to discover the hidden/double meanings in lines so that the poem has little hidden surprises. I learned a lot about “the line” and its complexities from the late Len Roberts, a mentor and fine poet, and I learned a great deal about structure (which I used to woefully lack) from studies with William Heyen. And of course, everything else from poet/mentor, Neil Shepard! For prose, the process is very different. I look for weak areas and areas that need to be fleshed out more vividly and go from there.
6) You completed an MFA at Wilkes University? Do you think it is necessary for writers to enter a writing program at the graduate level?
That’s a tough call. You could certainly learn and enhance your craft of writing by attending workshops, seminars, reading, and working with other writers and mentors. However, completing an MFA program provides you with an experience you cannot get any other way. For me, it was life-changing. It allowed me to “allow myself” to devote the time to writing that I’d always wanted to.
Programs like The Wilkes Low-Residency Creative Writing Program give a writer/poet a wealth of resources, amazing mentors, and a support group of other talented writers to go through the journey with. For me, it’s the best decision I ever made.
7) What do you feel is lacking in today’s poetry?
Tough question. I feel that today’s contemporary poetry is some of the most interesting, so I find it full of surprises and strengths. I guess if I had to point out anything, it would be that I sometimes wish there were more poets focusing on blue-collar/working class concerns. (A specialty area of mine.) I enjoy this type of poetry very much, and I seek out those who are writing it. Also humor! I love the good humor of a Stephen Dunn poem, but I don’t see it quite as much in the younger generation poets. I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of corrections to these assessments, ha!
8) Um, the writer of humor poetry collection “Psychoanalytic Celebrity Poems” is interviewing you. Just saying…okay enough about my shameless plug, another question, what is a strength of today’s poetry?
Poets seem so much more honest today. No topic is off-limits. Poets aren’t afraid to get to gut-level immediately and reveal truths that may have been difficult to reveal in the past.
9) In your memoir besides your life story what is the message you want readers to receive when finished?
Wow, good question! Well, first I’d like them to enjoy the story for it’s storytelling elements and literary aspects, and I hope they feel it’s a good ride. But other than that, I would hope very much that readers see it as a triumph over challenge and adversity. I would hope that someone, perhaps a young girl like myself many years ago, would see that the mind can conquer many demons. (There is a lot in the memoir about using the power of the mind to fight seizures – even though this isn’t always achievable, of course.) I hope that those who battle epilepsy see past the problems of the illness to reach their goals.
10) Last question, let’s get hardcore. Top 5 favorite poets of all time?
Ha! Ok, Walt Whitman, Philip Levine, B.H. Fairchild, Gerald Stern, Jim Daniels (wow, this is sounding very masculine here!) I also love Natasha Tretheway and Sharon Olds! Oh wow, and can’t I add Langston Hughes?! (I’m in trouble now for running over…so many to mention!)
Solid Top 5 and extras slide they are pretty good as well. Thanks again Sandee for doing 10 Questions with Christoph.