Last April, in honor of National Poetry month, Poet’s Weekly Muse held a poetry contest judged by the members of the group.Â Stephen BerwaldtÂ was the first prize winner.Â This year, I decided to skip the contest and to begin featuring a member a month for the rest of the year.Â I thought it fitting to begin with him.Â I sent him a list of questions and these are his answers.
Name other poets living or dead who have influenced your writing.
To be perfectly honest, I donâ€™t read very much, We are bombarded daily with media.Â Itâ€™s so hard to find time and place to reflect on life, love and affairs of the soul. I do love poetry…I reflect in the wee hours when itâ€™s quiet and write my own, as meager as it is.
I read Robert Frost because his poetry is simple and profound at once.Â I like Sylvia Plath because her descriptive voice gives me goosebumps. I love Emily Dickinson.Â Her genius was never recognized in her lifetime, yet, a God-given gift propels her writing to incredible heights long after she has gone. Her writing is mellifluous, but when you read her correspondence with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, her words all flowed that way.Â Of eighteen hundred poems only twelve were published in her lifetime. I love to read Robert Burns, just to wonder “what the f**k does THAT mean?”
I love the poetry of Selene Skye-Deme.Â Although much of it is like taking a shower; you don’t know from whence the water comes, or where it goes, but it feels so amazing washing over your skin.Â I also read anthologies of contemporary poets to see what I’m up against. I’m not sure why I do, exactly. It just makes me wonder if I waste my time writing at all.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I’m a feeler, more than a thinker. I sense a rhythm in something if I stop and contemplate about it. I wait until I sense a rhythm and then start writing. It’s a bit like pulling out onto a road heavy with traffic.Â You jump in and drive like hell until you reach cruising speed. I love to write about love and relationships and nature…all things that fill me with wholesome feelings, but I sometimes entertain the darker side of me. I’m always surprised to find so much there to fuel my reveries.Â Darkness is appealing because of its mystery…any discovery in the darkness is a revelation. There is where the unknown lurks…where we feel most on edge. I find there is a visceral edginess to poetry fueled by true emotion. All else seems so contrived. We’ve all read material like that.
Do you have specific writing rituals?
I write at night, when all is quiet. I slouch on my couch with my computer on my belly and peck away like a chick picking seeds from the ground. No music. No distractions.
Coffee is a must. I sip it as it cools, sitting patiently on the end table beside me. I write like the wind, and use Dictionary.com, Rhyme Time, Roget’s Thesaurus, and Wikipedia iPhone apps to get me through the technical knots.Â Then I edit, edit, edit. When I get stuck, I put it aside for another day. I moderate a lot for Ann Marcaida on GL, and often, in making comments, I get a little flow going and a little poetic vignette pops out of my head. I copy and save those in a “Snippets” file for later consideration.
Name three favorite words used in your poetry.
sensate, prescient, mellifluous
What is your preferred type or style of poetry?
Of course, I love erotic poetry. I used to write it a lot when I started,very graphic stuff for adults only. I used to post it to a site where they rated each one in “flames.” My best received four “flames”.Â I’ve since evolved.Â There is a delicacy in love that can often be missed in relating lustful dreams and sensuous flights of fancy, much like a whisper in a thunderstorm. I try to find and convey the subtle nuance and let the reader provide the imagery in their head. We all have a similar but unique impression of what excites us physically. By writing of the nuances, I’m not dictating what that image is for everyone who reads.Â But it isn’t the only type of poetry that is satisfying to me. I can immerse myself in anything.
What compels you to write poetry?
I have only been writing since 2009. Before then, I never wrote a poem. I worked for myself for years, then took a job working for someone else for a time, until the economy tanked and I found myself unemployed and idle for the first time in 32 years. Going from working 60 hours a week to doing nothing, sent me on a nosedive into my inner darkness that was totally without precedent in my existence. You lose so much so quickly. It’s as if your soul atrophies. Your self-esteem is the first to go and everything else seems to follow at a steady pace. Things that have troubled you in the past seem to swirl around in your mind, like air traffic at Thanksgiving and that was sinking me. The more depressed I got, the more I had images of myself as others I’ve known who drooled and wore â€œDepends.â€Â So I decided to kick my own ass before depression did, and started to write poetry.Â I’m not sure why it was poetry that purged my pain, but my words have always had a tendency to congregate and conjugate in a lyrical manner. Â
What advice would you give to an aspiring poet?
Not everything we write is a home run, if I may use a cliche metaphor ~ We aren’t the greatest thing since the smart phone. But, we all have something to say…a story to tell and we should tell it.Â Some might love our words, some may not.Â But write, because writing helps us figure out who and what we are. It helps us find those thing about us that we can love and that honestly can’t help but touch the hearts of others. If you are a writer, that is your gift…to enable others to vicariously live through your words, what they cannot express themselves.Â If writing is your gift…do it!
Thanks Stephen.Â What question did I neglect to ask that you would like to answer?
â€œSteve, does this dress make me look fat?â€
Jan, there is not a garment in this world made or yet to be made, that will not make you appear as the irrepressible angel you are!
I’m laughing now.Â Did anyone ever tell you that you are exquisitely charming?Â Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts in this interview.Â Poet’s Weekly Muse is proud to feature you as an outstanding poet in our group.
Stephen is allowing me to post the following poem on this page.Â I think it’s quite powerful.Â You can view all of his marvelous posts in the link that follows the poem.
who knows what hides
in the darkness
deep inside us -
surprised was I to find
the thrill found lurking there
where once feared I to tread
taught was I
no good thing dwells
no pleasureâ€™s found
in shadows, should I give
heart, soul and trembling flesh
to what unseemly seemed
as deeper I peer
into the insatiable me
darkness, like fog, opens
revealing darkness more
in unexpected euphoria
no bottom I see
no end to mysteries I might know
should I desire what hides below
how far dare I before I’m lost -
damn the cost
and deeper go