An east coast expatriate retired from college/university teaching, I divide my domestic life between homes in Chicago, Illinois, and Hot Springs, Arkansas. My wife and I travel a lot, or used to before our joints began to complain—Maui, in Hawaii, a favorite sun haven; France, from Paris to Marseille and St. Malo to Lyons for old world presence and gourmandise. We collect art from contemporary blown glass to Tang and Sung ceramics, paintings to wood carvings, and almost anything odd or splendid that will go through our doorway. I write in every form and on every theme conceivable, from polemical limericks to sonnets to philosophical discourses. My college major was English, a switch from philosophy which had emerged from previous passions for mathematics and physics. I’ve some 700 poems in print and online and five books of poetry that run the gamut of whimsical and humorous to serious critical, lurching from formal to free verse and the wildly experimental and temperamental. I try to avoid narcissistic self-expression and espouse objective delineation of experience, whether realistic or fantastic.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
The title PROXIES hasn’t much story to tell. I see poetry as an art that allows the reader to enter into an experience, real or imagined, and so the poems tend to be proxies, stand-ins for states of being or plausible worlds. They also, of course, form the possibility of a connection between the poet and the reader, admittedly one-way unless and until they meet.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
I felt a sense of relief and a warm glow—obvious, I admit. The quadrants of the cover move from the cold mystery of the stars through the world of jungle heat, the merchandise and mechanism of the city to the brooding desert. I find it all fascinating.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I didn’t want to write—I just did, starting with a limerick in high school about a teacher and the school principal, whose name happened to be the same as a popular beer.
“There was a young scholar named Sklar
Who did most of his work in a bar.
With old Willie’s beer
He proved Pabst is the favorite by far.”
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
A bit of advertising copywriting and a stint at an insurance company doing the drudge math of policy calculations, but writing isn’t my profession. My main occupation was teaching literature and rhetoric in college and university for about 28 years.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
The satisfaction of finding a way of gathering a group of disparate poems written at different times and without a common focus into a single, wide-ranging, often disturbing work of art.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
Rather than songs, I’d probably want Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or something of Bartok or Satie.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
A sense of another mind, another experiential being, and the proxy experience of variety, the sheer variety of the being of existence. I hope some readers will find themselves changed by their experience of one or more of its poems.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I’m looking for a book that is lighter, something that feels like a lattice of tough, pliable ferns, and I’m not looking to cheer but rather to use uncertainty to open the psyche to possibility.
How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?
Atmosphere Press has a great team from the design (kudos to Ronaldo) to editorial and interior design. I’m only sad that I’m too old and tired to be of much help.